Refresh Your Memory About ‘The X-Files’ Lone Gunmen Before One Makes His Impossible Return

Ed Araquel/FOX

On a show as frequently bizarre as FOX's beloved sci-fi series, a character seemingly coming back from the dead isn't exactly the weirdest thing that's happened — but it will still require some sort of explanation. What happened to The Lone Gunmen on The X-Files? And how is it that one of them is now seemingly communicating with Mulder and Scully from beyond the grave?

Viewers who stuck around through the end of the The X-Files (costume designer: Katrina McCarthy) Season 11 premiere, "My Struggle III," were treated to a lengthy promo (below) that teased moments from several of the season's upcoming episodes. One of the images that may have made long-time fans sit up and pay attention was a glimpse of a pixelated face speaking frantically out of a phone screen: Dean Haglund's Richard "Ringo" Langly, aka one-third of the Lone Gunmen.

Indeed, the press release for the Jan. 10 episode, "This," teases: "An old friend reaches out to Mulder and Scully in a seemingly impossible way, revealing a chilling secret." It goes on to list Haglund's name in the guest cast credits. So is Langly really alive? Or is this another horrible trick, like when the writers brought the Lone Gunmen back for the Season 10 revival, only to waste them on an awkward hallucination sequence?

First, fans might want to refresh their memories on what happened to the Lone Gunmen in the first place. First introduced in the Season 1 episode "E.B.E.," the trio of conspiracy nuts would recur sporadically throughout each of the X-Files' seasons, aiding Mulder and Scully in their search for the truth, before officially being given their own spinoff during Season 8. The Lone Gunmen premiered in March 2001 (with a plot involving a government conspiracy to fly a plane into the World Trade Center six months before 9/11) and, despite a devoted fan base, was cancelled 13 episodes later due to low ratings.

What do you do when you take characters off of one show and give them their own spinoff, only for that spinoff to not really go anywhere? (It's a similar dilemma faced by Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. after writing off Lance Hunter and Bobbi Morse for their spinoff Marvel's Most Wanted, only for that show to never make it to air.) Well, if you're X-Files creator Chris Carter, you bring the characters back to their parent series so you can kill them off and bid them farewell for good.

In the Season 9 episode "Jump The Shark," the Lone Gunmen helped Mulder and Scully thwart a bioterrorist threat… only to sacrifice themselves in the process, sealing themselves in the room where the contagion was released and saving the world from a deadly pandemic. The three oddball friends were given a respectful burial in Arlington Cemetery, where they've lain in eternal slumber… until now.

So how is Langly back? Is he back, or is it just a trick? The Lone Gunmen were actually revived in an issue of the 2013 comic book series The X-Files Season 10, in which it was revealed that the trio had faked their deaths with the help of the F.B.I., and had been assisting the government in secret ever since. The show could easily follow the storyline already laid out in the comics, or it could come up with a different explanation for Langly's appearance.

Regardless of the mechanics of the Gunman's resurrection, it's bound to be more satisfying than the trio's underwhelming Season 10 cameo, due to the fact that "This" is scripted and directed by Glen Morgan, the writer who first conceived of the Lone Gunmen in Season 1's "E.B.E." (On the other hand, "Babylon," the Season 10 episode in which they briefly appeared, was scripted and directed by series creator Chris Carter.) If anyone can do the character justice, it should be the man who created him in the first place.