Helix inspires me to end every sentence I write about it with a question mark. Clones? Is this show about clones, now? Or maybe alien clones? Or maybe aliens who have come to earth to produce clones? The throughlines of the mystery are taking a pit stop in every major subgenre of science-fiction horror on the way to its conclusion: It started out with disease and zombies; it moved to genetic engineering and ice-preservation with spliced RNA and rhesus monkeys; then it introduced what looked like undead, perfect vampire people with silver eyes. Now it's playing with the idea of a conspiratorial secret society/corporation that has some sort of nefarious mission, crossing that with a paramilitary hostile takeover with echoes of fascist enforcement.
This is a lot to juggle. Helix is best described as a lot of cool ideas and questionable execution. Questionable, in this case, meaning literally that I keep waffling on whether or not anything is really working. I liked tonight's episode, but I don't think it was good, either. There is still way too much confusion about what's really going on, and the original motivations of these characters—to find a cure for a contagion—feels like ancient history. In fact, in the lab, when Alan and Sarah are pretending to work on a cure while in fact creating an explosive, I thought the ruse was laughable. Someone in this show still thinks this is about an outbreak that needs containment? That is so Day 0.
I'm waiting for the show to figure out what it's currently about. But in the meantime, I'll take moments of sudden shock and the few penny-drops that we get in each episode. "Bloodline" finally confirms that Hatake is Julia's father—or at least, was the father of someone that had identical DNA to Julia. It also introduces that Constance Sutton and Hatake were romantically involved, and were both members of the same group/society/company that took a vow to do something vague and sinister sounding. Hatake has since gone rogue, in order to prove a theory (that is probably cloning), and every time Illaria sends someone out to rein him in... he garrottes them with his watch-based piano wire. (Hence the frozen cemetery of heads buried out in the Arctic ice. Why is he keeping the heads? No one knows!)
Jeri Ryan and Hiroyuki Sanada have a lot of scenes together as a result—"Bloodline" is ultimately a power struggle between the lesser of two evils, but what's fun is that we don't really know if Hatake or Sutton is the worse tyrant. And the two have a very entertaining dynamic—and it's certainly interesting when Hatake suddenly and ruthlessly strangles her.
It's also very clear that Hatake is the only character with actual motivation right now. Most of the other characters are just moving between fighting for survival in different settings; Alan and Sarah are particularly hapless in this episode (a sound weapon? Not to knock on defense science too much, but why not just use a broken Erlenmeyer flask?); and even though Anana, Sergio, and Daniel/Miksa manage to escape, make some bold speeches, and kiss-fight, it's just not immediately clear why they're doing any of what they're doing. Mostly, that's because Helix is enamored of its own secrets. But partly, it's because character motivations don't really interest the show, either. Helix is far more about style than substance, and though the style is appealing, it's frustrating that eight episodes in, the characters are still largely so flat, and the dialogue between them is so empty and overstated.
As a result, the show is still hard to follow. I had to watch the last 12 minutes of tonight's episode twice, and even then I feel like I missed some stuff—the sound weapon confused me; the vectors kidnapping Peter came out of nowhere; the consequences of Peter's defrost, and the point of Peter's existence, also continue to elude me. There was a lot of clambering around in air ducts that didn't seem to have that much significance, and several tense but largely pointless conversations between characters who either we a) don't know very well b) are about to die or c) are Alan and Sarah.
Instead, Helix invests in its set pieces: The long scene where Julia is nailed into a crate with a muzzle over her mouth is particularly horrifying, and the show is intent on letting us feel the claustrophobia. There's also the absurdly long buildup to Alan and Sarah's failed assassination plot, complete with complicated glances and carefully timed chemical reactions. Despite how frustrating it is to run up against so many missing pieces, there are also moments that are enthralling in an unexpected way.
observations baffled questions:
- Constance isn't really dead, right? Could they really have offed Jeri Ryan so fast? Or was she never intending to be a series regular?
- This show has killed off all the blonde women, by the way. (All two.)
- The vectors have organized; they're coordinated and silent, like a well-oiled, genetically engineered machine. What's going on? Are they in a union now? And why did they take Peter?
- Even though, as we guessed, Julia is Hatake's daughter, we still don't really know why she's at the base. Does he just want to hang out with her and have cloned-daughter bonding times?
- How the holy hell is it possible that Anana isn't wearing gloves when she's out in cold, pointing a gun at Ballesaros?
- Team Banana Update: There was some definite sexy fighting in this episode—twice! Anana and Sergio basically just wanna be about two inches from each other's faces. Maybe that's while yelling or struggling to disarm each other. Or maybe that's while banging.
- The picture of Julia and Hatake is obviously missing the mother-component. I'd bet money on that other half showing up in the season finale, which now is not too far away.
- Julia was the least irritating she has been yet in this episode. Her speech at the end to Alan is actually kind of moving.
- Sarah was surprisingly nice to Julia in this episode. Maybe they're friends, and not romantic rivals?
- Sonia's Speculation Corner: Hatake cloned his daughter in order to inoculate some kind of specific antigen in a living petri dish—Sutton said "protect" his daughter, not "bring back" his daughter, which is a very different thing. Peter's gone full-on monkey king, and now he's going to live in the ducts and create a new rhesus-human civilization where they conduct raids on peanut stores. Ballesaros is a double-agent. Triple-agent? Something. Hatake and Constance are both aliens who came to earth to try to take over the planet. Before they did they made a vow. Then Hatake was supposed to follow through but something happened and he changed his mind. 90 percent chance he changed his mind because he fell in love with an earth woman and had a daughter. Then she died and he was like wait, human mortality sucks! Then he went rogue. And found some way to make the humans into the aliens? Uhhhh