Definitely one of the more tougher episodes that I've reviewed in quite some time. There are so many major things to get through, so as usual, I'll tackle the individual areas of interest. However, I won't be going in a scene by scene chronological order as some stories can easily be wrapped up in one section. In this episode, we seem to have two main character arcs happening with some other very significant character moments sprinkled in. What I loved about this episode so much is how every character had their own respected spotlight even if they didn't necessarily do much this time around. Ensemble shows are understandably the most difficult to tackle from a writing point of view as certain characters can easily end up being overshadowed. When a series or film does it right however, it becomes one of the best entertainment experiences ever (The first Avengers film or The Walking Dead for example). Helix is fortunately another great example of this practice as characters are given their fair share of development as well as significance to the story.
The intros for Helix episodes can usually go in any direction from guano crap crazy, brilliant, epic, exciting, or down right uncomfortable. In this case, we're given something a little more badass as we see Julia and Amy watching over a large fire smothering over the pile of dead bodies. These ash turning bodies of course belongs to the loving and strange community we've grown to distrust throughout the season. Amy tells Julia (adding onto her feeling of leadership) that she should've came to her instead of Sister Anne. Amy offers a deal to trade "Mother" for immortality knowing that Julia is also an immortal next to Sarah (someone's getting quite impatient when it comes to living forever). The badass aspect comes when Julia threatens to basically kill Amy if she didn't hold her end of the bargain. Julia has slowly, but
surely earn her rightful place on the list of "Badass TV Vixens" as she fearlessly and coldly stands up to who we perceive now as the new big villain of the season. Just watching these two onscreen together feels like something big is about to go down. You can feel how Julia is itching to shoot Amy at any given moment when she sees an opening, so there's this automatic tension that fills the space between them. Sure we've seen Sarah stand up to Amy, but her character at the moment felt like it leaned towards a blind emotional rampage more than anything. You can see closer to the end of the episode where Julia basically has to hold Sarah back from completely lashing out which is why I consider her more of a powerful character (I favor the focused and fearless to the blind and careless in this case).
As I mentioned above, we have two major character arcs taking place in this episode (one a bit more grand scaled than the other). First, we have our poor, constantly tortured Kyle as he fights the infection inside of him from the honey. I always poke fun of the Kyle character as someone the writers hate being that he frequently gets into some twisted situations and this episode just adds onto the pile of crap that he's sitting on (no foreshadowing pun intended). What's interesting however in this case as we actually get a first person perspective of the psychological experience taking place with the infection through his eyes. I've always wondered what makes these people completely flip out and attack others in an angry rage and it all make sense now (to a degree). With Kyle, the infection seems to have caused him to relive a childhood trauma of being bullied by other kids every time Soren shows up. In his mind, Soren appears to be a bully along with other children throwing crap at him while making fun of his smell. Even in his own delusions of childhood terror does he get tortured from evil children throwing stuff at him (the "Poor Kyle" flag shall be waved for the 50th time). Does that mean that some of the other infected people attacked him earlier in the show because they envisioned him as something they hated or because they were simply cannibalistic in nature much like the couple that kidnapped him earlier? I might've forgotten something important about how the infection works in a past episode.
Either way, I quite enjoyed seeing Kyle in a completely vulnerable and messed up situation as this time he became the predator and the prey all at once. Through his stages of increasing insanity, he actually threatens Soren's life by almost tossing him off of a ledge. Luckily Alan steps in just in time to talk him out of it with a speech that traces back a lot of what his own life has involved. Eventually Kyle sort of snaps out of it pulling Soren back leading to him pointing out the "Bleeding Tree" in the distance. Now, as much as I enjoyed this scene I honestly didn't care for the convenient location of the tree. Sure I know it was close by thanks to the last episode's ending, but the level of convenience of timing and placing was a bit too off the rails for me. There's a certain line that I draw when it comes to characters being in the perfect place at the perfect time. This line is only personally blurred when the idea of prophecy or even manipulation is involved. In this case, I kinda wished Soren either saw it farther away in the distance or perhaps stated that the tree is on the other side of the cliff. It's a little nitpick definitely, but it is a small pet peeve of mine when it comes to important story items or characters. Now that the tree is spotted, I wonder if we'll get our beloved Kyle back or will something (or someone) become an obstacle in the end. That Commander Winger is being awfully quiet back there (just kidding).
Now for one of those sprinkled in significant character moments. As Sister Anne leans over a now monstrous and transformed version of Landry, we see him seemingly handicapped or completely paralyzed in bed. I must say that out of all of the infected people (and monkeys thinking back at Season 1), this was probably the best practical FX work I've seen on the show. The show has done some great things with their budget really bringing these mysterious diseases to life, but Landry was a creature feature spectacle in itself. I feel a well deserved round of applause goes to the make-up team as I literally could not look away at how amazing the details were on his body. Also I do have to admit that watching him there made me feel a little bad for the character. Sure I've said nothing, but terrible things about him since he first appeared on the scene, but he basically transformed into the visual representation of a misguided tragedy. He is after all the product of Amy's "hands on" manipulation. Speaking of which, Amy intervenes and basically kicks Sister Anne out of the room in which she learns from her that "Mother" is missing. This mother-daughter conflict is actually pretty intense to see honestly as family issues are almost universally relatable (this being the most extreme version of course). Judging by what the ending of the episode sets up, I do believe we'll be seeing Sister Anne's plan for new leadership very soon. What this will mean for Amy's character is what I'm very interested to see.
After Julia sends Sergio on a mission to shadow Amy's efforts in getting "Mother", we see Peter frustratingly going through Michael's library in search for the same thing. As Peter panics to find it he brings up the possibility to Anne that perhaps "Mother" is either lost or destroyed. This of course causes Julia to consider their deal off if such a situation becomes apparent (gotta love the character timing in this episode). As Julia tells Anne to leave the room, she and Peter go head to head in a "Who's the real traitor?" argument after she tells him that his trade off deal is off. What I really liked about their heated opposition is how much it summed up both of their Ilaria related character arcs in Season 1. It was the perfect recap for anyone who may have forgotten especially the mention of her mother and Spencer (although not by name). There's even a reminder of their past conflicts involving Alan which leads to Julia calling him a hollow person. This scene can also be seen as a checklist of the many reasons to dislike Peter before his moment towards the ending of the episode happens. Arguments with characters are great ways for inner demons to be exposed, so look at this as sort of Peter's true identity being spotlighted (this in addition to last week episode's money deal moment that he had). As Peter leaves the room, Sister Anne tells Julia how words have power (another seed planted for her character). She also exposes Amy for a liar stating that only three people knows the location of "Mother". As she went down the list including her and Michael, my mind was slightly blown off the cap when Landry was revealed to be the third person and her son. Talk about turning an annoying henchmen character into something surprisingly significant. I gotta admit. I was quite surprised that they actually had something big planned for him from the start. Something that I mentioned in the past episode review and will be mentioned a bit more here is that the writers do a great job at planting little seeds of foreshadowing or potential character arcs. It's become a fun little game to listen closely to arguments or pay attention to significant character moments that lead to the same character going missing for a few episodes. I've learned to keep my mind open to the the thought that everything leads to something much bigger in the future. Landry is just one of those examples.
Speaking of which, we see Amy physically trying to force Landry to tell her the location of "Mother". As Amy pathetically slaps around Landry hoping to get a word out of him, Sarah is brought over to fix him by her demand. With Amy out of the room, Landry attacks Sarah breathlessly saying "Amy" (or I'm 60% sure that's what he was saying to her). After he attempts to kidnaps Sarah, Sister Anne and Julia finds them causing him to wander off leaving Sarah behind. This leads to a very unorthodox (and kinda awkward when you think about it) reunion between Julia and Sarah. Quasimodo jokes aside, we see Landry up in the tower (revealed to be one of his hiding spots) unveiling "Mother" which was kept in a box in the room. During this reveal, we see a very angry Amy smashing through every room she can find searching for "Mother" herself (the music is priceless in this scene reminding me of the off the wall charm that the show possesses). Before that, there's a quick scene of her smashing the many frames on the wall of Michael's children before her (symbolic of a shattered leader). This chaotic rampage results in Sergio finding her telling her that wherever she goes, he'll follow. Any badass Sergio moment is much appreciated, so seeing him effortlessly grab her from behind the corner was grin worthy. Much like Julia, Sergio is willing to kill Amy as she only poses as a temporarily important obstacle to their mission goal. One can never forget how ruthless this guy was in Season 1.
As I mentioned in the last episode review, the writers know when and how to plant specific ideas in each character driven moment or story. Even if it feels like its just for the moment, certain ideas end up evolving into a much bigger picture. In this case, we're given a mind blowing, but beautifully set up transformation in Peter. At this same moment, we're also shown Sister Anne's darkest secret. The reason why this moment worked so well (and why I used the phrase "beautifully set up") is how long ago the seed for this moment was planted. From the moment Alan's existence was known to Peter leading Sarah to eventually turn against him, the whole respect issue began. Sure Season 1 showed Peter and Alan's brotherly contest driven conflict, but none of that truly weighed in as strongly as Season 2's constant jabs to the character. Every episode for the majority of Season 2 so far showed him in a pit treated like trash, fighting with his own brother, being looked down upon by his own team, looked at as a money grabbing pig by his ex, and treated like an insignificant pawn by a company. In a sense, you can say Peter had the perfect origin story for becoming a powerful villain and all it took was a simple push for him to step in that direction. Sister Anne is that push as the pit scene between the two not only kick started her path as a more powerful and voiced figure, but their relationship together as two people who deserves to lead than to follow (as she states in this scene). Every line that she delivers to him in this episode is basically a cryptic foreshadowing for the ending finale scene which is why I really enjoyed re-watching her scenes in this episode. It's so strange watching her become the Emperor Palpatine to his Anakin (using nerdy Star Wars references here). They sort of set her up as becoming a leader figure herself, but as Helix tradition goes, there's always a surprise around every corner.
Sister Anne takes Peter to a dungeon-like area where he finds a room full of human teeth lying on the ground. This leads to him remembering all of the toothless skulls seen around when they first arrived to the island. After saying more cryptic statements, she tells him he must face his own truth as she robs him of all light. This is arguably my favorite scene in the entire episode as we get a real "join the dark side" moment (more Star Wars references I know) as she repeatedly ask him "What do you want?" As Peter struggles to reveal his inner feelings, Sister Anne calls him out as a liar forcing him to reveal the truth. With just a quick cut Narvik infected Peter scene missing to make this moment perfect, Peter reveals that he wants respect and has only truly felt like a leader when he was infected leading the others without question. It's an amazing scene and definitely one of the stand out moments of Season 2 thus far as it responds to my overshadowed thoughts on why they've never really mentioned his Narvik situation as much. Although there was that short moment in episode 2 where one of the infected attacked him causing him to freeze up in a vector flashback. I actually smiled a bit when I read over my review for that episode realizing that even back then I had a feeling that something bigger was hidden behind that scene. Eitherway, the scene ends as Sister Anne opens up the door shedding the outside light in. Symbolic gesture showing that he's "found the light" as she reaches her hand out to him.
On the other side of things, we see Sarah and Julia attempting to free her baby behind Amy's back after Sarah reveals it to her. If their reunion wasn't awkward enough, Sarah had to tell her that the father is Alan (which thankfully didn't lead to a big argument between them). After seeing the fluid of the baby canister leaking from behind the locked cage, Julia decides that they need to work together no matter how desperate or hopeless it seems. With Helix's musical tradition, we're given another strangely placed soundtrack as the two begin working in the lab together. Music aside, I really liked this scene as it automatically hit on the nostalgia of Season 1 watching these two work together. I even liked the little offer that Julia verbally slips under the table suggesting that Sarah's talents would be much more expanded in Ilaria (which of course is quickly declined). Also, we see Amy psychologically getting the edge over Sergio as she intentionally cuts him, so he can attack her almost killing her. What's great about this moment is that a few minutes ago, we saw a vulnerable and damaged Amy not getting her way. Now, we see her basically toying with the same person who constantly threatens to kill her if she doesn't give him what she wants. I tend to forget that even without Landry, Amy is a force not to underestimate as her mind games can even drop the mental guard of a militarized threat like Sergio. You can see it on his face when she makes him cut her and smiles about it. For the moment, he looked confused and a little terrified (I always go back to the comparison of Amy being like a plague).
This of course leads to a very unfortunate death (or I can assume that he is) as Amy leads Sergio up to the tower where Landry is known to hide (and currently is with "Mother"). As Landry engages in a surprise attack on Sergio almost killing him, Sergio manages to kick him off the tower. This however puts him in a position hanging from the edge himself as Amy walks over and kicks him down to his assumed death. This was a great action scene (or confrontational scene) as Landry came across as this mysterious monstrous force almost beating Sergio to death. As much as I can understand them both being dead to put the focus more on the other characters, I actually would like if Sergio survives somehow, but if the future scenes prove anything, Sergio is nowhere to be found on Julia's missions (which probably says it all right there). I think in the long run Sergio is basically seen as Julia's right hand man, so if this sets up her being the solo heroine until she meets Caleb then so be it.
Now, for the big moment that took this episode to the highest level of shock value possible, we see Sister Anne bringing Peter into a secret room. As she switches on the light around them, Peter bares witness to the horrific image of women forced against their will to give birth. With blood coated flesh and feeding tubes resting over teeth less mouths, I thought I was watching a foreign torture porn film disguising itself as another sequel to the "Saw" franchise. I knew up to now that Helix loves to take things up to the next level of insanity whenever they can, but this one took the cake for me. Truly a terrifying image indeed as Sister Anne explains the women as people who refused Michael's call to breed an immortal. She also called herself, Sister Agnes, and everyone before as failed experiments which adds another dark shadow over Michael's character (who is literally covered in darkness at the moment). I was wondering if it was their of keeping his character alive even though he wasn't (and probably won't be) visibly onscreen. Sister Anne continues to explain as she mentions the teeth being unnecessary for the women to have as they would only chew through their feeding tubes. The worst part is that after giving birth to a child, Michael would basically slaughter them as if their only role in life was to give him a child. Sister Anne then justifies the horrible situation as a means of getting real respect telling Peter that true leadership is having your followers know that your way is the only way.
Although it might go over some people's heads, the way this scene is edited is brilliant as it intercuts with the scene involving Alan trying to talk Kyle out of killing Soren. As the camera stays on Peter, you can hear the introduction of Kyle's scene with Alan telling him that "We always have choices". Visually and audio-wise, the scenes speak to each other in their situations. Before that, we heard Sister Anne speaking to Peter saying "At some point, you must decide what man you want to be", but the camera stays on Kyle holding Soren looking around confused. After Kyle released Soren who then held onto Alan, Sister Anne's voice is heard saying "You must decide whether you're a leader or a follower" as the camera stayed on Alan a little (just certain things I pick up on even if its unintentional). Sister Anne finally gives Peter a knife asking him what type of leader he will become, which results in one of the most twisted character moments in the entire series. Peter succumbs to his desire to become a respected leader by slitting the wrists of one of the women after they bared a child. This one scene officially wrapped every possible complain that I may have had for Peter being wasted as a whining character doing little to nothing. It was the final nail on the coffin of not only what kind of character Peter would become in season 2 (his character arc finally revealed), but what Sister Anne's master plan was after Peter decided to join her on the rooftop. What happens in the next episode has got to be nothing but intense.
After an even more awkward reunion with Soren's mother telling both Julia and Sarah to meet with Amy (surprised Julia didn't shoot her out of a friendly gesture to Sarah), both of them offers a plan with Amy to hold up their side of the bargain for the tree. After a couple of outbursts from Sarah in addition to Amy's already thinned out patience, Amy threatens to kill Sarah's baby right in front of them. This of course leads to the final shock of the episode as Julia offers up Sarah's baby as the key to Amy's immortality (something I thought was going to happen actually). The shocker is Julia's offered method of placing the baby into Amy's uterus as the only way the process can happen. As Sarah shouted out in rage and confusion, I couldn't help, but do the same (internally of course). I couldn't make heads or tails whether or not Julia was serious about it, but if she is, this goes beyond the realm of unforgivable. Either way, this was definitely one of the greatest "set up" episodes ever in the series as everything has basically been laid out with so many possible outcomes. As usual, I am beyond hyped for next week's episode of Helix.