If the problem with Morgan and Wong’s previous outing, Shadows (1×5), was that it was so lackluster that I had nothing much to say about it, the problem with Ice is that it’s so interesting I can’t come up with anything brilliant to say about it, I’m too busy watching it. The plot is heavily influenced by the movie The Thing, but that doesn’t make it any less clever or effective.
The structure of this episode feels almost like a play in that the location is mostly static. Except for the occasional digital exterior shot, you wouldn’t know whether it took place in Alaska or Florida. The atmosphere is stifling… suffocating. And in case you thought you weren’t supposed to feel that way, the writers make sure to let you know that the heater’s broken.
Since our favorite agents don’t go much of anywhere, the guest stars are crucial to creating the overall tension. Mulder finally meets someone more paranoid than he is in Dr. Dasilva, Professor Murphy provides some much needed comic relief, and is that Felicity Huffman I spy? Bear, our Steven Tyler/Willem Dafoe mash-up, provides Alaskan authenticity. He certainly feels like he could live in America’s final frontier. Add in Mulder and Scully and it certainly would’ve been an interesting group to have in the jury room for 12 Angry Men.
The benefit to having the motley crew is that we get to see a little more of Mulder and Scully against the world. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing Scully tackle Bear like a Heisman trophy winner after he clobbers Mulder? And to think, her very “unphysician-like” skills could have been wasted in a hospital somewhere.
If nothing else, this episode would be famous for the UST that started it all: Mulder and Scully inspect each other. I’m going to buck all trends and say that I think UST is a misnomer in this case. Tension? Sure. But I doubt it’s of the sexual kind. Rather, when they each turn their backs to let the other check them out, how do they know they aren’t about to be killed? And what if the other person does see something there? I’d be lying like CSM if I said there wasn’t chemistry, however. A memorable scene if ever there was one.
The caveat to solving this case is that the solution feels worse than the problem. Maybe it would save you, but no one wants another alien parasite digging around inside one’s brain.
And the Verdict is…
Ice, like so many of the great X-Files, touches on some deep fears. There is, of course, the instinctive fear of being trapped, of being buried alive above ground. The claustrophobia in this episode is tangible, ever-present in the swaths of red light that visually represent a mental hell on earth. Death is both outside and inside, our heroes have nowhere to go.
Then there’s the inverse fear of something being trapped inside of you. Is something squirming under the skin at the base of my neck? Just go ahead and kill me. Most people probably would kill themselves trying to get it out; such is the horror of a parasite. This is part of the same reason no one likes mosquitoes, leeches or ticks. Are they the most frightening insects in the world? No. But they leave you feeling violated. And Ice shows us a violation of the worst kind. It’s a toss up between these worms and demon possession.
The biggest fear of all? Not knowing whom to trust. Mulder and Scully are in the precarious position of not only being unsure about each other, but they don’t even know if they can trust their own minds. After all, we are not who we are. Is the parasite making them aggressive? Is lack of sleep and stress making them paranoid? Yet, if they make the wrong decision, they could all wind up dead. Good times.
Deep Throat might not declare, “Trust no one” until the season finale, but Ice is the episode that drives the point home.
Why are Mulder and Scully called in on this? Is that “expendable” line our only clue?
Just how did they figure out that the worm releases a poison when extracted? For that matter, how did they figure out much of anything with only the basic equipment they would’ve been able to fit on that tiny plane?
I’d like to give a much needed shout out to David Nutter for creating this episode’s suffocating claustrophobia.
How about that’s the cutest rabid dog I’ve ever seen?
The continual riff on the line “We are not who we are” may be obvious but it’s effective. Cue The Who.
Did anyone else catch that brief little moment where Mulder checks Scully’s ID?
DaSilva: Alright… parasitic diagnostic procedure requires that each of us provide a blood and a stool sample.
Bear: A stool sample?
Murphy: Wow. This kind of travel always makes that kinda tough… for me.
Mulder: Okay… Anybody got the morning sports section handy?
Bear: I ain’t droppin’ my cargo for no one.
Mulder: Before anyone passes judgment, may I remind you we are in the Arctic.