The X-Files #123: Unusual Suspects

"It's all true what Susanne said about you people, isn't it? About John F. Kennedy? Dallas?" "I heard it was a lone gunman."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: The secret origin of the Lone Gunmen.

REVIEW:
A Lone Gunmen focus, taking place in 1989, may be a strange choice for the season's third episode, and the series' 100th episode, but it does create a buffer between Scully's sudden recovery and an episode where she's sure to be out of bed. And in the real world, it allows the leads to complete filming on the X-Files movie. Vince Gilligan rightly treats this as a comedy, one that plays into the television inside joke of using Baltimore's Detective John Munch. But the truly outrageous idea is that the Gunmen and Mulder are actually paranoid because they were dosed with a Syndicate-made paranoia gas (we've seen similar experiments in earlier seasons). Mulder got the worst of it and was seeing little gray men, but they were still present, and WEREN'T ready to believe everything the femme fatale in the story was saying. Suddenly they're conspiracy theorists (although yes, a lot of her paranoia turned out to be founded, but that's part of the joke). Outrageous, but it works. Mulder had a promising career until AT SOME POINT, he lost his marbles and started trying to prove the existence of his sister's abductors... Well, this could be the inciting incident.

Despite this loopy idea, most of the comedy is character-driven. Byers as the straight-arrow FCC functionary charmed and left out to dry by a paranoid dame. Frohike and Langly competing for the cable piracy buck. The latter playing Dungeons & Dragons for money (well, I seem to have missed some bankable opportunities in the last 30 years). The femme fatale's psychotic boyfriend turning out to be Mulder. Her paranoid ravings about the Gideon Bible found in every hotel room (wait, is that one true too?).

And despite the chuckles, we do learn a lot about the characters. How Byers was named after JFK after his assassination, for example. Or that they started their paranoid newspaper because these events would not be reported by legitimate media. The appearance of X as the Conspiracy's goon who takes charge of the clean-up operation after Mulder and the Gunmen find the gas is a nice surprise, even more so because he gave them their name (see quote, above).

One small detail unrelated to this episode I can hold back no more, though: Why didn't they remake the opening titles when they went widescreen? They just zoom in on it and it looks TERRIBLE. (And I've got to say, I always found it rather ugly in the first place, like a show from when TLC stopped taking the "L" for Learning seriously).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A fun origin story for three characters we're always happy to see, but some viewers may find its inferences difficult to accept.

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