The Whispers: Traveller in the Dark (Preview)

Lily Rabe as Claire Bennigan in Traveller in the Dark
This week’s episode of The Whispers Homesick sets up the events for the penultimate episode of season one perfectly. Traveller in the Dark pushes the series at breakneck speed (while using slo-mo to the most suspenseful extent possible) towards its conclusion. After a season that has continually delivered in terms of drama and mystery The Whispers gives us an episode that could well induce a stress attack.

In the show thus far, there have been two deaths of characters who were regulars, although Benavidez was not in the forefront too often, she was becoming a fuller character. “You know where I come from when people are rounded up by the government…” Wes interrupts Maria, “This isn’t like that.” The doctor came a long way from being kidnapped hostage of Sean Bennigan to naming her captor as the one person she trusted (Reporter Getz reveals this to Sean in Homesick, that he was to look Bennigan up if anything happened to Benavidez.). Sadly, like Lena, Maria was doomed to become a Drill casualty.

Last week’s episode started with Lena Lawrence’s wake and her death affected Wes deeply. (Who can forget that scream of anguish?) Now that Minx has been identified as the child that Drill has possessed, Lawrence is desperate to stop Frommer from executing the last remaining member of his family.

At the start of the episode Wes has a flashback to a younger, and less eerily adult like version of, Minx. She is frightened and she screams for her father. Wes comes rushing into her bedroom and calms his daughter. He recites the 1806 Jane Taylor poem Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to the child and it becomes a mantra for Minx when she is afraid. The original poem’s lines contain this episode’s title.

Then the traveller in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny sparks;
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star – Jane Taylor (1783-1824)

Of course the irony being that Drill is that traveller drawn to Earth’s tiny spark, rather obvious yes, but still a lovely touch. One could say it is almost “poetic.”

Sean decides to do things his way, Wes pleads with Claire to talk with Minx and see if she really is Drill. Frommer shows a side to his character that has been, till now, hidden and everything comes to a head in the penultimate episode of The Whispers.

Once again Barry Sloane and Lily Rabe take great huge chunks of scenes between their teeth and chew up the screen. The acting chops in this show are impressive from all the main players, as usual. The children also keep the pressure up on their adult counterparts.

Without giving anything away suffice to say that Kylie Rogers as Minx will alternatively unnerve and upset you.

Claire does not just talk to Wes Lawrence’s daughter, she also questions Henry about Minx being Drill and she takes Silas (Teo Briones) through his statement “step-by-step” on who he saw in the office killing Dr. Benavidez.

The clock ticks as the seemingly inevitable conclusion of the episode rushes to fruition. Along the way the viewer will feel tension, suspense, fear, and sadness. This is white knuckle television. Emotions will be torn and twisted. Most of all, the viewer will be on the edge of their seat watching to see who is going to win. Drill or the adults of this world.

At one point Wes punches the wall repeatedly while he cries in frustration and we are right there with him. Again, without giving anything away, “David Andrews – well played sir, well played.” Kudos to Martin Kummins as the president and the actress playing his daughter Kayden Magnuson will give you goosebumps and a little shiver in one scene.

This show, about alien controlled children, has been excellent in terms of casting. All the more so with the kids. The little performers, small only in terms of size, have managed to tug heartstrings and then completely freak out the viewer.

Congratulations to show creator Soo Hugh who knows just how disconcerting, disturbing and downright scary it is to see children acting wise beyond their years. Scarily adult expressions stare out of their eyes and they mouth grown up platitudes and truths that truly feel wrong. Hugh knows that kids that do not act like kids are damned scary, even if they are being controlled by an alien entity.

*Sidenote* Thanks to Soo Hugh and this brilliant show, I cried like a baby at least twice while watching this episode whilst in-between experiencing some heart stopping moments of pure suspense. Well done.

Add to that formula the kick of these same children suddenly becoming a child again and you have the main reason that this show works. It is not just a science fiction thriller with a heavy dollop of mystery and a touch of action, it is a study of how we see and react to kids.

Simply put, this show is brilliant.

Traveller in the Dark is going to be an emotional rollercoaster ride. (Shades of the season finale.) Be prepared to grit teeth, bite fingernails and forget to breathe while watching the build up to the end of the series. To paraphrase the tagline from the 2007 film There Will Be Blood: “Oh yes, there will be tears.”

Many.

The Whispers airs Tuesdays on ABC, watch this series and be moved.

The Whispers: Homesick (recap and review)

Henry looking very suspicious
After the death of Lena last week in The Whispers it is no surprise that Homesick opens with her funeral/wake. Claire, Sean and Henry arrive late and Wes tells his former lover point blank that it is not appropriate of her to be there. The Bennigan’s leave, but not before Henry drops off a homemade card for Minx.

Wes is grieving and angry, later he breaks the mirror in the bathroom and Minx comes in. She tells him that she feels bad and that the medicine that grandma (Dee Wallace who gets mentioned but does not appear in the episode) gave her did not work. Minx passes out in Wes’ arms and he takes her to the hospital.

Once there he learns that Minx is not alone in feeling ill, the waiting room is full of sick kids who all have fevers and headaches. The Whispers suddenly looks alarmingly like Village of the Damned just without the blonde hair. Like the 1960 film, these children all share something, not a hive mentality, but they are all friends of Drill.

Dr. Maria Benavidez pulls Wes aside and takes Lawrence and his daughter away from the waiting room. As Minx is is being pulled into the MRI machine, Maria tells Wes that the kids began “streaming in last night.” All are exhibiting the same symptoms and Lawrence tells her that they all know Drill. She reveals that the children share something else, Drill has “marked” them somehow, put a “signature” in their brain.

Wes calls Claire and explains about the brain signature and has her bring Henry in to see Dr. Benavidez. Sean, Claire and Henry arrive and as they speak with the doctor the hospital lights begin to crackle and flicker, Drill is there. They ask Henry and he says that Drill is not talking to him.

Claire follows the flickering lights to an exam room where Harper sits alone. The two talk. Bennigan asks if Drill was there and Harper says yes. “He said not to worry,” Harper tells Claire, “We’ll all get better as soon as…” “As soon as what, Harper?” Claire asks. “As soon as he finds Orion.” Harper says.

Wes convinces the President to take all the children and place them in quarantine. He explains about the marking in each child’s brain and that the entity is using it as a “symbiotic” connection. The president agrees to the action and they round up all the kids who are suffering the “Drill” symptoms. Alarmingly, there are a lot more children who have Drill in common than the adults initially thought.

While Jessup searches for “Orion” or a variation on the name, parents are told that there is an encephalitis outbreak. Kids are brought in and scanned, if they have the Drill “mark” they are separated for isolation. Wes realizes that Henry Bennigan is not among the children being scanned and he orders that the boy be picked up.

Typically, the men sent by the DoD go over the top in taking Henry. Wes arrives to calm things down. After Henry is taken, Claire and Sean reach out to other parents whose children have been quarantined. Sean theorizes that since the kids are now being controlled Drill is attempting to force the adults to help him.

Dr. Benavidez voices her concerns about the isolation and Wes reassures her. The children are suspicious of Minx since it is her father who is running the quarantine. Later, the doctor is talking on the phone while she examines brain scans of the kids. She notices something and after muttering that “this is not possible” someone comes in the room. Benavidez yells for whoever it is to stay away. There is an electric crackle and Dr. Maria Benavidez joins Lena as the next Drill victim.

When Maria’s body is examined, they find a “burn mark from a child’s hand.” Wes tells Frommer this who is not too happy at this latest development. The mark means that Drill has possessed one of the kids and that he is one the children in the quarantine. The kid’s symptoms have gone and the doctor’s computer has been “fried.” Frommer changes his tune when he realizes that Drill is in the camp. as he realizes that they now have the alien “in custody.”

Wes asks Minx to tell him if any of the kids are acting strange. She asks him to get someone else to help as the other children believe she is a spy for the adults, something that will become an important plot point later on. Wes brings in Claire to talk to the kids and to flush Drill out.

Claire explains to Frommer that she will be “talking” to the children in such a way that any “tells” (a way to see who is lying and who is not) will become apparent . While she questions the children, there is a long montage where we see several kids reacting to the conversation in different ways.

Harper becomes hostile, Henry doubtful, Minx (as usual) scarily adult, and Silas is terrified. The sessions are set up into a question and answer system. Claire will start, “I fear…” and the child will finish the sentence. One comical bit has Claire saying, “I dream…” and Harper finishes, “That you will stop asking these questions.”

While Claire looks for Drill, Sean grabs the older man who has been following the Bennigan family. He turns out to be a reporter named Daniel Getz and Maria has been talking to him. Later the man reveals to Sean that Benavidez told him to contact Bennigan if anything happened to her.

During Silas’ conversation with Claire, the boy is clearly terrified. He knows which child Drill has possessed. Claire talks him into looking at photographs and merely pointing (Drill told Silas that he would hurt his mother if the boy revealed who he was.) As Claire puts pictures on the desk between them Silas shakes his head until four pictures, two of which are of Henry and Minx, are put down.

Silas becomes agitated and before he can react the facility alarms go off. The children are all herded out of the building and into a fenced enclosure. Silas is approached by several kids, Minx and Henry included. A little girl comes up and pushes Minx she either pushes her back or grabs her and pushes her. When the girl is checked out, she has child’s handprint burned into his arm.

When asked who injured the girl all the children point to Minx. There is one problem with this little scenario however. Minx may have pushed and grabbed the child but it appears that Henry had contact with the girl as well.

This was a brilliant episode and it moves toward the season end quite satisfactorily. The focus of Drill being one of the kids, (On a sidenote, this feels so much like an evil E.T. It even has Eliot’s mother in the show!) is a great move and feels eerily reminiscent of those “children as bad seed” films of the 1950s and 60s. The misdirection at the end of the episode was brilliant.

The show’s storyline and its emphasis on Minx practically screams that this is the kid that Drill has picked to be his “vessel.” However…the Lawrence kid has been creepily adult from day one, she needed no help from the alien to be less child-like. As the “interrogation” by Claire continued, the evidence seemed to variously point to Harper, Minx, Silas and Claire’s own son, Henry.

Smart money should be on Henry as Drill. He exhibited two “tells” during the Q&A session. Watch the scene where he talks about Minx’s mother…They are there and it is clear that Drill is trying to make Henry answer correctly and its not working. Suspicions of Henry aside, one has to resist the urge to scream at the screen, “Look at their index fingers!”

When Silas was looking at the pictures of his fellow “inmates” the camera followed a child’s index finger being inserted into an electrical plug-in as sparks flew and smoke drifted lazily from the socket. Drill may use electricity with impunity, but the little body he is inhabiting will not be impervious to coming in contact with the stuff.

Homesick, which is obviously referring to the quarantined kids, also refers to Drill after a fashion. While he could be described as homesick per se, Drill is desperate to “phone home” so his fellow aliens can head to earth and take over. After all, his planet’s “future” is “bad” so they need another place to call home.

Kudos to David Andrews as Secretary of Defense Frommer. Despite having very little screen time this week, he still manages to convey that sense of major douche-age and that he will gladly flip the switch on a little person with no regret. Andrews brings big chops to the table and should be given a gong from someone come award time.

It was, however, the little people themselves who rocked it this week. Abby Ryder as Harper (this young actor has never disappointed in terms of performance), Kylie Rogers as Minx (Lawrence may just be the new Dakota Fanning), Kyle Harrison Breitkopf as Henry; he was downright menacing, once or twice, and “new kid on the block” Teo Briones was amazingly good at being terrified and concerned for his onscreen mother.

Kristen Connolly was missed but unfortunately she had to go…Her character dared to defy Drill and this is the other reason that Minx cannot be the possessed child. That girl’s face at the end of last week’s episode was full of hate and anger, Minx is not Drill’s friend any longer.

The Whispers airs Mondays on ABC. Do not miss the last two episodes of this brilliant season.