Episode 2 of the long-awaited eleventh season of The X-Files reintroduces a long-lost character: Richard Langley, of The Lone Gunmen. These characters date all the way back to the show’s first season, and they are fan-favorite figures within the fandom, and for good reason. Even when the series is at its most grim, The Lone Gunmen were always there to offer a bit of levity while fighting the good fight for truth and justice.
With Langley suddenly back in play due to the events of “This,” the latest episode of the revived series, now is a good time to look back on the long, complicated, and often wacky history of The Lone Gunmen.
In the X-Files, The Lone Gunman is a fringe newspaper (rife with stories ranging from Bigfoot to “Mandroids” and every wild conspiracy in between) owned and operated by three people: John Fitzgerald Byers, Melvin Frohike, and Richard Langley. Originally introduced in the season 1 episode, “E.B.E.” as informants of Mulder, the trio were only intended to feature in this one-off appearance, but they proved popular enough to be upgraded into recurring characters, who featured in 38 episodes during the show’s original nine seasons.
The season 5 episode, “Unusual Suspects,” explored the origins of the characters. The episode was a prequel to the main series and focused on the three characters joining forces for the first time, as well as their initial meeting with Agent Mulder. It was the first time an episode had been anchored around the Lone Gunmen, and it was so successful, that the episode received a sequel in season 6, “Three of a Kind.”
John Fitzgerald Byers, played by Bruce Harwood, is the moral center of the group. He was born on November 22nd, 1963, the same day John F. Kennedy was shot and killed by “A Lone Gunman.” He grew up with a belief in the American Dream, but also an understanding that there were forces out there who would try to take advantage of the weak and naive in an effort to ruin that dream, but if good people would stand up to faceless corporations, sinister conspiracies, and the rich and powerful in an effort to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves, then, even if they couldn’t save the world, at least they wouldn’t let the values of The United States of America go down without a fight.
Melvin Frohike is a bit older than the rest, which theoretically gives him a bit of “think first” wisdom, but he’s also the first to jump into an action-packed situation. He is a man of the world and has acquired various skills over his many years, including his stint as a world-class Tango dancer (under the stage name, El Lobo). He may look like a nebbish old man, but he’s a tough talker, and bold beyond his lack of combat prowess, for better or worse. Fun Fact: Frohike is played by Tom Braidwood, who was an assistant director on The X-Files before being cast as the character. The legend goes they were “looking for someone like Tom,” before ultimately going with Tom himself!
Finally, there’s Richard “Ringo” Langley, hacker extraordinaire. Even Frohike bows to Langley’s mastery of all things computer-related. Played by Dean Haglund, Langley is the rebel of the group, and his favorite band is The Ramones, and he embodies the punk rock spirit of hackers and activists. Of his hero, Joey Ramone, Langley once said, “He never gave in, he never gave up, and he never sold out, right up to his last breath. And he’s not dead. Guys like that live forever.”
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