The Erlenmeyer Flask 1×23: I know it’s not Silence of the Lambs, but it’s what we do.


Maybe this time we can just cut out the Obi Wan Kenobi crap.

This is it, we’ve finally reached “The Erlenmeyer Flask” AKA “Scully Takes a Stand, Then Takes it Back” AKA “People Die on This Show.” Recurring themes to follow.

We open with a high speed chase, mainly to prove that X-Files don’t just hang out in dank, dark corners anymore. Apparently, neither does the show’s budget. The story takes place on a grander scale than any other X-Files episode up to this point. As a mystery, the pacing of this episode is great. In the beginning there are lots of clues, but as Scully points out, no connection, which is how I like it. Anticipation is better than fruition. Well, when it comes to well-written mysteries, anyway. But this is not just the beginning of real action on The X-Files, it’s the beginning of the mythology. Hip hip hooray! The series’ backbone is starting to take shape like a supersoldier’s spinning metal spine.

That crucial revelations in this episode take place at 1616 Pandora St. is so perfect one would assume the writers had to make it up, but my sources tell me they didn’t. (By “sources” I mean one source and by “source” I mean the DVD documentary.) Regardless, it’s an appropriate location for secrets to start to shake loose. And like the original Pandora, Mulder is delving into mysteries that can hurt as quickly as they can help. As asked earlier in Season 1, what will he do with the information once he has it? He wants to go public for the sake of the freedom of information. Yet, it doesn’t sound like he’s bothered to ask himself what good that will actually do. But I digress.

Why Mulder trusts Deep Throat again after the debacle that occurred in “E.B.E.” (1×16), that’s the true X-File. Nothing here to counter my theory that Mulder is actually trusting by nature, if a little jaded. The man’s loyalty outstrips his reason. It’s as obvious as Gillian Anderson’s baby bump. But I digress. Again.

Once more Scully is the voice of reason, airing doubts about Deep Throat that any rational person would be thinking. Only this time she’s wrong. So wrong. It’s only occurred to me for the first time this go-around, but Deep Throat must’ve known he couldn’t blackmail his fellow conspirators, not without giving up his life. This is why he is so insistent that he physically make the trade for Mulder and not Scully. Mulder refers to himself as the “dutiful son” early on in the episode. I suppose Deep Throat wants a chance to repay his trust by sacrificing himself like the father figure Mulder once thought him to be. His final speech to Scully while he’s still in the car is, in essence, a passing of the baton. He’s hoping that if he gets Mulder released, Mulder will find out the truth and put a stop to these men. Something that whatever strings he can pull, Deep Throat can’t seem to do himself.

Deep Throat has good reason to believe that Mulder won’t rest until he’s exposed every last conspirator. Chris Carter has stated that Mulder’s search for his sister, his search for extra-terrestrial life, is a pseudo-religious experience. He goes from being your average guy (albeit with excellent prospects) to alienating himself from family, friends and colleagues all for the zealous pursuit of his “cause.” He clearly doesn’t think God can offer him any answers. Perhaps he thinks the aliens will? I wonder if at this point in the series the character bothers to ask himself what he would do if he found Samantha, if he was able to confirm the existence of other life out there… somewhere. What would he do then? He’d hitchhike a ride on a space ship for some god-forsaken reason and goes who knows where, that’s what. But that’s a rant for another episode. Suffice it to say that Deep Throat can go to his grave assured that Mulder will let it all hang out one day.

There isn’t too much to say on the Mulder and Scully partnership front, except that we see Scully being refreshingly vulnerable with Mulder by admitting that she was wrong and confessing that she’s not sure she can trust her beloved science anymore. But Scully need not fear. This show is based on science, really. What makes The X-Files stand out from the paranormal pack of vampire slayers is that it uses science to give creditability to the spiritual; it uses science to prove what science hasn’t been able to prove up to this point. That’s its intelligent allure. The only reason Scully believes Mulder is because science has proven he’s right. So maybe she need not give up her belief in science, just remember that science hasn’t finished revealing its secrets.

Chris Carter is a sucker for parallels and bookended stories (I am too), and so the episode ends just like the “Pilot” (1×79), with Scully in bed taking a midnight call from Mulder. Only this time, instead of distancing herself from Mulder, she finds that they’ve been ripped a part by outside forces as punishment for getting too close to the truth. It’s like when God confused people’s languages at The Tower of Babel because they could do too much damage when they were unified and left to their own devices. (Except that God was justified.) Similarly to the human race, broken up or not, Mulder and Scully will find a way to make trouble together anyhow. Thank goodness.

Final Answer:

Mythology episodes, even though this can only loosely be called one, have a reputation for suggesting much and revealing little. A reputation that’s been well-earned. So let’s take a moment and take stock of what the writers did give us, shall we?

  1. There is a conspiracy. (But you guessed that, didn’t you?)
  2. This conspiracy is about more than the existence of alien life. (Bet you didn’t guess that one.)
  3. Alien life, at least its DNA, exists. (What would be the point otherwise?)
  4. This DNA is being tested on the population without their knowledge. (This is what makes the bad guys “The Bad Guys.”)
  5. The conspiracy revolves around cloning a virus. (Because the world needs more of those).
  6. Those involved in the conspiracy may or may not bleed green blood and have super powers. (It’s a bird, it’s a plane…)
  7. The conspirators have the cure for cancer but have no intention of sharing. (Maybe if we ask nicely.)
  8. The conspirators also have no intention of making the conspiracy successful. (That would ruin everything.)
  9. Even the conspirators aren’t safe. (No honor among thieves and all that.)

All in all, it’s not a bad set of revelations. It’s certainly more than we’ve gotten the whole season long. Up to this point, the conspiracy has been suggested but hasn’t shown any real signs of taking form. Truthfully, it still won’t until Season 2 rolls along. You can’t see it, but I’m rubbing my hands together gleefully.

A-

Random Thoughts:

Mulder’s penchant for B Sci-fi is far preferable to his predilection for porn.

Mulder is incurably snarky even when he’s blind and in the hand of his captors.

Mulder says, “Skinner!” with the vehemence of a mental patient.

I could be wrong, but I believe this is Danny’s first “appearance.”

Scully holds an alien fetus in her hand and a reputable, objective scientist tells her that she’s stumbled upon alien DNA. And yet, she doesn’t believe for another 6 seasons or so…

Unanswered Questions:

What makes Mulder pick up that random flask to get tested, anyway?

How did Scully sneak that Alien baby out of the facility? Stuff it in her pocket?

Who else thinks Dr. Carpenter would’ve called the CDC and made copies of her findings before she went home for fried chicken with the family??

Is the green blood toxic or isn’t it? The officer that shoots Dr. Secare at the beginning of the episode is unaffected, while Mulder later folds like a schoolgirl. Scully steps in alien blood herself, but only her shoe is the wiser. Maybe the blood has to be uber fresh? This will be one of my standing questions for years to come.

Did Scully leave Deep Throat’s body there in the street, or did she call the Police? And if she called the police, how in the heck did she explain what went down?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: You think he does it because he gets off on it?
Scully: No, I think he does it because you do.

—————-

Scully: OK, Mulder, but I’m warning you… if this is monkey pee, you’re on your own.

—————-

Scully: I should know by now to trust your instincts.
Mulder: Why? Nobody else does.

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10 responses to “The Erlenmeyer Flask 1×23: I know it’s not Silence of the Lambs, but it’s what we do.

  1. I actually just watched this episode last night. It’s really exciting to see the beginning of the ‘mytharc’ start to take shape.

    One thought as to the alien blood: in all the cases it hurt someone, it was in a confined, poorly ventilated space (Mulder in the attic, the paramedics in the ambulance). The cops noticed it, but since they were outside it dispersed quickly enough that they were OK, and since Scully got there a long time after the fact, perhaps the fumes had also had dissipated enough to not be a threat.

    Do we ever get more info about the men who killed the hybrid doctor in this episode? My memory is a little rusty, but I seem to want to link them to the alien bounty hunter character.

  2. I never ever, considered that about the blood! I bet that’s it. Now I’m going to have to pay super close attention come Colony/Endgame.

    As far as the conspiracy gang, I know Crew Cut man gets killed of in Red Museum. So he was out of the picture before The Bounty Hunter made it onto the screen. But I think we end up seeing him in flashback quite a few times…

  3. all i can say is a golden review/analysis once again.
    bring on season 2… though can we not wait nearly two months again 🙂 i’m hoping that i can i read all 202 episodes before December 22nd 2012 and i’m not running for my life from black oil infected bees.

  4. Pingback: Episode 23 – The Erlenmeyer Flask « The X-Files Truth Podcast

  5. I love these things, the analysis so amazing.
    I notice you tend to have a distaste of Mulders porn vice …I always thought it was rather fitting for him. I’m in season 4 and I’ve seen Mulder drink once, and even he says he never drinks. I think for all the vices to have, porn is very Mulder. Alcohol and drugs would really make him even more fringe then he already is. When we see him indulge in it onscreen, it’s generally in times of crisis like Scully-in-peril moments. I think he uses it as someone would use alcohol.

  6. Loving your blog – I’ve been re-watching and reading your analysis after every episode.
    I’ve got a little nit pick for this episode about the science – which is particularly easy to do throughout – didn’t they have a science advisor?? But this one for some reason bugged me.
    When the scientist is explaining to Scully about the extra “alien” nucleotides she says there is a gap in the dna sequence – which makes sense if there were extra nucleotides (or letters in the DNA code) that the sequencing technique couldn’t pick up.
    BUT – the picture she shows Scully has no gaps in the sequence. There are three segments with four lines – each line represents one of the nucleotides (A, T, C or G) and there are no gaps. It could be any normal bit of DNA.
    My science degree has really ruined my appreciation of sci-fi…

  7. Nope, Danny appeared once before. Cant remember in which episode though.

  8. What’s all this talk about Mulder’s porn predilection? Do we see him watching it?

    And yes, Scully escaping with the alien fetus seemed rather fortunate…

    • Yep. It came up in “The Jersey Devil” and it’ll come up more in Season 2. Off the top of my head, Mulder’s watching porn to comfort himself when he thinks Scully is dying in “One Breath”.

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