Helix: The White Room review

Syfy's fifth episode is showing some promising peeks into the future of Helix.

Last week the characters of Helix dealt with weighty moral dilemmas. On one hand they are responsible for breaking down the known barriers of science and physiology. Whatever they are developing up there in the snowy waste of the Arctic is both dangerous and valuable. People (and monkeys) are dying. At what point do they need to consider the greater good? When does the human cost outweigh the possible gains, be it for profit or in the name of discovery? Everyone has their price. This episode of Helix considers the weight of personal decisions and sacrifice. In other words, plenty of chickens come home to roost. Day 4 established Major Balls as a majorly bad guy. Day 5 does nothing to dissuade us from that perspective. The Major starts the episode with a good old fashioned frozen mange monkey bonfire. While a little gasoline helps light the monkeys up, no problem, the scene gets a bit disturbing when the animals, which one assumed were dead, began screaming. Which leads us to believe that the infected are going to be really, really, really difficult to kill. Maybe the subfreezing temperatures act as a type of cryostasis? While outside on his constitutional, he receives an encrypted message to retrieve Dr. Hvit from the base. Unfortunately this is one doctor who does not show up in the Arctic Biosystems databases. But with a little digging, the Major discovers that the doctor has been secured in the “white room” due to an auto immune deficiency. The joke being that everyone in the facility has been consigned to the white room: the Arctic itself. Ever dutiful, the Major continues to follow orders with very little regard to the destruction he is leaving in his wake. He is starting to show a reckless disregard for getting caught in his chicanery. Strange for a man apparently trapped amongst his enemies. Maybe his employer is scarier than Dr. Hatake, or maybe he has already secured some kind of extraction from the site. Either way, despite his penchant for killing the innocent and roasting diseased monkeys, we still don’t know what the Major’s real motivation is, other than duty. Equally lost is the non-comatose Dr. Farragut, who discovers Doreen’s rat ravaged body in the lab. Poor Farragut is losing everyone around him and he suspects that Doreen’s death is no accident. While he is clearly committed to saving the scientists in the facility, he is aware that there are people working against him. And even with his outward commitment to the greater good, he is still driven to protect the people closest to him. How can he do so when he has no idea who or what the enemy is? After a quick autopsy, he deducts that Doreen was in fact murdered. He immediately suspects Hatake and his security goon, but cannot ignore the obvious machinations of Major Balls. Hatake, however, is still down in Level R with Dr. Walker and Jayne. For the first time, we see Hatake and Walker spend serious time together, bonding. Walker is still deeply shaken by finding what appeared to be graffiti written in her own hand on the wall of a supply room. Unfortunately, she is in the throes of infection, and there is no way of knowing if what she is seeing is real or hallucination. Hatake, while not infected, has some deep seated baggage of his own. He impales himself so that Walker won’t suspect his motivation to be in Level R. Difficult to bond with someone if you have to admit you just shot a handful of the infected, point blank, in order to get the CO2 scrubbers turned back on. Something like that might make you look like a dick. Still, Hatake’s decision to put himself at Walker’s mercy is intriguing. As are the many scars on his back and the terrible story about losing his daughter to a house fire, years ago in Japan. His wounds mean that he has to rely on Walker’s help to survive in Level R, but really it seems like his motivation is to save the infected CDC agent. It looks like he and Farragut have more in common than they may think.Meanwhile, the one member of the CDC who is really reaping what she has sown is Dr. Jordan. The sick woman she agreed to shelter in her quarters has devolved into a full blown vector, and while the morphine is helping, it clearly won’t prevent the inevitable forever. The woman asks Jordan how she can live with her tumor, with the knowledge that she will die soon. Jordan responds that everyone dies, some just sooner than others. Truer words have never been spoken. These two are the question of personal sacrifice writ large. No amount of scientific discovery is going to save them from the inevitable. Death is a deeply scary, horribly permanent event. If you make the decision to die, are you exercising control over death, or only entertaining the illusion of it? What is the point of personal sacrifice, even for the greater good, if choosing to die has deeper consequences for the people around you? People like Farragut. He discovers Jordan is high when he goes to tell her about Doreen’s death. While furious, he still only has a superficial understanding of her situation. Now the two remaining members of the CDC team are not only isolated on the base, but alienated from one another. A white room indeed. Glad to see that Helix is stretching its legs and looking at issues larger than bioethics. Despite the morality play punctuated with moments of action, next week’s episode promises more zombie-esque shenanigans from the infected. And I do love violence as much as I love ethical dithering! 

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3 out of 5