When I begin to watch "Mute", the fifth episode of the fourth season of The Twilight Zone, my first impression was "This looks a little bit lighter, that is good, I could use something light". After such heavy fare as The Thirty-Fathom Grave and He's Alive, it made sense for the pendulum to swing back. I was not totally wrong, but this episode developed earlier topics in its own way. It begins in Dusseldorf, Germany, where a group of four couples decide to learn to be telepathic by not speaking, and raising their children without speech. We then fast forward to the present day, when one of those couples dies in a fire in Pennsylvania, with a county sheriff rescuing their 12 year old daughter.

Incidentally, a small town sheriff coming to the rescue of a psychic child because she reminds him of his dead daughter was an important plot point in Stranger Things, but I wouldn't draw too direct of a comparison between them. The more relevant episode to me is that this episode focused on a female protagonist, and her relationship with other women. It passes the Bechdel Test in ways both mundane and important. This is especially a contrast since two recent previous episodes (The Thirty-Fathom Grave and He's Alive) contained no speaking roles for women. Young telepath Ilse has a gift. After the sheriff brings her home, his wife wants to adopt her---but has no understanding of why Ilse can not speak. When Ilse goes away to school, the teacher, Miss Frank, wants to help her speak--- and, we find, actually does understand that Ilse is telepathic. The two women trying to bring Ilse into the fold is the emotional struggle of the episode. And, in the case of Miss Frank, it has certain undertones, as it reminded me almost of sexuality-conversion therapy. Interestingly enough, the short story by Richard Matheson that this is based on had a male child as a protagonist. And I believe that changing the gender gives another angle to the story. Because one of The Twilight Zone's running arguments with itself is about how healthy it is to be different. Consider A World of His Own and The Obsolete Man, episodes that show different sides to wanting to live in a world of your own. Both of those have male pronouns. This episode, in its own way, addresses what the question is like for women, with the perhaps condescending conclusion that for a woman, it is worthwhile to give up special abilities to earn happiness from others. That is, of course, only one way to look at it, especially since other episodes have come to the opposite conclusion.