The X-Files #252: The Lone Gunmen Pilot

"If you pimply pencil necks are the only hope for the American people, God help us all."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: The Lone Gunmen investigate the seeming death of Byers' dad, and prevent 9/11 from happening. Plus, first appearance of Yves Adele Harlow.

REVIEW: Cards on the table, I'm not a huge fan of the Lone Gunmen. Apparently, they had a fan base, and yes, their early appearances were certainly fun, but in the last couple of seasons we've covered, they haven't contributed much except for cheap exposition. A Gunmen-centric episode here and there is fine, but a whole series based on their exploits? I dunno. And after the Pilot, I still don't know. After Millennium (more or less a spin-off), Chris Carter and his team go in the other direction. This is to be action-comedy rather than intellectual tragedy, and about conspiracy elements rather than strange murders and the supernatural. That's not a bad niche to try and claim, but the first episode is all over the map, tonally.

See, I don't know whether to take any of this seriously, what with the mockingly strident rock guitar chords, Frohike's constant slapstick, a scene that parodies Tom Cruise's first Mission: Impossible film, and another in an electronic shooting range right out of the stupid First Person Shooter episode. And then there's the introduction of Yves Adele Harlow, a cross-dressing thief who looks like she came out of 90s Image comics and is meant to be a new female addition to the cast, and the way a lot of the plot resolves itself cartoonishly. Like, why are there no consequences to the Gunmen breaking into a computer company? And what is the time line concerning Frohike's race for the chip as Byers' plane bears down on the World Trade Center? Oh yeah. We should talk about that. The Pilot was aired in April of 2001, some months before 9/11, but audiences today will feel a bit uncomfortable at home much the plot resembles those events and the conspiracy theories they triggered. First, the Gunmen discover a government plot to simulate a terrorist attack using an airplane to give the Military Industrial Complex a boost when extremist groups and rogue nations take credit for it. Not only that, but the plot would have a plane drop into the middle of New York. Byers and his dad get aboard to stop it, but can't find a bomb, because it's really going to be remote-piloted into the World Trade Center. All too close for comfort. Of course, the Gunmen save the plane and the WTC at the last minute, but we can't help but be apprehensive watching this. And if most of the episode doesn't take itself seriously, then this element is robbed of its stakes or, if we have 9/11 in mind, feels absolutely wrong.

Plot aside, the wall this show is likely to hit is that its three leads have never been complex characters. Byers has always been a sad sack, Frohike a curmudgeon with delusions of sexiness, and Langley an angry nerd. As three clowns who appear from time to time in the X-Files for comic relief and/or expository shortcuts, that's enough. As the leads of their own television show, they need work, and I don't really buy their transformation into a team of super-hacker con men heist experts. I do like that they have journalistic integrity, not printing anything they don't have actual proof of (it's a bit of a surprise, actually), but their adventures otherwise feel like a tall tale on of them is telling over drinks. Byers has always had the most character development - a reason to leave a government job to join the Gunmen, a tragic love interest - and he again gets the spotlight with his father dying, or seeming to die. This leads to good interplay between him and Frohike, the latter acting as the older and wiser friend. Given their "jobs", these guys SHOULD be truth-tellers, even among themselves. I wish there had been more of this, but even so, it sends Byers in the same direction he's always been going - to Sad City. And perhaps they should have taken this opportunity to build up a DIFFERENT Gunman, hm?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - If you can accept the weird 9/11 synchronicity, this is a perfectly fine Lone Gunmen adventure, but it could have been plopped into a season of The X-Files to give the leads a break. I don't know that it's a Pilot I would send to series necessarily, and it doesn't particularly feel necessary.


Anonymous said...

Myself, I enjoyed the Lone Gunmen series quite a bit, but since I'd never really watched X-Files that much (goddamn Larry Liverfluke or the Horny Amish every time I tried to tune in), they were new to me for the show, so I could take them in with fresh eyes.

The LGs themselves weren't that interesting to me, but I enjoyed Jimmy Bond. I like do-gooders, and he's about the do-goodierest do-gooder ever to do-good a do-good.

Siskoid said...

Haven't met him yet, that's up next, but I look forward to seeing how the show was tweaked for series post-pilot.

Green Luthor said...

I always rather liked the Gunmen on X-Files, and did rather think they could carry their own show, but the actual execution thereof... I wanted to like it more than I ever actually did. All things considered, I also wish it had done better ratings-wise, but that's a story for a later day.


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