I remember Duchovny saying that this is the episode that “rocked” for him. I did not start watching the show from the pilot. I had to catch up later and did not watch the early shows in order. Therefore, I cannot say whether I would have thought Ice was better than the 6 that preceded it, if I’d seen them chronologically, but I do remember how struck I was by the way it stressed concepts that ran strongly through the show for its entire run and how impressed I was by how much tension and suspense could be created by relationship issues alone, little action necessary.
Of course, the episode possesses action, but it’s the psychological impact that reigns. I was shocked at how deeply I felt Mulder’s sense of betrayal, especially when Duchovny was not chewing the scenery. The quieter Mulder is, the more intense. When he puts his fingers on Scully’s neck, I jumped almost as sharply as she did. Of course, the most delicious thing about that contact is he surprised her, but once she realized it was him, did she feel more attraction than fear? The sexual undercurrent in that sense was one of the best in the whole series.
In the intro we see two crazed men in an Alaskan silo, amidst other dead bodies. One has scrawled “we are not who we are.” When the come face to face, they turn their guns on each other, but then each slowly moves his arm, aims the gun at his own temple. Then fires. As we learn more, I don’t really understand why they did this. Once we see people infected first hand (Nancy and Bear), once they are inhabited by the worm, they don’t have a strong selfless streak. I don’t think they would have thought about killing themselves instead of everyone else, so why did these two men do it??
After the credits we’re in the basement office where Mulder explains the crime to Scully. They are being sent to the arctic to find out how and why the crew died. They’ve been assigned the case even though it’s not an X-File on the surface, perhaps because they’re expendable, he muses. Duchovny’s case exposition is rather stilted and looking back, one would think that this early episode was filmed before the actors felt completely comfortable in their roles, but as the story continues, Duchovny is fully Mulder. Seven shows him, he defines in a nutshell we can use as our guide for the next 8.5 years.
They fly to Nome and meet up with 3 other scientists who are supposed to help them solve the puzzle. They seem suspicious of the government’s involvement and skeptical of FBI agents Mulder and Scully from the beginning, as if they’re there to cover things up, rather than get to the truth. Given the mass death of the last crew, Hodge is gruff and wary. He wants everyone to show their credentials to prove who they are who they say they are. Mulder makes a point of looking at Scully’s badge and saying “yep, that’s you” when she takes it out. Cute. Bear is an anti-social pilot who is going to take them to the silo, where everything went wrong. When asked to show his I.D. he tells them either they fly with him or they don’t get there, because there’s no other mode of transportation. That’s the only credentials he’ll give them. Putting an arm on Scully’s back, Mulder guides them to the plane.
I recall thinking that Gillian looked pregnant in this episode, but that’s not as obvious now as I remember it having been.
When they get to the compound they find the dead bodies and a wild dog who attacks. He bites Bear, but Mulder says the canine didn’t scratch the surface on him. They find a rash on the dog and then see something moving under the skin of his neck. The rash on the dog soon disappears, but the animal still harbors the deadly worm that makes him violent. They cage him.
Alone Bear sees the same rash on his own skin that the dog possessed, but he doesn’t tell the others. He suddenly wants to leave. He’s told that they have been exposed to some strange parasite and they can’t return to civilization unless they know they aren’t contaminated. Well, he’s not waiting around to find out. Either they leave with him or they’ll be stuck there for days, before anyone else can get out there to save him.
Mulder and Scully are armed. The others are not, but they do find a gun that was used by one of the dead men, which is shoved aside. Mulder proposes that they detain Bear by force, just to make sure he doesn’t have the same rash the dog had and won’t infect anyone else if he leaves. They grab Bear who struggles. As they are holding him down they find the worm moving beneath the skin of his neck. They pull it out and he dies.
So, the worm makes you crazy and gives you symptoms similar to the bubonic plague, but if you remove it, you die. Plus, with Bear gone, the others have no method of escape. They are all worried they might be infected too and decide to check each other for rashes and neck worms. As the men disrobe for each other Mulder quips that before they judge, they should remember they are in the cold arctic.
Scully and Nancy inspect each other and Nancy is obviously scared. When Scully finishes looking over her body, she clasps Nancy’s arms across her chest in commiseration, letting her know that (1) she’s ok, and (2) she understands her fear and relief.
Mulder looks at the paperwork left by the dead crew and sees “we are not who we are” scrolled everywhere. When Mulder a strange species under the microphone, he excitedly calls to Scully. He’s so eager for her input and I think how he would never have believed the others over her. Of course, Scully had independent reasons for suspecting Mulder had been exposed. She didn’t sheepishly follow anyone else’s opinion, but I think he would have doubted her in private (even if it risked their lives) rather than strengthening the others’ stance against her by publicly sharing it. As she looks into the microscope, Mulder kneels by her side and it reminds me of Pusher, when he says, “smile Scully”. It’s a gesture that puts them one on one, even when they’re surrounded by people. Genuflection and all its connotations.
After assessing the evidence, the scientists (including Scully) conclude that the worm came from an ice core that the last team dug up. It survived in ammonia that would have killed an earth creature. It originated from a space meteor that hit the earth thousands of years ago and survived under the ice. It’s alien.
Everyone is on edge, knowing that they are trapped in a close environment with people who, like Bear, could become murderers. When Mulder and Scully bag the dead bodies, he tells her that they need sleep. He seems concerned for her well-being and it reminds me of the times she thinks he needs sleep in later years or of his concern for her when she wanted to do an autopsy while very pregnant. Scully just responds that considering what’s happening, none of them can sleep. They get into a heated argument. Scully just wants to burn the bodies and not risk taking them back to the continental U.S., because they’re dealing with an alien worm virus that could infect the whole city of NY in a matter of days. Mulder thinks it’s important to take back the bodies, the worms, the melted ice samples so that they can analyze it, find an anecdote and fight against a possible alien invasion in the future. “No!’ Scully says. She is not in the mood for any of his alien talk right now, her tone makes clear.
Outside in the other room, the other 3 hear Mulder and Scully argue at the top of their lungs for an extended period of time which isn’t even in character for the 2 of them. Mulder and Scully hardly ever exchange more than 4 angry sentences before stalking away or retreating in cold silence. They certainly wouldn’t be having a loud, circulate debate which, apparently, Mulder won since the bodies weren’t burned.
Ok, just as this episode defines Mulder, it also presents quintessential Scully. Here she is this medical doctor and scientists, yet she wants to question nothing. She’s good at figuring things out for immediate purposes, but her fears (scientific or psychological) don’t let her venture further. She’d rather walk away than investigate the unknown, every time. While she doesn’t shy away from physical danger, she wants nothing to do with life’s mysteries, but it’s not disinterest that brings her wall up, it’s denial. Even before her abduction, she seems to have been hiding from, running from, repressing some truth.
The nervous crew retires to their quarters. As they open their respective doors, Scully says very sweetly “Good night, Mulder.” She seems to be trying to make up for the outburst they had earlier. Then again, Mulder and Scully have a very tender way of addressing each other that’s especially obvious in these early episodes. Victoria Jackson’s character will later accuse Mulder of “gazing” at agent Scully and it’s true, they do use very adoring gestures towards each other — when they aren’t bickering.
Mulder gently answers, “Good night, Scully.” She says at least none of them are infected. He, less optimistic, points out, “remember the rash disappears.” So, just because there were no signs of the worm on them when they inspected each other’s bodies, doesn’t mean it’s not there. It gives her pause for thought and she blocks her door with a dresser when she gets inside her room.
Mulder is restless too. He rises upon hearing a noise and checks the lab area. He finds the barking dog and is about to return to his quarters when he sees blood leaking from a cabinet. He opens it and, Denny, one of the scientists falls out dead. Scully rushes out and demands to know what he is doing.
Hodge and Nancy accuse him of killing Denny. Mulder says he found him dead and either Nancy or Hodge did it. He has his gun trained on the angry Hodge and Scully demands that he put it down. “Get that gun off of me Scully” and this scene is just beauty. Even in this tense situation where he realizes there’s a murderer amongst them, he is personally affronted by his partner pulling her gun on him. He takes offense, but doesn’t take her gun seriously. I don’t think he believes he will shoot him, but the threat alone stings. She thinks he’s acting hyper angry because a worm got him, but she actually did that by turning on him immediately. I know the dog scratched him, but I am disappointed that she distrusted him so easily. She was within reason, but Mulder wouldn’t have done the same to her, because he is unreasonable, I suppose. And at times I have to admire that. It makes his devotion to her seem deeper than hers to him — though, it’s not, because he’s generally a secretive, bossy pain and that didn’t deter her from his side as often as it should have over the years.
Anyway, although he turns his gun on Scully and says that he won’t let them inspect him, because any of them could be infected, you can tell he doesn’t think Scully is. He turns his gun back on Hodges and Scully tells him to put it down. “Scully, it’s me for God’s sake.” David blows it out of the park with the “be my partner” frustration in that line and then Gillian says, “Mulder, you may not be who you are,” and brings down the house with her line. Scully is firm. She’s not apologetic. Her voice doesn’t tremble but … it’s as if her soul does. She’s doesn’t speak to Mulder with anger. It’s more akin to despair that it’s come to that. I mean on 20 other shows she’d say, “Mulder I don’t want to have to do this. Blah, blah, blah.” On this show you have Gillian’s eyes, the tone of her voice and Duchovny’s reaction and that takes the place of 20 pages of script.
They just (Fall 2013) did an Entertainment Weekly 20 year anniversary spread and the centerfold had Chris Carter on one page with typewritten pages spread around him and Gillian and David on the other page holding hands, with Chris’ typewritten pages at their feet and that’s about all that needs to be said. When it leaves 1040’s heads, the actors bring it to life. The words alone can litter the floor or line a birdcage. Mulder and Scully are what shine — but ok, the words here were excellent ones. “Mulder, you may not be who you are.”
That’s what makes Mulder give in. Not the gun, not angry threats. Scully’s said she thinks he may not be himself and above his sense of betrayal, he acknowledges her dilemma. She should believe in him. She doesn’t. He’ll go quietly then. That alone should have told Scully something. Mulder is acting less insane than either Hodge or Nancy. He gives up his gun and stops fighting. Once they march him into a windowless room, since he acquiesces, why doesn’t Scully ask to inspect him THEN, would he still have refused once the shouting dispersed? We don’t know, because she doesn’t ask him again. I guess she’s that sure he has the worm.
Before she padlocks him in he says, “I’m safer here than you are out there.” So, does she think he’s just deceiving her by seeming so calm? Bear and the infected dog weren’t calm were they? I’m so annoyed with Scully. But Gillian is outstanding. She conveys Scully’s resolve, regret and contrition effortlessly and in one facial expression. Gillian’s exquisite. That is all.
She stands guard outside Mulder’s prison for most of the night and then leaves to find answers. In the lab, Hodge and Nancy are at each other’s throats. Again, doesn’t it occur to her that they are much more manic than Mulder was? In the end we learn that Nancy had the worm, so I don’t know what Hodge’s excuse was for yelling hysterically at everyone. I guess he was just a born jerk. Shrug.
Hodge is worried about how long it will take for the three of them to be rescued. Scully angrily points out that there are FOUR of them. But Mulder has been infected and Hodge says he won’t let him return to the population, where he can infect others. Scully says that what happened to Mulder is not his fault and I would like to hear her argue more and affirm that she plans to take him back to civilization, no matter what the risks. This would be just the opposite of the position she was debating with Mulder earlier. Of course, she and Mulder were arguing about dead bodies and Mulder’s not dead yet. So, I’d like to hear her say that Mulder is going back to them no matter what, no matter who dies. Even if she feels that way, it would be unwise to reveal it to Hodge and Nancy, but it’d make me feel better!
They tell her that she’s the only one who has a gun and if she gets infect, she’ll kill them. She immediately unloads the two guns she has (hers and Mulders) and throws the bullets out in the snow. I wish she hadn’t. I don’t need her integrity. I’d just as soon she kill Nancy and Hodge for being annoying.
Anyway, Hodge tells Nancy to pair an infected sample with an uninfected one, but she ends up putting two infected ones together and Hodge tells us she’s set their work back by hours. But Scully peers into the microscope and discovers that two worms together kill each other. They won’t share a host. So, if you introduce one worm into a body that already has one, you will kill the virus. They give a worm to the infected dog and he instantly recovers, which proves Scully is right. They only have one more worm left and they plan to give it to Mulder.
Scully says before they do this to Mulder, she wants to make sure he has the virus and she will inspect him first. She goes in and Mulder is crouching in the dark for some reason. I don’t know why he doesn’t have the light on. She flicks the switch and his eyes have to become accustomed. In this way, he seems more like an animal. She tells him that introducing a second worm is a cure to the infection. He quietly tells her that if she gives him that worm she will infect him. She’s proposing her plan to murder him actually and the tone of his voice as he expresses that to her gives me chills. She says, then why didn’t you let us inspect you then. He fiercely says, “I would have, but you pulled a gun on me.”
A lot has been made of apple boxes and the height differential between Gillian and David, but it’s used to full advantage in this scene. Mulder crosses the room, towers over Scully and bends down and into her face when he intensely reminds her that she pulled a gun on him. Scully doesn’t flinch — and he doesn’t touch her — because Mulder doesn’t touch her when he’s angry and that should tell Scully something about the control Mulder has. This man is dejected, angry, but not threatening. Infected people (or dogs) are violent, not deceitful. Does she think Mulder is just pretending to be normal? Why is it that no one else in the building has behaved as normally as he is right now, if he’s the one with the worm? Ugh.
He says that Nancy or Hodge is infected. She says, “well, they’re not here now.” Well, yeh, but they’re just outside the door waiting to pounce, so if I was Mulder, I still wouldn’t trust you, Scully, but whatever. Gillian does one of her whispering things when she says, “well, they’re not here now” and it’s incredibly intimate and effective and I’m in love with this thing that Mulder and Scully possess, create between them.
Instead of asking Scully why she didn’t give him a chance before instead of going all Benedict Arnold, Mulder turns and lets her feel his neck for the worm. She does and it may be my imagination, but I think she was a little more caressy with her fingers on his shoulder blades than she really needed to be and it delights me. There’s nothing on his neck. She turns away and should be all, “I’m so sorry, Mulder, please forgive me,” but instead she’s just relieved and happy. She smiles with pleasure realizing that Mulder is who he is, after all. As she turns to tell Nancy and Hodge Mulder grabs her neck and she tenses. She was wrong. He does have the worm? But he puts out a cautioning hand, advising her that his goal is clinical, not homicidal. She submits and he checks her neck for a worm.
For my money, neck inspections have never been so sensual.
To me, Mulder never thought she was infected anyway. I took his message to be, “I had just as much reason to fear you as you did me, but I didn’t side against you and lock you in a dark cell, did I?”
Outside Hodge and Nancy say that Mulder is going to convince Scully that he’s not infected, no matter what. They aren’t going to let the FBI agents collude against them. When Scully comes out and says that Mulder is clear, Hodges says that he wants to inspect him himself, with everyone watching and they should go to the other building to do so. As Mulder walks out they throw Scully in the room, lock her in and grab Mulder, trying to put the worm in his ear.
But as Nancy leans over to do it, Hodge sees the worm moving under the skin of her neck and he turns on her instead. She runs and Mulder goes and gets Scully out of the room. I’m glad that’s his priority. He didn’t need her to help in the chase. He just didn’t want her to stay in there, which is more than she ever did for him. They all tackle Nancy and put the worm in her ear and she recovers.
In the last scene, they are all packed to fly back to Nome, Alaska. Mulder can’t wait for the experts to get in and investigate everything that went on at the site. Doesn’t he know asks Hodges? What? The whole place was burned down to the ground. Who did that, an indignant Scully wants to know. It was their government, Hodges sneers. He can’t believe it comes as a surprise to the agents, after all, they are the government. He walks off.
Mulder keeps staring back to the compound. They burned the structure down, but the alien life form is still there, under the ice and has been for millions of years, he says.
“Leave it there,’ Scully says callously and walks to the plane. Mulder doesn’t move, but realizing she is walking alone, she stops, stands there and waits and he eventually joins her. I’m glad she waited, rather than just walking and leaving him behind.
She’s content with having saved themselves and is not concerned about the world. And I feel it’s not because she totally thinks Mulder is out of his gourd about a future alien invasion. I mean, she does think that, but I don’t think that’s why she wants to get away without looking back. He wants to believe and she doesn’t. Literally. It seems to me that her motto is the direct opposite of his. It’s not, “I don’t believe” it’s “I don’t WANT to believe.” I suspect a small part of her always has. She closes that part out, pins it in. One more padlock.
As always with the MSR, this episode is about trust, but the curious thing is that even if Scully believes Mulder might be infected at heart, does she ever really distrust him? It reminds me of a Stevie Nicks’ line from the song Thrown Down. “I’ve shaken your faith in me. No, you’ve shaken my faith in everything else.” That’s what Mulder does to Scully, when he tells her that the sky’s not blue, despite all appearances, he gets frustrated when she doesn’t believe him, but he should take heart in the fact that he makes her disbelieve her own eyes. She only sees blue, but she’s always haunted by what’s beyond her blue sky, in the world that Mulder always perceives when she doesn’t, when she can’t.
He can’t make her accept his view completely (or at least admit that she does), but he can alter her behavior so that she relies on his instincts over her own, sometimes. When push comes to shove, she has a blind faith in Mulder and isn’t that more important than whether she believes him or not?
Here, her suspicions that he’s been infected are realistic ones. It’s not like she panicked illogically. He feels she’s turned against him, sided with others instead. But we know (and he does too, at heart) that she was concerned with safety, his as much as her own and theirs above anyone else’s in the group. Whether he had turned or not, she’d still fight to protect him, even if he’d become a killer, she wouldn’t have let the others harm him, much less take his life to preserve theirs. In that sense, it was never Them v. Mulder. It was Scully standing between them and Mulder.
The emotions mount when partners turn their guns on each other and it always works, with Mulder and Scully and even when it happens with Skinner, later on in the series. But this is the first time. There’s a test the MSR takes and it survives (if not completely passes) it so well that a permanent foundation is laid. We know they can survive Pusher, even if that alarm hadn’t been pulled. Would he have shot her? I can’t believe he would or could have. In HTGSC, even when one thinks the other has pulled the trigger and killed him/her, they don’t fire back. Scully is crazed and paranoid in Wetwired, but what she says to Mulder is that he never trusted her, not that she doesn’t trust him. Ice showed us two people who support and sustain each other even when crazed, possessed, betrayed or accused. Their interests are not just joint, but joined, even when their minds are torn asunder.