Helix Season 2 Ep. 12: "The Ascendant" Review

In one of the most darkest intros of the series, we see Peter's descent into darkness as he brutally disposes of Winger's body along with her squad with the help of Anne. If that wasn't twisted enough, we see him and Anne in the shower having sex directly after (while they're still covered in a little blood). My reaction to this was a strange mixture of shocked and understanding. I was shocked obviously on a visual surface level watching these two chop off body limbs and make out right after. However, my understanding comes to this scene as showing a sort of release for Peter's pressure building direction throughout the series. I remember in past episodes of the season always thinking how something big was going to happen to Peter after being shut down from everyone in and out of the pit. This in a sense is sort of Peter's absurd and psychotic "reward" for holding up all this time.

Looking at it from a different perspective, one can say that Peter is essentially deservingly handed what Amy impatiently struggled to steal. This puts more weight on the scene where Anne tells Amy "I gave you a chance" after leaving her. As for the scene itself, I must say that it's surprisingly beautifully shot and edited. The constant cutting between the two in the shower and Peter hacking away at the bodies is equally disturbing and visually alluring. Helix continues to surprise me with scenes such as these that shows craftsmanship not only behind the story and characters, but also behind the camera. Also, I have to say that Peter and Anne may just be the greatest villain couple I've seen on TV in quite some time (words that I never thought I'd say).

Following along with our CDC team, we see Alan giving Kyle a shot of the cure which seems to be working fine as Kyle only shows visual traits of the infection without the rage crazed mentality. As the two speak with each other, Alan and Kyle begin to form what I believe to be not necessarily a friendship, but a relationship based on respect and understanding. Kyle thanks Alan for saving him, but also tells him that he's still obligated to turn him into the authorities once everything is over. Alan surprisingly offers to turn himself over instead and even tells Kyle where to find his evidence leading up to the Paris incident. I really liked this moment  as we finally see these two on the same page even though they're basically enemies in terms of positions. Some of my favorite relationships in films and some television series such as Arrow is the "cop and criminal/fugitive partners" bond. It always makes for interesting scenes when the two characters would meet or discuss their ideals and perspectives. I hope that these two can partner up in future episodes especially with the new threat that is introduced to the entire team now. In addition, Alan asks Peter to use his gun and I honestly have never felt uncomfortable with his character until that very moment. Readers of this blog know that I'm a huge fan of the Alan character, but I felt something uncanny about his personality when he holds Kyle gun. You can tell that he's about to do something terrible (which the ending of the episode will reflect on). This is not only a dark episode intro because of Peter and Anne's scene, but just the subtle characteristics in Alan as he speaks to Kyle. I'm so curious as to what evidence does Alan have in that safety deposit box for Kyle to see.

  The very realistic reaction from any unplanned father

The very realistic reaction from any unplanned father

Continuing with the team, we see Julia struggling to get something useful out of the "Mother" root after the chemical attack. Coming up with no results, she realizes that Julia is distracted keeping her baby safe using a chemical similar to the used on Peter during his Narvik coma state. I always enjoy when a show would make reference to something used a long time back in its own history for a very brief moment. It keeps the lore and realism of the world in full circle in my opinion no matter how significant the item is. It can also be a fun little easter egg depending on how much they emphasize on it so you as a fan can say "Oh yeah, I remember that". Back to Sarah, we see her undivided attention and powerful devotion to her child as she implies the possibility of having to inject the tank with the highly oxidized chemical every 30 mins. for the rest of her life. Before Alan walks in, you can see Julia's respect for Sarah as a caring mother. This episode is interesting as it feels like a heavy dark episode, but with some "blink and you'll miss it" glimmer of warmth and happiness sprinkled in. As Alan walks in, we get the moment that I knew would eventually come which is his reaction to seeing the baby. In what I believe was Episode 2, we saw Alan's nervous and slightly rejecting reaction to Sarah being pregnant with his baby. In a few episodes back, they both get in that intense argument after her baby gets kidnapped by Amy. Although they seem to have patched things up afterwards, Alan's reaction to seeing the baby in the tank shows that he's nowhere close to 100% on the idea of being a parental figure at the moment.

  The moment Alan genuinely scared me

The moment Alan genuinely scared me

It's a very dramatic scene and quite saddening to see them both in a situation that neither of them planned especially during all of the chaos that surrounds them (the story of unplanned parenthood on an extreme level). One of the greatest things about Science-Fiction is when it delves in the world of real issues, but expresses it in fantastical and awe-inspiring imaginative ways. I personally believe whether intentionally or not, that this is Helix's way of showcasing that very real situation that couples have been going through for years. Immortals and insane cults aside, this one of the moments where I feel like I'm watching human beings dealing with nerve wrecking human issues. It fortunately doesn't come across as a forced tool for drama and fits perfectly with the two characters' current situations. What makes things even more intense is when Julia quickly jumps on the immortal killing label that Alan has after he declines to go along with her by saying "Why don't you just kill me Alan, I'm standing right in front of you?". When Alan pulled out the gun, I remember holding my breath thinking "There's no way, he's even considering to do that right?". The scene ends with him saying that he has to finish what he started. Another dark moment, but I couldn't but wonder what was going through his mind when he held that gun up in front of her. Surely he has no intention in killing her, but he seemed very distressed in that scene. Alan is in a stage where no one has any clue what he's planning to do, but he seems to be capable of doing anything he needs to feel fulfilled of his personal mission. I wonder that after Alan's questionable end game if he'll finally decide to go along with Sarah and the baby. Perhaps Sarah's situation is all about bad timing where Alan's concerned.

  Eli "The Ascendant"

Eli "The Ascendant"

Joining up with Julia, we learn of a mysterious location where the "Mother" tree lies on the island through a painting by Michael (a beautiful painting by the way). As Julia examines the painting, Sister Anne tells her that not only is the painting nearly 300 hundred years old, but only Michael knew of its location as well as the tree being long gone since then. Anne then tells her that she's welcome to look through Michael's records with Eli's permission. This leads to this episode's biggest moment (at least the most significant one to me) as we discover Eli to be Peter's new persona. Yes, we've seen Peter transform first hand, but this is basically the confirmation that he has indeed fully turn over with a new name, clothing, and Michael's office to match. I love Julia's reaction as she boldly laughs at him thinking that he's out of his mind (as anyone in her position would do). After realizing the truth behind it, she asks him if he would actually throw away being a doctor. This is the moment where Peter fully becomes an established and acceptable new villain for me with his response being that he found a higher calling and a sense of purpose (something that makes sense for his character). After striking a deal to give Julia full access to Michael's records by getting full immunity from Ilaria for him and his followers (with a bit of financial gain inserted), Julia exposes that his greediness will remain the same. After she leaves the room, Olivia brings Peter's (or should I say "Eli's" now) baby back to the crib leading up to him telling Anne to get everyone armed and ready to take care of the CDC. This is overheard by Olivia putting her in a very tight spot.

As Kyle (up and better now) walks down the hall with Soren, we get yet another sprinkled in heart warming moment where Soren tells Kyle how he strives to be a doctor like Kyle and Alan so he can help others in need. I really liked this moment as brief as it was as it showed the two having sort of a brotherly bond. This is then interrupted when Olivia comes to him with the bad news of Eli's plans to kill off the CDC team. She gives him a bag containing a coastguard radio so he can hopefully contact support from the military. After she tells Kyle that she's helping to save them as they saved her son, she tells Soren to hide in his hiding spot as she's about to try to redeem herself. I remember completely hating her character in the beginning of the season, but with Soren being around, she becomes a character that I have no choice but to relate to. She's only doing what she can to save her son, but she's also someone is finally thinking clearly enough to separate right from wrong despite her cult beliefs (yet another reason why Soren is this series' "hidden savior" as I like to call him).

Now, for the more unsettling part of the episode as if everything before was sunshine and rainbows, we get a very creepy moment of Alan sneaking up on Julia after she tears down the painting to use as a map. This only continues the road of Alan's mysterious and questionable intentions after his run in with Sarah before. After apologizing about his outburst with her before, he begins to help her find the "Mother" tree through her method of utilizing astronomy. There's a brief moment where they speak about one of their past moments as a couple and I laughed about it. Although Alan laughs about it too, I didn't label it as a sprinkled in happy scene as his facial expression changes when she's looking away. In their search for the tree, Alan tries to get Julia to realize how Ilaria has manipulated her with lies which has no effect on her official standpoint on the company. Julia tells him that this is the person that she is deep inside and nothing in the world including him could change that. This is the discussion that I've been anticipating ever since Season 1's finale (although we do get a portion of it when they first encounter each other before the military attack). What makes this discussion very significant is not only the closure of the two reflecting on their actions after the Arctic Biosystems situation, but also Alan's nonverbal reaction before the scene changes. You can tell by his facial expression that he's trying his best to change her before possibly making a regretful decision (one that will be shown in the end). 

With Eli's plans to kill off our beloved CDC team starting to fall into place, Kyle hurries over to Sarah to get her somewhere safe which leads to a pretty funny scene (that I believe was intentional). Kyle sees the baby in the tank which shocks him after Sarah says that it's hers. Kyle's priceless reaction, "Since when were you pregnant!" actually had me laugh out a bit especially when he tells her to forget the details as nothing on the island surprises him anymore. His line delivery was brilliant as he showed a hint of exhaustion to everything that has happened to him (gotta love Kyle's resume of crazy situations on the island). All jokes aside, we see Eli's group led by Sister Anne armed with knives and axes on their way to the two. Kyle hurries Sarah to get the baby and go which she annoyingly replies "Don't rush me!". I kinda got a slight bit annoyed by that even though I understood the fragility of her situation. Either way the two barely sneaks out and make their way up the tower for an attempted radio call. However, Kyle's bad luck kicks in as Sarah's baby tank begins to leak (I honestly got a bit nervous seeing the cracks on the glass). I feel like Sarah is holding the most important object in the entire world every time they show the baby in her hands, so seeing the cracked glass had me at the edge of my seat.

It was in this scene that sort of unofficially and indirectly hinted at them having a possible love relationship in the future. Kyle, despite his paranoia on getting evacuated off the island, decides to stop to help her via a chewed up Juicy Fruit gum (perhaps a little easter egg to the wrapper Alan found in the forest in a past episode to rescue Kyle). Kyle doing whatever he can in his power to save Sarah is something that's been showcased throughout the season sparingly, but it almost always comes across as a hint of something deeper brewing between the two (just speculating here). Kyle is shown as the only one to truly care for and help Sarah no matter the situation where Alan has obviously shown some boundaries in certain situations. I have this feeling that she'll eventually be placed in a situation where she must choose between the two. That's something that I won't be looking forward to as I love all three of these characters. I would hate for the team to split up yet again when it's finally as strong as it is now (despite a very interesting moment towards the end).

With Anne telling Eli of Kyle and Sarah's escape, Elo tells her that she has nothing to be disappointed about stating that he's different from Michael (although the clothes and hair doesn't help his case). Trying to find out how the two knew about their plans, Eli comes to the realization that Olivia was the only one in the room when they discussed it. Eli decides to take care of Olivia while Anne keeps a look out for the CDC. The scene ends on a very disturbing moment where the two tells each other "No Mercy" before kissing. It's strange how much this could've easily come across as terribly cheesy, yet it actually works rather well for the two. Eli being Peter's darkest desires coming to the surface offers up a lot of flexibility on twisted scenes such as this and the opening sequence. With Kyle and Soren hiding out in a closet room during the cult's manhunt, Eli comes across Olivia in the hall right in front of their door. I'm not a big fan of significantly conveniently placed characters, but this scene got a pass for me for its horror element and importance to Kyle and Soren's relationship. Eli after confronting Olivia of her betrayal cold heatedly snaps her neck in front of their door as Kyle fearfully watch covering Soren. It's a very horrific and brutal moment, but it strangely sets up something that was hinted at before. Remember when I mentioned Kyle and Soren's brief moment of a brotherly bond before? With Soren emotionally breaking down and claiming to be alone now, Kyle tells him that he will be his family now which Soren openly agrees to. It takes their slowly building brotherly bond to a whole new level now. Honestly, next to the Sarah baby kidnapping scene, this was one of the more heartbreaking moments of the season. Kyle for me has officially ranked up the ladder of favorite characters after this episode. The guy is possibly the closest thing to a genuine and truthful person on the entire team (Sarah aside).

  A very determined and badass Sarah Jordan

A very determined and badass Sarah Jordan

Continuing on her hunt to find the CDC team, Anne is ambushed by Sarah who threatens to kill her unless she gets her the tanks she needs for the baby. We've seen Sarah threaten to kill Amy before involving the baby, but this is the first time we see her in full interrogation mode. There's a moment where Anne tells her that she might as well put the knife down knowing that she won't use it. This is the moment that sort of surprised me as Sarah ,without much of a hesitation, slashes Anne's foot. Yes, Sarah has shown her dark side with this baby story arc, but this is the first time anything has happened on a physical level. She could've killed Anne if she wanted to, but obviously she needs her for the tanks. It's always a little heartbreaking to see an innocent and redeeming character such as her fall to a path of murder, but much like other characters on the show, it's all understandable. As Sarah continues to find the tanks, she unexpectedly discovers the hidden room containing the imprisoned women. After ordering Anne to release the women after finally getting a new tank for the baby, I found it interesting that we never really see her do it. I know it's implied that she did, but that's a lot of women to free as well as a huge burden. Also, when she returns to Eli, she never tells him that she had to free them, but instead just mentions that Sarah knows about the room. But before she returns to him, we get an even more deeper look into Peter's motivation for his new persona as he speaks to the baby that he's been holding onto quite a bit since he murdered that woman. Reflecting on his torturous father and desires to have been a part of a different family, Eli promises to the baby to give him the love and care that he never had from his father. He goes in depth about what makes a human a human as well as what makes him a man. One of the most interesting things to see in a villain is his rational way of justifying his crimes. This was possibly Peter's most important scene in explaining the motivations of his Eli persona. So, as Anne tells Peter about Sarah attacking her and finding out about the room, she reveals her escape  leading to a pretty epic scene.

  A real cult leader uses a gun; not a speech

A real cult leader uses a gun; not a speech

With Sarah meeting back up with Kyle, her bloody knife is shown which Kyle questions her about. I love the fact that she didn't say something like "I did what I had to do" or something to that effect. Making a joke (although probably full of truth) that she'll tell him after 5 years of therapy really fitted the character's personality so I'm glad they stayed consistent with her despite what she's been going through. With Kyle finally reaching one of the military channels, after a little hassling, one of the authorities finally decide to send over a rescue chopper. Watching this helicopter fly over to the island in front of Kyle was a very hopeful scene as Soren attempts to get on the carrier. Unfortunately, Eli walks outside and begins firing at the chopper with one of the soldiers' guns. It's small scaled epic scene, but satisfying nonetheless. Eli is doing what Michael probably wouldn't of done and is actually using weapons of the "outside world" to his advantage which shows that he will retain his own instincts  ahead of the original cult rules for certain things. It's a really cool moment watching them being literally a step away from being rescued off the island only to be halted by Eli. Eli is shaping up to be the most formidable enemy of the series if they keep up this streak of empowerment, fearlessness, and intellect. Where Michael had the pre knowledge advantage through centuries of being a leader on the island, Eli has a better chance at exploiting the CDC team through their past relationships.

Following along Alan and Julia's search for the tree, the two utilizes the night to line up the stars from the painting with the ones currently in the sky. Eventually, they're lead to the center of the Abby where Julia lines everything up to be on the stage where Michael held his speeches. I really liked the puzzle solving aspects of their scenes as it took the episode in an adventurous direction even if it all took place in a small scaled setting. It's just nice to see when Helix introduces new genre elements to their episodes. Sometimes we get pure horror, action, dark comedy, drama, and now a little splash of adventure in the mix. It's what makes the series so unique and sometimes indescribable (in a good way).  As Julia discovers that the tree may be beneath her, Alan helps her in ripping out the floorboards to reveal the the center of the Abby is literally the "Mother" tree's stump as the tunnels below holds its roots. This leads to the two searching through the underground tunnels finally finding the many roots sticking out of the walls. This leads to a surprisingly creepy moment where an unknown woman randomly shows up by the tunnel door and run off (assuming she may be one of the freed women from the "birthing chamber". It was so random that it indeed shocked me to see it. Creepiness aside, Julia discovers that tree still holds some of its fungal portions which can be utilized through gene splicing. This is when the unsettling characteristics of Alan earlier in the episode as well as him asking Kyle for his gun comes in full circle. While Julia explains that the fungus can be used to successfully create the infertility method, Alan slowly pulls out the gun saying "I'm sorry Jules". Julia hears the gun cock back and tries to explain how she's trying to stop Ilaria as he is. Alan however disagreeing tells her that she will be end up as bad as they are if she continues with her mission. This leads to a very climatic end as Julia quickly turns around to him with a gun of her own. The scene cuts to black with the sound of a gun firing (a cliche'd finale that actually works very well in context of the characters and everything leading up to it). Such an intense way to end the episode really making this one of the darkest episodes of the season.

Overall, I really enjoyed this episode as a great set up to two characters reaching their peak of stability (Peter and Alan). This was an Alan heavy episode in terms of drama as he fights between Sarah and Julia with morality issues and his own self fulfilling journey. It's a very interesting story arc as we're pretty much watching this man slowly deteriorate deep down inside on an emotional and mental level. This is definitely not the Alan that we saw in Season 1 and I love that I can say that. It seems that both Peter and Alan has undergone the biggest transformations making them the most tragicically dynamic characters on the show. I couldn't say that this was my favorite of the season, but it's in no way one of the weakest. Sometimes we need a break from the constant epic moments and this episode deliver highly on a more subtle and slow burning emotional joy ride. 

Things To Point Out:
1. Ruins of the Forest After Military Attack

2. Michael's Painting of "Mother"

3. The scene transition after Alan held a gun up in front of Sarah sounded like a gun shot. This is then copied in the ending of the episode with him and Julia.