The X-Files #24: The Erlenmeyer Flask

"I'm warning you, Mulder. If this is monkey pee, you're on your own."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A man with alien DNA leads the agents too far into the Conspiracy, which has the X-Files shut down and Deep Throat shot.

REVIEW: The season finale brings back both Deep Throat - who seems to bite it (see The Truth Is Out There, or should I now call the section Trust No One?) - and the Smoking Man (to mirror the end of the Pilot), as the Conspiracy kicks into high gear and, by the end of the episode, shuts down the X-Files and reassigns our two agents, though those are just finale shenanigans. The episode isn't really driving towards that finish; it just seems to happen as a result of it. Money is splashed on the screen from the off, with a high-jumping car chase and a seemingly unstoppable man who bleeds green blood escaping the cops. From there, we're in a world of black ops, slick night-time cinematography, and clone tanks where alien-human hybrids might be cloned. It's exciting, it's suspenseful, and it's well directed. Note the "Pandora" sign on the warehouse where Mulder finds the tanks as one example of those little touches I live for.

Mulder gets in too deep as a matter of course, but Scully's education grows by leaps and bounds. It's notable that she makes a speech about science and her faith in accepted facts, because discovering or rethinking facts is part of what science does, so by rights, Scully MUST eventually come around to the truths Mulder believes without proof (and that we, the audience, know to be true). In Flask, those facts change on her with two clear, scientific pieces of evidence of the existence of extraterrestrial life, and that pushes her so far into Mulder territory that she puts her career on the line to follow Deep Throat's recommendations. The point subtly being made is that once you start to believe in any of this, you may well start believe in less substantiated ones, and though she doesn't really trust Deep Throat, she still trusts him SOMEWHAT, and that may be TOO MUCH.

Thing is, after the lessons learned in Fallen Angel, the audience would be right to question EVERYTHING Deep Throat says and does (again, see The Truth, below), and while that may prove frustrating to some (i.e. have we been hoaxed again?), it's also a good way to keep the audience invested. Are we Scullies who question everything, or are we Mulders content to follow along? For those who question, there will be blatant loose ends like whatever happened to the flask, how Scully smuggled an alien being out of a government facility, or why there was an alien baby on a saucer or whether this is what adult aliens look like, but nothing that should pull you out of the experience. In the mytharc, the Conspiracy's hybridization of human and alien (biologically and technologically) is proceeding apace, and we're starting to see some of the traits we can expect from future episodes (noxious blood, etc.). The series knows where it's going with this, and I think we can expect future UFOlogy episodes to be more coherent than they've been while the show was searching for its identity.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: But whose truth? When a character dies with "trust no one" on his lips, the first person I'll be unwilling to trust is him or her! So is Deep Throat really dead? In fact, the whole EPISODE is preceded by those words; they replace "The truth is out there" in the opening credits! As far as I remember, D.T. doesn't turn up alive later, but that doesn't mean he couldn't have staged his own death and gone into deep hiding. After all, he's adamant about taking the alien baby to the kidnappers and not letting Scully do it. And it's suspect that a puppet master like him would care that much about Mulder getting killed. What it LOOKS to these paranoid eyes is that D.T. had Scully steal the alien from a facility so HIS group - which had been eliminating competing scientists - could use it for its own purposes. They never had any intention of killing Mulder (which is, in itself, an anomaly), and D.T. having "blown his cover" by giving the agents too much information (they would expect him to be more forthcoming in the future), just goes deep underground and never comes out. And this theory could all be true and Cancerman still decided to cut him out as a possible liability. Because Cancerman has the alien baby at the end and sticks it in the Pentagon secret archives. Was he working with Deep Throat all along, and if so, what faction was running the experiments? Things CAN'T be as they seem, because had D.T. REALLY given the alien material BACK, it would have gone in the facility it was taken from. Right?!

- An episode to make the audience paranoid, with major motion forward for Scully and mytharc elements that should stick this time, and a major death-or-is-it. Who's not going to come back for a second season after this?


LiamKav said...

I look at killing Deep Throat as one of those situations where the writers realised they were using him as a bit of a crutch, and so killed him off in order to force themselves to be better at coming up with solutions. Plus it does a good job of raising the stakes.

In my head, I seem to remember that the X-Files got closed down lots of times. I'm trying to resist the urge to look that up.

Siskoid said...

I'm likewise resisting it. But over 9 seasons, it's bound to happen more than once.


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