Saturday, February 22, 2014

Virus ‘R’ Us

Once again, the writers and creators of SyFy’s Helix have contrived to kill off a favorite character of mine.  What gives?  Back in the third episode, curmudgeonly down-to-earth Doreen Boyle, the CDC team’s crack veterinarian, was stabbed in the neck with a hypodermic and then fed to laboratory rats by the treacherous Major Sergio Balleseros.  Last night, the most evil employee of the Ilaria Corporation was dispatched in a remarkably thorough and gruesome manner.

It is day eight at Arctic Biosystems, where, with few exceptions, no one eats, drinks, sleeps, or cleans up.  There is a lot of cleaning up to do, because at least three or four people die each episode.  A bioengineered virus capable of injecting extraterrestrial DNA into its victims has filled the base with humanoids in various stages of mutation.  Zombies—they prefer to be called vectors—scuttle about the ceiling air vents like mice, while doctors from the Centers for Disease Control duke it out below with members of the Ilaria Corporation.

Last night’s episode owed a lot to Alien, with all the crawling through claustrophobic air vents and close face to face encounters with drooling vectors.  Early in the show Julia prankishly mimics the shocking dinner scene in Alien, when the larval monster emerges from Kane’s chest.  Julia, by the way, no longer has any signs or symptoms of Narvik-B infection, although she now has her father’s—Dr. Hatake’s—strange alien eyes.

Constance Sutton, the awesomely evil chief operating officer of Ilaria, had demanded that the Alan and Sarah produce a cure for the Narvik-B virus.  The corporation wants to use Narvik-B in controlled applications on the human race to “trim the herd.”  Julia, as the sole survivor of the infection, may contain the cure that the Ilaria Corporation seeks.   Much of this episode is about Sutton’s machinations to capture Julia and send her back to HQ.

Sutton is a master of malevolent corporate-speak and gets all the best lines.  After an attempt on her life in last night’s show, she dusts herself off and reassures her henchman:  “The only thing wounded is my vintage Dior.”  Admittedly, her m.o. has repeatedly been to threaten to torture and kill a brother, daughter, lover, or best friend if she does not get what she demands.  Something bad has to happen to her, as it did to Balleseros earlier.  Something eventually does.

Alan and Sarah are locked in the lab and forced by Sutton to develop a cure for the virus.  Instead, they surreptitiously develop a cure for her—an explosive device which they wire to a microscope.  In the most profound moment of the show, the two lab partners discuss the realization that they are becoming like the virus, adapting to new environments, changing, and becoming lethal themselves.  “We are mutating to survive.”  The bomb goes off just as Sutton is peering greedily into the booby-trapped microscope to examine the cure.  But it only destroys her make-up, and little else.  She is now enraged.

The assassination attempt is unsuccessful, but sets into motion a series of chaotic events.  Alan’s brother Peter is detached from the cryogenics life support system and is carried off into the air vents by marauding vectors.  Sarah disables Sutton’s guards with a sound cannon she happens to find in the lab.  Hatake is freed from incarceration and Julia is rescued from a cargo box that was bound for the Ilaria Corporation.  Balleseros sacrifices himself so that Anana can escape and go back to her village.  Daniel, who is Anana’s long lost twin brother and Hatake’s adopted son/henchman, now insists on being called ‘Miksa’ as a nod to his Arctic Native heritage.  Hatake regains control of Arctic Biosystems, encouraging his staff—now significantly downsized—to remain calm. 

Oh, and Hatake garrotes and decapitates Sutton after reminiscing with her about their tragically doomed romance and divergent career paths.  Not since the classic horror soap opera Dark Shadows (1966-1971) has there been such an intricate, labyrinthine plot.  Helix is basically a soap opera, too.

R.I.P. Constance Sutton.  In a weirdly touching conclusion to last night’s show, Hatake installs Sutton’s head in the same location where Dr. Hvit’s was found in an earlier episode.  It is a sort of alien graveyard that fans of Futurama will appreciate.

For more information about the show, see Helix | Syfy.  Helix is on SyFy Friday nights at 10:00.

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