Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy happy joy joy

It's 2 days till Christmas and we're due to get ice, rain, thunderstorms, and heavy snow all before Saturday. The next thing you know, there'll be a tornado. Anyway, I work Christmas this year which always causes this outpouring of grief and sympathy from people but really, I haven't worked it since 2006 so it really is my turn. And I do have the weekend off so no big deal.

So since the weather it so much crap, I took advantage of the last day at home and finally watched "The Post-Modern Prometheus," a 5th season episode of The X-Files. It had been built up by many an X-Phile, so I was half waiting for it to be disappointingly underwhelming, a victim of my own lofty expectations. I am happy to say that nothing could be further from the truth. It was everything I love about The X-Files - intriguing, unpredictable and a little bit scary. While the mythology arc of The X-Files is endlessly fascinating to me, sometimes it's these one-off episodes that stand out the most.

For those that don't know, "The Post-Modern Prometheus" is an homage to the Frankenstein story. Frankenstein's Monster is, in this case, The Great Mutato. He is the product of genetic experimentation gone horribly awry and as a result, he has been hidden away from the rest of the townspeople. All he wants is a mate, someone to be wih and to spend his life with. The pursuit of that goal, through some rather questionable tactics, is what leads Mulder & Scully to town.

This episode shines because of strong writing and the strength of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in their roles. Anderson, as Scully, is always the skeptic, the foil to Mulder's unfailing belief. At one point in the episode, Scully asks "Is there anything you don't believe in, Mulder?" which he (wisely) never answers. Additionally, Cher plays a rather substantial role in the story, after we find out that The Great Mutato is a huge fan of Cher's, based upon her portrayal of Rusty Dennis in Mask.

I've mentioned in previous X-Files posts that Mulder & Scully are always written so serious and the characters always have to play it so straight that when they do get a chance to be funny or let their hair down a bit, it's jarring at first and then such a relief. We don't get quite the "funny" in this episode that we got in "Detour" or "War of the Coprophages," as the subject matter of the episode doesn't really lend itself to comedy. Instead, what we get is joy and happiness that is also frequently denied the viewers when watching Mulder & Scully. Mulder especially, never seems to smile, and Scully is equally serious. But at the end of "The Post-Modern Prometheus," you get a glimpse this. Mulder & Scully inexplicably take The Great Mutato to a Cher concert (a lookalike playing in the tiniest venue EVER), and while the excitement and joy in The Great Mutato is obvious, you can see it in our intrepid FBI agents as well - especially Mulder. Have a look:

I love how much he is smiling in this photo. And then, many X-Files fans probably got what they wanted when Mulder asks Scully to dance. I still don't buy the sexual tension between them - I mean, yes, it's there, but it feels almost incestuous.

The only way this episode could have been improved is if the producers had gotten their original wish and had Roseanne Barr and Cher cast in the episode. Both declined citing scheduling conflicts, although I remember reading somewhere that Cher regretted not appearing in the episode. The song placement felt oddly like a commercial for Cher's It's A Man's World album, but since the episode aired a full year and a half after the release of that album, we can chalk that up to me being cynical.

One of the all-time best episodes.

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