The X Files Revisited: 6.20 Three of a Kind
The X Files ran for nine seasons and two movies, charting the efforts of Agents Mulder and Scully in their search for the unexplained. And then in 2016, it returned for six new episodes, a mix of mythology and case of the week stories that brought Mulder and Scully back the FBI. From the brilliant Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster to the frantic mythology cliff-hanger in My Struggle II, it was largely viewed as a success and there are hopes that season 10 is just the first of more. In the lead up to the revival, The Digital Fix reviewed the best and most significant episodes of the first 100 episodes in the season's run, from the pilot episode all the way through to the 100th episode Unusual Suspects. Now we're going to continue that run, picking key episodes from the second half of the show - and two movies – and next up is the sequel to the Lone Gunmen-centric Unusual Suspects...
The Lone Gunmen were one of the more successful recurring characters in The X Files' run and it was no surprise that Fox eventually gave them their own spin-off show. Unfortunately it arrived after the success of the parent show had waned and lasted just a single series. Audiences got a glimpse of what a Lone Gunmen show would look like in the show's 100th episode Unusual Suspects, which saw the origins of the trio and their first fateful meeting with Agent Fox Mulder. Coming a year and a half later, Three of a Kind is a direct sequel to the events of that story.
The episode opens with Bruce Harwood's Byers, the most normal of the three and very much the audience's view into the world of the Lone Gunmen. He dreams of an idyllic life where the government is trustworthy, where he has wonderful children and lives a very happy marriage with Signy Coleman's Susanne Modeski, the woman he encountered in Unusual Suspects, who put him on the path from loyal government employee to conspiracy theorist. His dream ends with him standing alone, holding his wedding ring, his utopia destroyed.
It's a great insight into his character as the audience is taken to present day Las Vegas where Byers is impersonating a black ops military contractor in poker game in Las Vegas convention Def Con 99. I loved the idea that the most secret of secret weapons designers, military scientists and men in black would so openly get together on an annual basis to share their ideas and network. Naturally, despite the aid of Frohike and Langly on coms, his cover is blown. But it is through that crushing defeat that Byers spies the love of his life Susanne in the lobby of the hotel, last seen being shoved into the back of the car by Mr X years earlier.
Like Unusual Suspects, it is an episode that doesn't feature the show's two main agents. Where Scully was absent from the flashback episode, here it is Mulder that sits the episode out as the Lone Gunmen call in 'sexy Scully' by impersonating Mulder on the phone and dragging her out to Las Vegas to help them in their ruse. (The idea that Mulder is too high profile to ever be involved is a nice touch). It is great to see Gillian Anderson play off alongside the three supporting characters; they have traditionally been Mulder's domain but we have already seen Scully use their resources (such as uncovering Diana Fowley's identity in Two Fathers / One Son) and this will continue in the later seasons where David Duchovny was largely absent from the show.
It is also an episode that allows Scully to engage in some more comic acting, when she usually plays the straight one even in the more zany episodes. After an amusing scene where she autopsies the victim and friend of the Lone Gunmen, with a nauseous Langly (Dean Haglund) she finds herself drugged and proceeds to act like a giggly, drunk blonde as she holds court in the lobby of the hotel with an array of male contractors, all offering her cigarettes. It is a perfect scene, topped by the reappearance of Morris Fletcher (Michael McKean), the man in black from Area 51 who she partnered up with after the body-swapping incident with Mulder in season six's earlier Dreamland. Her playful slap of his arse is a great reversal of his own actions to Scully previously, even if it is unintentional.
But really Three of a Kind - as the episode title suggests - is all about the Lone Gunmen and Byers in particular. The story centres on the creation of a mind-controlling drug developed by Susanne and her new husband Grant Ellis, a prominent member of an advanced army weapons facility where she worked. After the suggestion that she has been brainwashed again, she reveals to Byers that Grant and her and using this conference as an opportunity to escape the government who are out to kill them.
Only it is her husband who is the real villain, testing the drug Susanne developed on an unwitting pawn to get the victim to assassinate Susanne. Enter Langly, abducted by one of his supposed allies and rival Lone Gunman Timmy (John Billingsley). In a great twist Timmy is revealed as a CIA hitman, who murders his partner poor Jimmy after he uncovers the truth and then drugs Langly into become the hitman. And we know Langly has been turned evil because his hair has been slicked back. There is a great tense moment as Langly walks into the conference room and shoots Susanne three times in the chest, followed by a great fake out reveal as Frohike and Byers rush in to grab her dressed as paramedics and Scully has Grant arrested.
A very much alive Susanne has her husband taken to her and reveals her clever ruse; Langly was given the antidote and it was all a trap for Grant. Events take a shocking turn as Timmy burst in and shoots Grant and turns on Susanne and you wonder if things are going to take a tragic turn; fortunately Byers gets to play the hero, injecting Timmy with his own drug and convincing him to confess to the murders. And so we come to the final scene as Byers gives Susanne a new identity, is given a final kiss and watches as she leaves for good. His dream comes horribly true as he is left holding her ring in his hands as she departs his life.
Three of a Kind is a solid sequel to Unusual Suspects but coming some time later was sure to confuses audiences who hadn't seen that episode. It is not quite as revelatory as its predecessor and does not change the status quo. It would have been nice for Susanne to stick around and give Byers the chance of a proper life but by the episode's end, nothing has actually changed. Still, it is entertaining fare from the show's three great supporting stars and the team up with Scully makes for some very amusing television.