Written & Directed by Chris Carter
One could definitely argue that this episode, for all of the masterful touches it has practically from beginning to end, doesn’t strictly belong in The X-Files canon. After all, so much of what happens in Post-Modern Prometheus goes beyond the scope of even what a fiction sci-fi procedural like this series was trying to accomplish. And for that reason, some of the darker and more ridiculous elements can be considered either underplayed or overaccepted. But all these people I basically regard as the nattering nabobs that they are, trying to pick holes in what is clear one of the series greatest accomplishments.
Because it’s clear to anyone who watched this episode that Post-Modern should never be considered as canon. The location is never strictly identified, which the exception of the Berkowitzes and the Pollidoris, none of the characters are given names or even given much above even one dimension. Some would consider it sloppy writing, I myself say that, for once, this is part of the point—- this episode is clearly meant to play in style as well as script as homage one of the better black-and-white horror films of the 1930s. And whether you regard it as nothing more than the comic book that it is framed as (perhaps the one that Izzy Berkowitz is trying to get published) , the fact is, one can’t regard as anything less than a technical masterpiece. As such, we don’t regard the characters as little more than stock figures,, but that helps because it glosses over (much like Small Potatoes did in Season 4) some of the darker elements. Viewers might be upset by the fact there are frankly, some bizarre, sexual misconduct, but its clear the characters themselves don’t. This couldn’t be made clear when Mrs. Pollidori practically leaps up for joy when she learns she might have been impregnated. No normal person gets that happy after being raped. It also doesn’t even attempt to explain some of the more bizarre science in the episode, such as how they were able to impregnate a woman who’d had her tubes tied. Scully doesn’t even try to explain some of it, which is good as I imagine her gravitas would only weigh this episode down.
Carter was clearly trying to go for broke in the same kind of way that Darin Morgan did in his scripts., and one can definitely see that in the kind of black comedy that plays throughout the episode. But Carter is not Morgan, and for once, that’s actually a good thing. Carter isn’t interesting in tearing down his leads, much in the same way that Morgan was, rather he is trying to demonstrate — for once— a certain level of optimism that was, for the most part, absent in Morgan’s writing. ‘The Great Mutato’ may be a hideous creature but he is ultimately more endearing than so many of Carter’s other lead characters. There is genuine joy as he reinvents the Frankenstein myth in a way that appeals to us.
Chris Owens gives one of the better performances he will ever give as one of the X-Files players, as it is truly one of the more enjoyable performance, particularly considering how much of it is done without dialogue. The other guest actors are unusually good—- one might say remarkably so, since they’re frequently given so little to work with. John O’Hurley, an actor whose comic talents were wasted on me before this episode is funny and a little scary as Dr. Pollidori. Pattie Tierce is hysterically funny as Shaineh Berkowitz, a Roseanne type without the general obnoxiousness I tended to find in the actual comedienne.
But admittedly, this is not an episode that is known for the performances so much as the technical work behind. Chris Carter does one of best directed episodes that he will ever do—– it’s not as subtle as some of the other directors have been, but subtlety is not the point. The editing, cinematography, set design and particular Mark Snow’s score are among the very best that the series would ever produce, all of whom deserved the seven Emmy nominations that the episode would get (and its an even bigger mystery as to why none of them won). Post Modern had to be technically perfect in order for all of this to work, and, for all intents and purposes, that’s exactly what we get.
Then there’s the ending, which has puzzled a lot of people, when Mulder seems dissatisfied as to what has happened with the way the story has turned out, and then demands “to speak to the writer”. A lot of people got irked at what seemed to be Carter breaking the fourth wall. I myself always figured that he was talking to the reporter or perhaps Izzy Berkowitz. And the idea that Mulder and Scully would just close off an investigation to take a prisoner of to see Cher just doesn’t seem to fit in with their work. I myself never thought Carter did that—- they would make in-jokes on these series, not flaunt the conventions of the medium themselves. Once again, however, this appears to be Carter flaunting his heroes, which when Gilligan or Morgan did it was a lot more subtle, admittedly. But this makes more sense when you understand that, for this episode only, they are nothing more than characters in another writer’s fiction. (Well, that’s what they actually are the rest of the time, but the episode wisely doesn’t focus that much on it.)
The Post-Modern Prometheus remains one of the greater triumphs in the series. It’s not laugh-out loud funny the same way so many of the best comedies on this series are, but this is more visual comic episode then it is anything else. And considering the separates roads that Mulder and Scully will be walking for much of Season 5, its charming and sweet to have an episode end with the two of them dancing to the music of Cher. Even if, as I just explained, that never actually happened.
My Score: 5 Stars