Helix episode 3 review: 247

Review Billy Grifter 20 Jan 2014 - 07:44

Billy questions the intelligence of Helix's scientific community this week, as bad decisions are followed by worse...

This review contains spoilers.

1.3 247

Often after a pilot, the first running episode has a distinctively different feel and style, but day 3 of Helix is a very faithful continuation. So much in fact is similar, they could have welded this to the double episode starter and made something even longer, and possibly more tedious.

Continuity is a fickle mistress in this respect, because as well as carrying through the moody foreboding that I really liked, they also continued the theme of crass stupidity on the part of the characters. If they’ve a good choice and a bad one, then you know which one they’ll make before they do.

It all starts with Alan finding Julia unconscious in her shower, though wearing a towel now. She’s been attacked by Peter, but decides to leave that out of her lame explanation that Alan buys into entirely. Smart people, being stupid… perhaps SyFy could use that as the marketing line for the show? Peter then turns up, throat quivering to ask for help from Alan before passing out. It’s not a big leap for most viewers to have worked out that Alan is probably passing something to Julia that is to protect her, somehow, from something even nastier, but that reveal is a few episodes away I assume.

We then switch to Sarah and Doreen who are trying a totally new approach to disease control where you evacuate the bowels of anyone potentially infected, by scaring the shit out of them.

In Vector the idea that putting together three infected people, rather than separating them in this huge (impossibly deep) complex was probably a dumb idea. So what’s dumber? Get all the people you have, put them together and then test them while they infect each other. And, for a laugh, call it ‘isolation’. This must be the stupidest virus control strategy ever, but that’s what they do here. Yes, they find a huge room to put everyone, and then start checking them over using an amazing test devised by the entirely useless Sarah.

No wonder the level of panic is rising, and it’s infectious too. The encounter Sulemani, who has clearly a liquorish obsession, and keep saying ‘they made me do it’ (presumably in reference to those who sold her the addictive confectionary). Quite reasonably, Daniel shoots her, and then gets dirty looks for his trouble from Alan, who later on shoots and kills her, just to prove there is no mistake too big for his character to make.

But these are just teasers, to the really low points of this mess.

The first exchange between Sarah and Julia where they plan the virus test was written like the instructions for using an enema, and the only way that Jordan Hayes (Sarah) seemed able to get through it was to talk as fast as humanly possible. And in the second, she explains so painfully the thinking behind her master plan that Julia starts getting bored listening, representing the viewer’s inner anguish.

What’s great about her test, in case you fell asleep during her explanation, is that it glows green to show a positive result, which is excellent for TV. It was at this point I realised just how brilliant a scientist Sarah was, because she’s moved right past that awkward stage where she documents her work by filling out the labels on test tubes, to the special level where you’re so smart you don’t need to do that.

That has implications later, but in the meanwhile Doreen’s found a pathogen that replicates faster than any in the history of science, should she tell her boss? Nah, because that would be the smart thing to do, and we wouldn’t want to see anyone acting like that.

But the most annoying sequence was when Sulemani turns again, and everyone panics. I’m not just talking those who are near her, or of a nervous disposition, but everyone. Like it’s a party game where someone shouts ‘she’s killing everyone’ and it’s a signal to run around like a chicken minus its head. If I was Alan, after I’d shot Sulemani I’d have thinned out the scientists too, because it must be easier than calming them down once spooked. Scientists, as we all know are a herd animal, and easily frightened.

At this point I was wondering how in the writers mind they’d come up with some reason why anyone would watch this rubbish next week, and the excuse they came up with is the classic things-we-assumed-are-wrong ploy. Julia, now entombed with the ‘infected’ sees her test is now clear, and that Sarah is as utterly useless as a scientist as we’ve all suspected, and the test doesn’t work.

She then goes to the test sample box, and sees some are clear where they should all be green. Not a readable label on any of them, so that won’t help if they need to retest those with a method that actually works! Damn Sarah and her fast talking. She runs to the phone, to warn Alan, and then Sergio blows up the satellite dish, which inexplicably also destroys internal communication for no obvious reason whatsoever.

Most horror stories generally rely on some element of human stupidity, but the layers of dumbness and idiocy that are being spread here as just overwhelming. Did these people print their own PHDs, or did they buy them in bulk? I’ve guessed the answer to that, along with where this show is ultimately going, I’m afraid to say.

Read Billy's review of the previous episodes, Pilot and Vector, here.

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Disqus - noscript

Hey Billy! Try not to bite your tongue man. You'll poison yourself.

Perhaps Helix will help you understand that people even the best scientists DO make stupid choices under severe stress, they even make catastrophic choices. We've seen it in human history countless times.

But even so, labelling samples is one of the basic things that should be second nature to scientists, especially people like the ones in Helix.
As a biology student, about the only enjoyment I'm getting out of this series is correcting their mistakes. I hope it gets better, but I seem to be saying that about too many new series.

the series was not made especially for biology students as star trek was not made for astrophysicists. It is fiction not reality. If everything was made realistically they would not have a story to tell.

I´m a scientist and this characters doesn´t seem really prepared for all that is happening. I agree it´s just a fiction series, but IMHO it must have realistic elements like credible characters, if they are PhD (the world´s elite of PhDs), behave like real ones!!!

I cannot fathom the level of stupidity it would take not to mark test vials in a life and death situation. Or tell ones team that a substances exceeded the bounds of current biological understanding.

It is a show about scientists, and we are asked to believe they are dumber than bricks. Within the very basics of their own field. For something as simple as "maybe my team does not need to know my paradigm-breaking test result" or "surely, I won't need to mark these vials identifying who got what test result".

Being fiction is great, but when using scientists (or just humans over the age of five, really) - this is ridiculous. This is like having everyone running towards Godzilla for a hug - we are not complaining that Godzilla is in the movie. Nor are we complaining about the black goo being unscientific - we are complaining that the scientists are not just unscientic, but dumber than schoolchildren.

I understand that to review a show you don't need a PhD, nor have any understanding of human social behavior. I also know that it's not easy getting into the shoes of the characters, trying to see things from their eyes, instead of our own, where we're safely seated on our chairs, able to see things much more clearer...I for one know that I'm always calling the characters in Walking Dead stupid...but if I was is that same situation, would I be much smarter?

However, there's several things in this review that actually made me write this comment:

1 - The whole mention of saying it's stupid to put infected people in the same room. Well the biggest concern in any viral infection, is always containment, which is what they are trying to do, as to prevent people roaming around the base unchecked. Would it be better to give each person their own private room with private air-system? Yes, it would...but it's also something that it's not possible, so they do the next best thing...mass isolation, which is standard routine in this type of situations. The idea is not to being perfect, but to achieve containment of the infection.

2 - Complaining about labels is dumb...not only there exists technology around that does not require labels (I for one work in a lab system where we have bar codded labels which we read with power-battery scanners to get full information about it's contents, and I also know of other more high-tech labs where they have chips on the vial caps), it's also such a minor detail that only people who are looking for mistakes will notice. It's not enough of an error to make a show bad.

3 - Doreen and her decision not to tell about the fast growing pathogen to Alan...the reviewer being so high detailed forgot the most important factor in the whole show...they're on what's considered international waters, so the idea of US law, is gone...if she went and tell Alan about her findings, he would then say something to Hatake, who would simply lift his middle finger and order everything given back to him...and you know what Alan would do then? Absolutely nothing...he has no authority there. Most he could do was complain, threaten a bit more bringing everything to the news organization, and nothing more...and without proof it would hard to prove something.

Honestly, there's atleast 3 other stupid things mentioned by the reviewer, that shows more about him as a person that about the show...here's a tip...if you want to be a professional reviewer, don't be the Comic-shop Nerd from Simpson, it helps.

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