Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Helix - First Impressions.


Live in concert, The Arctic Monkeys!



Some of the more musically astute of my readership may recognize the "Arctic Monkeys" as a legitimate musical group.  To viewers of the first episode of SyFy's "Helix" it was a bone chilling fright fest that gave truth to the lie and served up a creep factor that came in welcome and heavy doses.

The creep factor was the best thing going for "Helix" as it made it's debut.  No least of which was the use of "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" that played over scenes filled with revulsion and terror.  A comedic and ironic counterpoint to the bleakness of it all.




As the lyrics go....

"Fame and fortune is a magnet.
It can pull you far away from home
With a dream in your heart you're never alone.
Dreams turn into dust and blow away
And there you are without a friend
You pack your car and ride away"


A+ to the people of Helix for using this song.  Not only was it a peppy finger snapper that had you singing along but it was wildly incongruent with the setting in which it was used

As seen from the lyrics above, the song preternaturally incorporates itself into the plot of the show.  "Fame and Fortune" are a magnet and whatever drew that mysterious company to the great white north, as it hopes to benefit from it's viral product that provides the conspiracy angle for the show.

Dr. Alan Farragut and his team from the CDC find themselves "pulled away from home" as in far away!  The bleak and bitter cold of the Arctic is reminiscent of the science fiction classic, "The Thing" where a frozen wasteland is your prison and the isolated and nearly unreachable lab could be your tomb.

"With a dream in your heart that you're never alone."  Sadly and ironically true when you have a man-beast like Dr. Peter Farragut running around in the air ducts ready to spring on you at any horrific moment.  Darn shower scenes.  Thanks for those Alfred Hitchcock.




That insanely creepy elevator music was just the right touch.

"Dreams turn into dust and then blow away"   Or as in the case of Helix, drip away in the form of black goo that was reminiscent of the black oil from The X-Files.  Will the dreams of Dr. Hiroshi Hatake slip away if his experiments go awry and slip out of his control.  He seems to be pleased with the results of the viral experiments, although not outwardly so.  How many times have we seen the machinations of the evil professor go wildly out of control?  This is what happens when you pretend to play God.  (Or at least Dr. Frankenstein.)

"And there you are without a friend."  You mean like Dr. Julia Walker as she showered alone in the aforementioned scene?  Or Doctor Doreen Boyle as she absurdly wandered away on her own only to be confronted by another zombified virus victim?  What was she thinking?!!


"You pack your car and ride away."  Nope!  You're stuck.  As mentioned before the isolation of the Arctic lab lends itself to the paranoia of the whole episode.  Not only was this episode a tribute to "The Thing" it was also a sendoff the to the episode "Ice" from the first season of the X-Files.


So Helix had a lot of the right things going for it most of which came from it's use of creepy atmospherics

Did it have any missteps?

Sadly yes and it came in the form of character cliches.


Did Hiroyuki Sanada have to portray the inscrutable Asian that was weirdly indifferent to all the disaster, immutably laconic and obviously hiding a secret?  I guess so.


How about the pretty young assistant, Dr. Sarah Jordan as played by Jordan Hayes?  Her character practically screamed possible love interest for Billy Campbell's Dr. Alan Farragut.


Hot on the heels of Dr. Jordan's introduction was the introduction of the estranged wife to Farragut, Dr. Julia Walker.  Her conflict with Farragut and Jordan was absurdly transparent.



Don't worry, I'm not down on Helix.  They got more things right than they got wrong.  I like flexh starved zombies that creep around isolated labs.  It worked well for World War Z.


Okay, the victims of the black goo virus in Helix don't seem to be zombified but they are dangerous none the less and perhaps a little superhuman in a bad way.  That seems to be one of the secrets of Helix, the point of the experimentation.  We've seen many iterations of what happens when man plays God in the lab.  It usually goes wildly wrong.

I'll keep watching as long as the keep this conceit on the right track.  They've got the creep factor is spades, the cast is strong and probably able to go beyond the cliches and a "healthy" state of paranoia.

Just the right mixture for appointment TV.

9 comments:

  1. Nicely written. The third episode ("274") is up for advance viewing on IMDb and things are about to get even spookier. There are even more lies to be told.

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  2. Oh, great, I'm all for lies and all things spooky!

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  3. Glad you are reviewing this show, Dave! Interesting to read your thoughts.

    I basically agree with your opinons on the casting and cliches. Asian Evil Dude... I had a massive eye-roll/woe-begotten sigh attack with that. Good grief, shades of seventies TV. Aaaand the pretty young thing slash almost-current love interest. Please. Again?

    But as you say, they did get things right. Creep factor is off the charts, for me. No happy fluffy bunnies here... O_o All alone (the group) in the freezing cold of the arctic, and the classic group-agression factor (Doctor Who's "Midnight" epsiode was a great one), well, if anyone lives through this they will surely need therapy. I would need therapy just to get over that cold. To be serious, I really like the theme of virus' or disease frozen in the ice. Well, I don't LIKE it, but it is frighteningly valid. Who knows what is frozen in the ice... Who knows what is currently defrosting in said ice...

    One thing I didn't get... Just before we see the Ice Monkeys (which I am shamefully unaware of) we see one of the guys outside wanting to get away. Right at the beginning we are told the temperature can go down to -70 degrees. The guy would go outside with NOTHING on his head, not even a tiny tuque? Gads, it goes down to zero where I live and I'm bundled up from here to next week.

    I really like Doreen's character. I was so sure they would kill her off before the end of episode one, but she even survived episode two! She is sharp (except for going off on her own, really... would she do that?), and the guy she was working with, what was his name (apologies), would it not be great to see a relationship develop between them? I'd like to see that.

    The "command control center" room was really quite neat... very Star Trekkie.

    Do you think they can keep this up? They may need to lighten up only just a fraction (not too much) just because that much intensity... is a lot. The spooky might lose it's spook, and that would be a shame. I'm curious to see where they go with this.

    Sorry if I wrote too much... It's hockey night. Again.

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    1. I hope I can keep up Ingrid. So much TV now. The lull is over!

      Let me get right to your point about the guy running out into the snow. That was a real head scratcher. Who the heck runs out into weather like that? Unless you are some sort of suicidal monkey or something. I briefly thought he was infected like the monkeys and felt impervious to it all. Then I thought he may have panicked so much that he didn't bother to think of the consequences. Still kind of dumb.

      I was hoping I'd see a garage nearby with a couple of snow cats in it but I guess that has been ruled out.

      The guy was just bonkers.

      I thought Doreen was a "red shirt" for sure but I thought the Major was a "red shirt" also. Now we know he is a part of the conspiracy. I even thought they may hit off and explore a little romance. Why not!

      I sure hope they can keep it up. A bit of humor is always a welcome touch because it makes the scarier parts even scarier! Hope you had a happy hockey night Ingrid and thanks!

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    2. Ha... Indeed, I thought Doreen was a redshirt too. I just watched episode three, and happily, she still isn't! Her "complot"... um...I can't think of the english word... the guy who is in cahoots with her, they connect nicely and a relationship between those two would truly be different and, frankly, groundbreaking in this type of tv. Honestly, I enjoy those two. And after seeing ep 3, yes Major(?) is "part" of it but not really...... curious. I hope you keep posting about this show! I'd do it but you are better at the tech details than I am. I'm more an emotion-thing person...

      The cold is something I think about... lol...

      And it's hockey night again, Chris Hadfield tried to sing for the toronto/Montreal game! (I quit watching after he stopped..shame on me)

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  4. Hi Dave,

    Nice work on the music! I am a sucker for that sort of thing. The scene reminded me of "Make your own kind of music" playing as the Swan Hatch was initially explored on LOST. However, for me it really called back to the miniseries of Stephen King's THE STAND. There Blue Oyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" was playing over a montage of dead lab scientists, with their equipment still running no less. "Do You Know The Way to San Jose" was a great choice, oddly upbeat, but essentially about wanting to go home.

    I like the setting in the Artic, isolated and claustrophobic. It makes sense for the type of work as well, no wildlife nearby to serve as carriers if an infection should break out. The creep factor is great. I can think of several films it reminds me of, especially The Andromeda Strain and even Alien with creepy crawleys in the duct work. I also like the use of "found footage" video diaries and surveillance tapes to provide flashbacks without actual flashbacks.

    The characters are the weak spot as you say and I hope they get deeper. Clearly the design is that "everybody has a secret". A+ for a plethora of women scientists, D- for having a lot of their dialog revolve around romantic relationships. I hope they will be more than damsels.

    I'm probably one of a few thousand people who saw/read it, but Sanada's eyes reminded me of Stephenie Meyer's "The Host". Well that and Riddick. So enhanced or infected human? Alien? Android? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

    I'll be watching (through my fingers with all the lights on), Lynne

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    1. Yes, the musical aspect is great. We saw American Hustle and I bet that soundtrack will be a best seller. So many great tunes and inserted all so precisely. They almost over did it but not quite.

      Nice catch on the "found footage" aspect. It's pretty popular these days. But if it is not done well it can be pretty silly. So far so good.

      I'm afraid Dr. Julia Walker is a "damsel" already. The passing of the black goo virus from Peter seemed like a sexual assault. On top of that we have Alan telling us he can't help but feeling he has to protect her. Strike one on that one Alan!

      Thanks Lynne keep those finger crossed for the Pats!

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