Saturday, March 22, 2014

“A Parent Always Worries”

In last night’s episode of SyFy’s Helix, the gruesome carnage of last week was replaced with interminable sibling squabbles among the various characters.  Besides borrowing heavily from a variety of sci-fi and horror sources, Helix draws considerable inspiration from TV soap operas.  There were only two fatalities, a disappointingly low count, though one was fairly spectacular. The show was not as much about the impact of Narvik B, the bioengineered virus destined to alter the future of the human race, or the Ilaria Corporation’s efforts to retrieve it for use in their evil plan for world domination.  It was all about family. 

Tanuk confronts Anana about his sister’s love of the treacherous Major Balleseros, who may still be an Ilarian agent.  Miksa confronts his stepsister Julia about their father’s evident preference for his genetically altered daughter over his adopted son.  Allen, who we learned episodes ago is technically Dr. Hatake’s ex-son in law since he was once married to Hatake’s daughter Julia, confronts Hatake about his hubris in designing a virus that could bring immortality to the human race.  While sneaking around in the air ducts, Peter, now no longer a zombie, confronts his brother Allen for being a know-it-all and never taking him seriously.  Spencer, the Ilarian assassin also known as ‘the Scythe’, confronts Dr. Hatake about decapitating his mother, the hazardous Constance Sutton. 

Where are the zombies when you need them most?  But most of them were either cured or dispatched in the past couple of episodes. On Day 12 only a small remnant of the original research team has survived all this.  They are holed up in “the cabin”, a bunker deep below the Arctic Biosystems laboratory—a place made to look like Julia’s childhood home, which in fact it was.  While the staff grow increasingly anxious and rebellious, Allen, Peter, Julia, Miksa and Dr. Hatake—the “good guys”—play a game of cat and mouse with the Scythe and his two Ilarianettes.  Meanwhile, among the Inuits, Anana, Balleseros and Miksa’s twin brother Tanuk strategize about how to save the villagers from another attack by the Ilarians.
(Playing a twin on this show definitely ensures the longevity of the actor’s contract.)

Along the way, we learn that the Scythe, whose real name is Spencer, is a couple of centuries old, even though he looks like a high school kid.  And Dr. Hatake was born in 1501.  This argues for the earlier hypothesis that there is some extraterrestrial connection with Ilaria and “the 500”.  Given the timeframes involved, the technology needed for bioengineering would not have been available during Spencer’s or Hatake’s life span.  The silvery eyes and miraculous healing powers of those exposed to the beneficial effects of Narvik B are due to incorporation of alien DNA.   

The canisters of Narvik A and Narvik B virus are scrimmaged back and forth between Team Arctic Biosystems and Team Ilaria.   Julia is stolen from the group during a claustrophobic elevator scene, and suffers the brutality of her captor, the Scythe.  This includes the removal of one of her fingers, which is then sent in a letter to the group in the bunker.  Further dismemberment is threatened unless the virus is turned over to the vengeful and sociopathic Scythe.  (Dismemberment and decapitation have been recurring themes in the show.) 

The Scythe achieves his vengeance against Hatake by wiring both Julia and Miksa with explosive collars and having him choose which one will live.  Perhaps this is a metaphor for the difficult choices parents must often make.  Sometimes you just have to let a youngster make his or her own decisions, even if it means their head might explode. There is a touching if messy scene of parent-child reconciliation followed by horrific self sacrifice.  Hatake overpowers the hateful Scythe, knocks him to the floor and deactivates the remaining collar.  For the moment, Team Arctic Biosystems gains the upper hand.    

But wait, what is in that big box the Ilarian’s brought to the base?  Like a gameshow hostess, the remaining Ilarianette twirls some dials, and the mysterious container falls open.  It’s—somebody’s mom!

The season finale is next week, and the coming attractions appropriately ask: “Who will survive?”  For more information, see Helix | Syfy.  Helix is on SyFy Friday nights at 10:00.

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