Helix "The White Room" Review: Arctic Horror Story
Any serialized sci-fi ridealong with a big mystery at its gooey center will go through phases of asking questions and answering questions and then answering questions with even more questions. Call it the Lost effect or the Now These Writers Are Just Making Shit Up effect, but it's not only part of the process, it's part of the fun (whether you'll admit it or not). However, that fun can quickly become exhaustion if questions only spin viewers around in circles, making them dizzy from extraneous and inconsequential details (seriously, what was the deal with Claire's psychic?).
Helix is currently in asking-more-questions mode: The killer virus became a temporary afterthought in "The White Room," and I think the result is making everything more fun. Some new questions I have after watching the episode:
- Frozen monkeys can scream!?
- Is Hatake some sort of zombie man?
- WTF ghosts?
These are great questions that any show would be overjoyed to have its audience asking, and as Helix peeled back another layer, it seemingly became a whole lot more than what we initially thought it was. Remember when this was a quiet, patient series about little microscopic bugs that could only be seen under microscopes? Now it's a creepy, full-blown horror show. I enjoyed the frozen hell out of "The White Room" because Helix is approaching a level of insanity I had only ever dreamed of. And also because Sarah finally killed off that useless infected broad.
The biggest improvement over last week's draggy "Single Strand" came from all the characters finally arching their eyebrows at one other in suspicion, rather than waiting around for stuff to happen—like when Alan hovered over Peter for an hour or Sarah locked herself in a room with an infected patient. We've been waiting for characters to catch up to what we already know, and now the light bulbs are flashing on over characters' heads. Everyone was looking at everyone else like they were at a Paranoid Schizophrenics Anonymous meeting, and it all paid off with the major breakthrough being Alan's discovery that Balleseros is kind of a dick. We always knew that Balleseros was a no-gooder (or maybe an actual gooder who just had to make tough decisions about things we have no knowledge of), but now that Alan knows, everything changes. And a gold star for Alan for telling everyone who would listen that Ballsy killed Doreen and was a bad dude. It's about time someone knew what to do with information on this show.
All of this progress culminated in the thrilling ending when we learned that the famed White Room was an inside joke among the scientists who referred to the Arctic as a whole, and Alan and Daniel the Security Guy realized that the secret Dr. Hvit who Balleseros needed before he could be extracted was outside. Daniel got a head start and went outside in the blinding snow and negative temperatures to find the severed head of Dr. Hvit in some fancy outdoor tube that rose up from the ground (as though he already knew where it was). A severed head! Pretty much anything is better with a severed head. But Balleseros was sneaking behind Daniel and clanged him with a shovel. Alan showed up soon after that, and Balleseros had no trouble kicking Alan's ass and kicking him down a snow slope (Alan would eventually make it back inside). But wait! There's more! Daniel wasn't out cold in the cold for long, and he stuck Balleseros with a grappling hook, stripped him down in the snow, and walked off with Dr. Hvit's head. Who is Dr. Hvit? I don't know! What did Balleseros's people want with a severed head? Ya got me!
Julia's adventures in the basement didn't get much sunnier relative to what she experienced last week. But at least she had more company from Hatake, who gave himself a pre-credits impaling on a knife. Why did he do that? I don't have an answer, but I love the question. Hatake, Julia, and Jay limped around the corridors dodging vectors to provide most of the episode's horror thrills, but the psychological terror came from realizing that Jay was just a hallucination of Julia's as the infection spread within her. This was plainly obvious early on and it didn't appear that the episode was trying to hide Jayllucination, but it still went through the motions of being a shocking reveal at the end when Julia realized it herself. It's tricky to play the ol' "this character is a hallucination" card in any situation, but Helix gave it away when Julia mentioned that hallucinations were part of the sickness and Hatake was like, "Girl, who are you talking to?" But Jayllucination certainly saw Hatake and knew who he was, so she's obviously a ghost! I don't know, actually. But having a ghost on this wacky show sounds like a good idea to me.
I'll only briefly mention Sarah because this girl is super dumb. Her sick doctor friend from last week continued to be a problem, and at one point she escaped and tried to spit black goo down Sarah's throat after tripping about dancing for her old boyfriend. So what did Sarah do? She invited the lady back to her place again. Truth to you all out there: If you try to barf into my mouth you will not be invited over to my house for at least a full day. Thank goodness Sarah finally came to her senses and decided that assisted suicide was the way to proceed, so now the infected lady is dead because Sarah pumped her full of death serum. Maybe I was supposed to be sad during this scene—the music certainly wanted me to be—but I felt nothing but joy. Phew, glad that bit is over with and Sarah Kervorkian can get on with her life.
And now Helix can get on with its life, too. It's just now that this show is living a certifiably crazy life, with severed heads, ghostly hallucinations, zombie-ish weirdos lurking in the dark, and a crazy old Japanese guy who commits Hari Kari for fun. Is this the fourth season of American Horror Story? Is there a method to Helix's madness? Is this brilliant pacing for a series that knows where it's going, or extravagant filler in the middle episodes? We seem to have entered a gray area where everything is delightfully mad. After "The White Room," I am no closer to understanding what the hell is happening on in this show, but I sure am enjoying myself.
– Helix is making the jump from mysterious scientific thriller to straight-up horror series, and having a hairless rat crawl out of the mouth of the mouth of a corpse is one way to hurry that transition along. I approve!
– Hallucination or not, why would Jay throw the group's only source of light toward something that was making scary sounds? Sure, we got a cool close-up of a snarling vector, but maybe just run in the opposite direction next time.
– Any theories on why Hatake stabbed himself? I'm guessing he's working on making himself immortal and that he's pretty close if not already there, so that was just a pin prick to him. By stabbing himself, he was able to get closer to Julia and whatever weird bond he thinks he has with her. Maybe he should've asked her out for a cup of coffee instead, but hey, I guess that's how things are in the Arctic.
– Why did those frozen monkeys scream when Balleseros lit them on fire? Were they in suspended animation and thawed by the fire just enough to realize they were on fire? Sure!
– Sarah kissed Alan finally. And Alan kissed her back even though he didn't want to. Go Alan! Get some!
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