The X-Files: Unusual Suspects

Case: The Lone Gunmen meet and assist Mulder in determining whether the government is using civilians in a secret experiment.

Destination: Baltimore, Maryland

“No matter how paranoid you are, you’re not paranoid enough.”

Mulder is barely in this episode and Scully isn’t at all. It is, in effect, pure filler. It shouldn’t work. It does.

This episode is the direct result of production problems. Duchovny and Anderson were stuck in Los Angeles finishing up the first movie. The show’s producers needed to start filming the season and were desperate for a story. Carter came up with the idea of the Lone Gunmen’s back story. Vince Gilligan turned it into a classic episode of the show.

The episode works because it is fun. The three men are strangers who come together to help a woman. Of course it’s been done before, but this time it is tongue-in-cheek, played with a sly nod to all of us viewers who know what is coming.

The banter and the interactions among the men are wonderfully drawn. Their dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny while at the same time giving us enormous insight into where these three came from before they came together.

It is also meant to be a bit of an origin story for Mulder. This is where the episode falls down a bit. From the beginning, we have been told that Mulder is Mulder because of what happened to Samantha. Here, it is implied that Mulder is Mulder because of what happened in Baltimore. Worse, he is dosed with a paranoia drug. Are we meant to believe that it the long-term effects of this drug that have fueled him all these years? I hope not.

The best part of this episode, however, is the return of X. By allowing Mulder to continue and by, in effect, forming (and naming!) the Gunmen, it is he who, arguably, sets everything in motion for what we have been watching for four years now. It is a clever twist, and one that I wish we could have spent a lot more time with.

Part of the joy of this episode is the idea of how much the world had changed between 1989 and 1997. Mulder pulling out that brick of a cell phone is a wonderful sight gag. Even in 1997, there would have been appreciative nods of the head as to how far we had all moved on.

It’s even funnier now. Looking at the phones that Mulder and Scully use, listening to them respect the Gunmen for their knowledge of the internet, the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, all allow us to smile at how quaint and new everything was back in the day.

This episode is not perfect, far from it. The noir aspects don’t always work; there are plot holes you can drive a truck through; the twists are a tad too obviously telegraphed. None it matters if we just take the episode for what it is -- filler that fleshed out three of the best supporting characters that have ever come along.

Other Thoughts

-- Yet again, Kim Manners shows us just how skilled a director he is. And, Vince Gilligan shows us just how skilled a writer he is.

-- This was episode 100. For such a landmark, it is an interesting choice to make it a relatively minor one in terms of mythology.

-- Fantastic cameo by Richard Belzer as Detective Munch. For those of you who may not remember television from the 1990s, Munch was a detective in Homicide, which took place in Baltimore. What’s truly remarkable about this cameo is that The X-Files aired on Fox, Homicide on NBC.

-- We get a lot of details about Mulder. His birth date is 10/13/61 (Chris Carter’s birthday). He is six feet tall and weighs 170 pounds. He went to Oxford and graduated at the top of his class at Quantico.

-- When Mulder answers the phone and says, “Hey, Reggie,” this is a direct call back to the man he used to work for, Reggie Perdue that we met way back in season one. [Thanks, internet. My kung-fu is the best!]

Quotes

Byers: “My name is John Fitzgerald Byers. I was born on November 22nd, 1963.”
Munch: “Seriously?”
Byers: “I was named after JFK. Before the assassination, my parents were going to name me ‘Bertram.’”
Munch: “Lucky you.”

Byers: “You’re talking about a premeditated crime against the United States government!”
Frohike: “Hey, your second today. Welcome to the dark side.”

Langly: “Government hack is a snap. Last week, I got into the Maryland DMV. Changed my endorsement so I could handicap park.”

Langly: “Say it. Say... it!”
Frohike: “Your kung-fu is the best.”

Final Analysis: A filler episode that has become a classic. I love it.

ChrisB has, in truth, only fair to middlin' kung fu.

3 comments:

Juliette said...

I love this episode. It's a breath of fresh air, and it's great to get some backstory on the Gunmen (and why Byers is always so smartly dressed compared to the other two!)

Heather said...

Chris,
Thanks for a great review. Your kung-fu is the best.

drnanamom said...

Thanks for the review Chris. Totally enjoyed the geek out that is our Lone Gunmen. Would it have been just as cool a group if they had a Lone Gunwoman in the group?