Helix "Level X" Review: All Hail the Vector Messiah
Helix is back to being freaky, and boy does it feel good. I figured that once Constance Sutton was out of the picture—and she made her exit sooner than I expected—the role of the show's main antagonist(s) would be returned to its rightful owners: those guys with the bleeding eyeballs downstairs. Bringing in the Alaria mercenaries wasn't a bad decision, per se, but the vectors are what really get Helix lurching into the creepy territory that makes the show so silly and fun. They're just so unpredictable and scary! Guys with guns working for a big corporation? Seen it many times before. Experiment-gone-wrong weirdos with black goo pouring out of every orifice? Seen it much less.
And with the vectors and the virus back in focus, "Level X" moved forward with pressing urgency and at the glossing-over-details-and-basic-scientific-facts pace that suits Helix well. There were reveals! Old secrets exposed! A vector messiah! And one hell of an awesomely cheesy line from Dr. Hatake! Heck, even the storyline about Anana's village picked up speed to the point where it became mildly interesting. Together, those elements formed the compelling concoction that makes Helix such a perfectly brainless yet dazzlingly entertaining Friday-night show.
The main arc of "Level X" followed Julia and Alan as they headed down to DUN-DUN Level X, a previously undiscovered (by them) basement-below-the-basement and one of Dr. Hatake's 1,637,284 secrets. That's where Alan and Julia would find Hatake's Chamber of Death, a storage facility for Arctic Biosystems' catalog of mankind-eradicating viruses and other microbugs. There were vials of Spanish Flu (not to be confused with Spanish Fly, but that was probably there, too)! The Black Plague! Even World Cup Fever! And most importantly, Hatake's designer virus, Narvik! And Alan and Julia had to go get it because Alaria Corp. "would not stop until they have the virus." [*cue Bossa Nova theme song*]
But accessing Level X wasn't going to be easy, because the vectors were in the middle of a meeting to welcome their new overlord, Peter. And their election ceremony was pretty rad. The vectors passed around a cheeky "Keep Calm and Carry On" cup and everyone barfed into it one by one, then they poured it into unconscious Peter's mouth as if they were fulfilling the terms of some grade-school cafeteria double-dog dare, and then he sprung up and accepted his position as king of the vector masses like he was Hugh Jackman in Viva Laughlin. Why is Peter their leader? Who knows? Who cares? Helix is a show where comprehensible logic isn't the main objective. No, the main objective is to get viewers to say "Whoa," and I whoa-ed until my neighbors were convinced that Keanu Reeves had moved in next door. Mission accomplished, Helix.
So what plan did Alan come up with to circumvent all these vectors? The deep freeze by way of elaborately planned timing with a ton of moving parts. Vectors don't handle cold very well (same goes for the virus, which would explain why the Arctic is a good place to play God), so Alan turned off all the space heaters in the building and opened the windows to let the frigid air in. There was definitely some pseudoscience going on here, but again, who cares? I mean, Alan was talking about hypothermia possibly setting in, and they needed the temperature to drop to minus 40 degrees, but all they did was put on jackets and mittens and Julia didn't even experience as much as a rosy cheek or see her breath freeze. It worked! And Alan and Julia moseyed past the vectorcicles and destroyed a bunch of viruses thanks to a conveniently placed incinerator. There was just one problem: The Narvik virus was missing. Oh no!
On their way out of Level X, Julia noticed more of her child-time initials on the ground near a grate because little Julia was the Banksy of her day, I guess. And even though a bunch of vectors were in the process of thawing out, she HAD to investigate what was beneath the grate because she HAD to. So they went down into it, and they found a perfect replication of Julia's mother's cabin in Montana and I was like, "CALLED IT!" because I said that there was no Montana cabin three reviews ago. But now I don't feel like I should be all that proud because it was pretty obvious. Still, I was right about something for the first time in my life.
That led Julia to confront Dr. Hatake for the umpteenth time about what in the wide world of sports was going on here, and Hatake coughed it up and told her in a growing snowball of truths. There was no Montana! It was a made-up state, and instead she and her mom had traveled to the Arctic all those times when she was a dumb kid who actually believed there was a place called "Montana." And and Julia's hallucination Jay was actually Jane, her mother! And and and then Hatake told Julia what we already knew—that he's her father—but he did it in the best way possible and it was so worth it:
Note: This was an actual line of dialogue from the show and when I heard it I spit my Dr. Pepper all over the place. You owe me a new keyboard, Helix!
Meanwhile, Sarah was totally tripping balls for some reason. Did anyone catch why? Did the cold trigger some sort of dormant LSD trip? While helping Hatake flip the power switches, Sarah channeled her inner Rustin Cohle: "Have you ever seen death? Ever stared it right in the face?" I would like to hear her thoughts on time being a flat circle. Then she bemoaned her life's work and her lack of accomplishment and her lack of children and then she convulsed because convulsing is scary. Later, she would ask Alan to boink her again while Julia was within earshot, which resulted in some awkward glances but you know that inside, Alan was all, "That's right, Julia. I totally hit that." I'm beginning to think that bringing Sarah along for this trip was a bad idea on a professional level. She invented a test that didn't work, she harbored an infected person in her bedchamber, and she abused the station's medicine cabinet. Sarah is the reason that virologists should be at least 30 years old before they're allowed in the field. Kids these days!
And in other news, Balleseros is still around even though there's really nothing left for him to do, so after escaping a holding cell, he and Daniel/Meeksa snowmobiled over to a nearby village that an Alaria hit squad was going to eradicate. Why did Balleseros decide to do that? "Because at some point, it has to stop." Ballsy, don't go soft on me, dude. Anana joined up with Balleseros and Daniel/Meeksa and they killed all the Alarians (Ballsy's "Oh, you mean like this?" BANG BANG BANG move was sweet) and saved the villagers, including Daniel/Meeksa's twin Tulok. There was a nice family moment when Daniel/Meeksa remembered his childhood, and then Helix used some Orphan Black technology to put Daniel/Meeksa and Tulok in the same frame, so that was cool.
"Level X" ended with a montage to that "Mad World" remake song, and revealed who actually took the Narvik virus: Victor, the cryotherapy guy! Never trust a guy named Victor. Presumably he's off to deliver it to Alaria and do snow angels in the fat pile of cash they pay him.
And that was it! Another fun, silly episode of Helix that moved briskly and answered questions. With four episodes left in the season and plenty of still-unanswered questions left to resolve (as showrunner Steven Maeda promised would happen by season's end), there's no reason that Helix can't keep up this pace. I hope you're watching the show without nit-picking it too hard, because I'm certainly enjoying the madness.
– Victor... vector? Alan should have known all along!
– Anana: "You two make more noise than a running caribou!"
– When I'm watching Helix, I find myself continually screaming "ASK DR. HATAKE 'WHY?'" but then I realize that would ruin everything.
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