Cold open. Literally. It’s dark and blustery. A whining dog walks through a research station, passing bodies as it goes. A lumbering man with a gun turns on recording equipment and begins to speak – “We’re not who we are” then is attacked by another man. The ensuing struggle leaves them pointing guns at each other, in a standoff. Reaching a silent understanding, they slowly point their guns at their own heads. A quick cut to outside, and two shots are heard. It goes no further than this. Or does it?
After a few middling episodes, Ice offers a breath of fresh, cold air and is the first episode that really showed X-Files as something that could be great. Mulder and Scully are sent to investigate the disappearance of the Arctic Ice Core project team, who haven’t been heard from since the video recorded in the opening. Some scientists and a helicopter pilot are also along for the ride (one of whom is played by Felicity Huffman), meaning the agents will be trapped in the arctic with a group, rather than just each other.
From the start, paranoia is rampant. Doctor’s Da Silva and Hodge request everyone show ID so they all know everyone is who they say they are. These two are also immediately suspicious of Scully and Mulder, assuming they know more than they’re letting on because they work for the government.
We start discovering what happened when a dog attacks the helicopter pilot, Bear. The dog shows symptoms similar to bubonic plague and Bear, in secret, discovers he has the same symptoms after he’s been bitten. He immediately becomes paranoid and aggressive and the doctors soon notice a worm wriggling around under his skin. When the worm is removed, he dies. Things devolve into chaos as the survivors wonder who else may be infected. Who’s not really who they are? The influence of The Thing is plain to see.
This is a really great Scully and Mulder episode, and a standout for Scully in particular. While everyone else is losing their heads, Scully is the only one who keeps a semblance of cool. She stays scientific and analytical, while everyone else engages in a witch hunt. As Mulder’s paranoia grows, we think he may be infected but really, that’s just Mulder. The pair get a couple great scenes together, as their trust in each other is tested but ultimately grows.
One of the more dramatic scenes has Scully and Mulder pointing guns at each other after Mulder is found with the body of Dr. Murphy, a reflection of the scene from the intro. Mulder is the one to lower his gun first, as Scully suggests that he may not be who he is. He’s locked away and its up to Scully to find a solution to their problems, which she does very quickly. It turns out the creatures causing the infection will not tolerate each other and will kill one another if a second specimen is introduced into the host.
Scully, unsure that Mulder really is the one infected, goes to talk to him alone. The agents inspect each other for physical symptoms in a scene that’s slightly reminiscent of the examination scene from the pilot, but much less gratuitous. It comes down to Hodge and Da Silva vs. Scully and Mulder, each pair convinced the other is infected. But it’s Da Silva who, at the last minute, is discovered to be the one. The agents work together to hold her down and she’s given the last worm.
Aside from being one of the more well-written and thrilling episodes of The X-Files so far, I really like how Ice showed much more respect to Scully than she had gotten previously. Her scientific background comes into play when she realizes how to cure the infection, and her skepticism ensures she never gives in to the hysteria being experienced by the other characters. Scully finally gets to be the hero here.