The X-Files: Gender Bender

Case: A series of deaths in which the victim dies in the throes of passion, with symptoms of massive coronary arrest and huge amounts of pheromones in the body.

Destination: Germantown, Maryland and Steveston, Massachusetts

Mulder and Scully’s investigation into a serial killer who seems to be using sex to lure and kill his victims leads them to a reclusive community of Amish-like folk called The Kindred. They soon discover that The Kindred are much more than the simple people they appear to be, possessing the ability to seduce anyone through a simple touch and, even stranger, to change genders.

‘Gender Bender’ is a pretty weak episode. It’s like a bizarre mash-up of Witness, The Crying Game, and Basic Instinct. Yet another episode I had only seen once prior to doing these reviews, and the only thing I remembered about it was that it featured Nicholas Lea in his pre-Krycek days as one of the near victims.

The basic freak-of-the-week concept wasn’t too bad; a killer with a voracious sexual appetite who so overloads his partner’s system with pheromones that he sends her into cardiac arrest or anaphylactic shock is actually kind of interesting. The gender bending ability was a cool added bonus that created an opportunity for some parity in the range of victims (as opposed to just having a bunch of dead women like most serial killer stories). But tying it all in to some anti-society/anti-technology religious cult whose members turn out to be other worldly beings was ridiculous.

Plus, I absolutely hated how they turned Scully into a near-rape victim. She is a strong, smart woman and it was upsetting to see her rendered so weak-kneed and helpless by some sort of alien Rohypnol. I suppose with the type of killer they were after, story-telling tropes would dictate that one of the agents become a potential victim, but that doesn’t make it any less irritating to see Scully victimized that way.

Other Thoughts

Mulder started out in high spirits for this one. He seemed strangely giddy. He really does love finding genetic mutants, eh?

The various club scenes were pretty funny. Especially with the dancing woman in the cage and the eighties porno-style music. Was this really representative of early ‘90s club life in the D.C. area? Yikes!

I found myself wondering what kind of footwear Scully was wearing when they were traipsing around the woods looking for the Kindred. Usually she’s sporting heels because she’s so short. A mile hike through the woods would have been pretty sucky in heels. Mulder should think to warn her about the possibility of lengthy hikes on a given assignment.

I got a little confused by the locations towards the end. It seemed pretty clear that the killer was working the same club in the D.C. area through the whole episode, but the Kindred farm was in Massachusetts. After Not-Krycek got attacked, were Mulder and Scully jetting back and forth between D.C. and Boston? Where did they try to apprehend Martin? In D.C.? It didn’t seem like enough time was passing for them to be doing all that travel.

Mulder lost his gun during a beat down. This becomes a recurring theme that they make light of in a Season 3 episode.

The ending shot with the crop circle was a laughable capper for a very weak episode.

Quotes

Mulder: “Each body showed the presence of huge amounts of pheromones.”
Scully: “The chemicals animals secrete? You mean sexual attractants?”
Mulder: “Radar love.”

Mulder: “This guy is a walking aphrodisiac. He’s the ultimate sex magnet.”

Scully: “So what is our profile of the killer? Indeterminate height, weight, sex. Unarmed, but extremely attractive?”

Scully: “There’s something up there, Mulder.”
Mulder: “I’ve been saying that for years.”

Mulder: “I think it was all an elaborate act.”
Scully: “What? The choking?”
Mulder: “No, all this simple life, living from abundance crap. These people know something, Scully.”

Mulder: “I know what I saw, Scully. And I saw you about to do the wild thing with some stranger.”

Not-Krycek: “After she left the car, when she was fighting with the cop, I saw her in her clothes and she looked like a --- she looked like a man.”
Scully (with deadpan disbelief): “She was a man.”
Not-Krycek: “The night club scene used to be so simple.”

Scully: “I don’t understand. How can they just disappear? They have no means of transportation.”
Mulder: “No earthly means of transportation.”
Oh, please.

Final Analysis: ‘Gender Bender’ takes a somewhat interesting idea about a sexual predator who can change genders and bizarrely blends it with an alien Amish society. Another Season 1 clunker.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.

3 comments:

Remco said...

And here we have the sex monster episode of the X-Files. I recently saw Angel 1x02 Lonely Hearts. It was better than I remembered. From your review, it seems Gender Bender is worse than I remember. ;)

Anonymous said...

Gender Bender was infuriating with the insane twist at the end...but some scenes were good such as when mulder went into the caves and saw the kindred re-animated their dead "kindred", the space alien connection was laughable. I t can only be redeemed if the Kindred are explained as powerful aliens in a latter episode...but I don't think that happened.

Unknown said...

I really like this one and the end made me go "woah!". Totally never saw it coming. A lot of the creeping about the farm scenes at night had good suspense.

It's a bit jarring to go back and see Nicholas Lea in a different role.