The first two episodes of Helix that aired last week brought about some strong emotions on various comment boards. Despite both episodes receiving good reviews and praise from fans there were plenty who despaired with arguments such as ‘it isn’t as good as Lost’, ‘it’s the X-file with all the black goo’ and ‘it’s going to be like The Walking Dead’. Now is the time that I need to remind myself that comment boards are the place were 12 year olds and those writing like 12 years olds reside and who can give unfounded comment without fear of being publicly ridiculed. The first two episodes of Helix were good, they were in fact damn right effective in creating suspense and setting up the story without immediately giving us a resolution to the big mysteries surrounding the deadly pathogen. Lost certainly didn’t give us more than a glimpse of what mysteries there were on the island and for many episodes afterwards the story sidetracked a lot. And yet, those off beat storytelling mechanisms of Lost won over many fans. Helix is more than deserving of some consideration after the first two episodes. With the third episode ‘274’ the show’s scope drastically increases yet it effectively manages to hold back on giving us closure even to what seem like small questions.
Julia (Kyra Zagorsky) is found by Alan in the shower room, she can barely remember the attack by Peter and Alan seems to think she just slipped and hit her head. Julia doesn’t contradict him for fear it will confirm she is also infected. Before Alan (Billy Campbell) can escort her to her room he is confronted by Peter, who despite his delirium caused by the pathogen recognizes his brother and gives himself up. Sarah and Dr. Boyle meanwhile try to contain the infection by separating those infected. However, fear and paranoia has already set in with most of the base’s occupants and Boyle admits that sometimes she just wants to yell at them. Hatake (Hiroyuki Sanada) is informed by his right-hand man Daniel Aerov of more attacks. Major Balleseros warns him of the dangers of what an outbreak will mean for the facility and seems irritated by Hatake’s passive approach.
After Alan brings his infected brother Peter (Neil Napier) Hatake questions the procedures taken to restrain Peter. Hatake seems troubled by the fact that Peter gave himself up, Balleseros suggests that more effort should be made to keep Peter restrained. Aerov introduces Alan to Level R, a now abundant level were nuclear tests were carried out. Alan agrees to transform it into a ward for those that are infected. Julia has a nightmare about the attack by Peter and seems convinced that she is infected. As Alan and Hatake are arguing about the measures taken to secure level R they are confronted by Dr. Sulemani, a woman Peter infected. As she approaches Alan and Hatake she is shot in the gut by Aerov. Alan later makes protestation about the shooting but Hatake reminds him that there are no countries in the arctic and that he makes the rules. Alan tries to bluff Hatake in standing down his guard but Hatake seems unimpressed.
Alan informs his team of his plan to separate the infected on level R, but they need a test to determine who is infected and who is not. Sarah and Julia set out to work on the test. Dr. Boyle will try to work towards a vaccine by testing the monkey she found in the pilot episode, Balleseros goes with her as security. Alan reminds them to hurry so he can inform the CDC in Atlanta. While Julia and Sarah are working on the test Julia notices that Sarah’s hands are shaking and questions her whether she has been infected. In the basement Dr. Boyle and Balleseros find that their captured monkey has been destroyed by Hatake. Balleseros argues against confronting Hatake and instead suggests they take a blood sample from one of the frozen monkeys he found outside the base. Once outside Dr. Boyle questions Balleseros what he was doing there in the first place, he deflects her questions by stating that people back home wonder if the outbreak was an accident.
Julia and Sarah meanwhile succeed in synthesizing a test. Julia insists that Sarah use herself as a control and is relieved that the test is negative. After Sarah leaves Julia performs the test on herself to find out if Peter infected her. After it also returns negative she puts her test tube in her pocket with a sigh of relief. Meanwhile Alan confronts an infected patient trying to ax his way into a secure area to find a cure. Alan asks Hatake about the cure, Hatake admits that there is such a cure and that it works against all known viruses. Hatake is thus forced to admit that they have grown lethal viruses for testing purposes. Alan questions why the cure has not been sued, Hatake states that the cure was lethal in 75% of test cases and as such it is not an option. After everyone on the base has been tested those infected are separated on level R. Julia warns that any cure may come to late for Peter, but Alan insists they will succeed and he is eager to inform the CDC of all things that are happening at the base.
Aerov is meanwhile confronted by a vicious Dr. Sulemani who seems completely controlled by the pathogen. She tries to bite through his facial masks but is forced to flee. After Aerov informs Julia what has happened a panic breaks out and those on level R rush for the only exit. Julia spots Sulemani approach her, Aerov loses his firearm in the stampede and only in the nick of time does Alan manage to find it and shoot Sulemani through the forehead. Alan admits later to Hatake that he has lost control of the outbreak and tells him they need to seal off Level R. Julia stays behind with the infected. Balleseros proceeds to sabotage the communications array of the base just as Julia discovers that the test she worked on with Sarah doesn’t actually work. As Balleseros blows up the array the power all over the base goes out. Julia bangs on the exit of Level R and screams that the test doesn’t work.
274 continues with the claustrophobic atmosphere established during the previous episode ‘Vector’. There never seems to be a place to run to for the characters nor is there anyone on the base who is really on their side. Paranoia is a theme that is established in 274 when Julia fears she has become infected through a similar molestation by Peter as the others in Vector. She takes out her suspicions on Sarah by insisting she also takes the test. Alan and Hatake are both suspicious of each others intention after the latter explains that they have an experimental drug that can cure any infection. The questions is whether Hatake spoke the truth when he warned that the cure was also lethal. There are many similar occasions as described above that will have fans speculating for many episodes. I think Helix has managed to duplicate some of the magic from Lost with this speculation. Let’s hope the creative staff will be able to keep it up for a few more seasons.
The special effects for Helix continue to be very effective. There are fewer scenes outside the base that were obviously CGI such as in the pilot and so there are fewer distractions. The change that the pathogen brings about upon the infected is excellently depicted in all its goriness. The show otherwise re-uses most indoor areas from the pilot episodes and only sparsely shows other areas of the base. Just as with the story the show can’t become too reliant on special effects without the risk of becoming a one season wonder. So far the creative staff have managed to keep Helix exciting without burning though their ideas or the special effects budget.
During the review of the two pilot episodes I mentioned that I was reminded a lot of Lost. Well, there seems to be a reason for that, Helix producer Steven Maeda is a Lost alumni responsible for writing and producing much of season 2. And just like Lost Helix is kind off frustrating in that it never really gives you a straight answer but instead you are forced to wait for the next episode to learn more. I guess I will see you all back here next week for the review of the episode ‘Single Strand’.
Score; 8.6 / 10. Helix continues the suspense about the pathogen but the evasiveness of characters is sometimes too frustrating.