Jump the Shark 9×15: Guys like that, they live forever.


The Wrath of John

Spotnitz: Some months after the show had gone off the air, I was listening to The Wrath of Khan commentary and at the end of that movie, if you recall, Spock dies. And the producer, Harv Bennett, says that they tested it and people hated them, were so mad that they killed Spock. And then they went back and they added the scene which is the hopeful, optimistic scene, with Kirk on the bridge. And it changed the perception of the movie entirely. And I’ll say, looking back at this episode now, that’s one thing I might’ve done differently is found some way to give you that sense of uplift at the end, because it is just… grindingly sad at the end of this.

Too late. I AM BROKEN.

I almost don’t know where to begin with how sad this episode makes me. Some fourteen years after it aired and my face was all contorted like Jimmy Bond’s while I was watching this. There was jumping involved. And desperate whining. And, no. I’m not ashamed. It was the least I could do to mourn these guys.

Part of me gets it. I’m just geeky enough to have listened to the John Gillnitz (a portmanteau of writers John Shiban, Vince Gilligan, and Frank Spotnitz) commentary a few times over the years (don’t judge). I understand what they were thinking – The Lone Gunmen series had been canceled. The X-Files was ending. And while John Gillnitz may not have created the Lone Gunmen, that honor belongs to writing partners Glen Morgan and James Wong, they had taken the characters and run with them, given them a backstory, more prominence in the main series, and eventually their own show which John Gillnitz ran. They loved them like only fathers can and, with the fictional world the Gunmen lived in imploding around them, they wanted our geeksome trio to go out with a bang rather than fade into obscurity.

But they didn’t have to die.

I didn’t see it coming either. There I was, innocently enjoying the bountiful blessing of another Morris Fletcher voiceover, the only kind I like, when we get to the end of the teaser and I realize: They’re going to kill my boys!!! NOOOO!!!!

Honestly, at this point there was so little joy left in the show that losing the bright spot that the Lone Gunmen always provided felt like a finishing blow. (It felt like a finishing blow. The real finishing blow awaited us the next week.) Even so, and even though I’m still genuinely and unrepentantly bitter about the outcome of this episode, I can’t say it’s a bad episode. It’s actually the most engaging we’ve had in far too long.

Mainly, I want more of Michael McKean all the time. I want to dream about him in my sleep. I want to hear him when my alarm goes off in the morning. I want him to serve me my coffee at Starbucks (Sorry, Priscilla). For those who, like me, rank “Dreamland” (6×4) and “Dreamland II” (6×5) among their favorite episodes, and those who, like me, enjoy The Lone Gunmen spinoff series, no heroic demise would have been complete without this most lovable of villains.

It’s such a perfect reunion of The Lone Gunmen’s main characters, including the always memorable Kimmy the Geek, twin brother of Jimmy the Geek. Why did it have to be wasted on such a tragedy?

If you listen to the DVD commentary, desperately looking for answers, as I have, then you’ll get the distinct impression that not only was the Fox network not fully behind The Lone Gunmen spinoff, but they also couldn’t have cared less about allowing for a closure episode on The X-Files. It sounds like part of the way John Gillnitz finally sold the idea successfully was by promising the big bang of the trio’s deaths. They had to promise this episode would be special.

“This episode almost never was because there was zero support for doing it,” Frank brings to light. “The studio was hostile to the idea and it was a constant fight to get the money and negotiate with the actors because they did not want to do it. We were determined, since this was the last year of The X-Files, that we were going to have our farewell with these characters. When we finally decided that this would be their death, it became a much stronger argument with the studio.” LAX-Files, pg. 218

Spotnitz: We wanted this to be very special and, sad to say, the way to do that, we realized, would be to make this their final appearance. It wouldn’t just be another Lone Gunmen episode, it would be the Lone Gunmen episode.

There are times when I feel resolution is overrated.

Gilligan: We did. We had many discussions about the ending, period, whether they should die or not. And I gotta say I never, I never wanted it to happen. But I think it’s absolutely the right way to end it… None of us did it lightly, to be sure… Ending with these three guys dying… there was a lot of hours of discussion about it: should we even do it, should we not. And at the end I think Frank and John are right about doing it because, as much as I love these characters, you want to see them go out as heroes. And we knew damn well, pardon my French, we’re never gonna see them again and, you know, that the series was coming to an end. We’re never gonna get The Lone Gunmen series going again so why not have them go out with a blaze of glory?

I get the perverse logic, I do. And it might’ve been one thing if they were any other recurring characters or dramatic guest stars. But the Lone Gunmen were such a sweet presence. They were like the lovable Lost Boys to Mulder’s Peter Pan. This is a fictional slaughter of the innocents.

Then having it happen as almost the coup de grace to a season full of disappointments… But I have to admit that, in some ways, it made the end of the series go down easier. How can the X-Files world keep spinning without the Gunmen? Yes, it is that serious.

The Lone Gunmen were also indispensably useful. I couldn’t imagine Mulder and Scully successfully countering government conspiracies and alien colonization without their hacking skills, especially now that Mulder’s out of the F.B.I.. Everyone needs a techno geek they can trust.

That’s how central to the story they had become that it was hard to imagine the action going forward without them involved in some aspect of it. I mean, what’s next? Skinner goes down swingin’? God forbid!!

Oh, X-Files. Everyone’s in agreement – It’s time to pack it in and call it a day. What is it called when you’ve passed jumping the shark? Hopping the whale? Skipping the giant squid?


You know what really kills me? Mulder wasn’t there. Scully and Skinner were barely there. (Though I understand there were scheduling issues so I’m giving everyone an emotional pass.)

You know what else kills me? The Gunmen knew what they were about to do. Why didn’t they run?? Someone, dive for it! Something!!!

There must be something really special about these guys that all these years later and I’m still yelling at my television screen. Or…. there’s something really “special” about me. Either way, I’m okay with that.

If they were going to take them out, I am glad that they died heroes. In the end, the Gunmen didn’t mess up at all. They kept Yves from killing the wrong man, for one. And if she had killed the wrong man, John Gillnitz would’ve been able to kill thousands of people without suspicion, for two.

Ah, John Gillnitz, our villain who symbolically dies along with the Gunman… just like our real life villains, the John Gillnitz trio who killed them. Those are the real Lone Gunmen, who despite my ravings I appreciate dearly. (The bitterness is real, it’s just compartmentalized.) And, hey, word on the street is that the Lone Gunmen are back from the dead in some capacity or other. Maybe one of these days John Gillnitz will resurrect too.

Vaya con Dios, amigos… And welcome back.


Kung Fu:

So I take it Morris Fletcher and his wife broke up for good.

Oh, that’s right. Despite having read every X-File, Doggett wouldn’t have known about the “Dreamland” events since time reversed like it never happened.

I love the name Lois.

Teletubbies = Mind control

Please note that Vince Gilligan was the lone hold out against killing the Gunmen.

The actor who plays Dr. Houghton was also “Cobra” in “En Ami” (7×15).

That death scene – Is the space really airtight if they can hear each other?

All I want, all I want in life right now is a t-shirt that says:  “Langly Lives!”

Best Quotes:

Morris: Let me give you a hint. I used to work at Groom Lake, Nevada. Area 51? I was a man in black. “The” Men in Black. What you’ve never heard of us?

Doggett: I saw the movie.

Morris: Yeah, well… there were a lot of technical inaccuracies in that thing. Anyway, I’m ready to make a deal.

Doggett: What deal would that be?

Morris: The one that saves my furry pink ass.


Morris: This is pointless. These three monkeys couldn’t find stink in an outhouse.


Morris: Agents, I’m tellin’ ya, you don’t want these three involved. I mean, they don’t even have their ridiculous tinker toy gizmos. This place is like “How The Grinch Stole Radio Shack.”


13 responses to “Jump the Shark 9×15: Guys like that, they live forever.

  1. Pingback: William 9×17: You say it as if you have a choice. | Musings of an X-Phile

  2. I hate that they had to die. This was another episode I was dreading. The other being the lovely episode following this one. These two back to back are like a one-two punch in the gut.

    I will say that I never watched The Lone Gunmen show, so I didn’t have quite the connection to the other characters (aside from Morris). But I still managed to appreciate the story. I, too, hate that Mulder wasn’t there and Scully wasn’t really involved in the story. At least Scully was present at the funeral and got the last word of the episode…but still. To me they were Mulder and Scully’s compadres and it felt strange to not have them there at the end.

    I also wish they at least tried to run for the door. I can’t believe that to make the episode interesting enough to get made they had to die. Networks are evil sometimes (i.e. most of the time). And how were any of them to know that the x files would never come back. With that mentality, they should have just killed Mulder and Scully, too! Ugh…well, anyway, off to watch “William”. I need to end this night with a bang…

    • That’s just how I kept thinking of these two myself, as a one-two punch. It’s absolutely brutal. But, ironically, they almost make you eager for the show to hurry up and end.

      I watched The Lone Gunmen show, but I can’t say I ever made much of a connection with Jimmy or Yves. Maybe if they had had more than 13 episodes. It’s a good show, but you’re not missing anything emotionally that isn’t already packed into this episode.

      I’m so glad someone somewhere found a way to bring them back in at least some capacity. I guess they heard all the fans screaming…

  3. I just need a highlighter for these!

    “Mainly, I want more of Michael McKean all the time. I want to dream about him in my sleep. I want to hear him when my alarm goes off in the morning. I want him to serve me my coffee at Starbucks.
    The were like the lovable Lost Boys to Mulder’s Peter Pan. This is a fictional slaughter of the innocents.
    You know what really kills me? Mulder wasn’t there. Scully and Skinner were barely there.”

    YES. That is all.

  4. See, this is an instance where I contradict myself. (In my head, talking to myself, or everyone would think I’m crazy.) Usually I find a reason to be understanding of something odd/unlikeable in the episodes since I love the show so much – particularly in the writer’s room, imagining what they had to deal with and all the stress that goes into making an episode. But I totally agree, not only did they not need to die, it just feels unacceptable that Mulder wasn’t there. Rationally, I know with scheduling David wasn’t available, but I still can’t give in and accept that no cameo at the end happens – and, I think more importantly – then if he isn’t available, it’s a bad decision. Because it just doesn’t work. It’s like Scully’s baby being born but Gillian isn’t available that season so it happens off camera. You would say, ‘we should not film this idea. She should be here for this.’ Well maybe that’s a silly example but I think it makes a little sense.

    • David, I believe they didn’t try to get since Mulder was technically off the show. But Gillian I know had some kind of scheduling conflict that almost precluded her from appearing at all, which would have been TRULY tragic. But regardless of why, the finished product is on our TVs and that’s what we have to accept or reject as the audience. And we rejected their deaths *hard*.

      I understand why they did it and I know it was out of love for the characters, but as entertainment, it’s hard to take.

      • I understand why David isn’t in this episode, but couldn’t Mulder have at least “appeared” at the funeral via a body double in the distance? Not having him pay his respects in any way just feels wrong, and showing a mysterious figure from a long ways off would make perfect story sense anyway as it wouldn’t be safe for Mulder to actually show up at the funeral.

        Personally, I hope Mulder didn’t turn up at the funeral because he knew they were secretly alive and well! I guess we’ll see in the next few weeks.

        • It certainly wouldn’t have hurt! A nod, something. And even though I understand why, not having Scully be more of a presence in this episode feels wrong too.

  5. Rejected SO HARD!

    I guess I understand why they did it in the grand scheme of things – and I was glad the guys we have come to know and love almost as much as we love Mulder and Scully got to be the heroes we all knew they were in the end! But I’m with you – it saddens me that Mulder wasn’t even there! That Scully and Skinner were barely there! I get it being a bit of a final note to The Lone Gunman series and of course they weren’t in that one, but still! THIS is The X-Files and Scully and Skinner came to depend on the Gunman as much as Mulder did in the beginning…it seemed off that they wouldn’t be involved AT ALL until the end!

    Though I do love seeing Michael McKean on my TV screen at any time! He is brilliant and Morris Fletcher is one of those characters I should not like but I can’t help but love.

    • I can’t believe I missed this!

      You know what’s especially sad? Scully and Frohike didn’t get to say goodbye. Then again, it’s probably better that didn’t happen. It would have destroyed me.

      To bad Michael McKean couldn’t have been a regular on both shows!

  6. Pingback: Season 9 Wrap Up – There’s a lot of crap to cut through. | Musings of an X-Phile

  7. There’s a fanfic piece, written in screenplay format, titled “The Gunmen Live”, by a McJen. Very clever. It’s a sort of follow-up to this episode, in which as you can imagine, the Gunmen aren’t really dead. You can find it on the Gossamer archive. To me, that’s what happened 🙂

  8. I actually learned about this episode long before I began my long rewatch. I immediately took the Season 9 DVD off of my list. This episode is why I do not wish to watch this season. I absolutely loved the Lone Gunmen and to see them thrown away onscreen would be unbelievably painful. I’m glad their deaths were retconned away, but the fact that the studio did this to them still irks me fiercely.

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