This episode would be higher if Cher hadn’t been unavailable. That’s not just because I like Cher, but because it would have been the huge kick at the end of the episode that would have turned this needle up to 11 (I keep using this term, because I cannot top Spinal Tap).
The X-Files was a 90s show. That’s not saying it was on in the 90s, as much as it shaped the 90s. It was a show that was a darker sci-fi/supernatural than most networks would display at the time, and it featured over-arching conspiracies that often showed how much faith we put in the Government and the higher powers without ever actually knowing what they are doing behind the scenes. We already were a bit suspicious as a nation after Iran-Contra, but this show really demonstrated exactly how far the government could go by presenting several potential sci-fi conspiracies that were just extensions of actual government actions (e.g. MK-Ultra).
The main characters everyone should be familiar with: FBI Agent Fox Mulder (David “I have problems” Duchovny) is a conspiracy nut who is right about 90% of the time (which he points out in an episode, lampshading the entire series), and Agent Dana Scully (Gillian “You’ve fantasized about me” Anderson), the skeptic who keeps Mulder grounded, and eventually begins to believe. There were 2 kinds of episodes: Story Arc, where the Government’s secret 2012 conspiracy is being brought up, and Monster-of-the-Week, which featured the team dealing with a random supernatural threat. “Post-modern Prometheus” is the latter.
This episode is the X-Files finally doing a Frankenstein episode, but they combine it with a comic-book episode. It opens as an animated issue of the comic “The Great Mutato,” before revealing that it is entirely in black-and-white as a tribute to James Whale’s “Frankenstein.” The one with Boris Karloff.
Mulder receives a letter from a woman who saw him on Jerry Springer. She tells him that she was once knocked unconscious during an attack 18 year ago and woke up pregnant with her son. Now, it has happened again, and she wants someone to investigate. A description of her attacker matches the character of her son’s comic, “The Great Mutato,” who is based on a two-mouthed lumpy creature that the locals have seen outside of the town. The pair actually see Mutato from afar after this conversation, but cannot get closer.
The agents’ investigation leads them to an old man, whose son Dr. Pollidori (a reference to one of the guests at the conception of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus), shows them his experiments with fruit fly genetics, saying that it could be used to grow mutated humans. Mulder immediately pieces together that Pollidori (John O’Hurley) created Mutato, trying to be a real-life Frankenstein. Meanwhile, the audience is given hints at Mutato’s personality, watching him cry while watching “Mask” and seeing him dance alone through the mists to Cher songs. They keep the monster’s appearance indirect throughout the episode, instead choosing to just show him through what he likes. This is an unusual take on character that seems prevalent throughout the episode: People can be defined from their interests as much as they can be defined from their actions or words.
Trying to cover up his mistake, Pollidori leads a mob against the monster, because that had to happen in a Frankenstein episode. Mulder and Scully, having found that Mutato is not evil, nor guilty of any crime, protect him. The creature begs Pollidori to give him a bride, but Pollidori says he cannot. He didn’t intend to create Mutato, and cannot, and will not, do it again. The mob realizes that Pollidori is the real villain and has him arrested and brought to jail. Mulder, still pissed that Mutato will be alone forever, demands to find the author for a happy ending. He turns to the boy who writes Mutato’s comic and tells him to fix it. The next scene, which may be completely made up by the boy, has the Agents take Mutato to a Cher concert (Cher couldn’t make it, so she sent her best impersonator) and gets called up on stage to dance with Cher to “Walkin’ in Memphis” while Mulder and Scully dance together.
Post-modernism is supposed to be an art style that involves the use of the styles that came before it in conjunction with other contrasting styles to defy convention and mix media and artistic theories. This episode is one of the better follow-throughs on that premise, trying to blend many art and dramatic styles that are, at times, extremely disparate. The premise is a comic book that contains a classic horror movie that contains a monster who is obsessed with pop music. Many scenes are pastiches of classic horror films that are set to “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”and “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves,” which are possibly the least horror-sounding songs ever written. All of these are combined into what was then a very original feel for the episode. Even Cher regretted not appearing in the episode, so that’s probably a sign of its strength.
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Rather than a clip from the show, here’s a clip-show set to Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves.