Saturday, April 10, 2010

The X-Files: The Erlenmeyer Flask (1.24)

Fear and paranoia radiate from this, the first season finale. More than ever before, we're getting a terrifying sense that nobody is safe, monumental lies are being told and, as Deep Throat says in his last words, nobody can be trusted. The most chilling moment for me was Scully's discovery of Dr. Carpenter's murder, she and her entire family wiped out to cover up an extra-terrestrial discovery. The stakes are that high, and the show will never be the same again.

Like E.B.E., there is a relentless feel to this episode... predictable, even. We know that all the human fish tanks are going to vanish by the time Mulder returns with Scully, we know that the alien fetus will get taken out of the heroes' hands. But that inevitability is frustrating in the greatest sense of the word. We're aware of larger forces at work here, and watching our two protagonists slowly realizing the scale of what is happening was so unbelievably awesome.

I loved Scully's characterization here. Despite being almost angrily ambivalent to Mulder's fixation on the case at the beginning of the episode, her repeated looks of complete wonderment as the ever-growing mystery continues to unravel are great to see. Here's somebody whose entire view on life and science is being changed right before our eyes.

Deep Throat was murdered by the shadowy "Crew-Cut Man", and I wasn't too upset. For a lot of this season, the writers annoyingly used him as Exposition Dude, and it was only E.B.E. that actually gave Jerry Hardin something decent to work with. His demise here both ups the stakes for Mulder and Scully, and removes a slightly flat character, so I'm happy. Also loved the throwback to the very end of the pilot, with the Cigarette Smoking Man locking the fetus away in the Pentagon storage room. Very nice.

An intense finale which sets up a great hook for the sophomore season, as well as continuing the great characterization for Mulder and Scully. Roll on year two! Rating A

Guest stars Lindsey Ginter (Crew-Cut Man); Anne DeSalvo (Dr. Ann Carpenter); Simon Webb (Dr. William Secare); Jerry Hardin (Deep Throat)
Writer Chris Carter Director R.W. Goodwin

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