"Jump the Shark"

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"You don't want to know whose ass I had to pucker up to for this..."



Of all the episodes this season, I think this has to be the most difficult to review. In many respects, this episode feels more like the “lost finale” for the “Lone Gunmen” series, rather than an episode of the “X-Files”. An attempt is made to tie the current mythology of the original series into the circumstances that came in the actual “Lone Gunmen” finale, but ultimately, it makes for an uncomfortable fit.

I suppose it’s only fitting that I never had the opportunity to watch the series finale for “The Lone Gunmen”, because in all fairness, as an episode of “X-Files”, this should be able to stand on its own. And truth be told, it doesn’t. Far too much of this episode is exposition, and this is especially tiring by the time we get answers to questions that those who skipped “Lone Gunmen” wouldn’t know to ask. For fans of that series, the answers were all too glib and unsatisfying, especially the offhand explanation for the real background of Yves.

I’ve often had criticism for episodes that are written by more than one person, because when it comes to a script, the more hands you have in the pot, the more chance there is for conflicts of interest and characterization. In this case, we get a plot in very bad taste in the current political climate, few if any attempts at the characteristic humor that the Gunmen usually provide, and a completely anti-climactic “death scene”.

The plot hinges on Morris Fletcher, last seen on the “X-Files” in “Three of a Kind” (which is fitting, since it was the last Gunmen-centric episode). Morris is now working as a free agent, so to speak, and in what has to be one of the most idiotic scenes put to film, it appears as though Morris is threatened by unknown government forces because of the information he holds from his time at Area 51. He calls on Doggett and Reyes, since they are the agents on the X-Files, to help protect him from his former employers. When the agents balk at his attempts to bribe them with false UFO disclosures, he tosses out “super-soldiers”…which of course, gets their attention.

Morris claims that the old rival of the Gunmen, Yves Adele Harlow, is actually a super-soldier now. Enlisting the help of the Gunmen, under Morris’ advice, the agents try to find Yves. When their old associate Jimmy Bond shows up and tells them that Yves has killed a professor in New Jersey, a professor working on immune function, the chase is on.

They catch up with Yves, of course, and botch her attempts at killing a second man. As it turns out, Yves is not a super-soldier. She is hunting down a couple sleeper agents in the employ of her father, who runs an international terrorist organization. The plot was to smuggle a deadly viral agent into the country using the sleeper agents, who have devices implanted in their bodies. The sleepers are going to hit a conference of scientists, all of whom would be vital to American anti-biological terrorism efforts.

Through twists and turns, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with Doggett or Reyes or the X-Files, the Gunmen, Yves, and Jimmy hunt down the second sleeper (who turns out not to be the man she was initially tracking down), right before the deadly virus is set to be dispersed. Knowing that time is short, and already having realized that their efforts may never amount to anything, the Gunmen sacrifice themselves by shutting themselves in with the sleeper behind sealed fire walls.

So ends the tragic struggle of the Lone Gunmen.

If this sounds pointless, there’s a reason for that. It *is* pointless. There is absolutely no reason why the Gunmen have to die. For one thing, all three of them could have escaped before the fire walls came down. But more than that, this is hardly the kind of situation that, having already involved the FBI, should have come down to the three of them anyway.

At the center of everything is the character of Morris Fletcher, who quite frankly was an amusing idea gone terribly wrong to begin with. His appearance here is mostly a nod to his involvement in the “Lone Gunmen” finale, but having missed that connection, I didn’t understand why he had to be there, or care when they tossed out the “revelation” that he was now working with Yves’ father. His usual wit was somewhat lacking, and much like the Gunmen themselves, Morris is far better in small doses than accompanied by explanations for his actions.

By thrusting them into such a serious situation, much of the humor was lost. By that, I’m not talking about the inane, broad comedy that was attempted in the early episodes of their own series, but rather the subtle humor of “Unusual Suspects” and “Three of a Kind”. The acerbic dialogue was mostly reduced to snide comments that were remarkably flat, especially the endless tirade over Joey Ramone, which would have worked better as a one-liner from Morris (at the most). The earlier Gunmen-centric episodes showed how a serious situation could be played for laughs, and that was completely lost here.

I’m still trying to figure out why they even bothered to include Doggett and Reyes as much as they did, because they really had nothing to do with the resolution of the episode. “Unusual Suspects” was as much about Mulder as it was about the boys, and “Three of a Kind” followed through with the Gunmen’s clever deception of Scully. Here, the agents provide very little in the way of content. They aren’t even used as a foil for the usual humor. They are simply a device to get the plot rolling, and once they serve their purpose, they have nothing to do with the episode at all.

As bad as that characterization is, I was amazed by how the writers simply rewrote Jimmy Bond into something that didn’t even resemble the character from the “Lone Gunmen”. Jimmy was always played as the massively naďve and vapid innocent, but here he is shown to have a much more clever and sophisticated mind. It doesn’t fit the character to be able to track down Yves, unseen, for over a year. Even if you grant that, would Jimmy, as he was originally portrayed, have been canny enough to use traffic security video to track down his targets? I think not. It was the usual “plot over characterization” that drives me crazy.

On top of all of that, there is the extremely questionable choice of using a biological terror plot in the middle of New Jersey as your plot device. I, for one, was not entirely amused. I also thought that it was a bit ironic (and clearly in bad taste) to wrap up the plot threads for a series that began with an eerie pre-sage of the World Trade Center attack with an analogue of the other recent terrorist attack. What’s next…an episode focusing on suicide bombers? Or how about child-molesting priests?

It also begs the earlier question of why the FBI weren’t involved in the final resolution of the situation. If Doggett and Reyes knew about the terrorist plot, given the constant references to how the Bureau is working heavily in the anti-terrorism crusade, wouldn’t it make sense for them to score some points by calling in Skinner, Kersh, and who knows who else on this? Let’s remember for a moment that these are agents who have been forced into the sidelines by internal politics and conspiracy, rendering their usual work useless. So one would think that they would jump at the chance to “do good”, especially since this is such a clear and present danger.

The final scene at Arlington was another slap in the face, if only because there is no logical reason that they would be buried there. It was just an attempt at pulling on the heartstrings of the audience. Beyond that, it led to a laughable 30-second cameo by two characters who should have been far more affected by these deaths…Skinner and Scully. As pointless as Doggett and Reyes were in this episode, it was even more pointless to have Skinner and Scully show up just long enough to make you wonder where the hell they were the rest of the time.

I didn’t have too many hopes for this episode, mostly because the idea of wrapping up the loose ends from the “Lone Gunmen” series on another series, no matter what that series might be, sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. Given the poor choices 1013 has made with so many characters in the last few seasons, especially Skinner and the entire William/Mulder plot thread, I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised. But when I think that this is the same writing staff that crafted “Daemonicus” and “John Doe”, I can’t help but wonder how they could be so inconsistent.

Some other thoughts:

- What a waste of a teaser…a clip-show that ultimately does nothing to prepare the audience for what is going to happen in the rest of the episode.

- All things being equal, it was good to hear the “Lone Gunmen” theme again. Oh, what might have been…

- I did enjoy the fact that when Morris tossed out “Area 51”, Doggett and Reyes responded with a “so what?” shrug! You know Morris wasn’t expecting that!

- “How the Grinch stole Radio Shack…”

- Cool “Joey Lives” shirt! As a good Jersey boy, I got that reference instantly. Too bad they ruined the moment with an endless discussion about it. (And yes, I got the “hidden meaning” in that conversation, but that was so damned cloying, I’m trying to forget!)

- “No one knows about that door…that’s the secret door!”

- Kearny, NJ, hmm? Nice to see them on home soil again, though I’d love to know where they think they got that Turnpike footage from…

- Was it just me, or did the coroner sound just like Dave Foley?

- Why were Doggett and Reyes so surprised to hear that the Gunmen were broke? The Gunmen referred to it in the season premiere, when Langley was still blue!

- Since when are fire doors capable of containing an airborne contagion?

- And why were there no alarms, sprinklers, or flashing lights when the alarm was pulled?

- Would it have killed 1013 to have shown Mulder (either full frame or in the distance), secretly attending the funeral? Especially since we know that Duchovny was available at the time?

- Killing the Gunmen off now, in such an offhand manner, amounts to little more than cheap theatrics.

Overall, this has to have been one of the worst episodes of the season. Frankly, even as an episode of the “Lone Gunmen”, it would have struggled. As an episode of the “X-Files”, it flopped horribly. With only four episodes left, and three of them addressing serious issues, I can only hope that this is not indicative of the kind of ending 1013 seeks to provide.

I give it a 4/10.


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