The X-Files #71: Quagmire

"All this driving from crime scene to crime scene is giving me highway hypnosis. Close down the lake."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A prehistoric lake monster eats Scully's dog.

REVIEW: At its core, Quagmire is Jaws, or I guess Lake Placid, with coniferous British Columbia doing a bad imitation of Georgia. A Nessie-type monster called Big Blue is reputed to be eating the locals, leading to repetitive attack sequences and lots of gory body parts floating up the lake. The "colorful" small town yokels inhabiting the story are rather drab, the monster turns out to be a mundane alligator with an absurdly prodigious appetite, and the final shot of the real Blue is a telegraphed and expected cliché. Forever remembered as "the one where they kill Scully's dog", even that element seems a little harsh, no matter how annoying Queequeg might have been.

But it probably wouldn't have happened at all if maverick humorist Darin Morgan hadn't been asked to punch up the script. His fingerprints are all over this thing. Along with Queequeg, we see the return of his stoners from War of the Coprophages, licking frogs this time, though don't ask me what they're doing in Georgia. His trademark self-deprecating humor is in there too, with some fun bits as Mulder does his best Chief Brody impression, the leads getting trapped on an island after their boat sinks and not realizing it's five shallow steps from the shore, a duck almost getting shot, the interesting detail about finding floating bodies with their pants unzipped, and many jokes besides (some motivated by Mulder's need to distract a grieving Scully, some by Morgan's need to entertain the audience). But these are hung on an ill-conceived skeleton of a story; nothing can change that.

The one scene that almost approaches greatness is the extended conversation between Mulder and Scully on the island. She's discouraged, she's just lost her dog to Mulder's hare-brained quest, and she's dropping truth bombs. Equating Mulder to Ahab is all a little on the nose, but his response is appropriate. To him, something like Big Blue, while wholly unnecessary to what she calls his "maniacal cosmology", is a tangible thing, more easily proven than UFOs and Conspiracies. If Big Blue (or the Jersey Devil, or Big Foot, or ghosts) exists, then there's hope that unexplained phenomena isn't just a product of overactive imaginations and folk tales. It's a comfort to him. Morgan understands the characters' dynamic quite well too. Though Mulder causes Scully a lot of stress, he's also throwing jokes to get her mind off things, and plays along with her explanation of Moby Dick, even though he's got a favorite quote from the book tucked and ready. His unacknowledged caring for her mental well-being and veiled avowal of his own nuttiness are just about the only subtle things in the episode though.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium, but barely - Darin Morgan to the rescue. Stay for the jokes and character moments, tune out for the monster of the week.


googum said...

I really love Mulder's Ahab speech this one. Thanks to you, I've been revisiting some episodes lately, and this episode may be next.

Siskoid said...

Oh I'm happy to hear that! I like to know I'm somehow watching the show with other people.

(Most of my entourage is too squeamish for The X-Files, unfortunately.)


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