season 5, episode 5, the post-modern prometheus
i’ve been dreading this review. i really love it, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. it looks fantastic. i love the performances. the music and score have me all a-tingle. it has one of my favorite shippy moments. but then there’s the whole rape thing. it’s just hanging out in the background of this madcap comic book-style adventure. it doesn’t sit right with me that it’s there and it doesn’t sit right with me that it’s in the background, either. there are two points where it’s addressed, but then is overshadowed by them rewarding the rapist with tickets to a cher concert in the end. uh, what? and the story is a bit all over the place. one minute it’s frankenstein, then next the elephant man. maybe it’s a comment on stereotypes, themselves. they use blatant stereotypes to showcase that you can’t reduce an episode to a horror film stereotype. but, i think that may be the problem. it’s too complex to be reduced to a stereotype, but the result is a muddled mess of many stereotypes all the while making fun of making generalizations. my head is spinning. “where’s the writer? i want to speak to the writer.”
we enter the episode through a comic book and our show turns to black and white. hell if that isn’t on the nose of the whole stereotype thing. but, “the x-files” looks so good in black and white. the cinematography is amazing. mulder and scully look phenomenal. it is a clever distraction from the convoluted plot that downplays rape. the great mutato and his father use fumigation tents to commit their violations and no one is the wiser. and the beauty of this episode does the same. you’re so distracted by the scenery that you forget that the dude is drugging and impregnating women against their will. and that the farmer has been performing experiments on the town folk for going on two decades. but, maybe it’s not so insidious as that. we enter into a comic book, it’s in black and white, the camera angles are exaggerated, the characters are over the top. maybe this is just a grim’s fairy tale version of an x-file. maybe it’s not real. but, if it’s not real, then what about mulder and scully dancing to cher in the end. i want that to be real. the end shot is cartoonized and the story gets its ‘the end.’ and it’s a happy ending. and this is “the x-files,” so that can’t be real. this makes me happy and sad. happy that mulder and scully don’t dismiss a case (or many cases, in this case) of rape and sad that mulder and scully getting a happy ending is just a fairy tale. i should be used to “the x-files” being ambiguous, but this is too much. “where’s the writer. i want to speak to the writer.”
unlike this episode, my opinion of it cannot be black and white. there are things i love about it. it’s quite entertaining if you don’t overthink it. (did i overthink it? i may have. now i’m overthinking the overthinking.) the acting is great, from the leads to the bit players. there are some delightful M&S moments. scully is wonderfully exasperated at times and mulder is adorably in awe of the fantastical world in which he’s found himself. who knew a mark snow score and cher would go together so well? the episode is stunning to both your eyes and ears. the final scene is the stuff of legend among philes. mulder and scully are smiling, not something we get to see too often. mulder stands and offers his hand to scully. scully takes his hand and he pulls her to him and they dance. i repeat, they dance. my shipper heart doesn’t just flutter, it’s does somersaults. if only they had gone to the concert after taking the rapist to jail instead, though. “where’s the writer. i want to speak to the writer.”
addendum: so funny that i did this review as the x-files files podcast released kumail’s conversation with gillian and david on set of the x-files revival. they talk about this episode as one of their favorites. david says that the great mutato is not raping the women, it’s more of animal husbandry. ok, i agree that it is not sexual rape, but it’s still a gross violation of someone’s body without their consent. i never did think he was actually physically forcing sex on these women. so my problem with the episode still stands, but that doesn’t change the fact that i love it. duchovny says that the ending is one of his favorites and that it is “romantical.” same, bro, same.
mulder and scully look so good in black and white.
maybe i would’ve had a better read on this episode if i had read mary shelley’s frankenstein. i’ll add it to the reading list.
the look of pity that scully gives mulder when she reads that the victim saw mulder on “the tv” is priceless.
love the use of foreground and background.
“you can’t plant a seed in a barren field.” ouch and double ouch that this episode airs right before the “christmas carol/emily” two-parter.
that is a giant tub of peanut butter.
it makes me sad when mulder says, “i don’t know if i believe in that stuff anymore.”
“this is a very serious crime.” YES, RAPE IS A VERY SERIOUS CRIME.
“that’s the great mutato.” lightning crashes. classic horror film device.
“unless you want your scientific achievements to be a footnote on ‘the jerry springer show.'” i feel this is a real fear of mulder and scully’s about their work on the x-files.
what is with the decor in the pollidori house? this has to mean something.
shaineh berkowitz is parenting goals.
have i mentioned how great mulder and scully look in black and white?
i get goosebumps when gypsies, tramps, and thieves starts playing.
what did they expect going into the tented house filled with gaseous fumes? of course they’re going to pass out.
stereotypes can be misleading. the great mutato isn’t a monster because of his horrible deformities, he is a monster because of his actions. a monster, at any rate. that’s why it kills me that mulder and scully feel sorry for him in the end.
oh yeah, and mulder and scully look really good in black and white.
did you know? behind the scenes facts:
when the waitress pours coffee in mulder’s lap, david duchovny ad-libbed in an outtake, “now my crotch is going to be up all night.”
chris owens, who plays the great mutato in this episode, played the young cigarette smoking man and goes on to play the recurring character of agent spender in the series.
the role of cher was written for cher herself, a major x-files fan. unfortunately, she was unavailable at the time. however, she gave her blessing for her music to be used and for celebrity impersonator tracey bell to take her role. in the boxed set for the final season, there is a documentary called “reflections on the x-files”. cher reveals that she rejected an offer to appear in ‘post-modern prometheus’ because she didn’t see a role other then just being herself and singing. after seeing the finished result, she remarks on-camera, “oh shit, i should have done that.”
‘the post-modern prometheus’ was nominated for seven emmy awards in 1998; outstanding writing, directing, art direction, cinematography, single-picture editing, makeup and music composition. graeme murray, greg loewen and shirley inget walked away with the award for outstanding art direction. i agree with all of that, but the writing.
they gaze at each other behind the great mutato at the concert and might even be holding hands.
they dance to cher. THEY DANCE TO CHER.
the way scully looks at him when he offers his hand to her and the way he pulls her into him is so sexy. and then they look lovingly into each other’s eyes. oh my god.
mulder and scully were originally supposed to kiss as they dance at the end. however, chris carter thought it was too much, so he cut it. “where’s the writer? I WANT TO SPEAK TO THE WRITER!” kidding aside, i actually agree with this. it would’ve been out of place. the dancing was enough. it was perfect.
m: “but nonetheless unverifiable and therefore true in the sense that they’re believed to be true.” s: “is there anything you don’t believe in, mulder?”
dr. pollidori: “because i can.”
m: “when victor frankenstein asks himself ‘whence did the principle of life proceed?’ and then as a gratifying summit to his toils creates a hideous phantasm of a man he prefigures the post-modern prometheus, the genetic engineer whose power to reanimate matter–genes into life–us–is only as limited as his imagination is.” not really sure what you said, mulder, or its significance, but it was hot as fuck.
m: “they had their frying pans violated.”
m: “not a place you want to burn a guy.”
shaineh berkowitz: “how’d you like your face to intercept my fist, coconut head?”