Sunday, October 11, 2015

The X-Files - S5:E3 "Unusual Suspects"

[ S5:E2 "Redux II" <<< Season 5 >>> S5:E4 "Detour" ]

Note: Due to production schedules and a skewed airing order (but less skewed than last season), Redux II was actually the 100th episode of The X-Files produced, but this one is the 100th episode aired, and the 100th episode I've watched - and, now, reviewed. That means I'm right about in the middle of my grand marathon!

I imagine this is the episode that precipitated the Lone Gunmen spin-off series that only lasted a short while, and that I never actually watched (although, now that I look it up, that happened three years later). Ever since Morgan & Wong invented the characters in season 1's E.B.E., they've been among The X-Files' most popular recurring side characters (that is, those without significant importance to the show's mythology, like Skinner or the members of the Syndicate, or Mulder's informants). I've always liked The Lone Gunmen - they represent those geeks and conspiracy nuts on the fringes of society, but in the most lovable way. But (I suppose not unlike the insignificant Agent Pendrell), I've never viewed them as anything more than side characters, good for a chuckle here or there. Nevertheless, this episode, which explores their backgrounds, and how they came to work together on their first case (involving illegal chemical trials by the government - typical stuff), is pretty good.

The entirety of the episode takes place in 1989, and, as such, Scully is nowhere to be seen (demonstrating that my impression that Gillian Anderson appeared in all but just one episode of the entire series was, frankly, a bit off). Amusingly, Richard Belzer appears as his Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order character Detective Munch, working Baltimore homicide. X also puts in a welcome appearance (I'd consider that a spoiler, but I saw his name in the credits, so I knew it was coming; anyway, it's more of a welcome cameo than a shocking twist). Mulder appears on the fringes of the episode (carrying a hilariously gigantic cell phone) in an initially antagonistic capacity, due to a deliberate misdirection by a blonde bombshell with puppy dog eyes who entices Byers to forego his principles and hack into a DoD database. Byers (Bruce Harwood) is the straight man of the group - the most unassuming, and least caricatured of The Lone Gunmen - who dresses in a sharp suit and, in this episode, works for the FCC (people like to call him "narc").

Frohike and Langly (Tom Braidwood and Dean Haglund, respectively) - both tech geeks with a bickering rivalry, the latter also a D&D nerd - are funny to watch (and Frohike has most of the good lines), but are essentially one-note characters. The episode, therefore, smartly focuses on Byers' transformation from innocent government lap dog to reluctant subversive agent. All three of them need to be convinced of the government's dark machinations in this episode, indicating that this must in fact have been the birth of their preoccupation with conspiracy theories. Perhaps surprisingly, Byers' disillusionment leads him to be the most sincere in his newfound dedication to uncovering government corruption - although I guess it makes sense, being that he is the most principled of the three. He just needed his eyes opened. (Like Mulder, this is the case of an intelligent person who in our world wouldn't be a conspiracy nut, but has seen enough in his world not to be able to turn away from the truth). Mulder himself seems very naive in this episode; I suspect this is his first brush with government conspiracy, as well.

Memorable quotes:

Frohike; We didn't do it.
SWAT Team Member: Do what?
Frohike: Whatever.

Byers: Why would your 3 year old have an encrypted file within a secret Defense Department database?!

Ms. Modeski: I just want these pages decoded. Can you do that?
Frohike: Sure, baby, my kung fu is the best.

Frohike: A hacker never turns himself in!

Byers: You're talking about a premeditated crime against the United States government.
Frohike: Hey - your second one today! Welcome to the dark side.

Frohike: Now, I'm sorry. You're telling me that the U.S. government, the same government that gave us Amtrak...
Langly: Not to mention the Susan B. Anthony dollar.
Frohike: behind some of the darkest, most far-reaching conspiracies on the planet? That's just crazy.
Langly: I mean, like, this guy (indicating Byers) works for the government.

Detective Munch: Here's a tip - aluminum foil makes a lovely hat, and it blocks out the government's mind control rays; keep you guys out of trouble.

Ms. Modeski: No matter how paranoid you are, you're not paranoid enough.

Mulder: I have these weird ideas in my head that I can't seem to shake.
Frohike: What kinda ideas?
Mulder: Weird ones.

Byers: The truth is, none of us is safe. Secret elements within the United States government seek to surveill us, and control our lives.
Mulder: Whaat?!
Langly: Tell him about the hotel room Bibles.
Byers: Mm-hm, yeah, I'm coming to that.

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