The X-Files (1994) – Roland, and The Erlenmeyer Flask

The penultimate episode of the first season of The X-Files was written by Chris Ruppenthal and first debuted on 6 May, 1994.

Agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) get called in on a murder investigation at a classified research centre that is specialising on developing a new jet engine.

The investigation leads them to a mentally challenged janitor, Roland (Zeljko Ivanek) who is connected to the engine in a unique way. His mostly deceased twin brother (his head has been kept in cryogenics) had developed the engine, and it seems now, against all probability, Roland is completing the work… and committing murder to protect the work.

Mulder begins to suspect that Roland’s brother, Arthur, still has an active brain despite his cold storage, and is transposing his will onto Roland to complete his life’s work.

It’s not a horrible episode, in fact there are some rather poignant moments, and some fun patter between Mulder and Scully, but you know that the next episode, the final one of the season, is going to be something big and huge. With all the things that have happened so far this season, the scares, the introduction of the mythology arc you knew it was going to be something.

And you didn’t want to sit through a basic ‘monster’ of the week episode to get you to it. Earlier in the season this one may have seemed stronger, and it is a solid tale, but you know something big is about to happen in…

The Erlenmeyer Flask. Written by series creator Chris Carter, the first season came to a close on 13 May, 1994, and like any good series, brings about some interesting and important moments, and realisations as it closes out, leaving viewers wondering what lays ahead.

And to emphasise that, the tag ‘The Truth is Out There’ in the opening credits has been replaced by ‘Trust No One.’

Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin) puts Mulder on the trail of a missing fugitive, who may, or may not be, changed somehow by extra-terrestrial DNA, as it seems there is a bacteria with an embedded virus with more base pairs than anything on Earth. It has a green tint to it, and when airborne causes an immediate irritation around the eyes.

But we, and the agents are only afforded glimpses, Mulder sees rows of bodies in water tanks, before he’s promptly kidnapped by the forces arraying themselves against the agents, and Scully has to break into a government facility to retrieve a sample from a project called ‘Purity Control.’

Is it alien? Are there alien-human hybrids wandering the Earth? Or is Deep Throat only telling Mulder what he thinks he wants to hear? Deep Throat takes the sample from Scully in order to get Mulder back, but it costs him his life.

And I can’t help but wonder if the whole thing was a plan to flush out Mulder’s contact, and eliminate him once and for all?

By the end of the episode, Mulder is recovered, but when he’s called into Skinner’s office (off-screen), he learns that the x-files are being shut down, and both he and Scully are being reassigned.

It’s a great way to end the season, and lays more groundwork for the ongoing mythology. But what can this possibly mean for the second season? I guess I’ll learn more next week as I continue my search, because the truth is out there…

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