Helix "Level X" Review: All Hail the Vector Messiah

By Tim Surette

Mar 01, 2014

Helix S01E09: "Level X"

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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  • pichikin Mar 04, 2014

    In a life or death situation where you know people are depending on you to do a task that you might not be fully equipped to handle, should you not say "Hey, guys, I think I should sit this one out. I'll probably screw up and endanger all of you because I have a tumor that can make me go into fits or tremors or hallucinatey monologues at the most inopportune times"??? Sarah is supposed to be super smart but everything she's said or done so far is plain stupid. Hatake probably has a cure for cancer stashed somewhere but I hope he doesn't give it to Sarah! :p The show does not need her.

  • LadyJay03 Mar 03, 2014

    This show...is absolutely crazy, and I loved this episode and all of its ridiculousness. Vectors spitting black goo into a coffee cup was gross as hell and when they poured it into Peter's mouth I wanted to throw up but who knew that black goo spit up was the way to not only bring someone back to life but turns them into the new vector overlord. Impressive. A lot of shit went down this episode and I was impressed because although some of the things that were revealed were obvious (Julia being Hatake's daughter, Julia spending her childhood in fake Montana) I thought overall it was still a good episode and I honestly can't wait to see what the hell else is going to happen next.

  • AngeliqueH Mar 03, 2014

    I only continue to watch the mess that is Helix to read your hilarious reviews.

  • MirelaPilipo Mar 03, 2014

    Tim, I'm digging the silly lines on the pics! Very fitting for this show. I hope Julia & Alan didn't incinerate The Acting Bug because this show needs a dose. Otherwise solid entertainment.

  • mad-pac Mar 03, 2014

    I loved it when they shot the closeup of the cup with a black liquid pouring in it, then I thought, "Who's stopping for a mug of coffee? I'm gonna get some coffee myself." Next, open shot, and the vectors were barfing into the cup... Yuck! Never mind. Forget the coffee!

    I laughed hard when Julia asked, "Why did you build a REPLICA of my childhood's cabin in Montana?" And then I thought, "Julia, dear, you STILL DON'T GET IT?"

    Balleseros in need of a jacket to go outside found a typical Balleseros solution. Next we see an unconscious (or even dead) guy lying on the floor in his underwear. Classic Balleseros!

    "Tulok" is a Vulcan name, right? And I thought the village people (no pun intended) were sorta Eskimos... Apparently not.

    Are we going to find out there's yet another undiscovered level below Level X??? They can keep adding levels as the story moves along.

  • ianjd Mar 03, 2014

    I suspect the "Don't call me an Eskimo" comment may have been based on modern negativity to the term, Inuit would probably be more correct.

  • ianjd Mar 02, 2014

    My batshit-ometer is nearing Zero Hour levels - there had better be a Nazi sub filed with clocks and clones buried near the base.

  • woz22 Mar 02, 2014

    Another entertaining episode of helix I do like when peter was reborn vector leader and the pic above looks like he dj at a rave LOL. Also what a time for sarah to collapse as soon the power needed to be turned back on. The show is reaching the finale and at least we are getting some answers now. Major change to hero is due to the fact that he has to pick a side that the most dependable

  • sangbaran Mar 02, 2014

    best episode till date, full of thrill...genuine thrill in level X. Enjoyed a lot!!!

  • MarlboroMagpi Mar 02, 2014

    This is one of the most exciting episode. Not necessarily good (I think we established sometime back) but we were excited to find out what happens next and glue ourselves to the TV. I am happy to continue watching as the producers promised us a conclusion.

    I had my misgivings about music on the show but this week Mad World was nicely done. Who sang this new version?

  • smorbie Mar 02, 2014

    There are some complaints about Mad World further down in this thread, but I loved it. Well done, Helix, well done.

  • MarlboroMagpi Mar 03, 2014

    It is definitely nicer and more suitable than those funny music moments which does not fit the scenes and suppose to be new techniques to distract you. For me, it is just annoying.

  • smorbie Mar 03, 2014

    I don't know. I really liked the version of Fever when the vectors were on the lose

  • Rolamb Mar 02, 2014

    I so love it when twins, after having not seen each other for so long (25 years or so), come to have the same haircut and the same three day beard.

  • smorbie Mar 02, 2014

    It's some of that twin phenomena like when they marry women with the same name and have the same number of children. I didn't even notice, lol.

  • Rolamb Mar 03, 2014

    I seemed to have forgotten to put a little sarcastic notion in :-). What I meant is that they even didn't bother to make them a little different after so many years. And I do understand what you say, I have twins myself and have followed all of these stories about twins, but there are so few of these stories and so many twins. They seem to be some kind of urban legends that are mentioned so often and thus got to be some kind of specifics for twins.

  • smorbie Mar 03, 2014

    No, I totally got your point and was agreeing with the silliness of it

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