Sunday, March 30, 2014

Helix, Season 1, Episode 13: Dans L'Ombre

Day 235

Wait… what? That was a bit of a jump!

Alan has a silver eyed bloke tied to a chair and is beating him with a pipe to find “her” (I’m guessing Julia) – apparently he’s had chance to contact the authorities but no-one believes him because a) Ilaria is that powerful and b) his story is “immortals are creating a plague of zombies” which lacks creditability, somewhat

Having had our little time machine moment, I assume to try and keep things compelling since the show has been renewed for a second season, it’s back to the normal time line:

Day 13

Cut to the present where the ominous but rather disappointing Scythe (seriously, Alan smacked him and that was it, he was captured. This is Ilaria’s most lethal assassin? A manchild with mummy issues? Not impressed) has been captured and Julia wants to know where her mother is; she hits him and Alan objects

Is this supposed to be a “look how much Alan changes!” moment? Because it doesn’t work – he’s a control freak and a bully, this is established – I see it more as him inserting his own control. Or maybe because it’s Julia missing the finger and the relative rather than him missing someone he cares about.

She goes to Hiroshi who is grieving hard for Miksa. She comforts him and Hiroshi admits he would have chosen Julia because flesh and blood > adoption (a message that I’m starting to see a little too often) – and he didn’t tell Julia that her mother was alive because Ilaria would just have used the knowledge against her in the same way Hiroshi was forced to create Narvik. The same reason he never told her about being her father. His motivation at last!

More questioning of Scythe and this time Alan stops Peter going all intensive-interrogation on him. Scythe has all the power, isn’t impressed by their threats or deals and tells them to check out some news he downloaded before he got to the base: There’s been a viral outbreak in Puerto Rico. Hundreds infected – one of the symptoms is black blood. It looks like Narvik is out. Alan assumes Sergio got it off the base

Out on the ice, Anana and Toluk look for Sergio who left after Toluk did the “I’m guarding my sister” thing. Toluk is sure that special forces Sergio will be fine. Anana thinks Brazilian Sergio is hardly experienced in arctic conditions.

And Segrio, far from delivering evil viruses, collapses on the ice where he’s tramping around on foot. Which isn’t a good idea. Toluk and Anana, in between some nice little cultural references, seem to accept how hopeless it is to find one man on the ice. But Sergio isn’t dead – he wakes up inside and being smacked by Blake (Scythe minion #2) who apparently has history with Sergio and wants some backup with the Scythe a prisoner. She shows off the cure and virus that she has and suggests that Sycthe wanted to be captured.

At the base, the gang gathers and checks the footage and conclude it’s Narvik A – the strand without the Goo-Zombies. Which means they can cure it and contain it so long as they get the cure back. Hiroshi, Julia and Alan attack the secure room with guns (while Peter guards Spencer) but Sergio has already knocked Blake unconscious when they arrive. Sergio is there for one reason – he wants the list of the Inuit children that Hiroshi stole for Ilaria. Alan keeps assuming Sergio is Ilaria despite the obvious, right up until Sergio shoots Blake (you mean I learned her name instead of just calling her “Minion #2” and she just dies? Waste of brain cells!)

After an obligatory round of Alan telling Hiroshi how evil he is, Hiroshi recites the list to Sergio because he’s remembered every child because he fells terribad and sad about it (we’re doing the redemption-by-means-of-guilt route which is kind of self-serving but not worth a whole lot). Having finished the list, Sergio leaves – giving them the virus and the cure which Hiroshi gives to Alan.

Sarah’s down in the bunker with the survivors and supposedly the only thing keeping everyone calm despite not looking well – apparently. It’s a convoluted and extremely dubious excuse for a friendly doctor to randomly give her a blood test – because they really have time to worry about that while fighting evil corporations and genocide plagues.

Peter’s babysitting Scythe who plays mind games with the very very very very easily baited Peter about how he’s always second to his brother. Really, this level of taunting makes Peter put a knife to Scythe’s throat? Someone’s awfully touchy. But then he cuts Scyther’s bonds – he complains about what Ilaria put him through but he’s working for them. He hands Scythe the trigger to the explosives that didn’t work, we learn that it was Peter who smuggled the virus off base – and Scythe knocks him out so it looks like he escaped, rather than released.

Julia frees her mother and he’s very confused – seeming to think her daughter is still a little girl. But once off the drugs she was on, she realises who Julia is. They have a reunion and her mother, Jane, regrets not leaving Hiroshi and his ambitions sooner. She meets Alan and is reunited with an unaging Hiroshi.

Reunion cut short by an alarm (has anyone else noticed this trope? Emotional scenes that the writers don’t know how to end get interrupted by random action. I could use that at family gatherings AWKWARD CONVERSATION ALARM! Sorry, Uncle, I’d totally talk to you but I have zombies to kill). It’s Toluk and Anana (joined by Sergio). After Toluk snarls at Hiroshi, Anana tells them why they’re there – they’ve brought enough snow mobiles to help evacuate the base. Then they have to tell her about Miksa.

That evacuation becomes all the more important when they find an injured Peter and that Scythe has “escaped”.  Hiroshi and Alan discuss Scythe’s – Spencer’s – weakness in front of Peter. Also there’s an evacuation moment where Julia kisses Alan goodbye because she has awful taste in men. Peter looks on, all angsty. Also time for Sarah’s Contrived Blood Test results - she’s pregnant!

Sarah, Julia, Peter, Alan. Nooooooo, please don’t CW this show, Syfy! We don’t need romance drama, we have goo zombies.

And Spencer blows the bombs – lots of destruction, fire and death (without securing the virus and the cure? Isn’t that… silly?)

Alan’s unhurt (alas) but Spencer has Julia at knife point. Or Scythe-point. Jane, injured, crawls out to beg Spencer to let her daughter go, that he’s been lied to by his mother (he believes in witch hunts – apparently against the Silver Eyed since calling actual human witch hunts lies would be a ridiculous unless Jane has been on REALLY GOOD drugs) and Spencer stabs her so Hiroshi and Julia can angst a little more (don’t tell me there was any other point to this character than to be Fridged).

Spencer grabs Julia and drags her to a conveniently arriving helicopter. Alan follows – distracting Spencer by throwing his dead mother’s head at him. Nice. This gives Alan chance to grab the virus and cure – but not Julia who is chained to the floor.

Day 235

Is in a city, presumably somewhere Francophone, reading a French newspaper whose front page story is the Narvik virus, spread by black goo that turns people into predators. Narivk B is out. He gets an Ilaria card with his cafĂ© bill – and he chalks a symbol on the wall behind him. He tells Peter he’s found Julia and they talk about meeting at a checkpoint

He’s at the foot of a large building with “Ilaria” written across the top. Inside, in a board meeting, a whole room of silent, waiting, silver eyed people look up when someone enters – Julia, complete with prosthetic finger and apparently in charge.

Well, Helix surprised be. Despite the “BECAUSE SCIENCE!” moments, and my initial caution, this show really found itself around episode 6 and took off. It wasn’t perfect, but it went from being a tiresome chore to something pretty intriguing – with a nicely paced mystery with ACTUAL ANSWERS, some really compelling side characters and some really nice atmosphere. It rescued itself.

I still think it has a problem that Alan and Sarah are two main characters and I really don’t care if a goo-zombie gnaws on their faces or not.

Helix actually really improved its initial racial diversity disaster. Miksa grew some independence from Hiroshi and explored a complicated relationship with him – albeit one that ended tragically. But his story and Sergio’s explored child kidnapping – especially how minority groups are especially vulnerable. The addition of Anana and Toluk also upped the inclusion of Inuit characters and without stereotypes. Sergio gained far more motivation and complexity than merely being the bad guy. Hiroshi began as a truly horrendous Inscrutable and Cunning Asian stereotype but really grew; remaining competent but also gaining some powerful emotional connections and elements. Ultimately, he’s a man who did everything – no matter how ill advised or evil – out of love for his family.

On women, we’re a little shakier. I’m clinging to Anana who knows what she wants, is focused, determined, resolute and capable, both emotional but not ruled by them. She, I like. I liked Doreen and Constance – both of which are dead. As are Spencer’s 2 minions and Julia’s fridged mother. Which kind of leaves us with Julia and Sarah. Sarah doesn’t seem to have any point to the show – she had a random cancer story that was handwaved before being an unnecessary 4th in the already unnecessary CW-ish Alan/Peter/Julia/Sarah romance plot. Julia is apparently super special – but that’s what she is. You could replace Julia with a super-precious diamond or even the Narvik cure and, except for relationship angst (Alan or Hiroshi), there would be no difference to the plot. Her specialness relates only to how she is coveted.

Unfortunately, despite an array of 9 to 11 main characters and several others who’ve appeared in several episodes, there were no LGBT characters in the whole season. Goo-zombies ate the LGBT people first again.

I am really looking forward to season 2. I said in the beginning of this season that the show would get very old if all the action remained confined to the Arctic lab… they drew it out but we have done what I predicted - and hoped

Do we have all the answers from season 1? No – but I think we have enough. A lot of mystery programmes make the mistake of dragging out the mystery for far too long (it was Cult’s downfall) without any answers. I think Helix has struck a really excellent balance between answering questions (Sergio, Hiroshi, the Silver eyes) while leaving several questions to come (what does Ilaria want? How?) and raising some new ones (Julia in charge? Is Alan in a resistance movement?) and even leaving a real question about who lived or died in the explosion.

But things this show needs to get right in season 2: Less SCIENCE! as an explanation – make things make sense. That also means less convenient items like sonic canons or freeze-gas sprayers or CONSTANCE’S FREAKING HEAD that was supposed to be in storage suddenly being available. And TRY to make Alan more compelling and less like a dull alpha male stereotype.