Sunday, January 26, 2014

Helix, Season 1, Episode 4: Single Strand

Day 4

We see scenes of destruction, blood stains, ichor and damage including around the phone that Julia tried to use to contact Alan last week.

Julia is in a room full of the assumed infected and one of the scientists, Dmitri, talks about fighting because he assumes they’ve been left to die (yes, it’s another scientist who doesn’t understand the concept of quarantine). He wants to sabotage the air supply to the rest of the base – giving the rest of the base only 6 hours of breathable air.

Hey, I would like to interrupt this recap to mention that I Told You So when I said that putting goo zombies and shockingly unstable scientists prone to rioting at the drop of a hat on the same level as your life support is a bad idea.

When Julia protests to the whole “let’s kill ‘em all, that’ll show ‘em” tactic, she gets kicked out of the room. Outside she sees someone in an elaborate haz-mat suit who gestures to her – she follows them to a corner where they managed to disappear.

Upstairs, Alan and Hiroshi discuss their communications being blown up; well Alan getting all excitable and accusatory at Hiroshi while he is calm and collected and reasonably dealing with the situation as it is.

To Sarah who is taking pills in her bathroom and loses half of them down the sink – she seems nervy about her pill taking. She gets a visit from one of the scientists, Dr. Rae Van Eigan, she’s worried because she has a skin lesion that may be indicative of infection, despite testing negative on Sarah’s useless test (why doesn’t Sarah remember Julia testing negative?). Sarah uses the useless test again and reassures Rae that she’s absolutely fine. Rae isn’t convinced and begs not to be sent down to quarantine to die; Sarah protests it would never happen (Alan would never allow it – that sealed quarantine that he set up) but Rae believes Hiroshi would.

The longer they spend together, though, the more it becomes clear that Rae is infected. Sarah realises her test is ineffective but as she leaves to warn people Raw stops her and talks about Sarah’s tumor. She’s an oncologist and diagnosed her by the pills she’s taking - Sarah wants to keep it a secret; Rae suggests they share secrets/doctor patient privilege (except cancer isn’t contagious… nor does it turn you into a goo zombie)

Alan returns to Sergio and Doreen to complain about Hiroshi not supplying the quarantine wing that Alan set up – waiting instead for a “periodic supply drop” to communicate with the outside world. Lots of science follows about treatment and finding a source. Alan goes to his brother Peter and tries to talk Dr. Phillipe DuChamp into using SORDA, his magically cure all (that kills people) on Peter –sure it’s unethical to use untested, highly lethal remedies on people but since Peter is dying it’s better than the alternative. He gives Peter the cure then has a bedside pep talk/reminiscing (about their abusive childhood. I think they’ve mentioned this at least once per episode now).

Sergio confronts Hiroshi, confirming that, yes, Sergio did destroy the satellite to stop word of what was going on leaking out and he throws in some criticism of Hiroshi’s work, telling him the virus does “everything but what you promised.” Hiroshi objects – Sergio is simply too ignorant and stupid to understand it (yeaaaaah… goo zombies. I can’t believe any reasonable useage of this virus included goo zombies). Sergio reminds us again they’re working for shadowy employers – before being interrupted by the computers warning them of the air being cut off. Hiroshi insists he will talk to the people and fix the problem – alone without guards (and we see how much Hiroshi has invested in the base, personally), though Sergio doesn’t have a lot of confidence.

Doreen is still working with Sergio but she’s suspicious and uncooperative, she wants more answers. He tells her he works for special investigators with the Pentagon – and they have a hidden base performing secret research (possibly into weaponised viruses) out of reach of any government. He also adds a tip he “overheard” to focus her research – the viruses are used to deliver DNA sequences. And he warns her that someone’s trying to keep all this information getting out (yes, him – so treat the rest of his “revelations” with the same level of confidence you would a political party’s manifesto promises).

Following the clue, Doreen does a DNA test on the virus and sees a protein that she has never seen before (wait… Doreen can recognise every protein by looking at it’s shape for 2 seconds? Really? Is that even remotely possible?) She realises that the virus was man made – this virus was designed. Now to figure out what it was designed to do.

In the quarantine, Julia is hiding when she spots a goo zombie. She runs and only manages to escape when the haz-mat suited person drags her into a side cupboard – between them they force the door closed, almost severing the goo-zombie’s arm. When Julia becomes tearful, the Haz-matted person takes off her helmet; she’s Jay, another scientist. They look for food when they hear more goo zombies – and Dimitri and his gang won’t let them in. Instead we have an ultra-tense hiding scene from the goo-zombie they hurt earlier.

They avoid him and find one of the caches that Jay said Hiroshi had scattered around the base in case of emergency. But in the cache Julia sees her initials written on the wall – in her own handwriting.

Sarah goes to see Alan and tells him her test doesn’t work. But when he asks if there are any infected on the floor she says no, but that all those who tested positive may not be. He sends Sarah off to go fix things while he, very unwisely, releases Peter’s restraints and tries to question him about what’s he was doing at the lab, but Peter is too lost and confused.

Unfortunately Phillipe reveals that the virus was only temporarily stopped and Peter’s viral load is rapidly increasing. Phillipe protests he can’t give him any more of the cure without killing him (what part of “already dying” is Phillipe not understanding here?). Alan questions Peter again – but Peter was only doing grunt work, the only thing Hiroshi was interested in was Julia – further evidence of Hiroshi’s obsession. So instead we dig up Peter and Alan’s personal issues and the affair Peter had with Julia – which wasn’t just one night. And then Peter crashes – Alan tries to resuscitate him, but it’s no use and Peter ends up in a coma.

Sarah, not finding Hiroshi, goes to the drug store to top up her pills to stop her hand shaking – but can’t find any. She takes a bottle of morphine instead – but it’s for Vannegan, in her room who is now having major difficulty; then Sarah gives herself a dose as well.

Hiroshi uses his secret passages (which he has, of course) to go to speak to Dimitri and his 2 assistants. Hiroshi makes an excellent speech about unity and working together so they can all survive, giving his word of honour that they can put down their weapons. They do so and turn the life support back on, restoring the oxygen. Hiroshi thanks them – then shoots all three of them with Daniel’s gun – even Daniel is shocked – maybe a little more so by the casual skill with which Hiroshi handles the gun. Daniel doesn’t understand – they’d given up, there was no need to kill. But Hiroshi says they agreed to stop but didn’t surrender – they would have acted again in the future. Daniel still disapproves – they could have been locked up – but Hiroshi has him attend to the bodies while he goes and handles something (which Daniel assumes is related to Julia).

He walks through the tunnels and comes face to face with a goo zombie – he merely stares at it until it steps aside, letting Hiroshi pass.

Doreen continues her investigation and finds a strand of DNA code that is completely unknown in any known to man; the virus is designed to change humanity, but they don’t know what into. Doreen insists on taking this to Alan – and sad music plays, Sergio looks deeply troubled, eyes welling with tears, as he tells Doreen he likes her – and he kills her, apologising as he does so. He leaves her body to the lab rats

Ok, I’m liking Alan less and less. I could take him being the leader before, if I had to, I gritted my teeth when he pulled the “because I said so!” card with Julia because it was arseholish and unreasonable but I could stretch on the basis of dubious hierarchy – but ranting at Hiroshi about things either Alan did or Hiroshi cannot possibly change – he’s looking rather petulant, especially next to Hiroshi’s icy (or should I say enigmatic and inscrutable – keeping up the stereotype, after all) calm.

Sarah: My test doesn’t work!
Alan: Are there any infected on this floor?
She just said the test DOES NOT WORK. How is she supposed to answer this question? Magic 8 ball?

And she’s going to lie about an infected person, unrestrained, in her room rather than have her spill the beans about Sarah having a tumor?

Things seem to be beginning to move forwards to a degree on the show – but there’s still a marked lack of urgency in any of the characters. Between goo zombies a test that doesn’t work, plague and now oxygen deprivation the team seems very slow to actually do anything. Doreen feels like she’s pottering. Sarah spends a good deal of the episode in her room building up appropriate tension for the tumor revelation. Alan is mining through his vast sea of personal drama (abusive father, cheating ex-wife, dying brother). Now Julia has the mystery of she has been here before…

Is anyone going to pick up some urgency and deal with the main problem rather than lining up lots of dramatic personal drama, getting the actors to put on their best pathos face while playing mood music? Atmosphere can only get you so far Helix, the characters have to do something. And you lose your sense of epic consequences if “do something” is always so close and personal with only tangential relation to the actual crisis

And speaking of Doreen - You killed Doreen! Damn it, Helix, she was the only character I gave a damn about. Well, I guess I’m reduced to hoping someone carpet bombs the facility.

Ok I’m faintly interested in Hiroshi and Sergio – but largely because their characters are full of mystery and unknown – what has motivated them, why are they doing this, who are they working for: their personal mysteries are inherently attached to the actual story’s history. Both are pursuing some aim and are overwhelmingly ruthless to achieve that aim – but what is that aim and why? Is it simply evil ambition and greed?