Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The X-Files - S9:E15 "Jump The Shark"

[ S9:E14 "Scary Monsters" <<< Season 9 >>> S9:E16 "William" ]

I must confess that I've never seen The Lone Gunmen spinoff series, which ran for 13 episodes between seasons 8 and 9 of The X-Files. I'd be willing to give it a watch, if I could find it somewhere, but I'm not exactly motivated to go too far out of my way. The brainchild of John Shiban, Vince Gilligan, and Frank Spotnitz (the trio that brought you the wacky Dreamland two-parter in the sixth season, from which the character of Morris Fletcher originated, who appears again in this episode), I imagine it epitomizes the "X-Files Lite" approach that I'm not especially fond of. And like the season 7 episode Millennium was a coda to that series, this episode is the coda - and a closing - to The Lone Gunmen's story. I would have liked to have seen the series before viewing this episode, but time marches on toward that deadline.

At any rate, the opener consists of a voiceover montage that briefly describes The Lone Gunmen's genesis on The X-Files (going back to Morgan & Wong's season 1 episode E.B.E.), and their hijinks on their own series, but - unlike Millennium - I don't know that it really works as a standalone. Even without having seen the series, it feels to me more like an episode of The Lone Gunmen than The X-Files, and - the Super Soldiers connection aside, which seems tacked on anyway - Doggett and Reyes (especially the chronically straight-faced Doggett) feel very much out of place. My opinion of the episode may improve if/when I ever get the chance to watch the spinoff series, but as of right now, there's little in this episode to make it worth viewing. (I think the lasting impression I'm going to take away from it is that Yves Adele Harlow - or rather, the actress Zuleikha Robinson - is very cute). I still maintain that Unusual Suspects is the best example of a Lone Gunmen-centric episode.

And I can understand the creators wanting to give the characters a final send off (especially knowing, as they probably did at this late date, that The X-Files itself was going off the air), but the conclusion is unsatisfyingly morbid. It's almost as if the episode is begging the viewer not to take it as canon. Besides, it's a little late for the series to be jumping the shark - I'd say it did that back in the seventh season, around the time of First Person Shooter, if not earlier. There's a wacky plot about some convoluted weapon involving shark cartilage, but - given that this episode is the coda to a whole series - there's a lot of baggage behind it, and, not having seen it, I have a hard time getting invested. It's sad, but when Morris Fletcher dangles the "truth" about 50 years' worth of conspiracy in front of Doggett and Reyes' faces (and the funniest joke in the whole episode is that they couldn't care less that he worked at Area 51, because that means nothing to them), it doesn't even get me excited, because this show has already laid its mythology out, poured gasoline over it, and lit it up back in the sixth and seventh seasons. "Don't cry for me, I'm already dead."

Memorable quotes:

Morris Fletcher: I was a man in black! The men in black. What, you've never heard of us?
Doggett: I saw the movie.

(This represents everything that was wrong with that whole Dreamland arc. Too much pop culture, not enough gritty conspiracy).

Morris Fletcher: Look, if we have to work together, let's work together.
Frohike: We don't have to work together.

Frohike: You gotta admit, Byers, it hasn't exactly been our year. And to top it all off, we screwed the pooch pretty good today. Maybe we should pack it in.
Byers: And do what instead? We never gave up. We never will. In the end, if that's the best they can say about us, it'll do.

(A moment this solemn doesn't really work in an otherwise wacky episode. It could just be the finality in this episode, but I wonder if this tone schizophrenia was part of what led to The Lone Gunmen spinoff series' early demise).


  1. Vince Gilligan, you say... well then it can't be all bad! :P

    It's a little strange for a show to invite viewers to accuse it of jumping the shark, no matter how far down the rabbit hole they already are. Does that actually have anything to do with the plot. Is there a shark involved?? A CONSPIRACY SHARK? OR A SHARK CONSPIRACY??

  2. I was wondering that myself, before I watched this episode. And there actually is a shark in it (briefly), although nobody jumps over it.

    Apparently, a marine biologist/terrorist is using shark cartilage as an immunity capsule in order to store a virulent disease inside a person's body, as the delivery mechanism - in other words, to create a biological bomb that can't be detected by any traditional means. So, it sort of is a shark conspiracy.

    From what I've read, The Lone Gunmen series liked to use funny titles that parody pop culture (e.g., Like Water For Octane, Three Men and a Smoking Diaper), so I imagine the title was thought to be a humorous jab at the show's (and the characters') own ridiculousness.

    On that note, I was very surprised watching through The X-Files - not just that Vince Gilligan was one of the leading writers on the show, but that he seemed to be drawn to humor (and romance). Which I wouldn't have expected of the creator of Breaking Bad. Anyway, if you stay tuned, I think I'm going to do some writer bios after I finish the series finale, and so I'll have a chance to explore the different sides of Vince Gilligan (among others), and what he accomplished on this show.

  3. That sounds interesting.

    I don't know how much Breaking Bad you've seen, but one of the things I like about it is that it has... pretty much zero romance. Not that I'm opposed to romance (obviously, Dawson's Creek & ilk being some of my all-time favorites), but it can be such a crutch and a cliche' with the mob boss bangin' whores and the same two arguments happening ad infinitum on every different show. I am VERY impressed that Breaking Bad was able to ignore those typical temptations and as a result it gave them more time to focus on the story and the characters, one of the reasons it is (in my opinion) the best of the artisan dramas.

    Anyhoo, long story short, I too am surprised he'd be focusing on romance in X-Files. Although if it's Mulder and Scully we're talking about, it's hard not to want to put them together! ;)

  4. I haven't seen any Breaking Bad yet, although I'd like to. But yeah, I was under the impression that it was a pretty gritty drama, so episodes like Small Potatoes and Bad Blood, which are more humorous than tense, kinda threw me off the scent. Of course, then you have other episodes, like Paper Hearts, which is very gritty. Then there's Drive, in season 6, which stars Bryan Cranston, and season 9's John Doe, which was directed by Michelle MacLaren, who worked with Vince on Breaking Bad. I suppose it just goes to show that the man's got many sides.

    Funny thing is, Chris Carter started out saying the same thing - that he didn't want his show to be bogged down by clichéd romance. And I agree that that was a good decision. But somewhere along the way that eroded /completely/. But as much chemistry as there is between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, I still liked Mulder and Scully better before they became an item (that is, before the first movie), and I don't think my opinion on that is ever going to change. One of the worst offenders in the MSR (Mulder Scully Romance) camp is an episode titled The Rain King (though not written by Vince Gilligan) - which is basically The X-Files envisioned as a funny Valentine's Day card.