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SyFy-Helix

Helix is a fairly new (2014) SyFy series created by Cameron Porsandeh and produced by Ronald D. Moore, of Battlestar Galactica. Two seasons have been completed, but the show has been cancelled and there will not be a season three.  Helix is a science fiction/horror drama that is heavy on the science but with some zombie-like results.

The first season of Helix absolutely blew me away.  The pilot was good, but as the season continued, the quality of the show did too. By the end of the season I was alternately laughing aloud and on the verge of tears.  This show seems to cover every imaginable theme: the nature of family, humanity, mortality, ethics in scientific research, loyalty, leadership vs. authority, survivalism, the natural and the unnatural… I can pull up lists of themes and check off the whole list as I watch.

The plot was impressively complex, woven so tightly that by the last episode, every little thing had become inextricably connected. The Ilaria Corporation comes through as the true big-bad, but it has its fingers in everything.  Nearly every character has some sort of connection to Ilaria. The episodial bad guys shift constantly, which is actually really nice.  We never have just one villain, and by the end of the season almost every character has been labeled as a villain at some point, and most of them switch over to being heroes…or heroes and villains simultaneously.

Character development never slows down.  The already established relationships grow deeper and more complex, and new (often unexpected) relationships and allegiances grow organically for every major character. We have the opportunity to really delve into the psyches of all of the major characters and experience their emotional turmoils, their motivations, and their personal histories.

The science continues to seem accurate enough for a general audience, although the glaring errors made by the CDC workers are sometimes frustrating.  Their ability to contain a disease is laughable, and I’m not sure if that was an intentional jab the show was making at the CDC’s competence, or if the show disregarded CDC protocols for the purpose of furthering the plot.  Either way, I can accept their incompetence ONLY because they are dealing with an unpredictable virus that is difficult to study and doesn’t respond like the CDC workers keep predicting—especially when it suddenly evolves.  The only thing I really had trouble with was the tendency of many of the characters to wind up outside in the -50 arctic blizzard outside of the base with their faces mostly uncovered.  I don’t have to be a scientist to know how inaccurate that is.  I guess we need to be able to see Daniel and Sergio’s chins so we know who is who, but they should have lost their jaws to frostbite with as much chattering as they do in the snow.

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My main problems with the show were relatively minor.  The lack of facial covering out in the cold was one. Those damned vents I mentioned in the pilot review come up over and over.  Like almost every episode, somebody is in a vent. Then there was this super cheesy scene where one of the characters takes out his colored contacts to reveal silvery irises and proclaims, “You have your father’s eyes.” Arguably the worst acting of the entire show.

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I praised the management of tone in the pilot, and I praise it again now. The intense scenes are appropriately intense, the most brutal scenes are usually balanced with very upbeat music, which creates a disturbing effect, one that I like very much.  The finale episode steps away from that a little (not completely) and uses more haunting music.  Camera angles are also used efficiently, and the editing of the vector-focused scenes have a thrilling and chilling effect.

After doing a little googling to see how other reviewers responded to the show, I feel the need to make a few comments.  One thing I saw people lamenting was the knowledge that the secrets of the show were not going to be revealed quickly.  That’s true.  Helix holds onto its secrets until they MUST be revealed to continue the plot. That is not a bad thing. If the show were revealing all of its secrets up front, why would we even bother watching the show?  These morsels of information keep the plot active and prevent the writers from spinning off into tangential storylines.  Another issue some people bring up is poor acting.  I will leave that to you all to judge for yourselves, but I don’t see the actors being stiff.  The characters certainly can be, but scientist-type characters tend to be stiff in general, and this show is pretty much ALL scientists with a few military types (who also tend to be stiff).  I thought the characters were played well for the characters they were, and that the characters weren’t so stiff as to be unrealistic, just somewhat detached, as scientists and military must be.

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