History Channel // 2008 // 602 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // December 10th, 2008
"Deeper into the deep freeze, further out on thin ice, the new mission: to haul the heavy metal of natural gas drilling rigs up a frozen river and across ice-choked seas."
Most of us, when we go "deeper into the deep freeze," are only seeing if there's any frozen pizza left. In the Arctic Circle, however, hardy ice road truckers based in Inuvik deliver needed supplies (that includes groceries, but no word on whether that includes frozen pizzas) to those drilling rigs, taking home paychecks around $70,000, as the narrator on Ice Road Truckers explains. Of course, that's if they don't plunge their trucks into the icy waters or spend their days in a garage awaiting repairs.
For Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Two, the action shifts from diamond mines to natural gas rigs, and Hugh, Rick, Drew, and Alex are along for the ride. The Arctic ice road "maggots" will be greeted by veterans like Bear and Eric as they take on a new hazard: waves.
Cool? Or all wet?
Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Two has 14 episodes over four discs:
* "Edge of the Earth": "I think he's gonna die," one of Alex's kids says, with too much foreshadowing, during a farewell party. Hugh has a rough ride, while Drew fumes about getting stuck in the garage.
* "Mechanical Mayhem": Drew ends up taking a job as an "ice road forklift driver." Hugh works through the night to get a vac truck working.
* "The Big Blizzard": Drew and Rick finally get out on the ice, while Hugh trains a new trucker. A blizzard is on its way.
* "Arctic Whiteout": Drew completes a run. Eric spends a night sleeping in his truck to keep watch over a load. Rick deals with boredom while stuck at base.
* "Lost on the Ice": Alex misses a turn and finds himself "heading into the unknown." An ice profiler does tests before a big rig rolls through.
* "Hundred Ton Haul": A natural gas drill site comes together. Alex takes on the heaviest load he's ever handled even though he "hasn't felt 100 percent in days."
* "Man Down": Alex goes to the doctor, where the diagnosis isn't good. A polar bear is spotted on the ice road.
* "A Trucker's Farewell": Alex's wife visits him at the hospital in Yellowknife as he copes with an untimely end to his ice road season.
* "A Rookie Fumbles": Hugh gives a rookie a crash course in ice road trucking, but the newbie keeps stalling out.
* "Highway Maggots": At a drill site, workers test to see whether it's a success or a $20 million flop. More rookies arrive on the scene.
* "Man vs. Ice": A rookie has to run through "flood ice" covered with water from a crack as the melting begins on the Mackenzie River.
* "The Big Thaw": As oil rigs are taken down, a 22-inch hole in the ice causes overflow problems for two trucks carrying a derrick.
* "Road to the Future": A clip show recaps the season, adding interviews and outtakes. Not much new here, but Alex reads one of Rick's poems, if you're really desperate for more ice road stuff.
* "The World Crumbles": Eric is caught in a whiteout as he and Hugh battle to bring in the most loads before the ice road shuts down. Rick clashes with a boss.
The change of locale helps propel Ice Road Truckers through a new season well. There's a lot of new stuff in their path: ice-locked research barges, Cold War military facilities, and ocean driving. While Ice Road Truckers does put a lot of emphasis on ominous intonations from the narrator and arguments between tired truckers, there are genuinely informative moments about life in the Arctic and, yes, even history. Just wait till you hear the story about the "Mad Trapper" who killed a Mountie in 1930. The lives of the truckers are a hook that leads to more.
While the narration is taken down a notch from last season, the announcer still is trying too hard to build tension. A rookie's big mistake, for example, turns out to be on a written test instead of on the road, as you might expect from the narration. Any accident or argument is built up into something big. The competition between the men is also highlighted, although less so than last year. The griping of the disaster-prone Drew and Rick also seems exaggerated by the emphasis put on it in the series.
However, there is one situation that lives up to its dramatic hype. Alex, one of last year's truckers, learned he had a blood clot on a lung, a diagnosis that iced his trucking career. He's joking about the situation when he talks to his wife or his friends, but the seriousness somehow comes through. Likewise, friend Hugh, when hearing the news on a cell phone, sounds like his normal gruff self, even cursing up a storm irreverently. You will notice, though, that he's walking a little less steadily on the ice as the news sinks in. "Alex is a survivor. He'll always pull through," Hugh says. Seeing the emotion seep through with men who don't show their fears is something powerful that few dramatic programs can match.
The picture is often spectacular, although some night shots are very grainy. The sound has occasional problems, acknowledged by the producers with subtitles on the screen.
The bonus features are a mixed bag. "The Road to Season 2" is a decent recap of Season One that you should watch first if you haven't seen Season One or haven't thought much about the truckers since seeing it; updates on T.J. and Jay, two of last year's truckers who didn't go up to the Arctic this year, would have been nice, though. "Off the Ice: Season 2" is essentially a clip show, but it adds some good tidbits. "About the Ice Road" has interesting information about pressure ridges, pingos, and other unique aspects of the Arctic ice road in its 9 minutes. "Life in Northern Canada" shows how residents cope with permafrost and darkness; it's good, but could have been longer than the 5 minutes devoted to it. "Arctic Animals" goes by way too fast (4 minutes) as it profiles creatures like polar bears and wolverines ("like a badger on steroids, in a really bad mood"). "Dangers on the Ice Road" is a decent 5-minute summary, but it comes with Disc Four, so you'll probably have figured out a lot of what it tells you. "Meet the Truckers," covering seven bios in 12 minutes, is just too short, providing nothing you couldn't glean from the show.
We should have seen more of the people involved in natural gas exploration, since a lot of the hauls supply the rigs. What was shown was dramatic, as workers at two sites anxiously watched tests to see if their efforts would yield results.
Also, it seemed like the film crews missed some stuff. As Drew changed jobs, his turning up at a forklift or on a local haul seemed like surprises. Moreover, I didn't feel like we were getting to know the Arctic veterans as well as we got to know the gang from last year's show.
And after screening Encounters at the End of the World, I really wanted to know: Do ice road truckers eat frozen desserts in between runs?
Let's face it. The realization that there are places where 14 degrees Fahrenheit is a dreaded warm spell -- and you're not there -- is somehow reassuring. That gives Ice Road Truckers a built-in appeal.
Except for some of the stretching material, Season Two was always interesting. It didn't totally succeed in introducing the new (to us) people of Inuvik and vicinity, but it did bring home the history of the region and its importance. It also showed viewers the human sides of the hardworking men of the ice roads through Alex's unfortunate health problems.
I'm looking forward to another run with Ice Road Truckers. Just don't forget the updates; I'd like to know how Alex is doing after seeing the poor guy go through all that hell.
Review content copyright © 2008 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 602 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "The Road to Season 2"
* "Off the Ice: Season 2"
* "About the Ice Road"
* "Meet the Truckers"
* "Life in Northern Canada"
* "Dangers on the Ice Road"
* "Arctic Animals"