Mulder: They’re shutting us down. It’s over, Scully.
Scully: What are you going to do?
Mulder: I’m… not going to give up. I can’t give up. Not as long as the truth is out there.
The Erlenmeyer Flask
Easily one of the best episodes of season one, this is where the mythology for the show kicks into high gear. And yet from the very beginning of the episode, there’s a feeling that things will be different and strange over the course of the hour, starting with the “Trust No One” title card in the credits.
Deep Throat comes to Mulder with information on a recent car chase in Baltimore. Giving little more than cryptic clues, he hints that if Mulder can find the threat in the case, he’ll be closer than ever to his goal — proving the existence of extra-terrestrial life. Mulder and Scully begin to look into the case but quickly run into some roadblocks and dead ends, making both of them begin to question where Deep Throat’s loyalties are and if he’s leading them down the primrose path again.
Turns out he’s not and the episode puts in the groundwork for a lot of the mythology stories to come. Alien/human hybrids, green blood, toxic effects if the alien is punctured — all of these come into play. As does the first proof that aliens are here and among us. For a season finale and a mythology episode, it’s interesting to see that both Mulder and Scully get a look at the truth — and are forced to come away with little or no proof. Mulder finds the room full of alien/human hybrids in tanks only to see it swept clean when he brings Scully back. And Scully finds an alien fetus from the down Roswell UFO but is forced to trade that proof for Mulder’s life.
This one is a huge action set piece with some nicely done character moments in between. And while Chris Carter may not be the series’ best writer, he could still deliver the goods back in the day. His script here feels like a culmination of the entire first season and could have served as a coda to the show had FOX decided not to bring the show back for season two.
The biggest shock has to be the death of Deep Throat. His death in the episode’s closing moments and then the FBI’s decision to shut down the X-Files leaves the show at a crossroads. It’s not quite the cliffhanger that we’ll get to end seasons going forward where Mulder or Scully will be in immediate peril, but it’s one that says things are changing and the show will have to get itself out of the corner it has painted itself into when the new season picks up. (Interestingly, shutting down the X-Files takes the longest to undo of most of the cliffhangers we get…but more on that as we get into season two).
With Mulder and Scully separated, the show could have ended. It would have been a bleak ending, but it would have fit with the overall tone and mood of this one. As we watch Mulder and Scully debate things like Deep Throat’s agenda and whether or not they can or should follow the path he’s given them, you almost get the feeling that this is the end of the line for the two.
Of course, it’s not. We have eight more seasons to go. And it’s good because this episode kicks off what I think is one of the most consistent stretches of solid to great episodes from the entire series run.
But, more on that later…
The way the show circles back to the end of the Pilot is also a thing of beauty as well. It also makes me wonder if Mulder has achieved some kind of moral victory here. Is the alien fetus still useful to the powers that be now that it’s been defrosted and is now stored in the secret facility we saw in the Pilot? Or is it just one more bit of evidence we have to hide in a new location to keep it away from Mulder?