Helix episode 7 review: Survivor Zero

Review Billy Grifter
17 Feb 2014 - 09:39

Billy is still struggling to take Helix seriously. Here's his review of this week's episode...

This review contains spoilers.

1.7 Survivor Zero

A cynic might say that you can always tell when a show has lost its way… Jeri Ryan shows up.

I’ve been watching Helix with increasing incredulity. It's as if the writers sat around at the script meetings and agreed that characters with almost no backstory or real personalities would become endearing when placed in very obviously contrived peril.

The most contrived aspect of the whole show is the lack of communications with the outside world, that’s now reached new levels of farce with the arrival of Jeri Ryan’s character, Constance Sutton. She tells them that she’s not brought her own communications with her, and that her helicopters will be back in a few days. Right, so presumably back at CDC, not one single person is wondering where their crack team went a week ago and never reported back? Apparently that location likes the fire-and-forget method of disease control, rather than actually monitoring their teams in the field. These ‘magical’ inventions known as telephones are carried by all Arctic teams, ocean yachtsman, and jungle explorers, so please can the writers please stop trying to uninvent them.

The appearance of Ryan's character was both a blessing and a curse, it transpired. Because with her she brought a sliver of explanation about the corporate intentions behind the work done at the facility, and yet a frosting-thick characterization that made Glenn Close’s Cruella de Vil seem positively demure. While I was mildly amused by her corporate-speak, Ryan’s performance was so over the top that I wondered when she’d resort to type at some point, and threaten people with assimilation. The scene where she ground down her teeth was especially bizarre, hinting that maybe the Ilaria Corporation doesn’t have the best dental plan.

There was however a major advantage in her appearance, in that it ousted Sarah from the screen. Her appearances have largely been painful in recent stories. Sarah bookended events on Day 7 by being with Alan at the start, and then spying on his reunion with Julia at the end. I didn’t have much sympathy for her, because if a man passed off having sex with a women as ‘biology’ just after it finished, she’d have rightly punched him. The advantage of her reduced role was that she didn’t manage to make any dumb choices this week, fortunately. Being charitable, the opening sequence where she and Alan act like teenagers caught by the return of unexpected parents, was mildly funny.

The two big plot developments of Survivor Zero were the realization that having weird eyes isn’t just a problem that’s exclusive to Hatake and Julia, and the return to the base of Balleseros.

The eyes deal is probably the more interesting part, because one not immediately guessable plot point is the relationship between Hatake and Julia. He became very emotional when bandaging her eyes, which seemed inexplicably odd. I’ve seen others theorize that he’s her father, though they don’t exhibit any common ethnicity. If he is her father that might take some real explaining (or, if Helix follows its own lead, almost none at all).

The return of Balleseros did bind Daniel back into the story, which was a good thing, because to this reviewer's mind, he’s the only character I’m keen on. That he’s beginning to appreciate that his survival is based on having his own agenda is good, although I’m also drawn to believe that he’ll come to find that Hatake isn’t all bad at some point. Having been painted as the bad guy from the outset, having Hatake eventually be the hero seems the sort of obtuse plot those behind Helix would enjoy. Or, alternatively, he’s the same character as Yashida in The Wolverine, a movie that Hiroyuki Sanada (Hatake) was also in. That possibility would reveal that his eyes are a mutation originally caused by nuclear radiation from an American bomb, which he’s trying to pass on.

So why am I still watching this show, you might reasonably ask? There’s something oddly fascinating about it, much like the scene of an especially unpleasant road crash. I especially love the wholly inappropriate use of music. This week we got splashes of an instrumental version of Fever, before in the final shots a vocal version was unleashed to go along with the drooling vectors. That I loved, and could only be surpassed if next week they bring out the Art Garfunkel-performed Bright Eyes from Watership Down. That sort of craziness I can appreciate, whereas the sort that has two characters sleep in the open in sub-zero temperatures and not even get frostbite, I can pass on.

Read Billy's review of the previous episode, Aniqatiga, here.

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