Sunday, January 19, 2014

Helix, Season 1, Episode 3: 274

Day 3
Uh-oh, first there were goo zombies and now someone’s let the arty cameraman out of his cage. We’re all doomed.

Alan finds Julia unconscious in the bottom of the shower after her encounter with Peter, and helps her up. She’s confused and doesn’t remember Peter – or pretends not to, anyway. He helps her back to her room and then goes exploring when he hears a noise – and runs into Peter. Oh Peter does not look well. He manages to mumble “help me” before collapsing

Ok, Alan, Julia we need to talk about your survival skills. When the oozy goo zombie appears you do not stare at it like a guppy.

Doreen and Sarah are giving medicine 101 to groups of scientists who really shouldn’t need this (with a guard nearby being awfully trigger happy). Sarah is close to a panic attack and shaking – Doreen most certainly isn’t. Meanwhile Sergio and Daniel report to Hiroshi that security hasn’t found the escapees or Peter and there are more infected; also people are panicking (and generally everything is looking pretty grim).

Which is when Alan shows up with Peter on a gurney (definite side-eye from Hiroshi to Daniel on that one). Hiroshi and Sergio do insist that the man who cut off a guard’s hand be more securely kept though – so they decide to move him to a largely disused part of the base that also contains all the maintenance and things essential for life in the arctic circle. You’re going to store your highly dangerous, unpredictable prisoner on the… life support level? May I point out a flaw with this plan?

It does have some very secure, old labs where they did “sensitive” research – apparently inclusion messing with nuclear materials. Alan thinks this is excellent, there’s loads of space for them to secure the Vectors (those actively attacking people) separate from the merely infected too. Yup, lots of them on the life-support floor.

As Alan explains to Hiroshi what they need to create the quarantine floor, one of the 3 escaped infected appears, Dr. Sulemani. She has black goo oozing down her chin and asks for help, pleading that “they” made her escape. The group tell her to stop but she keeps advancing – and Daniel shoots her. Alan rushes into action to treat her, quickly removing the bullet (why? Is it a radioactive bullet?) before applying pressure and deciding that removing the bullet has stabilised her (ooooookay… infectious diseases, not wounds, are clearly Alan’s thing).

Afterwards, of course, they have to have an argument about the shot and Hiroshi reminds everyone that he’s the one in charge and there’s no country or laws up there (where is this weird lawless area of the Arctic circle, anyway?). Alan threatens to leave if Hiroshi doesn’t stop such casual use of lethal force on the infected

Julia, in her room, is having some pretty nasty hallucinations while trying to convince herself that she doesn’t get sick. She doesn’t sound very convincing. She goes to mope over Peter’s semi-conscious body and when he starts mumbling, decides to put her head really close to his – but she doesn’t get something bitten off or sprayed with goo as she deserves and Alan gathers the whole team to give out various missions before going off to clash antlers with Daniel over shooting gooey people again.

Sarah and Julia are doing lab work trying to find a test to see who is infected, with Sarah ignoring orders and doing her own thing – and shaking like a leaf. Then on to Julia reminiscing over Peter about her and Alan’s relationship while the camera man decides this needs a weird staccato effect

After the mope she returns to Sarah who is confident she has found a test! Yay! Julia asks her to show it by testing herself… Sarah is reluctant. And she won’t test Julia either – she goes to tell Alan instead. I’m quite sure that the CDC doesn’t advise “if you suspect you’re infected, don’t test yourself and enjoy some worried ignorance instead” as a strategy. Julia, at least, seems to have more sense, and tests herself – she isn’t infected.

Alan prepares quarantine when they hear of one of the escapees, Bryce, losing his ever loving mind with an axe, determined to break into one of the other doctors’ rooms who he thinks has the cure. After some judicial application of a stun rod, Bryce is taken to isolation: the doctor thanks them for getting rid of him, scoffs at the idea of a cure but pointedly does not let them in his room.

Alan asks Hiroshi about this cure who tries to keep secrets for the sake of his company’s patents, but cracks when Alan threatens to go to the media. He admits that the cure they’re working on completely cures all viral diseases. Yes all of them. Yes they’ve tested them against them all. No it does zero harm to the actual person being cured. And yes, this is about as scientifically likely as a dinosaur made of nougat, but run with it. Anyway, this means that to test against all these viruses, they have a huge stock of lethal viruses of every kind – included extinct ones – to test against. Oh and the cure has a teeny weeny little problem – it kills 75% of the people it cures.

Sergio and Doreen go to collect Doreen’s dead monkey to test – only to find it gone and the lab wiped down with formaldehyde. She starts to storm off to Hiroshi to demand answers but Sergio stops her – there’s no way that conversation will end well and he reels off a list of excuses Hiroshi can easily give. Instead he thinks they can get a different sample from the frozen monkeys outside (which are still freaky). Good plan, and Doreen notes that the monkeys were terrified of something – but she also becomes suspicious of Sergio and what he’s going there. Eventually he falls back on the army being suspicious of Hiroshi.

They test some of the cells, incubating them to get a large number in an incubator – only to have the petri dish explode with black, goo tendrils that expand outwards, fill the incubator and crack the glass before Doreen releases nasty killer gas inside to stop it growing. She wants to tell Alan but Sergio votes no – because if Alan tells Hiroshi he will destroy the evidence again

With Sarah’s test, Alan, Sarah and Julia start mass testing the whole base – putting those who test positive in quarantine and allowing the rest to return to their rooms. There are 43 infected and Julia thinks Peter doesn’t have long – so Alan plans to contact the CDC next time they have a satellite connection

Daniel and a security team open the door to isolation – only to be attacked by Dr. Sulemani. She’s become a complete goo-zombie or Vector and it’s only Daniel’s face mask that saves him from being infected. She goes running off down the corridor and Daniel sees she’s killed Bryce and the guard he left behind.

Sarah continues to stagger around with a little sign on her head screaming “I’m ill!!!” Julia confronts her, wondering if Sarah was infected by Peter when he found her in the drug stockroom. Sarah is extremely huffy at the suggestion that she is hiding her symptoms and takes the test. She’s clear. Which is when Daniel arrives to warn them that Dr. Sulemani has escaped. Unfortunately he’s heard by one of the other scientists who promptly yells “she’s killing people” and everyone loses their ever loving mind.

Panic panic, stampede – until they hear a goo-zombie roar and everyone falls silent – Dr. Sulemani leaps on one of the guards and everyone panics and yells again. Julia sees Dr. Sulemani spout goo into the guard’s mouth – and remembers Peter doing the same to her. Dr Sulemani runs at Julia, spouting goo and roaring – and Alan shoots her in the head, killing her.

Is this where Daniel gets to do the “I told you so” dance?

Alan tries to take Julia upstairs but she refuses to go – she shows him her hand where she has coughed into her palm. It’s covered in black goo. She’s infected. (Except she tested negative on Sarah’s test?)

Alan returns up, telling Hirsohi what happened and admitting he’s lost control, agreeing with Daniel when he suggests sealing off the quarantine level (with only a week’s worth of food and water). Hirsohi doesn’t like the idea with Julia stuck down there but Alan tells him he’s calling in the army for backup so it’ll only be temporary.

Sarah, in her room, is still showing symptoms – and she has an odd line down her back. Alan angsts about losing people whole Doreen comforts him – and lies about her results with the monkey

Julia takes her test out of her pocket and realises what I said straight away – if she’s infected after testing negative then the test doesn’t work. The quarantine is false. She hurries to grab a phone to tell Alan

And outside, someone (Sergio?) blows up the satellite dish that connects them to the outside world. The phone line between Julia and Alan cuts out.

Wait wait… you’re telling me a phone, connected to the wall, an actual wired phone, a landline, needs a satellite connection to connect to another phone – another landline – in the same building? No, no I call shenanigans. Never mind that they’ve told us repeatedly that this satellite only works for 1 hour a day?

Do you know the problem with the big, ominous “DAY X!” we get every now and then? The problem is it tells us the time line. Because we know the time line, that means last episode we had scientists panicking and getting all excitable… on the second day of a quarantine. This episode we get the same freak out on the 3rd day of the quarantine. Now, even with an average population, I think that’s a stretch. But these people aren’t average – they’re scientists. Presumably pretty good ones since they’re in a high-tech super lab studying lethal strains of viruses. They must be used to lockdown procedures, safety procedures, emergency procedures, the consequence of infection, spread, etc etc.

And they certainly don’t need the concept of quarantine explaining to them.

I think part of the problem is that Helix is very very concerned with how it looks and how it feels. They have excellent ominous music. They have some really well designed sets. They have the fancy camera work. It’s all about the uber-creepy atmosphere. And panicking crowds on the edge of rioting add to that atmosphere. No communication between the characters adds to the atmosphere. A cure that may work or kill you adds to the atmosphere.

Whether it makes sense is a secondary concern. And whether this story actually MOVES! Because by the end of the episode I’m not sure if we’ve moved on particularly. Certainly there seemed to be huge chunks of the episode I could fast-forward pas

If anything the atmospheric tension, fancy camera work et al, just emphasises how little is actually happening. Also, my lack of connection with any character means all this suspense falls flat. Is Julia infected? Is Sarah? Is Sergio evil? I do not know. I do not care. The show needs to make me care before their peril is meaningful. And words cannot describe how monumentally uninterested I am in Julia’s past relationship with Alan, no matter how artsy the cameraman gets filming her monologue.

I’m curious as to what the motives of Sergio and Hiroshi are – especially with Sergio at least giving the appearance of jumping ship in helping Doreen.  I’m more curious about the plot advancing.

Also, all the issues I highlighted last episode? Well, I said they needed to work on them for some redemption, so far we haven’t seen any steps in that direction.