Helix: Single Strand, review

The latest episode of Helix is a testament to how to best keep viewers guessing. Here's Gerri's review...

I would like to thank the Helix showrunners (Steven Maeda and Ronald D. Moore among them) for his rousing game of Who’s the Bad Guy? Viewers are practically paralyzed with choices at this point!

Is it Arctic Biosystems? Owned and operated by big pharma, they are an obvious choice. Pharmaceutical companies have a long (and sadly not fictitious) history of honing their research and development skills on unwitting human “volunteers.” Who knows, maybe Arctic Biosystems is trying to develop a radical new weight loss drug? I mean, the infected are sweating their balls off while kicking ass in cardio. Does dismemberment count as resistance training?

Or is Arctic Biosystems exactly what it seems: a harmless research facility, conveniently built in the, uh, Arctic. Maybe the problem is with the management. Hiroshi Hatake clearly knows more than he is letting on. He seemed encouraged when the infected Dr. Farragut refused to liquefy and instead just came down with a really aggressive strain of Mono (the kissing disease). Plus, what is the deal with his stalker-esq obsession with Dr. Walker? Too much time alone in the snow with creepy security dude? Either way, the viewer is left with the distinct impression that Dr. Hatake has been dabbling in radical research for a nefarious third party.

Still, aside from the lying Dr. Hatake and his Igor-esq security goon, the one character who has been explicitly naughty is Major Balleseros (Ball-a-saurus?). The U.S. Army. Of course. We have all seen the giant warehouse where they keep the Ark of the Covenant. Who else would want to develop cutting edge technology in biological warfare? Remember in the 1960s when they tried to make super soldiers with LSD? Me neither, but I am pretty sure Stephen King wrote about it. Major Balls has been going out of his way to keep the installation isolated and the CDC chasing its own tail. He clearly wants whatever Hatake cooked up, but did either of them expect to create oozing, paranoid, super strong kissy face soldiers? I am dubious.

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And that leaves us with one final, chilling, possibility: is the real villain here going to end up being the CDC? Sure, non-dying Dr. Farragut seems to be on the level, but I am pretty sure Dr. Jordan faked the outcome of her rapid response test and that Dr. Walker is going to end up having a secret past which links her to Hatake. 

Which brings us to Day 4.

The infected locked on Level R are not happy. And they are starting to look a little ripe as they plot their escape. Since so much of the installation is located underground the facility relies on CO2 scrubbers, and the vectors figure they can force Hatake’s hand if they disable the breathing apparatus. After all, they are already dying, what do they have to lose? Dr. Walker tries to keep a cool head while the others contemplate how to sneak away and spread their infection (I thought these people were scientists?!). But she is having a difficult time on Level R, getting thrown out of the relative safety of the room where the infected are hiding, being chased by oozing vectors, and then getting saved by a creepy gas mask person.

Meanwhile the non-sweaty Dr. Farragut is arguing with Hatake about the ethics of abandoning infected people; especially when considering the greater good. On paper, Hatake’s judgment looks sound. But as we mentioned earlier, the head of Arctic Biosystems is not only a liar, but he is invested in the outcome of the infection itself. In Helix, the question of ethics is tightly bound up in personal interest.

As Arid Extra Dry Dr. Farragut demonstrates when he doesn’t flinch from administering untested anti-viral medicine on his sweaty brother. The treatment only provides a temporary relief from the infection and the only lucid exchange between brothers ends up being about sexy time with Walker. To this effect, the extremely veiny Dr. Farragut confides that it wasn’t his work Hatake was interested in. In fact, whatever he was doing was neither cutting edge nor terribly dangerous; Hatake’s interest seemed not to be in Farragut, but Walker.

Meanwhile, when Major Balls isn’t tussling with Hatake over how the situation is being handled, he is (apparently) spilling his guts to Dr. Boyle. Poor Boyle. She has the potential to be a smart, strong, female character (or at least the one cast member not knee deep in a romantic triangle), but she often gets lost in the weeds. Blame the writers who have so far consigned Boyle to function as exposition. She is basically the Morgan Freeman of Helix. Even in-character. her behavior is implausible; in what world would a member of the CDC try to catch a mange-riddled monkey with her bare hands? Or agree not to tell her team lead about the platoon of frozen, mange-riddled, monkeys who fled the facility? I get that Major Balls is kinda cute, but Boyle’s behavior does not fit the context of the situation. Again, the larger question of ethics is at play here. Why would Boyle compromise herself just to stay silent for the Major’s sake?

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Dr. Jordan’s situation is much more feasible. SPOILERS Of course she would be willing to take risks and hide an infected woman in her quarters, especially when that woman has the capacity to expose Jordan’s own illness. Note that Jordan comes clean to her boss about the rapid result test being a failure, but she will compromise herself in order to hide her looming disability.

A great episode tonight, that not only keeps the creepy element of looming infection, but forces the characters to confront the point in themselves where they would sell out and start sacrificing others for personal gain. We all want what’s best for the greater good. As long as our interests are taken care of too, right?

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4 out of 5