X-Files Flashback: ‘The Erlenmeyer Flask’

Season 1, Episode 24
Director: R.W. Goodwin
Writer: Chris Carter

And so we close the first season of The X-Files with “The Erlenmeyer Flask,” a mythology-heavy episode that tantalizingly teases both Mulder and Scully with “the truth.” I would have loved it if series creator Chris Carter had titled the episode “The One Where Scully Finds Out” since, of all the major events that happen in this Season One finale, Scully coming face to face with “the truth” provides the biggest geek-gasm of the hour. It was a strong way to close the uneven first season, and it established strong risks and consequences for the series moving forward.

“Flask” opens with a stunt-heavy car chase as someone attempts to evade police interference before becoming cornered near shipping docs. A man jumps from the car and tries to climb a fence, and four policemen try to subdue him, unsuccessfully. Comically, the cops attack him first with clubs and a stun gun (he pulls the nodes off his body harmlessly) before one guy finally pulls a gun. The perp takes a few bullets before plunging into the water below, alive. His body is not immediately seen. Enter Mulder and Scully who, through their investigation, uncover immediate evidence of a cover up thanks to the continued assistance of Deep Throat. The trail leads to Dr. Terrance Berube who appears to be experimenting on some very irate primates. Berube is later killed in his office but the crime is staged to look like a suicide, and, during the ensuing investigation, Mulder finds the titular flask which is labelled “Purity Control.”

Here, Mulder and Scully split: Scully investigating the contents of the flask, and Mulder breaking into the home of Berube. There, Mulder answers a phone call from the man on the run, Secare, seen in the prologue, which is recorded by someone watching outside. Unable to find Secare, Mulder takes a set of keys for a storage facility from Berube’s residence and eventually uncovers a room full of live humans stored in liquid. Secare appears to have been one of these individuals as he was able to hold his breath under water for several days. Scully, on the other hand, takes the vial to Georgetown for analysis, and the contents are deemed to be of alien origin – the DNA strand contains extra nucleotides that don’t exist on Earth. After sharing the information with Mulder, she returns to discover that the researcher who assisted the investigation is now dead. Additionally, Mulder tries to show Scully the room full of people, but the contents are now gone.

The episode closes with Secare’s murder and Mulder’s capture by the same man. Scully connects with Deep Throat who gives her top secret credentials to enter a High Containment Facility at Fort Marlene. After taking a wild guess at the passcode (“purity control”), Scully finds an alien fetus frozen within a contain of liquid nitrogen. Having taken possession of the fetus, Deep Throat has a clandestine meeting with the man who kidnapped Mulder and killed Secare and is promptly shot after exchanging the fetus. Scully sees it and tries to save Deep Throat, but he dies with “Trust no one” as his last words. The final scenes happen a few weeks later as Mulder calls Scully to tell her that the X-files have been closed, and the Smoking Man hides the alien fetus in an enormous evidence room – just as he did in the closing scene of the pilot.

Stuff like “Flask,” I suspect, is catnip for X-Files nuts. It provides explicit evidence, plot forward momentum, and enough thrills to keep audience members engaged. It also sets up a potentially disastrous turn of events for the X-files, the ultimate cliffhanger for Season Two. This is probably in my top five of Season One, partially because of the above-mentioned reasons, but also because it’s just pure, adrenaline-rushing fun – something the season was often lacking. And we cannot discount the effect of Deep Throat’s death, an event well-timed to maintain the mysterious nature of the character while avoiding making him mundane. He had clearly run the gamut of his experience on the show, and it was a smart move killing him off when they did. Can’t wait for Season Two.

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  1. Avatar
    Chris 5 years ago

    I’m sure when I originally saw this and Deep Throat died I was all “Oh hell no!” But now, looking back, that dude had it coming. Seriously. It was like he could do nothing but be obtuse for the sake of it. He could have just come out and told Mulder and Scully everything off the rip, but he had to be a clandestine dick about it. Know what happens to clandestine dicks in the X-Files there Throat old pal? They get their punk asses shot, that’s what! Plus, I have the hindsight of knowing that X is joining the cast of characters to be the new informant and X is way….way…WAY cooler. So this one’s for your Deep Throat. Screw you buddy. Should have spoken up with more than that weak ass “Turst No One” shit while you had the chance. Enjoy being a worm feast, sucker.

    1. Avatar
      Clarence Moye 5 years ago

      You have issues.

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