Trust No Gunmen: The X-Files Season 10
Warning: spoilers follow for X-Files season nine episode “Jump The Shark” and the X-Files season ten comic book “Believers, Part II” - if you still want to experience these old pieces of imperfect media untouched by internet criticism go consume them before reading this, and may god have mercy on your soul.
The Lone Gunmen are not dead. In April of 2002, during the Sunday night airing of The X-Files in an episode titled “Jump the Shark,” Melvin Frohike, Ringo Langly and John Fitzgerald Byers sacrificed themselves to stop a bioterrorist attack on the United States. Their funeral was held in Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place of JFK, and it was attended by their sole surviving colleague, three FBI agents and a Man in Black. But the Lone Gunmen are not dead.
First appearing in the season one X-Files episode “E.B.E.” and becoming a staple of the show's famous mythology, The Lone Gunmen print a conspiracy tabloid. Over the course of the series they play an integral role in the adventures of Mulder and Scully - and later Doggett and Reyes - and it is difficult to imagine the series continuing without their comedic relief and token government paranoia aesthetic.
And yet, with only four episodes to go in the series, the Gunmen were disposed of. They had been absent from the series for a small run prior to “Jump the Shark,” thanks to Vince Gilligan’s spinoff series The Lone Gunmen (which only lasted a season before getting cancelled) but their return to the series was a painful goodbye.
By season nine, The X-Files - while not as bad as most people remember it - was a shell of its former self, featuring Fox Mulder in only the series finale. The Lone Gunmen bears a similar reputation (and coincidentally also has a single episode featuring David Duchovny), and while it’s not unwatchable, it certainly ruined the Gunmen’s reputation. By the time they succumbed to televised heroism, it felt like a long time coming, but also like they deserved better.
Thankfully they will get better deaths, if they do die at all, now that they’ve been resurrected twice.
On July 22, Dean Haglund who plays Langly confirmed on Twitter that he and the other two conspiracy journalists will be returning to the show when it’s revived in 2016. It’s not a tough leap to make in terms of plotting, in fact, it’s much more appropriate thematically for the three of them to have faked their deaths, since if they were witness to their own funerals they would be the first to tell you why it just doesn’t add up.
The strange thing, especially for fan who had already been experiencing the series semi-revival via the Season 10 comic books written and produced by series creator Chris Carter, is that the resurrection of Byers, Frohike and Langly was making the news at all. Of course The Lone Gunmen are going to be in The X-Files, they were confirmed active in issue number two of seasons ten, which is equivalent to six episodes and a monster of the week movie after their faked deaths.
In the comics, which continue the mythology after the 2008 movie I Want To Believe, their faked death is almost presented as assumed knowledge on behalf of the reader. When Mulder uncovers their secret subterranean headquarters, right underneath their supposed graves, Frohike covers the whole conundrum in a single expository panel with the dialogue:
FROHIKE: “Faking our own demises went a long way toward keeping any enemies foreign and domestic off our backs… But we never expected death would be such hard work.”
MULDER: “You thought Federal recollection would be all paperboys and picket fences?”
FROHIKE: “Look, the FBI helped us out while you were away, and we appreciated it. We even agreed to work off any debt and help troubleshoot the government's technological vulnerabilities in exchange.”
That’s it. A few subsequent references to being legally dead and some historical fiction tropes aside, it’s as if they never left. Where things get a little fun in terms of meta-narrative is in Chris Carter’s assertion that the six episode television revival will ignore the events of the comics despite previously stating that the comic’s events are also canonical. In January, The Lone Gunmen are going to be discovered as living in secret all over again and it will be just as true as it was in the comics.
In other cases, this might be considered grounds for nerd rage, especially if you liked the comic book season (which I’m personally pretty lukewarm on). For a series as beloved as The X-Files to set about telling its main story again after a decade with only a mediocre movie to satiate my X-thirst in the mean time, and then to have a new piece of good news erase all of that newly established canon, is exactly the stuff of conspiracies. It’s corporate censorship of the highest level, rewriting reality for the sake of a hidden agenda. If Carter and his team of writers bring the Gunmen back in a different way, with a different explanation, we will have two equally legitimate stories we can use to explain the same result.
We devise conspiracies in the absence of proper explanations to travesties that we can’t process. We see gaps and we try to fill them with manufactured understanding, obsessing over the how and not the what or why. Three heroes sacrificed their lives in 2002, that much is confirmed, as is the most important fact: The Lone Gunmen aren’t dead. Whatever story you want to use to connect the dots is fine by them.