“You got to admit, Byers. It hasn’t exactly been our year. And to top it all off, we screwed the pooch pretty good today. Maybe we should pack it in.” — Melvin Frohike
“And do what instead? We never gave up. We never will. In the end, if that’s the best they can say about us, it’ll do.” — John Fitzgerald Byers
In which we bid farewell to a trio of misfits.
Radhika: So here it is: “Jump the Shark,” the moment where we say goodbye to The Lone Gunmen, a trio that often brought humor as well as occasional moments of depth, to The X-Files over the years. While the trio had never been major characters on the series, they did have their chance in the spotlight during a short-lived spinoff prior to season nine. So this episode winds up serving as a coda to that series as well with somewhat mixed results.
Former Man in Black Morris Fletcher, first introduced to us in the “Dreamland” episodes of season six, approaches Doggett and Reyes, claiming that Yves Adele Harlow — an acquaintance of The Lone Gunmen — is a super soldier. The Lone Gunmen don’t believe this, but then Harlow murders an immunology professor, prompting a lot of questions. Harlow reveals that the man had been experimenting with shark immune systems and grafting pieces of the animal onto his body to become something of a biological weapon. Her father, an international arms dealer, was funding this research. And meanwhile Fletcher, a bit clueless about the extent of these underhanded dealings, had been hired to find Harlow and stop her from foiling things. Harlow also reveals that there is a second biological weapons host that needs to be stopped.
After some false leads, the episode culminates with The Lone Gunmen trapped in a room with the bioterrorist — the virus contained, but resulting in their sacrifice. At the end of the episode, Skinner, Doggett, Reyes, Scully, as well as Fletcher, Harlow and The Lone Gunmen’s old friend/intern Jimmy Bond gather at Arlington National Cemetery to pay their final respects.
Like most fans, I enjoyed The Lone Gunmen, though I feel they were best meant for small doses. And aside from a couple of episodes and their spin-off series, that’s how the show runners presented them. I recall watching a few episodes of their spinoff when it first aired, though I didn’t keep up with it consistently enough — and I guess the public didn’t either, because a cancellation soon followed. It seems like much of season nine was still bitter about that cancellation because “Jump the Shark” isn’t the first episode referring to how broke The Lone Gunmen are these days. This episode seems to carry over much of that bitterness and I guess that’s why the characters were killed off.
This episode didn’t go over particularly well with viewers when it first aired and I see a lot of flaws with it as I think it over, but I will say that rewatching it was a reasonably entertaining experience. I recently rewatched the first two discs of The Lone Gunmen spinoff to refresh my memory, and while that show was a little uneven in quality, I think this episode serves as a reasonable way to tie things up with characters like Yves Adele Harlow and Jimmy Bond, introduced to us in the spinoff. But even with the hints being dropped about The Lone Gunmen not being around very long, the deaths of the characters do feel pretty lame and I can agree with other fans about how the trio deserved better after lasting so long on The X-Files. That said, [COMICS SPOILER ALERT] The Lone Gunmen aren’t exactly dead in The X-Files: Season 10 comics, and knowing that there are a series of revival episodes on their way, I don’t know if I can stay particularly mad at this episode anymore.
However, I do find the ending with the apparent Arlington burial a bit bizarre and heavy handed — it’s a little much for me, a “jump the shark” moment if you will, and while we have Scully declaring how much The Lone Gunmen meant to her, I find it incredibly lame that we didn’t get to see her interacting with them in the episode. Show, don’t tell: There’s really no room for such platitudes after longtime characters have been giving their sendoff in the ninth season of a series.
Max: A few friends of mine have been rewatching the show since the news broke of the new episodes being commissioned, and they recently got to this episode and were quite bitter about it, even saying that they pretend this episode doesn’t exist — and yes, like Radhika mentioned — the comics have retconned the events of the episode. For an outing focused on our beloved trio, it is awfully dour and depressing affair, quite unlike the fantastic doses of levity that The Lone Gunmen always brought to whatever dastardly doings Mulder and Scully found themselves in.
This isn’t the first time a cancelled Chris Carter show ended up with a tying-the-loose-ends episode on The X-Files — see the episode concluding Millennium and the saga of Frank Black from season seven. Like that entry, “Jump the Shark” is a poor final chapter to characters that Philes grew to love over nine seasons, and their deaths seem like a cheap ploy to gain some kind of relevance or resonance that the writers have been struggling with all season long. Everything is half measures with the relative lack of Scully and the half-heartedness of the performances. Everyone was just going through the motions and on autopilot, slogging through the requisite story beats to get to what was supposed to be a noble sacrifice for three men who used to not get directly involved and instead sat behind computers.
Radhika spoke to a lot of good points about the episode, but I just want to add how flat I thought it was. Reasonably entertaining yes, but I just wish there was something more of substance behind the proceedings. The season as a whole has been unsatisfying, an experience I liken to going to a favorite restaurant only to not enjoy your meal because of some confluence of events. It is not The X-Files, but rather a bizarre facsimile — a Pinocchio that wishes he was a real boy. I may be coming down too harsh on things, and perhaps there is also a bit of restlessness that comes with nearly two years of critically dissecting the show. At this point I need more, when so many shows since this one went off the air have delivered enormously rich material in their later or final seasons.
This comes with the territory of rewatching the entire series, because you get the highest highs but also the lowest of lows. Nostalgically commiserating with fellow Philes you get the privilege of blocking out or not discussing the bad parts (or just pay lip service to them) — here though Radhika and I are forced to confront the variable quality of going episode-by-episode, season-by-season. And I guess by engaging with and writing about this season, we both gain an appreciation of the elements not in evidence that once gave the show the power and pleasure that got us both hooked on it in the first place.
YES, IT’S THAT GUY
Marcus Giamatti – Seen here as John Gillnitz, the brother of actor Paul Giamatti, has extensive credits in his own right. Probably best known for a regular role on the series Judging Amy, recent credits include shows like Fringe, The Closer, Revenge, Bones and NCIS: Los Angeles.