The X-Files #255: Like Water for Octane

"People never see history coming. It kinda just sneaks up on 'em, like when the Chinese bombed Pearl Harbor."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: The Gunmen try to find a suppressed water-powered car.

REVIEW: Finally, an episode that delves into the main characters a little more than usual, even though it's through Jimmy's wacky perspective. The teaser presents us with childhood versions of the three Gunmen - Byers the proud future civil servant, Langley the boy hacker who can't wait to leave his family's dairy farm, and Frohike the diminutive man of action who can beat up kids three times his size and whose dream is of becoming a publisher like Hugh Hefner. To Jimmy, these are American heroes seeking the Truth with a capital "T", and the story kind of bears this out, even though Jimmy isn't too sure about his history. The reality is still a lot more mundane than he would have it and the story begins with Byers on a usually fruitless visit to the Freedom of Information Office. This time, he gets a big box of files, which contains only a cinder block and one (1) heavily-redacted document. If the Gunmen are the epic heroes of Jimmy's imagination, the truth of it lies in their destiny. It's proper that their childhoods were evoked, because the one document contains a reference to a water-powered car Frohike once drove and with which he has always been obsessed. Fate? Well, Yves made sure they got that document; she's manipulating into doing all her dirty work for her, finding the car for an oil company here fronted by future Human Target Mark Valley (because she totally lives in that world). But they do find the farm on which the car is hidden (giving Langley fierce flashbacks), so maybe.

The episode is quite a good one for Jimmy too. He gets to prove his usefulness to the group, even if it's mostly as brawn and quick reflexes. And a touch hit and miss. I like that he's got the situation in hand when the Gunmen have a flat, and his accidentally tipping the VW van into a pond is a genuinely amusing moment. Later, he gets to go undercover since he's the only member of the team clean cut enough to pass as military (well, there's Yves, but she's not really on the team), and saves the day at the end by yanking on a bull's... well... you know. His stubborn attempt at digging through rubble to find his friends when he thinks they're trapped under is even kind of touching. He's dumb - he starts off by putting a used coffee filter in the office's shredder - even unlucky, but not absurdly so. That's a step up. This episode dials the pratfalls way down in favor of character-driven humor, whether that's Langley going from king in a computer game to symbolic pauper with his arm up a cow's butt, Byers dragging a cinder block around (a trolling device that returns late), or Frohike's extreme and unwarranted paranoia. Are they teasing a flirtation between Jimmy and Yves as well?

At first I thought it was a misstep that the Gunmen, indeed the entire episode, was against the water-powered car. But the characters may have a point. The existence of a car unaffected by gas availability or prices might mean more cars, more roads, more clear-cutting, and no less oil drilling repurposed to lubricants and plastics. Would it mean MORE pollution in the long run? The arguments are perhaps facetious, I don't know. They strike me as strange, but are at least thought-provoking. At least they don't destroy the tech, just keep it hidden for the moment. So for not bothering with obvious platitudes or the expected removal of agency (the car destroyed in an accident, for example), I'm giving the show some credit.

- The Lone Gunmen's first success! It's funny and character-driven, and doesn't quite go where you think it will.



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