Indiana Jones 5: Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Helena is Indy’s Best Partner Since Marion


This article contains all the spoilers for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

“I’m your goddamn partner!” When Marion Ravenwood shouted that declaration over the sounds of a burning bar and a Nepalese winter, she immediately cemented herself as the best companion for Indiana Jones. Sure, he’s been paired with other sidekicks, but none of them have lived up to the standard set by Marion. That is until Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

Played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Helena Shaw might seem like a second attempt at the Mutt Williams model from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Like Mutt, she sees Indy as a father figure (godfather, actually, as she’s the daughter of Indy’s friend and colleague Basil Shaw, played by Toby Jones). But with the aged Dr. Jones at a particularly low point, Helena has higher status in the movie, which works to bring out the best in a hero who’s more than long in the tooth.

That’s a particularly welcome distinction from the worst of Indy’s sidekicks, namely Willie Scott of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Mutt Williams. Both of these characters actively distract from the larger adventure, constantly haranguing Indy for his part in the movie we viewers are trying to enjoy. Not only does Willie sneer at the food served to her by the people of Mayapore, but she constantly complains and makes herself the problem in most scenes, forcing the adventure to be about her misery. By contrast, Mutt doesn’t actively hate the adventure he undertakes with his previously absent father, but he does try to show up his old man and fails spectacularly every time. His attempts at hip swagger or swashbuckling adventure make us resent every shot he takes away from Indiana too.

Helena avoids the shortcomings of both of these characters. She enters the story with her own goals and does not need Indy to motivate her. In fact, the Dial of Destiny plot puts Indiana in the Willie role, as he initially doesn’t want to get involved and needs Helena’s urging. But as the focus shifts and Indy becomes the plot driver again, Helena doesn’t get angry or try to upstage him. Instead she actively pulls her weight, even if Indy has to help her escape from a spurned lover.

But while it may not be terribly impressive to outdo famously reviled characters like Mutt and Willie, Helena even exceeds some Indy’s best partners, including Ke Huy Quan’s beloved Short Round and Henry Jones Sr., who was played by no less than Sean Connery. Both of these characters take more active roles in their adventures. As Indy’s driver, Short Round helps Dr. Jones escape from assassins at the start of Temple of Doom and later connects to the children kidnapped by the evil Mola Ram. Meanwhile Indy’s dad does at times seem like an out-of-touch bumbler in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but he just as often proves his worth, discovering the truth about Elsa, solving the puzzles to get to the grail, and using an umbrella to shake off an attacking plane.

As impressive as these fetes certainly are, they pale in light of Helena’s accomplishments. Take the scene in which Volker and Klaber ambush the heroes on Renaldo’s boat. Even though Voller killed Renaldo and his crew, Helena seems to throw in with the baddies, translating text to direct them toward the second half of Archimedes’ titular dial. However, this is all a ruse, as she helps Indy escape, leaving Voller and Klaber on a disabled boat, and giving them misleading directions.

Her escape plan might seem to be something on par with Henry Sr. and Short Round, but the difference is in her relationship with Indy. Helena doesn’t treat Indy as a passive figure in their escape but instead relies upon his skills and knowledge. Her escape attempt requires Indy’s active participation, equipping him to light dynamite to distract Voller and Klaber. Her translation draws from knowledge that she knows Indy has, the knowledge that helps them get the jump on the bad guys while racing for the dial.

This relationship puts Helena on the same level as Marion. She brings out the best in Indy, helping him return to form instead of distracting him or drawing attention away from him. That’s particularly true of the movie’s climactic moment when Volker uses the dial to fly a plane, along with Helena and Indy, back in time. Volker’s miscalculation brings him to the fifth century BC Battle of Syracuse instead of 1944 Germany, which infuriates him but delights Jones. After getting badly wounded and then meeting Archimedes, Indiana is at peace and wants to live and die there, finally becoming part of the history he has studied for so long.

But Helena won’t let him. She punches him in the face, drags him back to the future, and even contacts Marion to come help him.

In short, Helena knows what’s best about Indiana Jones, and she pushes him to be that person, pushing against even the notion that Indiana Jones movies must end with the hero’s death. At a point where he feels irrelevant and forgotten, she arrives to remind him that he isn’t some doddering old man or a retired professor (or legacy character who needs to pass the baton). He is Indiana Jones, one of history’s greatest heroes. And like Marion before her, Helena is his goddamn partner.

The post Indiana Jones 5: Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Helena is Indy’s Best Partner Since Marion appeared first on Den of Geek.

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