September 2013 saw the 20th anniversary of the first airing of The X-Files. To celebrate this on The Hex Dimension, I’m providing you with retrospectives on episodes from the first season. So, without further ado… welcome to the concluding episode of season one “The Erlenmeyer Flask”.
Starting off with a high speed police car chase, you could tell that Chris Carter and co. wanted to end the first season with a bang. But this episode is also really important in the overall X-Files mythos, establishing important bits of lore within the show and showing just what the situation of agents Mulder and Scully really is in The X-Files part of the bureau.
The opening scene ends with a puddle of green liquid and some very confused police officers. No one knows what they just witnessed. And it made for a welcome change from some of the previous episodes, where the season had felt like it was flagging.
In this episode, Carter opted for the message after the main part of the opening titles to change from “The Truth is Out There” to “Trust No One”. The alterations of this message over the course of the seasons all happen at very important plot points in the over arcing evolution of the series.
When Mulder and Scully are finally brought together to discuss the high speed chase we saw before the titles, I love those first few lines of dialogue between the characters. Scully questions what Mulder is “hoping to find” and Mulder replies, “I don’t know.” For me, this succinctly reflects the entire ethos of Mulder’s character and his involvement in the X-Files: he never knows what he is going to find, but he’s always willing to look.
Re-watching the series and knowing what happens by the end of the episode… every time Deep Throat is on screen, I keep looking for hints as to what’s going to happen to him. What happens by the end of the episode, was at the time, something no one had expected. After all – it’s not like the world at large had been introduced to something like Game of Thrones. And it’s fascinating watching the slow breakdown of the relationship between Mulder and Deep Throat.
Of course what this episode also exemplifies is Carter’s commitment to building a long standing plotline. I had recently read issue eight of the Season 10 comics when I watched this, and let’s just say if you’re looking for episodes you need to watch in order to get the most from that comic book, this is one of them. Keep an eye out for “Purity Control”.
Considering the sceptic role that Scully undertook during much of the first season, her belief trajectory – as it were – goes to minor hyperdrive in this episode. Mainly due to the physiological evidence that they slowly uncover at a microscopic level. “It exists nowhere in nature,” she’s told by one scientist.
Mulder’s trajectory just kind of sky rockets and it’s when he finds a storage room filled with vats of human looking subjects. You know the character won’t be able to let go of the investigatio, but at this point his only indication that ETs could be involved is down to Deep Throat’s involvement. It’s when Scully calls him and tells him that the pair really begin to wonder what is going on.
And what makes the case for “human-alien hybrids” within the X-Files universe so compelling is Carter’s use of references to scientific and medical techniques that were in development at the time the show was aired. The government conspiracy is just the icing on the cake of suspension of disbelief.
Fox were actually quite displeased with the ending for the first season, according to Glen Morgan, “They said, ‘Closing the X-Files is completely unacceptable. We will not air it because people will believe the show’s been cancelled.’” (X-Files Confidential: The Unauthorized X-Files Compendium, p. 76). Morgan was able to convince Fox to stick with the ending.
Then the reaction to what happens to Deep Throat at the end of the episode apparently upset a lot of fans of the time too. Personally, I was never upset by what happens to the character, mainly because his loyalties are not entirely clear. However, the season 10 comics have suggested that he was genuinely for the outing of the secret government regimes that were slowly meant to be leading humanity to slaughter.
What did you think of this episode? Let us know in the comments below.