Helstrom Season 1 Episode 1: Mother’s Little Helpers Recap

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Review of Entire Season HERE

It was a dark and stormy night…

Okay, it’s Portland, so that’s not a unique situation. We’re starting this show by staring straight up at the exterior of an imposing stone hospital during a thunderstorm, so someone’s brushed up on their horror tropes. This is the Saint Teresa Center for Mental Health, an honest to goodness mental asylum where a demon lives in a woman who lives in an empty padded cell that’s basically a vault, like it’s 1920 instead of 2020. As soon as the Trump era is over and we have some standards again, someone should report this place.

TV World does love an outdated mental ward. For the sake of telling a dramatic story, let’s pretend that isn’t offensive. To some extent, this show mirrors the look and feel of the Netflix MCU’s gritty, worn, slightly retro style, even though it takes place on the West Coast rather than NYC. Theoretically, Helstrom is not in that universe, but I caught a few visual references. Others caught newspaper references to the wider MCU.

Thematically, Helstrom also follows in the footsteps of the Netflix MCU by examining the Helstrom family’s trauma, loss, mental illness and ongoing recovery, but also, more subtly, focusing on the complicated nature of privilege. As opposed to the MCU’s broad methods, Helstrom uses subtle, quiet methods to show how characters who were born with their powers, but are passing as humans, can inadvertently use them to take advantage of others, regardless of their intentions. There are no Tony Starks here.

It’s a powerful message about internalized privilege. Used reflexively, both privilege and superpowers smooth the way, but they can also lead to overconfidence and mistakes. The Catholic Church is used to represent the ways institutional privilege can be taken too far. As with the historical witch hunts, protection becomes persecution when standards are applied without discretion. Helstrom explores the nuances involved in using a religious code to determine what is good or evil, while acknowledging the necessity of living according to a philosophy and standard of behavior.

Daredevil, Iron Fist and The Defenders also traversed this territory. Helstrom continues some of the ideas begun with the death and resurrection storylines in those shows, taking them to the next level. If demons are millions of years older than humans, do their rights supersede ours, the way we argue that our superior intelligence grants us the right to exploit and torture other living things?

Recap

Helstrom S1Ep1 Hospital Angel

Let’s return to that imposing psychiatric hospital. There’s a locked door at the end of a hall, lit by those heinous fluorescent tube lights that should be outlawed. Lightning flashes through a stained glass window. It lights up a life sized statue of an angel. This is a Catholic hospital, after all.

Despite the lateness of the hour, the hospital administrator, Dr Louise Hastings, PhD, types at her desk, all alone in her wing of the hospital. We can tell from a photo on her desk that once she was a nun who taught school.

Dr Hastings pauses in her work when the old building makes some creepy sounds and her door opens on its own. More lightning makes her jump. She probably tries to tell herself it’s no big deal, but then the keyboard autotypes the same phrase over and over- NO MERCY NO MERCY NO MERCY. It’s not REDRUM, but it’s bad enough.

Still, she’s a brave soul and waits another moment, until the glass doors on the shelves that cover the wall behind her explode. Then she finally utters an expletive and heads toward the patients’ wing.

The security guard is expecting her and says that there are two escaped patients. Inside a locked ward, they find a dead guard. They lock down the hospital. Dr Hastings, now quite shaken, looks from the guard’s body to the ominous door at the end of the hall.

Helstrom S1Ep1 Sister Hastings, Daimon & ClassHelstrom S1Ep1 No MercyHelstrom S1Ep1 Dr Louise HastingsHelstrom S1Ep1 Daimon & Archer ExorcismHelstrom S1Ep1 Gabriella Outside Cavallos

In Salem, Oregon, young Sister-in-training Gabriella Rossetti waits for her colleague outside a family home. Inside, a boy screams at his parents. The dad comes out to apologize for the boy’s behavior and to ask how the procedure will work, since her associate isn’t a priest. Gabriella replies that she’s new. When Daimon Helstrom arrives, he’s leaving a phone message for Dr Hastings, complaining that she sent Gabriella instead of coming herself.

Gabriella introduces Daimon and reminds him that the situation has been difficult for the family. She begins to explain that the boy, Archer, has had symptoms such as rude, violent outbursts for several months. Daimon cuts her off, having read the information she sent him. Archer’s mom seems to have checked out of the situation.

Daimon heads straight upstairs to confront Archer, declining the offer of religious tokens but stopping in the bathroom. He tells the others to stay out of the room, no matter what, which isn’t unusual in these situations. Before he enters the room, he stops to press his hand against the door and sense the energy inside.

Satisfied that he knows what he’s dealing with, Daimon enters. Archer is under his bed, but begins speaking to Daimon immediately. He’s a demon who wants attention. He tells Daimon that he wants food or he’ll continue his particularly disgusting behavior. He throws in a little Latin for good measure. “The thief cometh not but that may steal and kill and destroy.”

Daimon isn’t impressed. Archer comes out from under the bed. Daimon sprinkles “Holy Water, straight from the Vatican” on him. Archer writhes on the floor, then seems as though he’s awakening with no memory of the recent past. Daimon informs him that the Holy Water was actually tap water.

Then he explains that Holy Water, crosses, Bibles and Christian symbols in general have been overused against evil, so real creatures of darkness have developed an immunity. “Secrets lose their power once they’re exposed.”

Daimon tells Archer that he needs to apologize to his parents for the pain he’s caused and make amends. He especially needs to clean up his room, with bleach, after pretending that he wasn’t potty trained and other gross acts. Archer still insists he’s a demon and pretends to use his power on Daimon. Something moves in Daimon’s throat- it’s not clear whether Archer has a little power or Daimon does that himself.

But Daimon is unfazed and tells Archer that real power is in the heart and head, not the fists. Daimon uses his own supernatural power to move furniture through the room and create a ring of fire.

Daimon says that Archer didn’t finish the Bible verse (in Latin): “John 10:10- I came that they may have life and may have it abundantly.”

Now that Daimon has demonstrated that he could take on a real demon if he wanted to, the fire goes out and the room puts itself back together. Daimon says goodbye and heads downstairs to share his wisdom with Archer’s parents. He tells them that their son isn’t possessed, he’s just a jerk. Gabriella will give them a referral for a family therapist. Mom should lay off the alcohol. And they shouldn’t let the internet raise their kid.

The Cavallos are angry and Gabriella is embarrassed. She follows Daimon so she can yell at him for his lack of professionalism and empathy. He yells back that she wasted his entire evening on a case that was an obvious false alarm. Then he tells her to avoid the main highway on the 2 hour drive home, because there’s a major accident. Now he has to leave, because he still has to prepare for the class he’s teaching tomorrow for his day job.

Gabriella makes one more feeble attempt at guilting him, saying the family was just looking for hope. He says, “Aren’t we all.”

Not sure why she thought a fake exorcism was the way to give them hope. At best it would cause a brief respite until they all returned to their normal behaviors and the issues that created the “possession” returned. Daimon quickly diagnosed the real issues and prescribed realistic, hopeful solutions. But he’s right, he shouldn’t have had to. As the screener, that’s her job.

She and the family just didn’t like the way he delivered the news or want to hear that they were part of the problem. Or maybe the kid needed a fright before he’d cooperate with therapy. If that’s the case, Gabriella should have been honest about why Daimon was there.

Hellstrom s1Ep1 Chris Yen & Ana Helstrom
Ana’s suit is a clever play on the Little White Dress of Doom. Since she is the Angel of Doom, she wears an angel white suit. But she is not sweet, blonde, sacrificial or angelic in the way female characters are traditionally portrayed.

In San Francisco, fashionable antique art dealers Ana Helstrom and Chris Yen supervise their latest auction of expensive artifacts. Their latest treasure is Napoleon’s sword, which will sell for more than $7 million. According to Ana, “A fool and his money are my favorite couple.”

They acquired the sword as bait for Edward Tate, a fabulously wealthy, but obsessively reclusive, venture capitalist who’s covered up his many crimes. Tate buys the sword, then later, Ana lures him up to the rooftop lounge. There’s some small talk about the Nobel prize for chemistry and weapons of war, then Ana brings up Tate’s twisted history. He assumed she was legitimately interested in him.

She’s interested in the fact that he’s killed seven women. Ana holds her hand over Tate’s heart and reads his memories of the murders, confirming that he’s the killer. She says that like him, she’s a thief. She’s stealing his life back the way he stole the 7 women’s lives. She holds her hand over his chest and sucks out his life force, then she pushes him over the side of the building, telling him not to hit anyone at the bottom. She looks as though she enjoys this work.

Helstrom S1Ep1 Tate & Ana Angel of DeathHellstrom S1Ep1 Sarcophagus in TombHelstrom S1Ep1 Spivey Views Glyphs in Tomb

The three men who went missing from St Teresa’s break into a tomb in a graveyard in Colma, CA that has a secret underground chamber. There’s a sarcophagus leaning against the wall in one corner of the tomb, with a gruesome sculpture where there would normally be a face.

The tallest of the 3 men approaches the sarcophagus while the other 2 hang back. As he tries to open the coffin, one of the other men slams his head into the sculpture so that he bleeds onto it. The flunky indicates he was just following orders. When the tall man stands up, the sarcophagus captures him with long spikes protruding from its sides, pressing him up against its length. The other two men wait out the ritual.

The next morning, Daimon lectures on Kohlberg’s 6 Stages of Moral Development to his class at Gateway university in Portland. He describes the first to stages, motivation by fear/pain and by reward/punishment, before he’s interrupted by Dr Hastings.

After class, he complains to Dr Hastings that Gabriella’s failure in this case proves she’ll be unable to recognize more serious issues like epilepsy or schizophrenia. Hastings tries to smooth things over, telling him that the Cavallos will get the counseling they need. She reminds him Gabriella was very highly recommended by the Vatican. Daimon reads that as “She’s a spy for the Vatican.” Hastings reminds him that Gabriella has only been working with them for a couple of months. He needs to either give her more time or show her the truth. Daimon definitely doesn’t think she’s ready for the truth.

Hastings doesn’t want to continue this argument. She came to see him about the incident in the hospital last night, not Gabriella. Hastings is sure that it was – –

She says she needs Daimon’s help with this, since she’s not strong enough to deal with Her on her own. He’s the only one who can get through to Her. Daimon asks Hastings to tell the guard’s family that his funeral expenses will be covered by an anonymous donor. He says this like he routinely covers the damages caused by the Nameless Her.

Speaking of routinely covering for damages, Ana rolls into auction house’s warehouse, where Chris waits to chastise her for leaving him with a billionaire mess to clean up. He knows what she did for the rest of the night to relieve the rest of her stress- Brie or Bianca, someone with a B- and meanwhile she’s been ignoring his texts.

Ana asks how much money they made the night before. He responds that she should say, “You’re my savior, Chris.” He’s kept their names out of the news about the billionaire’s death, despite where and when he died. But he needs Ana to stop being so reckless. She can’t act like she used to in the old days. Ana doesn’t admit to any recklessness, but she does tell Chris he’s good at what he does.

She notices that ‘Taker has been trying to reach her. Chris says he been calling her at work as well. None of Taker’s items sold in the auction last night, so Chris thinks it’s time for him to retire. Taker left Ana a message about the City of the Dead graveyard in Colma, so Ana leaves Chris to finish up the books on the auction by himself- again.

Gabriella, Hastings and Daimon watch the hospital security footage from the night before. It shows Nurse Keith Spivey, the tall man from the crypt, entering Her section of the hospital, then disabling the cameras. He broke out the two patients and killed the guard, then they left together. Gabriella asks about the video from Her room. Hastings tells her their aren’t cameras in that room.

Gabriella realizes that patient is closely connected to Daimon, which means he’s been through some serious, ongoing trauma. He’s likely in shock and distress from the hospital incident the night before, though of course he will mask his own issues.

Does Gabriella apply some of her famous empathy to her colleague? Of course not. She’s young and confident and she already feels like he doesn’t respect her. She’s on a mission from the Vatican and she has her FAITH to give her strength.

Daimon moves to leave the guard’s room. Gabriella guesses that he’s going to see the patient and intends to go with him. He puts her off.

Gabriella: “If she is what you claim, the Vatican needs to know.”

Nice assumption that the Vatican rules the world.

Daimon: “This isn’t a show for the Vatican’s benefit or yours. No one goes in there but me.”

He and his family have a right to privacy. The Vatican doesn’t rule the world. Though the evidence in the guard’s murder points to some influence by Her if you know Her history, there’s no way she committed the crime. And Gabriella has no legal jurisdiction over Her.

Notice the complete lack of compassion from Gabriella. She’s treating Daimon and the patient like lab specimens or targets of the Spanish Inquisition.

He goes to the patient’s room, unlocks the thick door and steps inside. A middle aged woman lies on the floor of the empty, padded cell with her back to the door. Daiman stands over her and speaks in a soft voice.

“Mom, can you hear me?”

He notices a figure drawn on the wall- a circle with horizontal slashes drawn through the perimeter in a few spots. He asks her about it, then asks about the nurse. She doesn’t respond, so he sits down next to her.

He tells her a memory from when he was nine years old and swinging in a tree in the yard. The branch broke and he fell 10 feet, knocking the wind out of him. He was scared, but Victoria helped him, telling him to push through until he could breathe again.

Victoria slowly turns over and looks at Daiman in wonder, getting his hopes up. She cries a little and says, “There he is, my sweet little boy, who never should have been born.”

Hopes dashed, Daiman jumps up to stand across the room. He demands to speak with his mother. Victoria rises to her feet, telling him that she is Mother. He slides backwards the rest of the way to the wall.

Victoria/Mother, speaking in her deep Demon voice, tells him that he’s remembering the tree incident wrong. His mother just wanted him to get over the fall and leave her alone as quickly as possible. She started drinking when she was 3 months pregnant, trying to induce a miscarriage because she knew what he’d become.

Daimon ignores her taunts and asks again about the symbol on the wall and what she said to the nurse. She tells him that people have always killed each other, in order to maintain balance. He asks where she sent the missing men. She says, “To see an old friend.” Then she dismissively tells him to fetch his toothbrush. They’re done. She turns her back on him.

Daimon’s visit with his mother is over. This time, only the demon who possesses her, known as Mother, came out. His real mother, Victoria, comes out occasionally, but her time in control is diminishing. Mother is intent on wiping out Victoria completely.

Helstrom S1Ep1 Daiman Recounts Memory to VictoriaHelstrom S1Ep1 Daimon Confronts Mother About SymbolHelstrom S1Ep1 Glyph on Mother's WallHelstrom S1Ep1 Mother:Victoria

At his request, Ana meets Taker at the City of the Dead, the graveyard where the missing nurse and patients from St Teresa’s messed with the sarcophagus in the underground tomb. Taker just found out about the tomb last night through his own undisclosed methods. He and Ana joke around a little before checking in with each other for real. Then Taker gives her a pair of rubber boots to wear into the tomb so she doesn’t wreck her designer shoes. 

Inside the tomb, one of the men has been reduced to a smallish pile of rags and remains that smell like sulfur. The sarcophagus is wide open. These two experts on ancient writing can’t identify the glyphs, but guess that they’re ancient demonic. There’s a one-eyed skeleton inside the coffin that’s holding a rectangular object, possibly a book. 

Taker says the skeleton belongs to a Keeper demon, which would have been guarding a powerful being that’s been set free. Ana asks if Taker thinks He was in the coffin, referring to her father. Taker says she’d have a better sense of that than him, but He’s regenerated many times over the millenia.

Ana touches the book to read its energy, but doesn’t sense anything. It’s strange for her to be blocked. Taker asks if she wants to consult Daimon. She doesn’t. He prepares to leave, admonishing her to keep the tomb a secret, especially from “that grave-robbing partner” of hers. Taker, who “finds” and sells ancient artifacts for a living, is all about the ironic teasing.

As he walks away, Ana makes eye to empty eye socket contact with the ancient skull. It whispers sweet demonic nothings inside her head. Taker yells her name, which breaks her out of the trance. He asks her to repeat what he said. She correctly guesses that he wants to find whatever broke out of the tomb and that she should be grateful to him for his help. She pulls the skull down to take with her.

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Helstrom S1Ep1 Taker & Ana at GraveyardHelstrom S1Ep1 Remains of PatientHelstrom S1Ep1 Ana Examines SkullHelstrom S1Ep1 One-Eyed Skull

Gabriella grills Daimon about Mother in Hastings’ office, while Louise attempts to play referee. He tells them that the symbol on Victoria’s wall is demonic, but he doesn’t know what it means. Louise asks about the patients and nurse, so Daimon tells her that Mother said she sent them to visit an “old friend”, but that’s all he knows. “Mother enjoys her games.”

Gabriella tells them she wants to visit Victoria/Mother alone, as someone with no connection to the case, to verify that Victoria isn’t just faking her symptoms.

This must be payback to Daiman for his insults the night before. Victoria has been hospitalized for more than a decade at this point. Pretty sure someone would have caught her faking by now. But that was also quite an insult to Louise, who is both Gabriella’s supervisor and Victoria’s case manager. Gabriella must be very confident in the support she has from the Vatican. Or she’s just brash and overconfident.

Daimon obviously takes offense at all the different ways she meant to insult his family and his personal judgement with that statement. Dr Hastings tells Gabriella that she’s already verified Victoria’s status. There’s no need for Gabriella to do so. Daimon agrees, and tosses in the fake case from the night before, questioning Gabriella’s judgement again.

Gabriella says, in a belittling tone of voice: “Is this where you mansplain what my job is supposed to be again?”

Oh, sweetie, last night he explained that the Cavallo case didn’t fall under his job description and why you should have known that. He has the right to do that when your mistake wasted 5 hours of his time. Every instance of a man speaking to you is not mansplaining.

Daimon tells her that he doesn’t care what she learned at Hogwarts, her magic doesn’t work here. Hastings breaks up the argument. Gabriella and Daimon each get in another shot. Gabriella has mastered the fine art of baiting while appearing polite. Daimon is angry enough to be outright insulting.

Gabriella has to have the last word, which makes her and the Church sound like innocent victims: “Whether your constant sarcasm and disrespect is for me or the cloth in general, I have no idea. Either way, I don’t care for it.”

She walks out. Hastings gives Daimon a dirty look. 

We saw that Gabriella can be patient with people who are in crisis, which Daimon clearly is right now. But she’s not giving him the compassion and respect due to the family of a patient or to a colleague. Her behavior with him is specific to him and part of an agenda, so I’m not going to blame him for defending himself. She’s gathering information for her real boss, the Vatican, while he doesn’t want demon killers to descend on his mother and he doesn’t rust that Louise sees Gabriella clearly. 

But Hastings has trained Daimon well and makes him feel like a terrible person with just the one look. He promises to apologize to Gabriella. She reminds him that Gabriella had to study for 6 years at the Regina Apostolorum in Rome. “She is trained to look at exorcism through the eyes of a skeptic. She is more than qualified to shadow you and we need her help. I raised you better than this.”

Dr Hastings may have her own blind spot here, since she’s ill and worried about who will take over for her when she’s gone. She’s ignoring some red flags, such as the question of Gabriella’s true motivation.

Daimon agrees with her, but says he can’t be more than what he is. He needs Ana’s help with Victoria, but he’s afraid she won’t be there for him. She told him she’d never come back to Portland. Hastings wonders if that might be for the best.

Helstrom S1Ep1 Daimon & Gabriella ArgueHelstrom S1Ep1 Sad Daimon in the Neon Light

Daimon drives through rain. A multi-colored neon sign reflects on his windshield that is straight out of Iron Fist/The Defenders. After some debate, he texts Ana asking if they can talk. She’s researching unusual skulls on the internet. His text gives her flashbacks to childhood abuse. Young Ana hides from their father as he violently assaults young Daimon, whose chest is bleeding. Adult Ana doesn’t respond to Daimon’s text.

The neon sign belongs to a tattoo parlor. Daimon is lost in the same flashback as Ana while the tattoo artist works on the circular scar in the center of his chest. When their father finished with Daimon, he shoved Victoria to the floor. The tattoo artist interrupts his thoughts, wondering why his scar always absorbs her ink, so that the tattoo just disappears into his skin, every time. He tells her to keep trying.

Ana gives up on her internet research. She tries putting some of her blood on the skull’s forehead and then using her hand to sense the skull’s energy. A flesh and blood eyeball appears in the eye socket. Then her blood runs through channels on the skull into a keyhole carved in the center of the forehead. The keyhole is part of the same symbol that Mother drew on the hospital room wall. What did Ana’s blood just unlock?

The blood on the skull and the ink on the scar were an eerie parallel, huh? How long until Daimon’s unlocked?

Helstrom S1Ep1 Ana's Blood in Keyhole

Helstrom S1Ep1 Daimon's Scar

Taker digs a grave for the human remains he and Ana found in the tomb. As he deposits the remains in the hole, he notices a clothing tag from St Teresa’s hospital.

Daimon calls Gabriella and leaves a not-quite-an-apology message. He’s sitting in his car outside of the Cavallo’s house, checking up on them without making contact. Archer and his dad get in their car and drive away like they have a normal father and son relationship. Despite his argument with Gabriella, Daimon went out of his way to personally follow up on the encounter, instead of just reading someone else’s reports.

Dr Hastings catches up with Gabriella to finish the other half of her couples therapy. She starts with a bible quote about endless forgiveness, Luke 17:4- And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you saying, “I repent” you shall forgive him.

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Gabriella fills in the end of the verse, but isn’t interested in cooperating otherwise. “I’ve contacted the bishop at the archdiocese. The Vatican is concerned you’re endorsing exorcisms from a man who is not a priest. A man who has certain unexplained abilities which he may have inherited from an unstable and incredibly powerful force of evil. Locked up in your institution. It’s all unconfirmed, of course, since I have yet to be allowed to see anything firsthand.”

Hastings replies that requests for exorcisms are up tenfold in the last year. That’s what should worry the Vatican. But Gabriella doesn’t care about that. She insists on seeing Victoria. Hastings tells her to read the file on her desk. If she wants to show it to the Vatican, she has Hastings’ permission. Gabriella goes to read it immediately, making clear, again, what her one real job here is.

Montage! Time for another round of Peter Gabriel’s My Body is a Cage.

Helstrom S1Ep1 Victoria's JournalHelstrom S1Ep1 Young Daimon & Victoria Watch Ana KidnappedHelstrom S1Ep1 Ana with Her BoxHelstrom S1Ep1 Consumption Symbol Catches Fire

The file contains Daimon and Ana’s family history in excruciating detail. It’s a 6 inch thick binder full of newspaper clippings, reports, photos and other original documents that tell the sad story of the Helstrom family. Gabriella realizes that Daimon and Ana’s father was a serial killer who kidnapped Ana and kept her away from her mother and brother for a long period of time. By the time she was returned, Victoria’s mental health had deteriorated so badly that she’d been institutionalized and Daimon was in a foster home. Ana entered the foster care system as well, but she never settled into a permanent placement. The file includes Victoria’s journal, in which she says she was cursed for finding out the truth about her husband, who was much more than a serial killer.

While Gabriella reads his life’s story, Damien writes the circular demon symbol all over a page in an attempt to wring meaning out of it. When most of the page is full, it catches fire.

Between Ana’s investigation into the skull, Daimon’s exploration of the glyph and Gabriellas psychic energy surrounding their past, Mother wakes up. This is the kind of energy she’s been waiting for.

When Gabriella is finished, Hastings comes back to answer her questions. She answers questions about Ana, explaining that the siblings don’t get along. She tries to impress on Gabriella that the entire family didn’t experience a random tragedy. They went through pure evil and have to cope with that, each in their own way, every day.

I have a feeling that the confirmation that the Helstroms have been exposed to so much evil only makes matters worse in Gabriella’s mind. While Daimon’s history roused sympathy in Louise, for Gabriella it’s a reason to suspect he’s also evil.

Ana puts the skull in her storage room, then takes out a small wooden box full of trinkets. She sits on the floor and stares at it. She remembers the day her father kidnapped her.

Young Ana watched Daimon and Victoria from the back seat of the car as they ran behind. All three were screaming. In the present, Ana opens the box and reaches out, as if to touch one of the objects inside, but can’t bring herself to do it.

Gabriella asks Hastings why Daimon doesn’t exorcise his mother. Hastings says they don’t know why he’s unable to help Victoria. But the human body can only withstand so much and now Victoria is physically losing the battle. That’s part of why Daimon is on edge.

Hastings has a coughing fit and leaves the room to clean up the blood. Gabriella notices Louise’s security pass is still on her desk. She takes the pass to the locked ward, where the security guard has just conveniently taken a break, which allows Gabriella to finally have her solo chat with Victoria. Gabriella takes advantage of the situation, despite everything that’s happened since she arrived and everything she’s read.

I’m going to hope that Mother is sending out corrupting energy and Sister Gabriella would normally be more moral and intelligent than this, but she is on a Mission from God. She may feel justified in doing whatever she deems necessary to complete her mission. Mother probably also influenced the guard away, so that’s a point in Gabriella’s favor.

Regardless of the demonic situation, she’s breaking the rules of the hospital she works in, which are in place for a reason. It’s not safe for her to visit a violent patient alone and she’ll put others in danger when they have to rescue her. She doesn’t work directly on Victoria’s case, so she has no justification for demanding to see her against the wishes of the family. Since it’s not the Middle Ages, it doesn’t matter that she’s from the Vatican. She has to respect patient privacy, even in a Catholic hospital.

Gabriella enters the room and faces straight ahead, while Victoria/Mother stands behind her. Mother snaps her neck. End of annoying character. She doesn’t turn around until Mother speaks, gloating about the interesting turn of events.

Gabriella: “You don’t scare me, demon.”

Mother: “Then you are an idiot.” Truth.

She violently bounces Gabriella off a wall, then chokes her. Gabriella breaks free and asks what Mother’s mission is and who she answers to. Mother croaks that unlike Gabriella, she’s a strong independent woman who answers to no one, then she slaps Gabriella across the room.

Gabriella missed Daimon’s anti-Latin lesson earlier, so she begins reciting prayers. Mother has had enough of her disrespect. She demonsplains that Gabriella is no better than an earthworm in the grand scheme of things and should really learn her place. While she’s tossing the worm around the room some more, Mother continues to demonsplain that the war she thinks she’s fighting was over long ago. The verdict is No Mercy.

Sorry, I know I shouldn’t have enjoyed that. Elizabeth Marvel (Victoria) is just so good and Gabriella is just such a prig in this episode. I get the sense that this is her first encounter with a demon.

Once Hastings figures out where Gabriella is, she and Daimon come to the rescue. Hastings huddles in a corner with Gabriella so she doesn’t do anything stupid. Mother runs on the wall and slams the door shut, then tries to strangle her son. He has telekinesis too, so her hands stop in mid air before they reach his neck. After a moment, she puts her hands on his neck and he puts a hand on the side of her head to do some psychic magic. Mother tells him he’s only hurting Victoria, not her.

He tells her to let his mother go. She says, “You first.” They’re both thrown across the room in opposite directions, slamming into the walls. Once Daimon lands, he stops to look at her to see if Victoria has emerged. He flashes back to Victoria finding him scrubbing the bathroom floor with his toothbrush. (Remember her toothbrush comment earlier?)

Victoria emerges at last, but only to whimper, “Run!” Daimon is drawn toward her. Hastings forces him out of the room along with herself and Gabriella.

Back in the office, Daimon explains: “Call them demons, entities, energy from another world. It doesn’t matter. They don’t belong here.”

Hastings: “But the violence, the death they cause- they feed off it. Our pain and suffering gives them pleasure. Now you understand.”

Gabriella remains silent. That’s not a good sign. Seeing and understanding are two different things.

Hastings asks Daimon how he knew to come. He says he didn’t. He came to tell her that he figured out the meaning of the glyph on Mother’s wall. It’s an ideogram roughly translated as “consumption”.

Gabriella finds her voice, saying she’s never experienced anything like the hatred and pure evil in Mother’s eyes.

Daimon: “Seek and ye shall find. Knock and it shall be opened unto you.”

Gabriella: “Matthew, chapter 7.”

Daimon: “Just remember, you knocked.”

Not exactly words of comfort, but he’s had his privacy violated again and she just called his mother pure evil. Even when you know it’s true, you don’t want to hear other people say it, unless you invited a diagnosis. He didn’t ask for one from her. It was already clear, as he said at the start of the episode, that she was unqualified to handle this.

I wonder what the Vatican told Gabriella to expect. She wasn’t prepared for reality.

Daiman finds Ana waiting for him at his car. She’s hoping their mother is dead.

A trucker goes back to his rig after stopping for food and finds Spivey waiting for him. As Spivey lunges toward him, it’s revealed that half of the former nurse’s face is missing.

Helstrom S1Ep1 Gabriella on the Ceiling with an AngelHelstrom S1Ep1 Mother Tries to Choke DaimonHelstrom S1Ep1 Gabriella & Hastings Watch Helstrom Fightec5ziezwsaarjpr


Commentary

I suspect that Mother and Daimon both usually include a kernel of truth in their lies and sarcasm. Daimon isn’t the demonic, habitual liar that Mother is, but he tosses off an occasional falsehood as a diversionary tactic. Both he and Ana are watered down versions of the typical demon trope, like sober alcoholics who consciously struggle each day to be better people.

They both seem to be good people at heart who have demonic instincts. As children, they learned to act on those instincts through parental example and are forever working to unlearn their childhood lessons. For me, it’s working as an allegory for dysfunctional childhood experiences, inherited trauma and the internal demons we all struggle with.

I don’t understand why the critics disliked this show. Maybe they were expecting something more similar to the comic book and were disappointed. Since I’ve never read the books, I can take it at face value and be happy with what it is.

I wonder if Marvel is considering bringing back some of the Netflix MCU Defenders when they’re contractually allowed to do so. This show seems to be set up to tie into that series. They could rotate characters the way The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow does. And they could also make separate series, either limited run or long running. (Yes, I know that Ghost Rider was meant to be a Helstrom sister series, but was canceled. Moving on.)

Neon from the Royal Dragon restaurant in The Defenders and the tattoo parlor in Helstrom. Could the tattoo parlor be connected to The Hand? Please, give me Madame Gao in season 2.

 

Can we sign up to take ancient demonic at the community college?

There are moments of familial tenderness between Taker and Ana and Daimon and Louise. Taker brings mud boots for Ana, because he knows she won’t dress appropriately. Ana notices that he has reading glasses now, and tells him he needs hipper frames. She sells his artifacts at her auction house, even though it’s not up to her usual standards.

Daimon is standing next to Louise in the class photo on her desk. She’s firm with him, but also protective. She and Daimon seem to have a deep, loving bond. After his argument with Gabriella, he acquiesced to her scolding immediately and then made the apology phone call. Gabriella was much more stubborn. Daimon and Louise speak to each other honestly, with trust and patience.

He was surrounded by love after he left his mother’s house, while the documents in the binder show that Ana spent the rest of her childhood in foster care. That helps explain the rift between them. Taker checked in on her occasionally, but he wasn’t the steady, guiding presence that Louise was for Daimon. Both children went through extreme trauma at the hands of their parents, but Daimon had Louise to help him heal. Ana didn’t have a stable parental figure who helped her feel like the world could be a safe place and that she could learn to control her powers to become a safe person. She had to create that for herself.

Other than the journal, the Vatican could have used a private detective to find the rest of the information in the binder. It was all newspaper clippings and medical/police/foster care records. If they’re so concerned about this ongoing case, why haven’t they sent in another observer before this? Victoria is in a Catholic hospital. They shouldn’t have difficulty gaining access to her. It makes me wonder if Gabriella is exceeding her orders for personal reasons. Either way, after her speech about Daimon and exorcisms, it seems clear that she’s there to judge the Helstroms, not help them.

Hastings should have specifically requested an experienced exorcist, not a green scholar. Gabriella seems more comfortable with fake possessions who will live happily ever after with therapy, not hardcore cases who won’t recover, supernatural or otherwise.

How do Daimon and Ana know the things they know, such as when a symbol is demonic or when to put blood on a skull? Some things are just instinctive when you’re a half demon-half human hybrid, but also, this isn’t their first rodeo, Gabriella. They grew up in a demon household and have studied the occult for some time. They have more first hand experience with demons than probably most people who’ve lived to tell the tale. So why haven’t they earned the benefit of the doubt and even a little goodwill?


Consumption

Consumption is an interesting word with several meanings. The most common is obvious- to consume- use up, eat, decay, destroy. That alone is rather ominous in this context, since the symbol appeared in a variety of scenes in the pilot. After a while, all of the people holding umbrellas started to look like the same symbol to me- a circle with one large slash (the person) and some smaller slashes (the spines of the umbrella). I doubt that was accidental.

There were so many people with umbrellas waiting to be consumed, apparently by flames, but maybe by Noah’s flood. Noah is associated with the Archangel Gabriel. Will Gabriella consume or be consumed? Or both? Archangel Gabriel is a messenger, revealer and guardian/warrior.

Daimon and Archer stood in a ring of fire and also looked a lot like the consumption symbol. The main slash in the symbol on the skull functioned like a mouth or keyhole, consuming Ana’s blood.

Consumption is also related to conspicuous consumption, the act of ostentatiously consuming as much as possible in a flashy public way so as to gain attention for the act of consuming. A bit of disapproval for the consumption helps make it cool. Sounds like it was created by a demon.

Consumption is also the old term for chronic lung disease that causes one to waste away- specifically, tuberculosis. The sufferer is slowly consumed by the disease.

Did Mother use the symbol on her wall to make Louise sick? The symbol was in the tomb, on Spivey’s phone and it’s on the skull, which is now in Ana’s storage room. If this symbol can cause a paper to burst into flames and give a woman a lung disease, what else is it capable of?


Layers of Reality and Morality- Waking Nightmares

Fun fact: There was a psychiatric hospital situated directly between my college and the apartment I lived in off campus for years. It was housed in a big old stone Gothic mansion that looked like a castle. For years I walked to school each day and cut through the grounds of the hospital, including walking alone through a tunnel that went underneath the building itself. Nothing ever happened, other than some supply deliveries. I never even heard any strange sounds.

But there is one unusual story I can tell you about the place: When Ronald Reagan cut off federal aid for the mentally ill, suddenly the area around the hospital and college campus had a large homeless population where there had never been one before. The hospital was forced to release long term patients who had nowhere to go and couldn’t take care of themselves. 

As with Trump, Reagan’s tax cuts went into the pockets of the wealthy and took homes and care away from those who needed them. Reagan and Trump were and are the monsters in this story. The patients from the hospital are the frightened victims who lost their homes and medical treatment. As individuals, they had no one to fight for them, though groups unsuccessfully fought to restore federal funding. That’s what a real life nightmare looks like. Elderly, mentally ill former hospital patients living on a sidewalk in Buffalo, NY, who keep everything they own in a shopping cart. My mother was always terrified she’d lose everything and end up that way, even though she has 4 children. 

Keep that in mind as you watch this show. Sometimes, the villains aren’t quite who or what we think they they are. The truth can have several layers of complications.

Helstrom S1Ep1 St Teresa's Hospital


 Gabriella Rosetti

Gabriella is based on the Devil-Hunter Gabriel Rosetti from the comics, an off and on priest who occasionally worked with Daimon Helstrom. Gabriel has a tragic history, having lost two wives. He’s prone to self doubt, depression, alcoholism and falling prey to dubious influences. Yikes.


St Teresa of Avila

St Teresa of Avila was a 16th century mystic nun who lived in the 1500s. She broke from her original order to form a more spiritually-oriented offshoot. She was a prolific writer and philosopher who is still read to this day. St Teresa was prone to visions and religious ecstasy. Some modern scholars believe she may have had a form of epilepsy. She was famous for one vision in particular which involved a benevolent angel piercing her heart with a spear that caused her to be filled with both God’s love and pain. This vision inspired her religious work for the rest of her life and has inspired others in the centuries since, including a famous marble sculpture known as the Ecstasy of St Teresa. The angelic statue in the hospital may be a reference to St Teresa’s angelic visitor.


Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development

I often use Kohlberg’s stages as a framework for my thinking about morality, but I don’t follow all of his rules. He said individuals pass through each stage and then don’t regress, but morality is more flexible than that. Individuals can be in multiple stages at the same time, depending on the situation, and can slide back and forth on the scale, the way one can move back and forth through the stages of grief.

Kohlberg was racist and sexist. Both his experiments and interpretations reflect that. We don’t have to continue his mistakes in our modern interpretations of his work.

The Stages (Adapted from this page.)

Stage 1: Focus is on self-interest, and punishment is avoided. There is no morality other than, “Don’t get caught.”

Stage 2: Motivated by external reward and punishment/ carrot and stick.

Stage 3: Focus is on how situational outcomes impact others. Desire to please and be accepted.

Stage 4: People make decisions based on laws or formalized rules. One should obey the law because stealing is a crime.

Stage 3 tends to apply to informal social groups, while Stage 4 applies to being a good citizen according to the laws of formal groups. In both, individuals conform to external rules voluntarily in order to maintain the status quo of the social group and the individual’s position within it. The rules and loyalty to the group are more important than the individual’s own opinions. They are the same stage, separated to make the types of affiliations society limited to men at the time seem more evolved than women’s.

Most adults are in Stages 3/4, with their prime morality manifesting as loyalty to the rules of a particular social order, whether that’s the rules taught to them by their family, their church or the laws of their government.

Stage 5: Individuals employ abstract reasoning to justify behaviors. Laws/rules can be unjust, so extenuating circumstances should be considered.

Stage 6: Moral behavior is based on self-chosen ethical principles that may or may not conform to extant laws or religion.

Images courtesy of Hulu and Netflix.

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