It’s our relationships with our friends, families and co-workers that help define who we are. Friends become such a necessity in life that many of us can never imagine a time when we had none, some of us will never forget.
So when you’re 158 years old and you know you’ll outlive all of your friends, what are you to do? One answer would be to spend eternity in seclusion. The other answer is to surround yourself with the people that matter most to you, your family and friends.
Sanctuary fans learned in the first season that Helen decided to give birth to Ashley when she could bare the loneliness no longer. Of course now Ashley is gone, so where does that leave Helen? She is surrounded by her friends, her other family, and still there seems to be this sense of loneliness in her.
At the beginning of this week’s episode titled ”Next Tuesday,” we learn that Henry and Big Foot are off surfing leaving Helen, Will and Kate at the Sanctuary. Will is pestering Helen to give him time off to attend a conference in Iceland. The real reason, we later learn, is to visit his internet romance. Will spends nearly the entire episode, from the time they’re in the helicopter to when they’re stranded in the oil rig, whining about not being able to attend. After losing Clara we can understand his need for companionship, but he’s so focused on his own woes he completely misses the deeper implications of his arguing with Helen.
“Next Tuesday” is another Helen and Will centered episode where viewers get to examine their complex relationship. However, unlike the Season One smash hit “Requiem,” where we also saw Will and Helen thrown into tight quarters under stress, “Next Tuesday” has a completely different tone to it.
Viewers are shown Helen and Will in another physically uncomfortable situation, this time trapped in an oil rig instead of a submarine. Director Martin Wood, who also directed “Requiem,” seems to find great delight in putting these two characters in emotionally stressful situations. However, it’s Martin Wood’s delight that has given viewers two unique chances to examine the deeper threads of Helen and Will’s relationship.
In “Requiem” we saw Helen and Will trapped inside a submarine facing an unknown pathogen. The quarters were tight. There was no one else for them to talk to, and they faced a situation that ultimately ended with Will having to kill a raging Helen. A bit stressful, no? But it was this episode that first gave viewers that look inside their relationship. We learned through their interactions that there are deeper bonds of friendship there between them. We saw the heartbreak in Will’s eyes when he killed Helen, heard the terror and remorse in his voice when he was trying to bring her back, and felt the strength of his joy when she took her first breath.
The same cycle of loss was briefly felt in “Next Tuesday” when Helen is trapped in the air vent and Will races to free her. We saw the same look in Helen’s eyes when Will was being pulled under by the squid. It’s obvious that these two characters care greatly for one another.
However, unlike in “Requiem,” “Next Tuesday” seemed to be offering us less of a glimpse into Helen and Will’s relationship, at least on the surface. If viewers paid very close attention to the physical reactions of the actors, a whole other story is told. On the surface it seems that Helen’s refusal to let Will attend the Icelandic conference is cold hearted and precipitated by her jealousy over his internet relationship. It’s Amanda Tapping’s facial expressions, the sadness in her eyes that tells another story. Helen was clearly not telling Will something and in an effort not to admit her own emotional weakness, she uses his relationship with the other psychologist as an excuse. Her comments are biting and cold, perhaps brought on by Will’s irritating persistence on the matter, but nonetheless, served to hide her emotional fragility.
This is very characteristic of Helen. She’s a strong woman and given her position, is always expected to be strong. Her career defines her, literally. It seems that one of Helen’s greatest fears is to show weakness or vulnerability. When she brought Will onto the team, it was admittance, however subconsciously, that she needed help. However, Helen continued to rely on Ashley emotionally, counting on Ashley to always be there.
Helen’s emotional reliance on Ashley is perhaps the reason we’re given a stronger Helen in “Requiem.” Helen is, of course, scared, and she and Will get on each other’s nerves, but there isn’t that sense of vulnerability in Helen that is clearly visible in “Next Tuesday.” In “Requiem,” Helen is strong, confident, she knows what she has to do; but in “Next Tuesday” Helen isn’t as put together. There’s clearly something else going on with her that the viewer isn’t aware of.
Will’s position has also significantly shifted between “Requiem” and “Next Tuesday.” In “Requiem” Will was more naive; he was still learning. Now Will is more settled both in his job and in his relationship with Helen. There’s still that definite boundary between them since Helen is his boss, but he’s more open with her and more willing to push her buttons. His constant whining about the conference definitely pushed on Helen’s nerves and we saw it in her reactions to him. We see Will starting to treat Helen more as an equal instead of putting her on that pedestal we saw in Season One. He still asks questions and values her guidance, but just as she is opening up to him more, he’s doing the same with her.
Still, even with tensions running high viewers can see the partnership Helen and Will have developed. This partnership was solidified in “Requiem” when they worked together to figure a way out of that situation, even if it was devastating for Will and painful for Helen. Now that they have had more experience working together, they seem to anticipate each other more and the partnership has become almost second nature.
It is apparent however, that Will is more comfortable with their friendship than Helen. This is not to say that Helen values his friendship any less. Helen is simply still more reserved when it comes to showing Will her vulnerable side. Now the argument could be made that viewers saw plenty of vulnerability in Helen during “Veritas,” but here’s the difference. In “Veritas” Helen’s manic state was due to the bug at the base of her skull. She wasn’t herself. Even if she were, she had planned the entire situation. Her vulnerability was a rouse. Her vulnerability in “Next Tuesday” was very real and much more personal.
We learn at the end of “Next Tuesday” that Tuesday would have been Ashley’s birthday. The reason behind Helen’s order for Will not to attend the conference was because she didn’t want to be alone. While the other members of the Sanctuary may be close friends with Helen, it seems to be Will that really understands her, can sympathize with her and give her strength. Even if the other members were present, Helen likely would have wanted Will to stay. The fact that the others were all away made the occasion more poignant for Helen.
So why would Helen cover up her real reason for wanting Will to stay? The answer is simple, vulnerability. To someone like Helen, asking Will to give up something as important as the conference so he could stay with her on Ashley’s birthday seems trivial on the surface. Emotionally, being alone on her daughter’s birthday would have been devastating. Helen’s excuse was that she didn’t know how to ask him. It’s an honest reason given the situation. To Helen, asking Will to give up the conference because of that would have sounded silly. At the same time, she knew she couldn’t bear to be alone so she ordered him to stay.
Like in the end of “Requiem,” we see Helen and Will reach a deeper level of understanding between them. Helen’s admission of the real reason she wanted Will to stay solidifies their relationship on a new emotional level. Her final admittance shows her trust in Will and her ability to perhaps open up to him a little bit more. While to Will it caused a realization that Helen is indeed human, capable of being vulnerable and that she will, if given time and the right conditions, open up to him.
Martin Wood may like to throw Helen and Will into these impossible miserable situations but it’s through these situations that he knows the characters will grow. Emotional growth between two characters is hard in the normal parameters of an episode. Pulling the characters out of their elements and putting them in a situation where they have to rely on each other is an excellent way to allow the viewers more insight into the characters and their relationships.
Like “Requiem,” “Next Tuesday” gave the relationship between Helen and Will a chance to grow. Whether that relationship eventually grows from friendship into something else we don’t know. But it’s clear that the bond between Helen and Will is very strong and despite whatever they may go through, individually or together, they know they can always rely on each other to get through anything.