Explainers

Chambers, Explained

April 26, 2019
16 min read

Netflix’s foray into the horror genre has yielded some great results in the past couple of years. Be it the teen-drama, ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’, or last year’s brilliant adaptation of ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, the streaming service seems to have caught the nerve of exactly what pleases the audience that wants to be scared. ‘Chambers’ is its latest offering, and if you are ready to allow yourselves a sleepless weekend, then look no further. Created by Leah Rachel, it is a mix of horror, murder mystery, a bit of emotion, a lot of teen drama and a cliff-hanger that will leave you unnerved. It gets creepier with every episode and, along with the usual horror tropes, uses psychological play to get under your skin. If there is one character you don’t want to trade places with, it is Sasha Yazzie of ‘Chambers’. If you haven’t yet seen it, you probably don’t know what makes Sasha’s story so horrifying. Before going further into the article, I suggest you watch the show first.

Summary of the Plot

Sasha (Sivan Alyra Rose) is a 17-year-old girl living in Cottonwood with her uncle, Frank (Marcus LaVoi). As she walks out of the house, she tells him that she is going to study. But, with a teenager, we know that’s not true! She drives off with her boyfriend, TJ (Griffin Powell-Arcand), with whom she plans to lose her virginity tonight. Sasha interprets the butterflies in the stomach and the elevated heartbeat as just nerves, but things get out of hand when she has a heart attack. Jump a few months ahead and we find her alive and well.

The scar on her chest is the indication that Sasha has received a heart transplant. She has begun to recover, physically and emotionally. Her best friend, Yvonne (Kyanna Simone Simpson) and TJ are as supportive and considerate as her uncle, and everything is back on track. Until Ben Lefevre (Tony Goldwyn) shows up at Frank’s store one day and asks him and Sasha to have dinner with his family. Turns out, his daughter, Becky (Lilliya Reid), is the one whose heart beats in Sasha’s chest now. Though unwilling, she agrees to meet them. Nancy (Uma Thurman), Ben’s wife, still seems to be struggling with her loss, and their son, Elliot (Nicholas Galitzine) presents the image of a troubled teenager. Doesn’t take Sasha (and us) much time to understand that there’s something fishy here. After an awkward dinner, they offer her a scholarship in Becky’s name which allows her to transfer from her humble surroundings to the posh environment of Crystal Valley High.

In her new school, Sasha begins to get a picture of what Becky’s life was like, and her interactions with different people create a confusing image of her heart-donor. While she continues to prod the mystery of who Becky Lefevre was and how she died, Sasha begins to notice some disturbing changes in herself.

What Happened to Becky?

What works better than horror for ‘Chambers’ is its mystery. What happened to Becky? We are as clueless and intrigued as Sasha is, but piece by piece, everything begins to fit together, especially when we get to witness the events from other characters’ point of views. The timeline also begins to oscillate between past and present and every flashback brings us one step closer to deciphering Sasha’s elevating problems and Becky’s haunted past.

At the Equinox party, Marnie (Sarah Mezzanotte) says to Nancy that Becky had been a mediocre girl before “they” changed her. Penelope’s (Lilli Kay) accounts of her suggest the same. Becky’s life was just a richer version of Sasha’s. She had a loving family, a best friend she had fun with, and an overall pretty normal life. But the last couple of months paint a different picture. She became violent and disturbed and wasn’t effectively communicating with her parents, as Nancy later discovers. So, what changed her?

Becky’s life was upturned by the Annex Foundation. Penelope tells Sasha that she and Becky had grown up together and were like “weird sisters”. But then one day, Becky changed. She slowly distanced herself from Penelope and began to hang out more with Marnie. What happened here could have gone one of the two ways. Because her own father was involved in this, it is hard to give a chronological order to things with so little information.

The first interpretation is this: One night, Becky was taken, most probably by her father, to the ritual grounds of the cult. They summoned a demonic entity, the nature of which is still a mystery, that made its home inside Becky. After that, the violence in her personality began to escalate. Severing rat tails, burning Penelope in the steam room, stabbing Elliot and putting the blame on him- all these things were the result of the evil inside of her. But she was conscious enough to understand what she was doing. Her sessions with Ruth and Coach Jones were an indication of this. She didn’t talk about it to her parents, maybe because she didn’t want them to think that she was turning into something bad, or perhaps because her “therapists” advised her not to.

The other way things could have happened is that she was first recruited in the cult, by Marnie or Coach Jones. This is the reason why she started distancing herself from Penelope. We know that she wasn’t aware of her father’s role in the cult, so couldn’t talk about it to her parents. When the Annex had enough hold on her, they tricked her into coming to that secluded place in the desert and performed the ritual. After that, it was all downhill for poor Becky.

As time passed, she realised that there was no way she could control her destructiveness and she decided to kill herself. That night, she used the drug given to her by Marnie in the hopes of accessing the deep recesses of her mind. She didn’t fully understand what was wrong with her. Perhaps, the drug did get her to see the devil inside of her, and by killing herself she wanted to kill it too.

What is the Annex Foundation?

The moment the name of the Annex Foundation is mentioned, you know that there is something shady here. They seem to be a heavy influence on the Lefevres, and every time they are around, something goes wrong. By now, the audience is smart enough not to trust any organization that wants to recruit you and your family to be a part of their cult-like environment. In the course of a few episodes, especially in the latter half of the series, we can see that the Lefevre couple is beginning to question their involvement. But, because they don’t yet have any substantial proof, they have mixed feelings about it all. So, what is this organization anyway? And how does it have so much hold on this family?

At first, the Annex Foundation feels like just another group of people who focus on things like channelling your inner energy, cleansing your mind and soul, and all that philosophical things. Ben, in particular, seems more involved with them. Nancy’s faith has clearly been shaken by the death of her daughter. But her husband seems more in control of himself. It is easier for him to let go of his daughter’s things, while his wife struggles a great deal, eventually hiding her daughter’s baby blanket. It just seems like an institute, somewhat like a church, that they have joined. But slowly, Annex’s control of their lives becomes more visible. And as we begin to peel the layers, the Foundation is revealed to be even murkier.

It is definitely a cult. Who started it? We don’t know yet. What do they want? “We were going to heal the world”, says Ben, when his secret is finally revealed. Annex is a group of fanatics who have a lot of power and money at their disposal. Whether they actually believe that they can change the world for good is questionable. We don’t know what their real motive was behind bringing the demon (or whatever that thing was) into the world. Maybe they’re just a group of devil-worshippers, or maybe they’re just completely nuts, too consumed by their quest to save the world to notice the damage they are inflicting on people.

The reason Annex had so much influence on the Lefevre family is because Ben was one of them. Nancy came in contact with them just because of him and for all we know, she feels indebted to them because of her children. From her conversations with Ruth, we get to know that Ben and Nancy had trouble conceiving. Annex helped them with that; exactly how, we don’t know yet, but the twins were a result of that.

Becky and Elliot shared a connection, where one gets hurt and the other one feels it. It is not as prevalent among twins to have this connection as we imagine it to be. But what the Lefevre twins had was very strong. The night she died and the day she finally took over Sasha’s body- Elliot literally saw it happen on his TV set. Was this connection because of Annex’s involvement with their birth? Did Ben know about this connection? Did Annex? Was this the reason they chose Becky to be the vessel for whatever evil they were bringing on Earth? Why didn’t they choose Marnie for the ritual? She’s clearly more involved with the cult and seems to know what she is doing. Was Becky specifically targeted because she was tailor-made for this?

What Exactly Happened on That Night?

After finishing the series, the one question that lingered in my mind was: Was the heart transplant pre-planned? One thing I know for sure is that Becky wasn’t just a random pick. She was chosen for a reason. Perhaps, her death was anticipated as well. All this might have been the part of a bigger plan.

Let’s focus on the night Becky died. She electrocuted herself. As Yvonne informs Sasha, this type of death doesn’t allow organ donation. And yet, Becky’s heart survived this. The doctors insisted that there was a very small window for them to save her heart and so they asked the parents to sign the form ASAP. I get how quickly things need to be done in such cases, but something just didn’t feel right here. We are told that Becky’s other organs are not functioning anymore and soon, the heart will follow suit. But she isn’t exactly dead yet. Nancy wasn’t so enthusiastic about the heart donation thing, nor so urgent as the hospital staff seemed to be. Legally, they needed her permission, and once she said yes, they took over in such a hurry that they didn’t even allow her to say goodbye to her daughter.

Considering what Nancy was going through, the staff could have handled it with a bit more sensitivity. But the way they just got her out of the way and hurried away, the whole scene seemed wrong to me. And then, Nancy saw Becky open her eyes! That was the final straw. Was Becky not dead, after all? Were they in such a hurry because they didn’t want Nancy to find out about that? Is this what Ben meant when he asked about “the right thing to do”? Did he know his daughter was alive and still he went forward with the plan?

A lot of things happened the same night. Sasha had a heart attack and if it wasn’t for Becky, she would have died too. What worked wonderfully for the series was that they didn’t give us that whole night in one go. They let us have pieces, through the perspectives of various characters, and we got to work things out from that. This also led to some revelations that brought even more questions. One of the weird things was that every woman who was pregnant, gave birth to her child, no matter how close or far they were from their expected date. How does that happen? What kickstarted this thing?

Next, Yvonne’s mother is ill, we know that. It seems like she has Alzheimer’s because she keeps forgetting things and her condition is only getting worse with time. But she is also very intuitive when it comes to supernatural things around her. She stands watch over her daughter and tries to keep Sasha away from her. In fact, the night of the heart attack, she cleared the path of the ambulance in which Sasha was being taken. Her illness might have closed the doors of memory and reality to her, but it also opened a window to see the things that others couldn’t.

And then there was Penelope. As the mystery started to clear, I thought that maybe she wasn’t so involved in all the bad things after all. She wasn’t lying about Becky’s attack, and yes, she exhibited obsessive personality, but I couldn’t find anything else wrong with her. Until the revelation that she was there when Sasha had the heart attack. But even that didn’t seem so shady. She just happened to be there, and she even tried to save her life. So what? But then, as the paramedics took Sasha away, Penelope smiled! Why’d you do that Penny?

The Ending

The last couple of episodes did a wonderful job of tying up some loose ends and giving way to some more mysteries. The penultimate episode, especially, was the most important because it allowed us the perspective of all the important players in the game. The shifting narrative also gave us an idea of the victims and the perpetrators. I like it when episodes play out like that.

By the end, everyone was divided into two sections: the good guys, the ones who wanted to save Sasha and had no idea what Annex had done to Becky; and the bad guys, which is basically, everyone in Annex. The finale ended with a massive cliff-hanger where the process that had begun with the first episode finally materialised. Becky completely took over Sasha, at least physically. It made me feel like Becky’s heart was her Horcrux and the only purpose of transferring it to Sasha’s body was to bring Becky back. (Yes, I have the talent to insert Harry Potter references in any conversation.)

The one thing that drove Sasha to uncover the mystery regarding Becky’s death was her fear that she was changing into her. It wasn’t just the behavioural changes, she was physically metamorphosising into her. The blonde hair, the white skin- Becky was taking over Sasha. And it was all related to memories. The more Sasha got involved with Becky’s environment, the more she mutated into her. Donors and recipients aren’t supposed to contact each other once the deed is done. Ben knew this and yet he reached out to Sasha. At first, this was read as a father’s attempt to make peace with his daughter’s death. The fact that a piece of Becky was inside Sasha made him feel responsible for the stranger. But now that I think about it, was that it? Was there no other intention behind this? After all, the transition began that day. Before that, everything was fine with Sasha. But the day she met Ben and saw Becky’s picture, she began to have nightmares.

Moreover, the Lefevres got her into the same school as Becky where she was further exposed to an environment that was completely alien to her. Was this a part of the plan? If not Ben, then did the Annex know what was going to happen to Sasha? Did the heart survive Becky’s electrocution just because of the thing inside of her? Is that why the hospital staff was in such a hurry to carve out Becky’s heart?

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Sasha was handpicked for this. I think that Annex’s main aim was to get someone else to have the heart, for whatever reasons. They knew how long the waiting list is for transplants, so it wouldn’t have taken too long for their plan to move further after Becky’s death. Sasha just happened to have immensely bad luck that night. But then, maybe she was targeted after all. Who gets a heart attack at 17? And on the same night that all the other things happened? Was the attack triggered by the same event that led to the birth of all those children that night?

“We were going to heal the world.” This dialogue brought a lot of things in perspective. Maybe it wasn’t about Sasha’s healing at all. It was about Becky’s. Perhaps Annex was trying something out. Sasha and Becky were guinea pigs in their experiment, and now that the plan has succeeded, maybe there’s something bigger that the Foundation would like to do. Keeping an eye on Sasha, forcing her into Becky’s lifestyle, secretly taking her blood. What exactly did they want? One thing that’s clear is that they have already attempted something like this before. The old woman who lived in Sasha’s attic attested to that. When Yvonne asked her why she was helping them, she said, “because no one helped when it happened to me”. What really happened to the old woman and was it Annex that did it to her or was it someone else?

Will There be a Sequel: Chambers Season 2?

Definitely Yes! The first season has set a good foundation upon which the next one can stand. There are a lot of questions and not enough information to have them answered. The most important factor in the second season will be Sasha’s condition. Obviously, she is still inside the body that has now taken Becky’s form. But how to reverse the process? Can it even be reversed? “How to save Sasha?” will dominate the plot of the next part.

This quest will further lead her friends inside Annex because if they want to figure out what happened to her, they’re going to have to understand the enemy. Nancy will play an instrumental role in infiltrating Annex, especially because they still have her son. Eventually, we’ll get to know more about the demon that was summoned that night, and get more insight into the history of Annex. Who founded it? What was its purpose? What did they do to that old woman? Why did they do such things to Becky and Sasha? More importantly, who else is involved with them? We know that Marnie is most definitely one of them. But what about Penelope? How does she fit in?

Then there are small things that could become important later. For example, Nancy’s pseudo-pregnancy. How pseudo is that? Is this something else that Annex is trying to do? And last but definitely not the least, what about Frank? He was arrested for Jones’ murder which we know he didn’t commit. But knowing the power of Annex, they might try to pin it on him. What will become of him?

Read More in Explainers: Mirage | Osmosis | Triple Frontier

SPONSORED LINKS