"Quagmire" combines good characterization with a simple yet bent plot, we get a story that ranks in the top of the third season of The X-Files.
Mulder drags the very reluctant Scully and her dog, Queequeg, into yet another hare-brained monster-of-the-week story that had all the groan potential of The Invisible Man. People near Huevelman's Lake in the Blue Ridge Mountain section of Georgia are disappearing under circumstances that revive long-simmering rumors of a prehistoric monster living in the remote lake.
The now-famous Conversation on the Rock opened up more of Fox Mulder than any episode this season. Gillian Anderson was given plenty of material to work with in showing Scully the Materialist broken by the death of her dog. In fact, Scully's grief for Queequeg exceeds the grief she has been allowed to show previously for her partner, her father, and her sister. David Duchovny did a wonderful job of dropping Mulder's boyish mask, allowing him to acknowledge his own fear and vulnerability. In his "peg-leg" speech, Mulder admits to a painfully clear understanding not only of his own obsessive behavior but of how it has warped his life. The only flaw in this otherwise wonderfully fresh look at the partnership was Mulder's hard- hearted reaction to Queequeg's death, as if he is not just unwilling but incapable of relating to Scully's heartache. This is out of character for the normally sensitive Mulder. And as an animal lover, I didn't care for his lack of consoling his partner and friend in her time of grief. I also didn't like how quickly Scully herself seems to get over her dog's untimely death. If they had at least faded to black with Mulder comforting her as they sit quietly in her room, then we could have picked up the story the following night or maybe even two nights later. At least let some time pass. A little more respect for Queequeg is all I ask.
This is a story about survival: not just the survival of Rana sphenocephalus, or Big Blue, or even our own species. It is a look at what it takes to be a survivor. The answer is surprising, as it rejects the archetypal mold of the hero as lone gunman, standing up single-handed to adversity and overcoming it. That frontier hero mold must give way in these latter days to the urban hero who knows how to cooperate and who knows how to forge alliances. Mulder not only admits he is lost, but asks for directions (a new heroic paradigm indeed). A Boy Scout leader who strays from the group ends up as a floating corpse. When Ansel Bray goes off to photograph Big Blue alone, he gets gobbled up. The message here is clearly that the loner is doomed, and the only safety is in community, union, partnership. In other words, without Scully, Mulder would end up just like Ansel. She is his rock, symbolized by the mysterious, and seemingly out of nowhere, rock in the middle of the lake.
The real punch line of "Quagmire" is that Mulder, in fact, finds and kills a survivor from the Age of Reptiles. We forget, in our search for the more dramatic and less familiar T. Rexes and Nessies, that their cousins are still here, still surviving, and still hungry. The alligator he shoots is no less a lake-dwelling monster than a plesiosaur would have been. And I will confess that the alligator came totally out of nowhere, for me. It's beautiful. The giant alligator supports Scully's materialistic worldview, yet does not destroy Mulder's own vision of his Questing Beast, his symbol of hope that there is more to the world than appears on the surface. Although all that was sort of ruined by the the final shot of Big Blue breaking the surface. Which I wish they hadn't done. But all in all this quirky X-File, with its ruggedly beautiful setting, clever twist, and strong characters earns it high marks from me.