I’ve enjoyed this first season of Syfy’s sci-fi medical thriller series Helix, and evidently so have enough people for Syfy to announce its renewal for 2015. I’m a sucker for cautionary tales of scientific knowledge outstripping our wisdom in using it, at its core that is the message Helix embodies. [amazon asin=B00HT851CS]
The series begins with an outbreak at Arctic Biosystems, a remote international research station in the Arctic. The CDC led by Dr. Alan Ferguson (Billy Campbell) is called in to investigate. What they find is not only a virus gone wild, but a decades-old plan to create genetically enhanced humans, but also a conspiracy involving a pharmaceutical company (Ilaria), and a group of super-beings with designs on world domination. I think.
Key to the entire story is the existence of a manufactured virus called Narvik, a deadly virus designed as a delivery system for genetic enhancement. In one form (Narvik B), the infected become almost zombie-like. (Think 28-Days or 28-Weeks Later zombies: fast moving, enraged and quite insane). Infection rate is 100 percent, but it doesn’t kill–only changes you. The other form, Narvik A is deadly, with a near 100 percent mortality rate. The only cure for Narvik is at the research facility, and possession of the antidote and the virus itself becomes the object of most desire for both the good guys (the CDC folks) and the bad guys (Ilaria).
Into this narrative is thrown a plot about Inuit children taken from their beds years ago and forced into medical experiments, a second plot involving the brilliant Dr. Hiroshi Hatake (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his relationship to one of the CDC investigators, Ferguson’s ex-wife Julia (Kyra Zagorsky). Then there is the family drama involving Alan’s brother Peter (Neil Napier), one of the researchers at the facility, a man who has always played second fiddle to his older brother professionally and romantically. Some of these plotlines fit well into the overall narrative of the show; some seem distractions, red herrings, and tangents (like the possible love triangle between Alan, Julia, and a young CDC investigator, Sarah, who has spinal cancer (now in remission), and in the last episode we learn is pregnant (presumably from the one-night stand between her and Alan during the investigation).
As season one concludes, we are thrust nine months into the future. Alan is still searching for Julia, who was kidnapped by a genetically enhanced immortal human(?). He has been to the FBI, the CIA, and every other agency in the world, and no one really believes his tale of viruses and immortal mad scientists; he is, as the saying goes, himself a hunted man.
I’ve enjoyed this first season of Helix, and despite its flaws, I have hopes that the series will, in its second season, hone its focus. In many ways, this first season almost feels like a prelude to the real plot. The deadly virus is now out in the wild, and the good guys and bad guys more or less identified: Hatake (good–maybe), Alan (good-definitely), Major Sergio Balleseros (Mark Ghanimé, first a bad guy, then a good guy with a conscience), the Inuits (good guys, of course), Julia (ah, there’s the wild card, as the finale presents her nine months after the series start as an Ilaria bigwig!), and Peter (another wild card, since he was an undercover Ilaria loyal who was betrayed and now seems to be a good guy, and working with his brother!).
The series is at times needlessly obtuse, as if the creators are gratuitously withholding information just to extend the suspense. For example, I can’t count the times that Hatake says when withholding information, “I am doing it for the good of…” without explaining further. The series had been growing a bit stale for me the last few episodes, but the finale was good, and makes me curious about where things will go next season with the real battle: how to stop the virus and defeat the seemingly unstoppable Ilaria with its cabal of silver-eyed immortals.
Syfy has a great website for the series with lots of extras, insights, interviews, and other tidbits to keep fans guessing while providing more backstory and information than you obtain from watching the series. Syfy promises the release of a packed-to-the-gills Blu-ray of season one to whet fans’ appetites for season two, which premieres in 2015.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00HT851CS,B00J63AOTE]