Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Helix: “Fushigi”

Illustration for article titled Helix: “Fushigi”
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.

Helix keeps playing with the idea that Julia Walker is the main character. All the interesting plotlines and mysteries converge on her—but the show hesitates to  really invest in making her a multidimensional character, or even the central character. By all rights, she should be the protagonist. Instead Helix is still focusing on bland ol' Alan Farragut, with lukewarm results. I think the show might have been stronger if Julia and Alan's characters had been merged—Julia could have followed the trail to Peter on her own, without Alan's help. She was doing that anyway when she stopped by the CDC to pick him up. Maybe Sarah or Doreen could have been her longtime colleagues; or maybe she'd have brought along a hot young man-doctor as her student/rebound. The story would certainly have made more sense.

And the acting would be a whole lot better. I loved The Rocketeer as a kid, so it pains me to say this, but Billy Campbell is about as appealing as wet cardboard. Alan doesn't have facial expressions beyond "slightly pained and/or concerned," and he doesn't have chemistry with anyone. Kyra Zagorsky, who plays Julia, animates her role with some amount of frustration, disgust, or ambition. The irritated tenderness she displays towards Alan emotes "ex-wife speaking to ex-husband" with more facility than either the script or Campbell manages; even in the few seconds where she's telling Alan what Hatake told her about her family, she manifests a real desire for comfort that is frustrated by Alan's total inability to get her. It's not Emmy-worthy, but it's a solid attempt, and it more or less works. Alan is the exact same flat character he was on day one—we haven't seen him do anything that day one Alan wouldn't have done, and yo, there have been zombies and shit. It's not normal to be acting like you were in Atlanta, because nothing around you is normal!

Alan's flatness made Sarah's character suffer, too. I think I'm supposed to care that Sarah has died, because she was young, and pretty, and slept with handsome Dr. Farragut. To be fair, in "Fushigi" she gets a few moments to shine, with some monologues to a webcam and choice hallucinations. But Sarah was always plot deadweight, and it seems like she's been (almost) fridged so that Alan can use that as an excuse to say more sanctimonious things—which, if you'll recall, is more or less why Doreen died, too. The end of the episode illustrates this really well: Sarah's dying on the table as Alan tries to revive her. He's supposed to be really distraught, but he's still at slightly confused and/or pained, which makes it look like he doesn't really care much at all. Sarah's explaining in her voiceover that she's not afraid of dying because she has faith in science, which is literally the script throwing an emotion at Alan, but the look on his face as the scene ends is the visual equivalent of "…". RIP Sarah the plot device; sorry you tried.

Julia's other romantic interest is a whole lot more interesting. Admittedly, he is a monkey-person. But Peter is fascinating, and his weird lurking in this episode turns out to have more of an emotional impact than I expected. Helix hasn't done an excellent job with its emotional manipulation, in general; it's always feinting left and then going left, which means that every single act is heavily foreshadowed and nothing is mysterious anymore. So the vectors briefly were mindless zombies, but ever since then all evidence indicates that they're sentient, non-evil, and even kind of cool. Peter proves that this week with his vision quest in the lab—he prowls around creepily, but it turns out all he wanted were photos of Julia. In fact, they're the same photos Hatake saved in his album, including some creepy stalkerish ones. It's… sweet? And considering Hatake and Peter are mortal enemies, Julia's importance to both of them sets us up for some great drama.

Hatake is perplexing in this episode; that complexity he exhibited last week is obscured in "Fushigi" by what looks like lazy, confusing characterization. Presumably, he knows exactly what's happening to Julia's DNA—so why did he drop hints at Sarah, a person who is literally dying, in the hopes that she'd figure it out with all the time she has on her hands? Why did he steal Inuit children if he just gave them away again? (How is that just a throwaway line in the episode??) And like, the biggest question of all: Why the fuck doesn't he just tell Julia that he's an immortal alien space creature, if that's what's happening? What could possibly be his motive?

And how does all of this relate to the chained-up guy in the tunnel who has silver eyes and has been there for 30 years and then kills himself with boltcutters? I'm asking because I actually do not know. So he's one of the 500. So Hatake put him there. So what? Helix, you have some explaining to do.


Stray observations:

  • "Fushigi" is Japanese for "mystery" or "secret," according to Wikipedia. HOW ORIGINAL.
  • Even odds that Sarah's not dead. The show's creators promised one more major death before the finale, but her illness has been so protracted, and she's too Hollywood-pretty to be written off. Also: This show has issues with coherence and realism out the wazoo, but no cancer patient looks that freaking healthy in stage-four anything, I don't care if you're in the fake Arctic that shares land-space with Russia.
  • Sonia's Speculation Corner: Julia will infect Sarah with the Narvik and she'll spring back to life. Julia kisses Peter, because she is the youngest immortal and he is the vector-king. Hatake broods more, and waters his hydroponic Arctic lettuce chamber.
  • Some scintillating conversation, here: JULIA: "But why would he take the Narvik?" ALAN: "My guess is, he either works for Ilaria, or he's about to." YOU GUYS ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE LIKE EIGHT DEGREES EACH. COME ON.
  • Team Banana: Guys. Guys. You know that #teambanana is the only thing I really care about on this show, and I am super-happy that they have moved from theoretical banging to real banging so fast. But girl, I know from kissing scenes in film and television, and that scene was busted. Too long; the blocking is clunky; the tribe stuff and Sergio's self-respect or whatever come in at totally the wrong time. You do not think about whether or not you are a good person when you are about to bang. You think about that afterwards when you're still kind of sweaty and you realize you have to leave this trailer for the godforsaken Arctic unknown but all you wanna do is cuddle and order pizza. The actors have great chemistry and the script did not rise up to their level. That shit is amateur hour.
  • Team Banana, redux: All that being said, everything else was pretty spot-on. Their like totally self-involved banter while she's tending to his wounds? His relatively shirtless state throughout, followed by intense looks and lurking? It warms the cockles of my heart. Sorry that this is the only reason I'm watching the show, I hope one day you'll forgive me, also let's name their kids???