Wednesday, 24 June 2015

X-Files Rewatch | Ice

Lessons are always being learned on The X-Files. This week, it's that violent, extraterrestrial parasites do not bode well in an isolated environment. At all.

Everyone pack your mittens because Mulder and Scully are on a trip to the Arctic. In the shows best cold open, a bloodied man repeatedly rasps into the camera: "We are not who we are". He is then joined by an equally bloodied man in a dramatic death match, guns pointing and words blazing. One slowly lifts their gun up to their own head instead, the other doing the same. Cut to the exterior of a research station and two gunshots are heard, and the light slowly fades out. Chills.

Obviously, something out of the ordinary happened up on the Icy Cape, so who better to dispatch to such a situation than our beloved mystery solvers - Mulder and Scully. They don't face this desolate location on their own, though. This time these two federal agents are joined by: "A geologist, a medical doctor and a toxicologist". And, a helicopter pilot to get them up there. In short, Denny Murphy (Steve Hytner), Dr. Hodge (Xander Berkeley), Dr. Nancy De Silva (Felicity Huffman) and Bear (Jeff Kober). 

The X-Files strives on its roots, this time taking direct inspiration from both film adaptations of the 1938 novella 'Who Goes There?' by John W. Campbell, Jr. And in true X-Files fashion, the writers - Glen Morgan and James Wong - make the story their own, and expose our leads to another world of isolation and unfamiliar circumstances. All surrounding the mystery as to why this Arctic research group (the two men were part of in the cold open) killed each other and themselves.

(via themulders)

Once the group discovers the bodies around the station, Mulder and De Silva happen upon an extremely angry, rabid dog who attacks and tries to bite Mulder but doesn't break the skin, but jumps Bear and succeeds - as much as Bear tries to hide his concern over it. It's here that we learn that the dog has something crawling under its skin, and is beginning to show symptoms of the bubonic plague. Of which Bear is also falling victim to. This is when panic ensues, as Bear is believed to have contracted the virus (that turns out not to be the bubonic plague) that the dog has. Bear starts to lose it, in turn causing everyone else to feel on edge because of this unknown entity that is now within their circle.

The group eventually find that Bear's infection is a parasite that has been lying dormant under the ice until the Arctic research team began drilling inside a meteor crater and retrieving ice cores. Cores that enabled the team to encounter the parasite and proceed to be infected by it, one by one. The parasite buries under the skin and affects the host's emotions. It has a similar physiology as a tapeworm but is very different to any other known organism. The parasite attaches itself to the host's hypothalamus in the brain, feeds on it and floods the host with aggressive behaviour. Ultimately killing either the host or anyone or thing around it.

The group becomes more and more agitated and suspicious of one another as the episode progresses. This is what heightens the paranoia and irritability within everyone. Isolation tends to bring that out in people and is in this case heightened by the fear and danger of the parasite and what effect it might have or may already be having on everyone.

Which is ultimately why 'Ice' is the episode that Mulder and Scully's trust is tested, but also helps layout and strengthen their foundation of trust in the process. In the beginning of the episode, Mulder and Scully are united by their trust within each other. Whereas Hodge and De Silva serve to counteract this image as their partnership is united in the mistrust and suspicion of those around them, which ends up nearly killing Mulder in the process.

(via themulders)
What seems to occur after Bear is suspect to the virus is a group placebo effect. Each individual doesn't believe that they are infected but is suspicious of those around them that someone else might be. This is extremely prevalent when everyone tries to sleep for the night. They all try and stop anything or anyone getting to them to prevent themselves from being infected. Scully puts the set of drawers against her door, Denny's listening to his cassette tape to calm himself down, De Silva is making a list of who could be infected and why Hodge is crying and Mulder puts his gun by his bed and startles himself with what seems to be a night terror.

The placebo effect becomes extremely strong in Mulder, as he starts to display a certain amount of irritability to the situation. It also doesn't help that he gets up to investigate Denny's door opening and closing and finds him dead in a cupboard in the middle of the station. De Silva and Hodge believe that Mulder was responsible for Denny's death straight away - whereas Scully only does for a split second before Mulder explains why he was out there in the first place.

After a heated argument, previously between Mulder and Scully (over Mulder believing the parasites are alien and wants them alive, whereas Scully wants them destroyed to prevent mass infection), an argument occurs again only this time guns are drawn and a shouting match ensues with heightened emotion between the pair that is so hard to watch: "Forgodsakes, it's ME." "Mulder, you may not be who you are!" It's like watching your parents fighting, it's horrible.

This then leads to Scully's belief that Mulder isn't infected to be attacked, as Mulder needs to be put in confinement to prevent anyone else being killed (even though there's no evidence he did kill Denny). As Mulder states in such a sinister delivery by Duchovny, "In here I'll be safer than you". Scully still doesn't believe that Mulder can be infected.

After taking charge of the whole team before to check each other for symptoms, Scully makes it her goal to prove that Mulder is innocent and is just a by-product of the environment they've been exposed to. Meaning that she needs to check him herself, leading to the most unintentional and unfair use of unresolved sexual tension that has been used on this show; and we're only in season one.


The thing I love about this episode is that no one trusts each other because they are unsure whether they are themselves - hence the line in the cold open, "We are not who we are". It's enticing to see this so early in the series, as it pits Mulder and Scully against each other in a situation where they need their trust the most. They have a primal need to rely on each other which is so close to being broken, but even an alien parasite can't break the bond Mulder and Scully already have for each other.

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