The Lone Gunmen Review – “Pilot”

The Lone Gunmen were spun off of The X-Files, and they premiered last night. If you don’t mind spoilers, then Read More to read my thoughts and contribute yours.

Original Airdate

Sunday, March 4, 2001


Bruce Harwood as John Fitzgerald Byers
Tom Braidwood as Melville Frohike
Dean Haglund as Ringo Langley
Zuleikha Robinson as Yves Adele Harlowe


Written by Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan, and John Shiban.
Directed by Rob Bowman


The episode opens with the three Gunmen trying to steal the Octium IV chip from a manufacturerwith the goal of proving it invades the privacy of its users. (I’ll try to ignore the flagrant inaccuracies of the computer science used in this scene, and others.) At the last minute, their presence is revealed, and the chip is stolen from Frohike by a woman in disguise. (Frohike was stuck suspended from the ceiling at the time.)

The three were subjected to full body cavity searches, and then released. Back at the Lone Gunmen HQ, Byers received a phone call informing him that his father had died.

At the funeral, one of his father’s co-workers approached them, and told the trio that he didn’t think the death was an accident. The Lone Gunmen decided to check out the victim’s house and car looking for clues.

In his house, they found documents on his PC referring to scenario 12D, and a freshly cleaned blood stain in the carpet. His car contained a curcuit that would allow his car to be controlled remotely, making it look like a dead man was behind the wheel. They decided that Byers’ father was killed at home, and then driven into the pillar. Later, they realized that that wouldn’t make sense. What would make sense would be if Byers’ father had survived, but his would-be assassin had died. The assissin could have been the man in the car, and Byers’ father would be alive and well.

Langley enlisted the help of a fellow hacker (who was also seen with the Gunmen on The X-Files) to break into the DOD computer system and find out about scenario 12D. They found an astoundingly large text file describing the scenario, but were unable to download the entire file without being caught.

Byers returned to his father’s home, and found his father there, alive and well. His father told him that the man who was helping the Gunmen was one of the men involved in the conspiracy to crash a plane into New York to restart the cold war with whichever dictator took credit for the act. The two Byers’ got on the plane that had been targeted to find this bomb and save the plane.

Once on board, they realized there was no bomb, and that the plane was being controlled remotely. Langley tried hacking into the system to release control of the plane back to the pilots, while Frohike went to find Yves Adele Harlowe for help.

When he found Harlowe, Frohike revealed that he knew she was using a fake name (an anagram of Lee Harvey Oswald) and that he knew who she really was. This was enough leverage for him to get the Octium IV chip from her and break the encryption codes to release the manual control of the plane, and save the day. Everybody survived, and the Lone Gunmen got their hands on the Octium IV.

History of this Pilot

While I am not officially involved in the show, I have heard some rumours about it online. It sounds like this pilot was rushed into production at a time when the future of The X-Files was uncertain. (It was intended to be an X-Files episode which featured the Lone Gunmen, along the lines of First Person Shooter.) The Octium IV storyline seems grafted on, along with the Harlowe character, as though she was written in to replace Mulder and Scully after they were written out.

This episode was also filmed before they had decided whether to go all-comedy, or keep the same dramatic tone that The X-Files uses. It seems that future episodes will be all-comedy.

High Point

Frohike’s Tom Cruise-ish jaunt in the harness was rather amusing, in my opinion.

Low Points

The computer science was grating at times. Also, I simply didn’t believe the pratfalls on the wet carpet.

The Review

Originality: This episode wasn’t a far cry from the past X-Files work. The episode was more about setting up the characters than anything else. It’s hard to be truly original in a spin-off, though. I give it 2 stars out of 6.

Effects: The only real effects needed for this episode was the CGI plane heading toward the World Trade Centre. The shape was right, but they’ve fallen into the all-to-common trap of making it too shiny. (Who here remembers The Phantom Menace?) I give it 3 stars out of 6.

Story: The storyline had a lot of potential. The ideas were all there, but the rushed execution hurt it in the end. I give it 5 stars out of 6.

Acting: The three Gunmen have a lot of experience with these roles, and did fine with them. The guest stars were competent, if not spectacular. I would have expected a stronger reaction from Byers at his father’s death, though, even if they hadn’t spoken in 11 years. I give it 4 stars out of 6.

Emotion Invoked: I didn’t really feel for any of the characters as the episode developed. The show was intended to be light, but some impact of Byers’ father’s death should be there. 3 out of 6.

Production: The production was well done all around. Normally, I’d give a bonus star to the pilot episode of any show, since the crew is unfamiliar with each other, but in this case, they rounded up much of the original crew that worked on The X-Files during its Canadian seasons. I give it 5 stars out of 6.

Overall: Overall, this is a show that can really take off. The settings and characters are almost entirely in place, and ready to go. I give this 4 out of 6.

Total: 26 out of 42.

The next episode is Bond, Jimmy Bond, and it airs next Sunday.

5 replies on “The Lone Gunmen Review – “Pilot””

  1. Surprisingly good
    After having watched the X-files for 7 years (I haven’t been watching this yer), and watching the lone gunmen episodes on multiple occasions, I was impressed with how well this was pulled off. I thought that the acting was good, and while the story and characters weren’t that developed, go look at the x-file pilot for goodness sakes. I give it a 4 out of 5.

  2. Pretty weak
    I have to say that overall, it was pretty weak. The

    Octium IV thing was pretty bad, but then the end when

    it saves the day, was too much. I can forgive bad

    computer stuff for shows where they don’t frequently

    feature “computer hacking”, but for a show that is

    about 3 guys that do that sort of thing, I think Fox

    could’ve paid a real computer scientist $1000 to give

    them a bit of dialogue and advice.

    There were some funny bits, and I couldn’t tell if the

    show was spoofing itself or not. If they really are

    going all-comedy, I think that’s probably a good thing.

    The premise is too flimsy to have a dramatic show

    around it. I sincerly hope it gets better (cause I

    hate trying to figure out how to delete a Season Pass

    on my TiVo)

  3. remote control
    The pilot was all about remote control: the Octium IV’s

    supposed method of sending out a user’s private

    information, the hobby rocket at the funeral, the

    remote control device in the car, the remote control

    device in the airplane, the whole concept of cracking a

    computer over the Internet or other networks, and other


    As for the show, my fear is that the CS stuff was too

    complex for most people, and too stupid for techies. It

    wouldn’t have hurt the plotline to use genuine

    computing concepts, but it might have reduced the

    audience significantly. I was willing to suspend my

    disbelief with the hope that they will strike a better

    balance next time.

    I really hope it doesn’t go all comedy, though. The

    concept of the Lone Gunmen is farcical already. It

    would be painful to watch a troupe of clowns attempting

    to surprise us with bad puns and slapstick. A serious

    approach would set off the Lone Gunmen concept well. A

    few jokes are welcome, however.

  4. Lone Gunmen a hit! (At least demographically)
    The ratings are in for Sunday night’s debut of ‘The Lone Gunmen.’ Yahoo has a full report on the numbers. The long and the short of it is that the show did extremely well, beating out its competition.

  5. Didn’t care for it
    Perhaps my hopes were too high but I was greatly disappointed.

    The plot held together poorly and the “comedy” was lame. I would much prefer for the series to have a serious, dark tone with plenty of high-tech paranoia.

    Also, the _character_ of Yves Adele Harlowe grated on my nerves in nearly every conceivable way.

    I still have high hopes for the show, there is a lot of potential.

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