Possibly one of the strongest of the first season, “Ice” was unique in several ways, and yet ties in perfectly to the overarching theme of the show.
Firstly, I will always love anything that pays homage to The Thing, as this episode so beautifully does. Chris Carter was, in fact, partly inspired by the 1938 novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, which had two film adaptations: The Thing from Another World in 1951 and The Thing in 1982. The most striking similarities were the remote, snowy outpost, the intense distrust among the captives, and, of course, the dog.
I loved the creepiness of the geophysicists’ last video — the repeated phrase “we’re not who we are”, paired with the suddenness of their breakdown, was vague enough to really illicit chills, and contrasted nicely with Dr. Hodge’s insistence that they all show credentials before boarding the plane because “I want to make sure we are who we say we are”. The distrust and paranoia existed before they ever got to the outpost.
Freaking Bear just had to hide his condition from everyone — why does there always have to be that guy? — and they even tried to collect blood samples to prove that they weren’t infected just like in The Thing. So good. The moment when Bear angrily throws the mason jar after the group is asked for stool samples — “I ain’t dropping my cargo for nobody!” — always gets a good laugh from us.
It’s really the first time they had done such gory horror — the scene where they’re pulling the worm out of Bear’s neck is almost enough to make you faint — and it really works paired with the overall vibe of the episode.
But the best part is just the tension that the paranoia causes. The entire episode is taut and nervewracking, and the scene where Mulder and Scully have their guns drawn on each other is brilliant — it’s the first time we’ve seen them in such a frantic, desperate state, and the first time we’ve seen them be anything but fully trusting and loyal towards each other. I’ve seen that scene so many times and yet it’s still shocking enough that I always gasp when Mulder pivots towards her — it’s just so uncharacteristic for them, even this early in the series, that it makes the panic that much more real.
But then they follow up that hysterical paranoia with a surprisingly intimate encounter in the room Mulder gets locked in. Their relationship has such a strong cornerstone of trust despite both of them having a hard time putting their full trust into anyone, Mulder especially. He spends his whole life, and his whole career, peeking behind curtains and bringing the dark into the light… so his line to Scully, “I don’t trust them… I want to trust you”, feels like it has multiple layers. He lets her examine his neck and then when he grabs her as she turns to examine her neck, it feels very… intense. Very intentional. They have many moments throughout the series that are electric and that was one of them.
The ending was really the only reference to a shady government conspiracy, and even then it was ambiguous. Was the outpost torched because of a cover-up? Was the CDC genuinely concerned about an outbreak? We really don’t know, which is part of the fun.
Rating: 7.5/10 | Director: David Nutter | Writer: Chris Carter, Glen Morgan, James Wong | Music: Mark Snow | Cinematography: John S. Bartley | Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Xander Berkeley, Felicity Huffman, Steve Hytner, Jeff Kober