“Oh, I love you guys. I really do. I mean, you’re the ‘Lone Gunmen,’ aren’t you? You guys are my heroes. I mean, look at this crap you print.” — Morris Fletcher
“We uncover the truth.” — John Fitzgerald Byers
“Oh, the truth. Well, see that’s what’s so great about you monkeys. Not only do you believe this horse pucky that we create you broadcast it as well.” — Morris Fletcher
The X-Files, Episode 6×05: Dreamland II
We’ll soon be reviewing “Jump the Shark,” an episode that brings The Lone Gunmen’s story to a close. The episode also concludes the storylines presented in The Lone Gunmen’s short-lived spinoff program, which we’re taking a look at in this post.
Thirteen episodes of network television is not really enough to make any kind of real impact in the media landscape at the turn of last century, let alone in today’s oversaturated cable and streaming megalopolis. This was the case in 2001, when Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan, and John Shiban cooked up the idea to have a show about The Lone Gunmen. Sure, we’ve hung out with the characters many times since their brief introduction in “E.B.E.” (most notably in TLG-centric episodes in the fifth and sixth seasons), but Carter and company were in expansion mode, even when Millennium and Harsh Realm were canceled.
The show runners set up The Lone Gunmen’s namesake show as one about a type of high-tech detective agency, with the trio using its expertise to uncover decidedly non-paranormal activity. This included, most memorably, a plot to fly commercial airliners into the World Trade Center — six months before it actually happened on September 11th. This conspiracy from the pilot episode is what most people know of and think about when they talk about the show, especially the conspiracy-minded amongst us who point to the episode as proof of some kind of inside job.
Along the way, The Lone Gunmen encounter two individuals who become iconic parts of the show, thief and sometimes-ally Yves Adele Harlow, and Jimmy Bond, a rich but dim guy who is a kind of Lone Gunmen fanboy. The Gunmen — always gluttons for attention and recognition — keep Jimmy around, despite the fact that he drives them nuts. For me, Yves Harlow is the standout role, one given real gravitas and chemistry by the actress Zuleikha Robinson, who used the show as a springboard into other genre programming. Everyone loves a good heist, and Harlow is a superior mastermind, foiling the efforts of the Gunmen quite a few times in the series’ run.
As for the Gunmen themselves, perhaps one of the reasons why the show was doomed to fail is that, as supporting characters, they are fantastic — giving The X-Files good doses of color and levity during even the most harrowing of mythology outings. Even “Unusual Suspects” and “Three of a Kind” are terrific, because the writers know exactly how to use the Gunmen for maximum effect. Maybe if this spinoff came earlier things could’ve worked out better, but as Radhika and I have commented on many episodes this season, the X-Files creative team had really run out of juice by this point — despite the fact that the TLG series aired during the creative renaissance of the back-half of season eight.
It is hard to write and manage good material for one program, let alone more than one, and so The Lone Gunmen suffered the same fate as Chris Carter’s other non-X-Files enterprises. And so “All About Yves,” became the de facto series finale, featuring appearances by both Morris Fletcher and our favorite G-Man Fox Mulder. In it, the Gunmen stumble upon a clandestine government operation that was the inciting force behind a lot of the big events of the past several decades, an enterprise that virtually bankrupts their organization — a plot point that comes up a lot in The X-Files‘ ninth season as they have limited resources to help with the looming super solider threat as well as their bumbling that resulted in the kidnapping of baby William by that UFO cult.
Is The Lone Gunmen a bad show? Hardly. Could it have been better? Yes. Was I entertained when I first saw it about ten years ago? Most assuredly. It wasn’t trying to be like the program that birthed it, and I liken it more with the breezy theatrics of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven trilogy. If you haven’t seen it, I say watch at least the first and last episodes for some more hijinks from our favorite band of hacktivists.
And remember, Lord Manhammer’s kung fu is the best.
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
Zuleikha Robinson – Yves Adele Harlow herself, Robinson has since appeared on the shows Lost, New Amsterdam, Homeland, The Following, Rome, and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. She’s also in the films Timecode, Hildago, and The Namesake.
Stephen Snedden – Snedden turn as Jimmy Bond is one of many television roles he would take on shows from Six Feet Under and Crossing Jordan to more recently Revenge, Castle, and The Mentalist.