May 6, 2017

The X-Files 5.5, The Post-Modern Prometheus: Monster’s Ball

Posted in TV tagged at 1:07 pm by Jenn

One of my favorite moments from the whole series

Summary: A comic book about a creature named the Great Mutato leads us to a group of teens heading to a comic-book convention. One, Izzy, has to remind his mom that he’s 18 and can do what he wants, since she doesn’t want him to go. His mother, Mrs. Berkowitz, passes the time by watching an episode of The Jerry Springer Show about a woman with a “wolf baby.” Mrs. Berkowitz is so interested in the show that she doesn’t notice a tent being lowered over the house. She finally turns away from the show when a creature enters the house amid smoke and Cher’s version of the song “When You’re Without Love.”

Mulder and Scully drive to their next case as Scully reads a letter from Mrs. Berkowitz talking about the strange circumstances of Izzy’s conception 18 years ago. She felt like something had taken control of her body, and when she woke up three days later, she was pregnant. Now she’s had another strange experience, hearing Cher and seeing a lumpy-headed creature. She’s again missing three days and again woke up pregnant. She got Mulder’s name from the mom of the “wolf baby.” Mulder thinks he should get his own 1-900 number.

When the agents arrive at the Berkowitz house, Mulder tells Mrs. Berkowitz that the “wolf baby” just has a condition that makes him really hairy. Scully asks about Izzy’s conception, which the police didn’t look into, since there wasn’t exactly a crime. Now, things are even stranger, since Mrs. Berkowitz shouldn’t be able to conceive another child. In the three days she was gone, someone cooked something in her kitchen and ate a bunch of peanut butter. Scully thinks they’re just dealing with an alcoholic who blacked out.

Scully checks out Izzy’s room while Mrs. Berkowitz asks Mulder if she might have been abducted by aliens. Mulder isn’t sure, and admits he’s not sure he still believes in those. Scully finds a comic book in Izzy’s room and shows Mrs. Berkowitz the cover, which portrays a Frankenstein’s monster-like creature Izzy created called the Great Mutato. It looks exactly like the creature Mrs. Berkowitz says she saw in her house. Mrs. Berkowitz doesn’t get the connection.

Izzy arrives home and tells the agents he based Mutato off of a creature a lot of people in town have seen. Mrs. Berkowitz points out that just because the creature looks like a comic-book character doesn’t mean her experience didn’t happen. Izzy shows the agents how he uses peanut butter sandwiches to lure Mutato. Scully thinks the town is so obsessed with the media that they want a chance in the spotlight. Mulder chastises her, saying that not everyone wants to be on Jerry Springer. Scully says they’re just blaming human actions on a non-human creature.

Mulder argues that since the creature hasn’t been verified, it could still exist, at least in the sense that people believe in it. They hear moaning and see a creature approaching the sandwiches left for it. As Mulder chases it, Scully sees that bites have been taken out of the sandwich. Mulder loses the creature’s trail but comes across an old man who wants the agents, Izzy, and Izzy’s friends to get off his property. He denies the existence of a monster and sends the agents to talk to the responsible party.

Said party is the man’s son, Dr. Pollidori, who is rumored to be a Frankenstein-like mad scientist. He calls himself a scientist studying a gene that affects growth and development. He shows the agents a video of a fruit-fly gene he’s been able to alter to create whatever he wants. For example, he’s made a fly with legs growing out of its mouth. Mulder asks why Pollidori would do something like this. “Because I can,” he replies. Performing these sorts of experiments on humans would be unethical, but Pollidori admits that they’re possible.

After leaving the doctor’s lab, Scully denies that it would be able to make these kinds of alterations on human genes. Mulder wonders who would be able to resist the power of creating something in his or her own image. Scully points out that that already exists – it’s called having a baby. She doesn’t think there’s anything out of the ordinary about Mrs. Berkowitz’s pregnancy. At Pollidori’s house, he’s getting ready to go out of town; when he comes back, his wife, Elizabeth, wants to revisit their discussion about having children. He’s against it, and would prefer winning a Nobel Prize.

The next day, the agents go to J.J.’s Country Diner for breakfast, getting a look at all the jolly townspeople. “FBI Hunt Hometown Monster!” a newspaper headline declares. A twitchy reporter studies Mulder, then leaves. The townspeople think Jerry Springer is coming to town to feature Mrs. Berkowitz. Scully tells Mulder about the newspaper article, which includes their entire conversation word for word. The agents suspect that Izzy or one of his friends recorded them and gave the recording to a reporter in hopes of drumming up publicity for Izzy’s comic book.

At the Berkowitzes’, the agents get confirmation that Izzy recorded them. The recording also plays “When You’re Without Love” and Mutato’s moans. Elsewhere in town, Mutato dances around and sings along with Cher. Scully thinks this is all a hoax, but Mulder wants to go back to see Pollidori. He quotes Frankenstein, saying that the titular doctor “prefigures the post-modern prometheus,” reanimating matter. Scully thinks Mulder’s applying a literary stereotype to Pollidori, but Mulder doesn’t know who else would be capable of impregnating Mrs. Berkowitz.

On the way to Pollidori’s house, Mulder remembers that Mrs. Berkowitz saw mist or smoke in the house the night she was supposedly impregnated. He pulls over, having spotted a house that’s been tented for fumigation. “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” plays as the agents check out the house, which is where Mutato had his little one-man (one-creature?) dance party. They both pass out just before the elder Pollidori approaches, saying he told them there were no monsters. When the agents wake up, they discover that they’re in Dr. Pollidori’s house.

Elizabeth now says she had the same experiences as Mrs. Berkowitz. Mulder announces that Elizabeth could have been impregnated, which thrills her. The twitchy reporter is present and very interested in this story. Mulder sees that a frying pan has been used, just like in the Berkowitzes’ house, and finds an empty jar of peanut butter. Elsewhere in town, Mutato watches Mask, which is a) about a boy with facial deformities and b) stars Cher. His caretaker, Mr. Pollidori, gets a visit from his doctor son, who wants to know if his theory is true. Why would he do this? “Because I can,” Mr. Pollidori replies. The doctor attacks him.

The next time Mulder goes to J.J.’s Diner for breakfast, their welcome isn’t as warm. Spitting and spilled coffee are involved. The townspeople are mad that the agents now think Mrs. Berkowitz’s claims are a hoax. Izzy is found wearing a mask, so everyone thinks he was just pulling a prank. Mrs. Berkowitz defends her son to an angry crowd while Scully tells Mulder that she founds an anesthetic used by farmers in the Pollidoris’ frying pain. They have to register to use it. The only person who’s registered locally is Mr. Pollidori, who is now dead. The Great Mutato cries over his body, then buries him in his barn.

When the agents arrive at the farm, they find the freshly dug grave and realize they’re probably too late to talk to Mr. Pollidori. They hear someone in the loft, but it’s just the twitchy reporter. She knows Mr. Pollidori was murdered, and she saw Mutato burying him. She shows the agents pictures of him. Just then, a crowd of angry townspeople arrives with torches and lanterns. (Possibly pitchforks, too, but I didn’t see them.) They’re led by Dr. Pollidori, who wants the townspeople to find and kill the monster.

The twitchy reporter takes notes as the townspeople swarm the property, hunting for Mutato. Scully knows the only way Dr. Pollidori could have ever seen the creature is if he was on the property himself. The agents find Mutato’s basement dwelling, which is basically a shrine to Cher. They find the creature himself and see how scared he is. Meanwhile, the barn is set on fire and the animals all escape, so it’s pandemonium outside. The twitchy reporter spots the agents trying to sneak off with Mutato, so everyone heads to the basement for a confrontation.

Dr. Pollidori demands that the agents hand over the monster. Mrs. Berkowitz wants to see his face (faces, really, since he has two). Dr. Pollidori says his father created Mutato, who then killed him. Mutato suddenly speaks, shocking everyone. He knows he looks monstrous, but he doesn’t act that way. When Mr. Pollidori learned that the doctor was conducting horrifying experiments, he rescued Mutato from the lab. Mr. Pollidori hid him while he studied his son’s science, hoping to create a mate for Mutato. The science was too advanced, but at least he wound up with some cool animals.

Mutato still wants a mate, but if one can’t be created, he’ll take the blame for his father’s murder. Dr. Pollidori calls his brother a mistake. Mutato knows that what he and his father did was wrong, but going into people’s houses allowed him to learn more about humanity. A townsperson speaks up, saying Mutato isn’t a monster. He just wants love, guys! Your prejudices are the real monsters!

Dr. Pollidori lets Mutato take the fall for their father’s murder, but Mulder doesn’t like the ending to this story. Dr. Frankenstein is supposed to take the fall for his crimes. He wants to speak to “the writer.” As Cher sings “Walking in Memphis,” the townspeople take a road trip to Vegas to see Cher. Mutato gets to ride with the agents, and he enjoys Cher’s concert more than anyone. Mrs. Berkowitz and Elizabeth end up on The Jerry Springer Show, declaring their love for their baby Mutatos. Cher pulls Mutato on stage, Courteney Cox-style, and the agents celebrate solving the case with a dance.

Thoughts: Dr. Pollidori is played by John O’Hurley, who’s really good in this role. Mutato is played by Chris Owens, AKA the younger CSM, AKA the future Jeffrey Spender. Jerry Springer is played by himself.

Cher, however, is not played by herself. The story is that the show approached her about appearing, but she turned them down, even though she was a fan. After watching the episode, she wished she’d accepted.

The gimmick of the episode being in black and white doesn’t really work for me, but I also didn’t find it as distracting as I’d expected. There are a lot of fun little moments that make up for it, specifically:

  • Mutato dancing around the house by himself
  • Mulder trying to stand up and be assertive after being exposed to the chemicals, but falling over and ruining the moment
  • Mulder and Scully being all happy and cute together at the end

“Hey, Scully, let’s go into that house where toxic chemicals are in use, but let’s not bother to take any precautions.” “Okay, Mulder.”


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