Wednesday, December 8, 2010

X-Files--"The Erlenmeyer Flask"

“The Erlenmeyer Flask” marks the end of the first season of the X-Files. For my money, the season started out strong, but became uneven in the back half. When it was good, it was great. When it was bad, well, that generally means it did not fit the general motif. Even when the series was not that great, it was still a cut above most anything else on the idiot box.

The episode lays out much of the groundwork for the mythology that will run through most of the remainder of the series. We discover the government has been creating human/alien hybrids by experimenting with alien DNA. We learn the blood of these hybrids is toxic to humans the moment the blood hit’s the open air. Scully discovers an alien fetus, thereby confirming for the first time there really are aliens involved. The Crew Cut Man makes his first appearance. The Cigarette Smoking Man makes yet another visit to the secret pentagon vault. The X-Files are shut down for the first time. “The Erlenmeyer Flask” is the episode which gets all the stuff that made the series what it was rolling.

The episode begins with the police chasing a fugitive who cannot be stopped by any means. Deep Throat calls the matter to Mulder’s attention without giving him much to go on. The tip leads to Mulder encountering a scientist working on gene therapy with alien DNA on six terminal patients. He is eventually captured by the Crew Cut Man. Deep Throat allies himself with Scully for the first time in an effort to gain a bargaining chip for Mulder’s life--the alien fetus from which the DNA was taken.

Using Deep Throat’s connections, Scully manages to walk out of a secret government research facility with the fetus. Or does she? It is being kept in a container submerged in liquid nitrogen. All we see later is scully carrying a plain brown wrapper she hands to Deep Throat. It is the right size for the conatiner and fetus, but it is obviously no longer in liquid nitrogen. It does not seem quite right that is what she took. More reasonably, the fetus reveal was for the sake of drama. She really took DNZ samples. I do not know. The issue is not dealt with very clearly.

What is dealt with clearly is the fate of Deep Throat. He is shot by the Crew Cut Man, dying in Scully’s arms after whispering the famous line, “Trust no one.” They release Mulder now that they have what they want. But the X-Files are shut down, with the reality that Mulder and Scully are to be separated professionally. It looks like the bad guys are winning as the final credits appear.

The story itself is not that great. The entertainment value is all in the big revelations and the shock value of deep Throat’s murder. But that is enough to make “The Erlenmeyer flask” necessary viewing for any x-phile. This is where the mythology is launched.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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