Helix: Is Syfy's New Show Worth Watching?
Television show pilots have a pretty difficult and unenviable job: they have to set the tone of the series, introduce and (hopefully) make you care about the major characters, and tell you what the series is about. And in the case of a show like Helix, it has to make you care about the solving the longer term mystery. So, how did Helix, the newest show on the Syfy channel, do?
Let’s start with the characters. There’s Billy Campbell, who seems to have barely aged in the last 10 years, playing Dr. Alan Farragut, who’s a head of the Special Pathogen Branch at the Center for Disease Control. There’s his ex-wife, who apparently slept with his brother (hence the “ex”), Julia Walker, a former student of Farragut’s. And then there’s his current student, Sarah Jordan, who clearly wants to get to know Farragut better, if you know what I mean. And rounding out the major players are Doreen, an animal expert, and Major Balleseros, an Army liaison. These are, ostensibly, our “good” guys, and they’re pretty well rounded, if a little cliché. Generally, it’s an interesting cast; they have good chemistry and the potential to evolve into a really great group.
Now, Julia arrives at the CDC with some bad news: there’s been an outbreak of some sort of virus at a private research facility in the Arctic and Farragut’s brother (yes, THAT brother) is the latest victim. This is how our merry band of misfits comes together, and predictably, they’re deposited at the in-the-middle-of-nowhere base and the helicopter flies off, abandoning them to their fates. Yes, supposedly, it can come back at any time, but do you REALLY see that happening?
Enter Dr. Hiroshi Hatake, who is the head of the research facility and, WOW. Talk about your cliché bad guy. There is no doubt this guy is hiding something BIG and it’s pretty shocking that none of the characters really seem to pick up on it, considering how obvious he is.
The pilot progresses at a rapid pace from here. There’s blood and guts and missing arms, but there’s also some interesting science. The show seems to want to strike a balance between horror and interesting plot and character development. Some of the scenes in the movie feel like classic sci-fi horror (Alien and Resident Evil came to mind), but there’s also time spent in labs working on science-y things. This balance actually works really well, and it’ll be interesting to see whether it continues in this vein, or if it goes for the straight out horror shock value (in which case we may lose interest).
The premise of Helix is certainly fascinating, but the real question is where can it go from here? There’s a lot to discover, and the pilot is filled with narrative tension… but can it be sustained? Shows that start with a BANG (Flash Forward, The Event, etc.) often struggle to keep up that momentum. This show is set on a closed base. How many answers are there really to find? This is really going to be the main issue facing Helix. The clichéd characters? That can definitely be fixed, once there’s more time for development and in-depth exploration. And hopefully the shifty bad guy will stop being SO obvious.
For now, we’ll tell you to give Helix a chance. The pilot is a whirlwind of action and information, and it definitely manages to hook you (something that’s actually more difficult than it seems). What it really needs is time to iron out some of the early kinks, and we’re hopeful that it’ll turn into another great show from Syfy.
What did you think of Helix?