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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Helix: “Survivor Zero”

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The music supervision in Helix might be better than everything else about the show. The last few minutes of tonight’s “Survivor Zero” plays Peggy Lee’s “Fever,” and it’s only then that the episode reaches the heights of wacky horror that Helix provides when it’s at it best. And even with that note of gaiety overlaying the horror, the horror isn’t very horrifying: So more patients have broken through. What else is new? Bring on the vectors, they were everywhere already.

“Survivor Zero” is an establishing episode, which is fine. It has to contend with the introduction of Jeri Ryan as a major player and Julia and Alan’s reunion, which throws a lot of new elements to the mix. I can see how this episode could set up something fun. I can also see how this episode is a template for more tepid episodes to come, as the show invests too much in mysteries the audience doesn’t really care about.

The main mystery this week is Julia’s sudden recovery from the illness—not exactly a surprise, because we know Hatake’s been tampering with her, but surprising for Julia herself and everyone else in the base. Of course, now she’s got mad silver eyes, and Alan catches a glimpse of them in the last few minutes. But the bigger mystery is that everybody got silver eyes now—er, at least, Jeri Ryan’s character Constance has them, too.

So what do we know about silver eyes? They come from exposure to the virus; they give you a magical ability to control the crazy vectors. They have something to do with that serum that Hatake injected into Julia in the middle of one of her hallucinations—was that the super-vaccine that kills everything? They also give you migraines and mess with your vision. Julia thinks she’s going blind at the beginning, so she wraps her head in gauze to prepare herself. (I found this counterintuitive, but not everyone on my couch agreed.) Julia thinks she’s survivor zero, but if Hatake and Constance have the silver eyes, she can’t possibly be.

The other mystery is what Constance’s agenda is. Jeri Ryan is kind of the perfect injection of adrenaline the show needs—she’s confident and aggressive in a way a lot of our remaining “good guys” aren’t, and she has the added twist of being potentially evil and very powerful. She’s so ruthless that she’s making Hatake look like a good guy—which was the point, I think. Her stated motive in this episode is to get the CDC team to make a cure for the virus. Then they’re going to kill everyone in the lab. I think this is a science-fiction spin of The Constant Gardener—Ilaria, the company that owns the base, wants to create a virus that infects everyone so it can make money marketing the cure. Maybe? Or it’s something else entirely. But that was my initial take.

But the best thing about Constance is how she destabilizes the good/bad dichotomy that Alan and Hatake had established—now that she’s in the mix, Hatake’s not bad, just sort of weird, and Alan is looking even less competent than usual. His romantic adventure with Sarah ends anticlimactically—after a hilarious interchange in which she shrugs off the emotional component of their sexytimes, saying it’s “just biology,” they proceed to have expository dialogue about what Constance’s “true motives” might be and form a bland alliance around “trying to do the right thing.” Sarah’s reaction to Alan suggesting that Constance can’t be trusted is so campy-terrible that I laughed out loud; how sad to be a triple Ph.D. in bioenginarcticvirosystems and yet say the word “profit” like it’s a confusing new concept.


She also stares from the sidelines hungrily as Alan and Julia embrace! Oh, Sarah. You have so much to learn about television romance.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Helix watchers.

Stray observations:

  • Sonia’s Speculation Corner: Constance and Hatake are Julia’s parents, right? And Ilaria is breeding a super-race of people-monkeys? With stolen children as lab subjects? Except also the stolen children don’t actually get the virus? What is this show even about?
  • Hatake’s goodbye to Julia is a little heartbreaking—even odds he’s dead before the season’s out. That being said, his gift to Julia—contact lenses—is a little cold, for his apparent daughter, right?
  • Peter: Who cares?
  • Now that Ballesaros has taken his shirt off, he’s one of my favorite characters. Seriously—not because his shirtlessness makes him so appealing, exactly, but because once they decided to make him sexy bait for everyone, he got a lot more interesting.
  • Team Banana Status Update: Anana and Ballesaros return to the lab, presumably so that all the major characters can be in the same place. They engaged in a lot of hate-flirting on the way there, mostly because he was handcuffed behind her on a snowmobile. (That would get any romance started off right!) But oh snap—Ballesaros has a romantic history with Constance. In fact, he was working for her, not for the military. She seems to be into, I don’t know, the shoving and somewhat violent kind intimacy? So maybe they’re kind of on the rocks. (Rocks… Of Love!)
  • The rest of the audience here observed that Constance’s business-speak sounds like what someone who knows nothing about corporate life thinks happens in corporate environments.
  • I‘d almost rather watch an episode of Helix that was just a portrayal of the lyrics to “Fever.” It would require more fire, and also maybe stand-ins for Pocahontas and John Smith. Doesn’t this sound like a good idea?