“So what is our profile of the killer? Indeterminate height, weight, sex. Unarmed but extremely attractive.” – Dana Scully
Mulder has been tracking a string of cases in which sex is truly a matter of life and death, while Scully has some close encounters of her own…
Max: To me, “GenderBender” is THE classic case of writers writing themselves into a corner and having to back out of it with a massive hand wave. Not that the episode itself isn’t intriguing, or damn compelling at times, but the cloud of that final image in the cornfield does cast an awfully long shadow on the previous 43 minutes of show.
Ostensibly about the hunt to find a prodigal member of an Amish-like community who has seemingly committed several murders (and who I might add changes gender faster than a frog), the episode itself wants to be an allegory about How Sex Is Now, 1990s style. The emergence of AIDS in the 1980s, as well as a wider knowledge of sexual subcultures provides the subtext along which the episode probes into the ways the sexual revolutions of the Sixties and Seventies had to grow and adapt to new perceived threats. As Michael, an almost victim of Brother Martin quipped, “Hustling in the club scene used to be so simple.” While its exploration won’t be confused with a PSA, the effectiveness lies in a solid, workmanlike tale of a clash of civilizations.
What kind of civilization is another matter entirely. After several members venture to the DC area to reclaim Martin, FBI agents descend on the the Kindred compound only to find no one there. Scully asks how they could just disappear without any means of transportation, while Mulder implies that they had no earthly means of transportation, while the camera zooms out on a quasi-crop circle formation. This development is totally out of left-field, and without any real supporting evidence from the episode beforehand. One can only think what other conclusion could be rustled up, but on the other hand, the episode perhaps would not be as memorable as it is without the WTF capper.
And I haven’t even brought up Scully’s freak-meet with Brother Andrew and its squicky implications or the gulf between “our world” and that of The Kindred.
Radhika: This episode is such an odd little outing, part Witness with some very nineties nightclub scenes — and then all of a sudden, you get a hint of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s certainly not the worst episode of the show, but as Max said: It’s all a bit WTF.
There are some enjoyable moments in the episode, including when Mulder tells Scully he saw her about to do the “wild thing” with a stranger (Brother Andrew of the Kindred). And it’s a whole lot of retrospective fun to see an appearance from Nicholas Lea (more about that in a moment) in a bit part.
But I can’t really get too insightful about “GenderBender.” It’s one of those episodes that I clearly watched at some point when I first got into the show, determined to be thorough about the fandom, but it’s not one I revisit too often. Ultimately, the episode suffers from trying too hard to put a bunch of creepy tropes in one place: There’s the weird non-mainstream community that wants nothing to do with the outside world, a killer on the loose, and a random supernatural twist that involves… what else? The ability to switch genders. With the ideas sloppily executed as they are, it’s hard to feel heavily invested in the episode. But hey: At least the writers tried here. They’ll just have better luck next time.
YES, IT’S THAT GUY
A recurring section of our rewatch where we note actors who’ve appeared in the episode(s) and have gone on to become stars in their own right.
Nicholas Lea – Playing the clubbing Michael, Nicholas is a consummate television actor, he’s had recurring roles on such programs as V, The Commish, Continuum, and Kyle XY. There is another show we’re forgetting though, right? He’s been in something else… We’ve racked our brains and are fresh out of ideas so if you see or have seen him pop up on television in another capacity please send us a tweet or something. We have non-existent X-Files monster-of-the-week crackers for the people who assist us.