The X-Files

Season 5 Episode 5

The Post-Modern Prometheus

Aired Wednesday 8:00 PM Nov 30, 1997 on FOX

Episode Fan Reviews (27)

Write A Review
out of 10
410 votes
  • I've got an idea

    They didn't just shake things up here, they completely threw the shaker at the wall. In the last episode it was cool to see "The Invisible Man" playing on the kid's tv set and this follow up episode literally went right into that world. A great looking black and white throwback to Universal's monster movies. You've got rioting townsfolk, the mad scientist played by J Peterman um I mean John O'Hurley, The Fly and even bits of The Elephant Man that kick things up into serious storytelling. Speaking of Elephant Man there was also a David Lynch esq thing going on here with the music choices, very strange stuff that did take the episode out of style with the old timey monster movie feel but hey what the hell. Its so obvious they were having fun, to just change the ending to have the disfigured man dancing with Cher.

    Like a break in the 4th wall and I love it for that.
  • The Post-Modern Prometheus

    The Post-Modern Prometheus was a perfect episode of The X-Files and I really enjoyed watching because the style of the episode was refreshing, simple yet creative. The story was awesome and extremely well written. I was reminded of Pumpkinhead for some reason. I loved the black and white along with the classic horror movie feel. There was action, drama, intrigue and Cher. I liked how every thing played out and I knew the barn was going to catch fire. The ending was spectacular and it felt like the end of a season or something. I look forward to watching the next episode!!!!!!!!!
  • If it were up to me, this episode would have been saved for the series finale.


    I'm not going to get into a complicated analysis of this episode. I'll just simply say that I loved every minute of it. The black and white. The music. And the slowdance at the end is my favorite X-Files moment of all time.

    I've always felt this would have been a perfect episode to end the series on. The series eventually concluded with the end of the conspiracy mytharch. But I feel a series finale should be one that stands apart from the rest of the series. To enjoy any mytharc episode you would almost have to have followed the series from the beginning. But an episode like this can be enjoyed by hardcore and casual fans alike. I would have opted to end the series on a monster of the week episode. Specifically this one.

    To close the show out with Mulder and Scully having one last dance and to have The End appear on screen would be the perfect ending for me. Why not wrap up the conspiracy mytharc in the second to last episode and save the last dance for the end.

    What a way to go out that would have been.

  • interesting concept, poor realization...

    I mean, the idea of shooting an unusual X-files episode sounds like a good idea, after all, repeating the same formula week after week gets a little tiring for the audience and the cast.

    But that's not an excuse for this bad episode. I can't believe in the number of good reviews that this episode got, and the number of emmys it was nominated for.

    First of all, the plot is a mess. We don't know who is the fater of whom, who is the son, who created whom. Clearly the production was rushed. The characterization is lame, and the intended comic tone just fails. The portrait of the small town city is also too weird and the black and white is annoying. And surprisingly nothing apparently happens to the great Mutato, who after all, raped that woman.

    It doesn't feel like a X-files episode at all. Chris tried to hard on the comic situations and it feels overdone and artificial. I felt almost offended by the final scene, as it was ridiculous over belief seeing Fox Mulder dancing to Cher. I mean, I was just "WTF???" And if they had kissed it would have been the most ridiculous scene in the history of the series, it was like a Mad About You moment!

    I love the X-files, so nobody can accuse me of being a hater, but for me this episode didn't work att all...
  • An eerie, goofy, sad and all-around great episode

    By the time this episode came to a close, with Mulder and Scully slow-dancing to a Cher song and the monster from the episode dancing with Cher as she sings the song, I honestly had no idea whether or no I had just watched a great episode of television or a complete trainwreck. Even thinking about it now, it reminds me of "Supernatural's" goofiest episodes, the ones that are stupid and annoying to watch. However, upon second thought, I'm extremely impressed with how Chris Carter basically took every element of this show that we've come to enjoy and mix it in one. It's an episode filled with several tones and plots, but boy.. it's a good one.

    The episode begins with a woman who loves watching the disfigured individuals on Jerry Springer sends a letter to Mulder, claiming she's twice been knocked up by some beast that knocks her out for a few days and leaves her pregnant when she wakes up. Scully expects it to be a hoax, but as usual, weird events begin happening and the duo find strange things in their investigation, including a Frankenstein-esque doctor who screws around with human and fly genetics and does things to them that no scientist should do. As a result, Mulder begins putting two and two together and realizes this individual knocking up women is a result of this doctor's experiments.

    That's perhaps the most basic way of explaining the episode. It's much more detailed and complex then I would lead you to believe. We have these strange moments where townsfolk admit that they heard about Mulder from the Jerry Springer show.. there's also these awkward and surreal moments when Mulder walks into a diner and gets these weird glares from everyone in the town, who seem to be about two steps back from reality. It felt like a Twilight Zone episode (which may have been what Carter was going for with the black and white and the music). And I'm saying this as if it's a bad thing.. but really, it was quite fun to watch everything resolve itself, even if the final moment nearly pulled me out of the show.

    Chris Carter definitely was able to create a unique episode of TV here, and I'm glad that they had Mulder, for once, doubting the existance of aliens (carrying on from the last myth-arc episodes). I truly hope that aliens do exist in this show, because otherwise, I'll feel as gyped as Mulder.
  • Very special episode

    I have watched this episode three times this week to try and understand the basis of the episode and aside from the homage to the old frankestein movies, I feel that this episode is all about perceptions and stereotypes. The perception that Mutato is a monster based on what he looks like, the perception that the townsfolk are simple and can be reduced to cultural stereotypes, Dr Polidori as the mad, ingenious scientist, the Father as a simpleton farmer.

    Mutato was a product of his making, in the sense that he landed up paying a price for Dr Polidori's mistake, as a result the Dr's father tried to recreate him so that he could have a mate to share his life with, however without the full understand of what he trying to do as well as the facilities to do it in, he made to with what he could access and what he understood (a man of the land). None of this should be an excuse for either Dr Polidori, his father or Mutato, but the townsfolk accept it as such because they all have a certain kinship with Mutato and this is echoed in Izzy saying but "he is no monster". This comment is very ironic considering Izzy could have landed up looking more animal like and less human. This sentiment is echoed as well in the beginning and the end of the episode, with the Jerry Springer excerpts - acceptance of something possibly less human that what we perceive it to be. Mutato and his Father had done what they did out of a basic human need and desperation for what would never be a normal life in thier view. This does not make the deed any less wrong, but it does not necessarily make them evil, what it does make them is misguided.

    The way the episode was shot was amazing, the black and white, I remember the first time I saw it I initially thought that either my TV or video machine had gone on the fritz and blown something. Some very cheesy comedic scenes through out the episode, the diner scenes, where the townsfolk initially believe that Mulder and Scully are there to relieve or change some part of thier possibly humdrum exsistance. The car scene with the letter, Gillian Anderson is one of the most expressive actresses I have ever come across, the way her right eyebrow arches when she is particularly sceptical, cracks me up every time. Mulder's smoking gun with the peanut butter jar as well his almost deadpan expression throughout the episode. The woman would not be considered missing as the townsfolk may have assumed that the houses were being fumigated - for as much as people have a natural curiosity, they also have a tendancy to not want to interfere and I get the impression that, the townsfolk are more than just a little wary of Shanieh Berkowitz and Dr Polidori, to stick their noses to deep.

    The ending was appropriate to the episode for me in the sense of Dr Polidori paid the price for his misdeeds,and the townsfolk felt that Mutato had already paid the price for his misdeeds with how he had already lived his life. The impression that I get is that they most likely felt that he had already been punished enough for what he and his Father had done.

    I think that this was in a number of ways an off the cuff episode, however I do not think that it was in any way meant to make light of or reduce the evil of rape or molesation.

    For me the episode rates a 10/10 for it's artistic and theatrical touch and for it's homage to the original Frakenstein movies
  • Simply magical episode

    This was such a marvelous episode and I loved every single aspect about it. The whole episode was filmed in black and white which really gave it the comic book feel that I think Chris Carter wanted to achieve. I thought the storyline was sweet - The great Mutato was a result of an experiment that went wrong and the townsfolk accepted him as nothing more than a monster. I thought it was very sad when Mutato found his dead father and buried him in the barn. What I liked most about this episode and what I think made it work so well was the use of music. Not just the Cher songs playing in the background, but the comic/circus, almost fairytale music that gave the sense of fiction to emphasise that the townsfolk were living in episodes of the Jerry Springer show. I also thought that the scene where Mulder and Scully talk to Dr Polidori were great... The combination of the B&W, the low angled scenes and the lightning outside really gave a scary feel to the scene which I absolutley loved! The reactions of the townspeople when Mulder walked into the diner both times were very strong scenes as well. The scene where Mutato was explaining himself to Mulder and Scully and the townsfolk was very powerful and very moving. And, of course, I loved the final scene. I would have loved it more though if Chris Carter hadn't cut the scene where Mulder and Scully kissed! Nonetheless it was a great final scene. This might just be because I think moments like that are soo cute XD or that I simply love the song 'Walking in Memphis' but it's definatley a 10/10 episode in my book.
  • I seriously can't describe the way this episode made me feel, I had never seen an episode of the X-Files before and boy was I in for a wonderful surprise. I get that this is not exactly a traditional episode of the show, but just wow...

    I seriously can't describe the way this episode made me feel, I had never seen an episode of the X-Files before and boy was I in for a wonderful surprise. I felt compelled by this episode so much that I just had to sign on at 4 in the morning to post this review. I get that this is not exactly a traditional episode of the show, but just wow, if the rest of the episodes are even half as good as this one I am already a fan. This episode in particular reminded me of the twilight zone, a show of which before now I thought there was no equal. Though I get the impression that this episode was very much inspired by the classic episodes of the twilight zone, and all the classic B&W suspense films. The symbology in this episode specifically near the end with the cross cutting between the animals and the townspeople is just so powerful, no TV episode has moved me this much in years.
  • Black and white, comic book style, two-faced monsters and a would-be Dr Frankenstein. All this and Cher too!

    I sort of get the feeling that is either one you'll love or hate. I loved it. It's a romance wrapped in a horror story; it's a classic tale with a modern twist; it's funny and it's moving. And it's comic-book, black and white style make it tongue in cheek enough that you can forgive various obvious plot holes.

    Basically it's about a town where there is supposed to be a horrific monster lurking (with a penchant for peanut butter!), women are becoming pregnant at a bizarre rate and have no recollection of having sex, the local doctor is into gene mutation and the locals are a motley crew to say the least.

    The fact that Jerry Springer makes a cameo appearance doing a show of his that is fictitious, but part of this story should give you some idea of the level of reality we're watching.

    I won't give away the story. Suffice it to say that the Dr Frankenstein and his 'monster' story are rewritten for a modern age, with a lighthearted style and enough references to please afficionados of the original and the films. There is genuine pathos in the portrayal of this 'monster', references to Cher's film 'Mask' and Cher's music playing throughout.

    There are a few implausibles (well the whole thing's implausible, but there are a couple of things that are harder to suspend the disbelief for). For instance, during the unconscious sex sessions set up by the monster, quite how he is supposed to source and design enough material to clothe an entire house, exterminator style, is never clear. The fact that Mulder and Scully, complete with guest are able to get a front row table at a Cher concert is unlikely, as is the fact that Cher would even be playing such a small venue!

    So what can I say - it's funny, it's moving, it's tense in places, it's bizarre, it's impressive, it's totally off the wall. It's an X File.
  • I'm walking in Memphis, watching this good ep...

    This is definitely a classic episode, one that everyone should see at least once. Hell, if anything all you need to do is watch the ending. Mulder and Scully dancing at the end absolutely makes this episode for me and is (clearly) my favorite part.

    That said, the storyline is pretty good. It's essentially a refurbished Frankenstein tale with a happy ending. Jerry Springer makes a clever cameo (this was at the height of Springer-dom). My main problem with this episode is that it was never stated that, essentially, what the Great Mutato was doing was rape. Scully clearly mentions the fact that the women impregnated in Small Potatoes were done so without their consent, essentially rape. Yet, there was no mention of that here. It seems like they just wanted to be all lovey dovey about it. That's a big fault of this episode, IMO.

    Overall, though, it's a must see.
  • Oh my...

    I thought that 'Humbug' was the weirdest episode in the series until I saw this one. Mulder and Scully are called into a hick town to investigate mysterious births and whatnot. In the investigation they learn of a Monster known as the great Mutato. The great Mutato has two faces and likes penut butter so the agents start asking around and they learn that the great mutato is a genetically engineered accident who is obsessed with Cher and wants a mate. I enjoyed this episode better than Humbug, this episode had a monster movie feel to it and what was really cool is that it was all in black and white.
  • A Cher loving monsterman impregnates women from a Hick town. Altogether now 'We're walking in Memphis...'

    This is one of the episodes I never saw on first run, I was kind of losing interest round season 5. Just now seeing it though I really enjoyed it. Filmed all in black and white with a twinkly score and semi-humorous tone it's different from most other episodes. The post-modern bit comes from references to Jerry Springer and Cher (as married to Sonny) and adds a niceish new twist to the story of Frankenstien's Monster. Although Mutato the monster is more akin to the Elephantman.

    One of the funniest bits is when after covering in the American flag and gassing the house Mutato puts on Cher and dances upstairs with glee to impregnate the woman. The same goes for that woman's appearance on the Jerry Springer show as well.

    Very enjoyable episode and nice ending with Scully and Mulder taking Mutato to a Cher concert.
  • A very humorous well written X-File classic.

    Mulder and Scully go on a case to chase after the Great Mutato, a two headed being. Hilarity ensues, in black and white too. This episode is one of the finest examples of originality I have ever seen. The episode is filmed in black and white from start to finish, this might be a turnoff for some but I was pleasantly surprised. It gives the episode a lot of personality and overall punch.

    The script is top notch too and very humorous and a welcome addition after a pretty intense trilogy. This episode has arguably one of the best X-Files conclusions of all time, especially shippers. I won't spoil much for you except to say that Mulder and Scully hold hands...and they dance too. If you haven't seen this episode or you don't want to because of it's art direction give it a chance, it is a very surprising episode and delivers well just like any other X-File.
  • Our heroes Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate a mysterious pregnancy that turns out to be slightly odder than your average virgin birth.

    The beautiful thing about the X-Files is that, having run for as long as it did, it can occasionally make these clever, witty, different episodes that set it above your run-of-the-mill, average TV drama. Referencing 19th century literature, as well as incorporating directorial methods from contemporary directors (Tim Burton to name but one), the episode sets a president for what television can and should strive for. It suggests that television doesn't have to be dull, uninviting and tedious: it can be spontaneous, intriguing, surreal and, above all, artistic. It contends with social issues, considers things worth considering and shows its audience that a show about monsters and aliens can be so much more than a show about monsters and aliens.
  • Brilliantly strange

    Rapist monster who listens to Cher. Jerry Springer -crazy town. Straight from a comic book -like reporter. Perfect.

    This is almost the best episode of the whole series, maybe just after Bad Blood. The plot and the characters are as crazy as hell, and everything is like straight from a comic book. Mulder and Scully look just like Huey, Dewey and Louie when they peek through the door to talk to the drawer of the The Great Mutato.

    When the monster rapes the wife of his kind of half-brother, and dances in a flower-covered house listening to Cher, it wraps it up for me. A timeless classic in all of television. Almost stranger than Twin Peaks.
  • X-Files gets artistic.

    This episode marks a point where the X-Files takes on a far more artistic bent than it ever had had before. This is very important, and it allows the show to explore the Mulder/Scully dynamic further and deeper than they could previously in the series. The strength of this installment is the style. Done in a very fanciful way, with black and white film, different angles, and an overall surrealist feeling, The Post-Modern Prometheus is quite a stray from the standard style of X-Files filming. The plot itself is far-out and fits perfectly into the crazy little world that is created for it. the use of Cher's music is a cute touch, and the very circusy score fits well. Chris Owens (seen as Young CSM and Agent Spender) is cute and endearing as the "Great Mutato" and John O'Hurley is hilarious as the Mad Scientist. The payoff for X-Philes and shippers is, of course, the last scene. But, I wouldn't be in any way a decent reviewer if I gave that away, now would I?
  • This is one of the few episodes...

    ...That I can watch repeatedly. It's fun, interesting, laced with historical trivia woven into the script, this is why the X-files was such a great show. A couple of other episodes rise to this level of enjoyment, but this is one of the best. Get a chance and see it. If not, rent the season from netflix or something. Won't be disappointed.
  • An Oddity

    This is a hard one to review as it is such an oddity in the series. Clearly, a labor of love for Carter and an extremely ambitious endeavor. I'm not convinced that it is truly as great as Carter and some fans would have us believe but it is a solid effort and worthy of being included among the classic episodes of the series.

    I loved, loved, loved the cinematography. Sure B&W is a bit of a conceit but it just looks great, it fits the subject matter and it's very flattering to both Anderson and Duchovny. I loved the look of the wide-angle lens and the almost comic effect it has on some of the extreme close-ups, of which there are many.

    Although Carter would never equal the sly, comic genius of Darin Morgan, he comes as close as he ever will in this episode. Carter doesn't have as deft a touch for humor as did Morgan and so much of his attempted humor comes across as a bit hamfisted. An example here is Mutato's Cher fixation. Yes, it's funny in a pop culture kind of way, but it's also just a bit random, perhaps even vapid. He then runs the joke into the ground by having Mutato attend a "Cher" performance to close the episode.

    All in all, a great episode that I am glad exists but one that does not fit easily in the X-Files canon.
  • Wow... 45 minutes of my life. BOOM! Gone just like that.

    10 10 10 10 10? Those scores make baby Jesus cry.

    With all of the out there stories the X-Files has done, I have never watched one and said it was "dumb", mainly because the writing is so good that it makes sense out of the extraordinary, and it makes the ridiculous seems plausible.

    Well the writers were taking a break during this one, because this episode is just plain stupid. The entire episode just feels like... like someone put a pretty little bow on a pile of garbage. The town, the... absolutely ridiculous characters, most of which are so appalling to even look at I forgot who the "monster" was supposed to be. What else would you expect from a show where Jerry Springer makes an appearance?

    Mulder and Scully are brilliant as always, everyone else though should probably freshen up on their acting skills a bit, I'm sure some will argue that the characters were meant to be silly, comical and such to keep in sync with the setting of the story, no, they just can't act.

    The black and white also might sound like a neat idea, but it grows old fast and really doesn't look right, the 'comic book' feel to the episode just isn't there, not to mention it is a pain in the butt to look at.

    They did get the setting down right though, You can actually smell the bacon and moonshine oozing out of the pores from all these idiot background characters that make up the townsfolk, so... that's something of an accomplishment I guess.

    I'm sure many will disagree with me on this, but it can't be helped. I would really like to know why so many people (these are intelligent people here for god sakes) like this mess though.
  • The great Mutato

    I think that this was the first episode of the x-files i ever saw. I remember watching it as a kid with my mum and dad and being scared. When i watched it now i just laughed. This in my opinion is the best x-file ever. Its no too serious and its not too stupid, its just weird. Weird and cool. The whole black and white look of the episode add to the extra creepyness of it, giving it a slight retroness. The use of music in this episode is great and the acting is aswell. 10 out of 10.
  • My favourite episode...

    Fantastic. Absolutly fantastic. I don\'t know why I love this episode so much. it was one of the first I saw and has remained a firm favourite even though it has nothing to do with the alien conspiricies etc. It\'s not exactly a \'funny\' episode but it has a fun lighthearted feel throughout which is helped by a great score. I also really liked the fact that the whole thing was in black and white, although this was easier on the eyes when watching the DVD beacause there were no colour adverts in between to break up the effect. I just think this whole episode is really good fun and has a really flowing, fast moving storyline with some great lines and, of course, a song at the end! (I am a sucker for anything with a song in it)
    A particularly good episode in a superb season and (lets face it) a superb series.
  • A+

    Wooow!This is truly a great installment! It's a well written story, with nice and modest references to Frankenstein. With seven nominations for an Emmy-award says enough if you ask me.
    I like the black/white-cartoon style, so it gave you a feeling if your watching a horrormovie from the '30's or '40's. But also the setting of that village was very well done. It breath the right ambience, so the viewer would be more involved with the whole story. The reference to Jerry Springer was nice and subtle, 'cause the whole village lived for tv-shows as The Jerry Springer Show.
    The camera-angles gave me more the feeling from a cartoon-perspective, but it started as a comic book so I think it's great that the director payed attention to it, to set the feeling right!

    We also learned a lesson in this episode. Love someone on who he is, not how he looks. Eventually doctor Pollidori was the monster here.
    It was a very nice ending with a great performance of Cher (played by Tracey Bell) with the song Walking in Memphis.
  • My favorite episode of the series. The characters are so bird and animal-like that even though this epi is in black white it is fun to see. Great reference to 30's & 40's genre<br /> horror. The happiest ending of the series.

    Dreamy look with all the haze even though it is in black and white. Mulder and Scully are as amused as we the audience are seeing the residents of this quirky town. The two diner scenes are the best.The tight-knit community either loves them or hates them and the diner is their forum. Love the bird lady. The ending when Scully and Mulder take the great Mutato to the nightclub to see Cher perform. I hope you all like the music of Cher because the episode is chock full of music by Cher. There are also clips from Cher's film Mask. Enjoy.
    Trivia: Chris Owens the actor who plays the great Mutato also played Young Cigarette Smoking Man and Agent Spender.
  • The one with the black and white

    A truly amazing episode, the most original and creative of the X-files.

    The episode begins very comic book-y and continues black and white. a poor woman is featured in a house watching Jerry Springer, then smoke comes in the house and she sees some sort of a monster, when she wakes up she finds out she’s pregnant and calls Mulder and Scully and she says that this happened with her first son as well.

    She tells about the monster who looks exactly like a monster from her son’s comic book. The monster has been seen all across town and when they follow him they come on someone’s property of an old farmer that scares them away.

    There is something weird about a doctor in town who has been experimenting things, his wife wants to become pregnant but he doesn’t and when she stayed alone the same happens and she ends up being pregnant. Mulder and Scully find the place but the gas puts them out.

    The mad doctor knows about something and goes to the old farmer who is keeping the monster in his house, he kills him and when the monster finds him and buries him he gets accused of being the killer.

    When the whole town comes after the killer they find Mulder and Scully protecting him, he’s surrounded by animals who love him. He can talk and says that his father wanted him to have a partner for him and that he was created by that mad scientist. They all forgive him and the mad doctor gets taken to prison.

    What was so hysterical about the monster was that he was fan of Cher, when he gets arrested he has to go to jail but Mulder and Scully instead take him to a Cher concert and they dance together, a wonderful moment that was.

    The episode was brilliantly done, the black and white fit so well and especially the monster was loveable. The funniest were those weird town people, the way they were nice to Mulder at first and then hated him when he said they were making a hoax. The episode was original and one of the best of the show.
  • A wonderful, original episode!

    This is one of my all-time favorite episodes of "The X-Files" which is saying a lot because I adore the whole series. Everyone involved in making the show definately outdid themselves with this one. The viewer gets the feeling as soon as the first black and white picture hits the screen that they are in for a treat, and it does not disappoint. The story was both touching and humorous but at the same time never lost sight of what made "The X-Files" great. The only thing that would have made this episode better would have been if Cher had agreed to play herself!
  • One of the best X-Files episodes

    There are not many series like this one out there any more. This episode is a prime example. It reflects the state of pop-culture at the time, can appeal to almost anyone (who hasn't heard of Frankenstein?), yet keeps within the underlying theme of the whole series.
    Also, filming the entire episode in black and white was also a smart move. It gives it an edge. It makes you feel like you are up late at night channel surfing, and have stumbled upon one of those long forgotten gems you HAVE to watch, no matter how many times you have seen it.

    A must-see X-Files episode.

  • Overall, this episode is a wonderful diversion from the canon, exploring some of the best aspects of the series’ concept while also providing commentary on a staple of 1990s culture.

    At several points in the series’ run, the producers would come up with an episode concept that would step outside of the normal canon and present a more “mythological” context. Episodes like “War of the Coprophages” and “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man” work far better when viewed as apocryphal: stories and tales told of iconic characters and people that have become part of some future legendarium.

    In this case, it’s as if some measure of the story might have been true: a case in the middle of nowhere, involving a somewhat deformed child of genetic experiments gone awry, seeking to create through immoral means a mate. But the tone and style of the episode veer far from the realistic into the fanciful, casting the characters and situations into a classical fable mode. All in all, this is Chris Carter’s personal “thank you” to the fans and devotees that helped him take such concepts and turn them into an international sensation.

    Like the aforementioned episodes, this is not an episode that lends itself to a linear breakdown; there are specific story elements that work better than others, but it’s not entirely necessary for the episode to hang together as a viable whole. Is it really worth getting into the plausibility of cross-breeding humans and animals in some attempt to create a monster bride? This is not Carter’s usual attempt to create “real monsters”. This is Carter’s version of Frankenstein, and he doesn’t bother trying to hide it.

    The episode works all the better for it. When Carter attempted the Darin Morgan style of comedy in “Syzygy”, it fell far short. Indeed, Carter’s sense of comedy often descends into the harsh and needlessly cruel (“Fight Club” added layers of disturbing overtones to the Mulder/Scully dynamic, especially if one considers their medical state ala “Within”). But this is not so much a question of comedy as quirky, and Carter does a much better job with the weird.

    Of course, Carter’s not Darin Morgan, and so the sensibilities of “Humbug” don’t come quite so easily. Carter’s version of a morality tale, steeped in the unusual and disturbing (and a little Cher), sometimes comes across as a bit too earnest. As many previous episodes had established, when Carter gets running with the overly prosaic monologues, they can get a bit ridiculous. There are moments where characters stop acting and sounding like themselves because Carter wants to drive him a point in poetic language or dump some relatively quick exposition. Thankfully, Carter sometimes understands this weakness; some of the scenes with Mulder and Scully are wonderfully self-aware.

    If one takes the framing of the episode seriously, then this is Izzy’s version of the story, with the details changed and transformed to create this fantasy world that Carter gets to play in. That works well from a conceptual level, because one gets to wonder whether any of it really happened. The inclusion of Jerry Springer Show commentary is also an interesting angle on society and how the unusual or monstrous can easily become cause for celebrity. The use of the circus tent motif is not accidental.

    It’s not at all surprising to hear that Mulder has been cited by guests of the Jerry Springer Show; indeed, the Syndicate Elders must slap each other on the back every time his name comes up! Like “Fallen Angel” in the first season, where it’s revealed that Mulder’s activities have become legendary within the fringe elements of the abductee community, Mulder becomes an icon for those seeking validation of their freakshow fantasies. Those living in quiet desperation seek the immediacy and “fame” that Jerry Springer once represented, and Mulder is seen as a conduit for an entire town to live out that “dream”, monster or not.

    Lest this concept be missed by the audience, Scully gets to prattle on about it in atypically florid language. The irony is that Scully is the wrong person to be discussing psychological motivations. That’s probably part of why Mulder looks so damned amused throughout the entire monologue. Scully touches on the fears of the unknown, transference of negative emotions, and self-aggrandizement, and yet she might as well be staring at the screen and telling the audience to remember these topics because they’ll be on the quiz. Without the self-awareness of the scene, it would be ridiculously bad.

    The introduction to Dr. Pollidori is a thing of beauty. Carter frames each scene as if it were an old issue of “Tales from the Crypt”, and it couldn’t be more appropriate. The content of the scene is really quite secondary to the style of it all; one can get the gist of the dialogue simply by following the composition of the each scene. It’s inspired filmmaking, made even better by the underlying sense of knowing humor saturating every moment. Even Pollidori wants those 15 minutes of fame, despite his desire for professional recognition.

    As long as the town believes that Mulder can get them fame and perceived fortune, they treat him like a king. He is, for all intent purposes, the validation they need to achieve their pathetic dreams. Mulder himself becomes as much as symbol as the “monster” himself. He could literally be anyone and still be treated exactly the same. It’s very amusing, especially since it’s all so blatantly phoney.

    The Great Mutato’s scene at the Pollidori home is easily one of the most surreal moments of the series. It stands as a perfect example of the particular flavor of this episode. It’s just about impossible not to watch in confusion and wonder at the melding of imagery and sound. It’s hard to imagine enjoying a scene that consists of a deformed man singing along with Cher in a house filled with anesthetic gas, but to Carter’s credit, it works beautifully.

    Following a rather confusing and pretentious bit of commentary by Mulder (“Post-Modern Prometheus”, indeed), the agents run headlong into the middle of a gas cloud that could easily have killed them both in record time. It’s hard to imagine that Scully would do such a thing on her own, so it’s in deference to the needs of the story. Scully comes to the conclusion that the whole thing is a hoax, of course, and so that is what gets spread around. Whether Mulder agrees or not is incidental.

    The barrier between the surreal fantasy world and stark reality begins breaking down when Pollidori kills his own father. The hope of fame and fortune falls apart, and scapegoats are suddenly needed to justify that emotional loss. Mulder becomes a symbol of a hostile and disapproving “outside world”, while the community centers its attention on finding the one behind the sexual assaults. Any semi-romantic notion of some marauding monster, previously glossed over by the thought of celebrity, comes crashing down. Immediately, it’s a witch hunt.

    The emotional counterpoint is present in Mutato’s slow and mournful burial of The Old Man, his caretaker. Where the community’s emotions are still overwhelmed by false and misdirected outrage, Mutato experiences true pain and suffering. The normal people reduce the world to simple absolutes, while the “monster” confronts and accepts the burdens of reality. It drives the moral of the story home in a very touching way, without ignoring the fact that Mutato was involved in a monstrous scheme.

    Pollidori, of course, is acting to purge the evidence of his own sins, and thus his motives are false. The townspeople consider it better to destroy a symbol then face the truth (thank you, Dr. Scully). Mulder and Scully are left to figure out what the hell is really happening. Once Mutato is exposed and confronted, Pollidori’s accusations are wrapped in the same heavy-handed prose as the agents’ more perplexing moments. And yet when Mutato speaks in equally florid terms, it works to counter the symbolism that has been created by the madness of the crowd.

    This being a riff on “Frankenstein”, Mulder is correct: the “monster” is supposed to survive to live on, in search of his bride. Being sent away for Mulder does nothing to fulfill that parallel. And so the fanciful aspects of the story come into play as Mulder breaks through the norms of narrative convention to ask the writer to make it as it should be. And so the audience is treated to something of a fantasy themselves.

    Carter was still insistent at this point that Mulder and Scully remain romantically at arms’ length. The end of this episode is really a way for him to provide that moment of happiness between them that would otherwise remain hidden below the surface. There’s the satisfaction of giving the “monster” his face-to-face with Cher as well (Mutato’s cheering is beyond endearing).

    But as often as that scene is cited as evidence of “the love”, it should be remembered that this scene is meant, like the episode, to stand on its own. It fits within the context of the phenomenon that the “X-Files” had become as a part of its own accumulated legend. Casting the story in black and white adds to that “apocryphal” perspective, allowing for a visual flair that is more than capable of overcoming the episode’s minor flaws.