Although showrunner, Steven Maeda, insists that Helix has not been completely reinvented, it sure feels that way in the season two premiere entitled, “San Jose.” No longer bound to the frozen wasteland of the arctic with the scientists fractured into new groups with new characters, the show has little that resembles the story from last season. It remains to be seen if the change will be good or bad, but there’s no question that many mysteries remain frustratingly unsolved.
Remember the meeting of the Ilarian board members in Paris at the end of last season where Julia Walker was mysteriously in charge? Remember when Alan Farragut was given either the virus or the cure when he was pushed out of the helicopter? There’s no explanation for either of these after waiting through the long hiatus! Day 235 in the finale, in which the Narvik virus has clearly made its way into the general populace, does not continue into season two, and I was already itching to have clarification about Ilaria’s mission in creating the virus and cure in the first place. Do we get answers in this premiere? No, damnit, we do not.
Instead, we have a completely new outbreak in an equally remote location miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. I had to laugh when the CDC team, comprised of Peter Farragut (is he still an evil Ilaria plant?), Sarah Jordan, and a new guy from Texas, Dr. Kyle Sommer, step onto the island and are told that they’re out of helicopter range and that a boat will be back in a couple of weeks. Of course it will.
In essence, the show has traded in black ooze, snow, and a secretive research team for yellow pus, abbey ruins, and a secretive cult. Obviously the followers of Brother Michael, played by Steven Weber, are up to no good, and references to dangers on the island seem less pressing than the dangers right there in the community. The CDC really needs to work on its field support.
Meada has said in interviews that the show will fill in the gaps between last season’s finale and the premiere episode eventually, but I’m not sure that his promise diminishes the damage already done to audience trust by leaving mysteries hanging, not enticingly unsolved, but completely and bafflingly unaddressed. Creepy people in the woods are a distraction from the Ilarian storyline, and unanswered questions about immortals are replaced by new ones about hooded tooth-pullers.
There were some enjoyable narrative twists in the premiere, such as the sequence in which Peter and Sarah appear to be about to rescue Julia from her captor when suddenly it’s revealed that the former colleagues are 40 years removed from each other. Julia’s longevity and Sarah’s reputation for recklessness as a result of her accelerated healing garner significantly more intrigue than anything a new disease or torch-bearing disciples can elicit. Even Alan’s grave gave me more of a chill than the toothless skulls covering the forest floor.
I’m hopeful that Helix will hold onto the few strengths that season one brought to bear rather than trying to replace its weaknesses with equally contrived evils. The island environment immediately seems less confining than the arctic setting of yore; it’s time to let the immortality story out of its cage as well.