Helix starts off as an outbreak story but quickly evolves into so much more. It centers around a CDC team being called in to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak at a remote research facility in the Arctic. The CDC team is run by Dr. Alan Farragut with Dr.s Julia Walker and Sarah Jordan also playing a major part. They are brought there by government official Major Sergeo Balleseros. The research facility, Arctic BioSystems, is run by Dr. Hiroshi Hatake. The outbreak started with Peter Farragut, an Arctic BioSystems scientist and Alan’s brother. It is quickly evident that illegal medical research has been happening at the facility and the outbreak is due to a virus that has been engineered called Narvik. There are two strands of Narvik, A and B. Narvik A simply leads to a quick horrible death. Narvik B however, completely changes the person it infects. It takes over their whole body and controls their mind. It makes super strong and fast, with the whole agenda for that person to infect as many others as possible. These people are called Vectors.
The show immediately establishes a mystery from the very first scene. This is the first of many. It’s really what makes the show so fun. Every single episode, there is some sort of twist and a new mystery is introduced. While there are often small clues throughout that lead to the logical conclusions to some of these mysteries, it’s a ton of fun getting there. The pacing and tone of the show are just fantastic. The sense of fear and isolation are palpable. The setting of being trapped in the Arctic, utterly alone, is amazing. The Vectors, who are scary enough on their own, also become adept at traveling through the air ducts to get around the gigantic research facility. The fact that everyone is trapped almost exclusively inside and that the Vectors can be anywhere enabled the show runners to create just an amazing atmosphere that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
There are so many levels to the plot and so many mysteries that there is rarely a dull moment on the show. Who is Hatake really and what has he really been doing? Why do his eyes glow? Why is Julia Walker so important? What caused the outbreak? Can the CDC team find a cure? What is Balleseros’ real agenda? All of these plot points are amazing. And amazingly, these are all mysteries that are introduced in just the first two episodes! Smartly, the show runners do a really great job of balancing the mysteries. As so many more are introduced, we get a steady balance of answers for some of the early mysteries. Halfway through the season, the Vectors and the search for the cure become only half of the story. As we find out more about the importance of Dr. Walker and who Dr. Hatake is and what he has been up to, we are introduced to the Ilaria Corporation. The Ilaria Corporation are the financial backers of Hatake and when they are introduced, the story goes from great to amazing! They are able to make the scope and scale of the story seem so big and global. It’s just fantastic.
So many production choices help really take the story to the next level. The white walls throughout the facility with the bright white light were really well done. With the vectors leaking and spewing black blood constantly, the white backdrop makes it so much more visually scary. I also can’t say enough about how great the music is on the show. Instead of the “ominous tones” that you would expect, you often get upbeat elevator music. And it is just fantastic. It plays so well. The sound of this dopey happy-go-lucky music against a horrific backdrop actually makes it more scary. I adore the short title sequence every single week because the music just plays so well. Also, I love how each episode is just the next day. With episode 1 being day 1, episode 2 being day 2, and so on, the only fear I had about this show once I was hooked was how it would continue for multiple seasons. So when episode 13, the finale, opens up with a day number that we are NOT expecting, it was that much more amazing. It was brilliant pacing and excellent planning by the show runners.
The acting for the most part was much better than I expected. Sure there is a lot of overacting going on but it’s generally just a part of the campiness of the show. I only found one person, Catherine Lemieux, as Dr. Doreen Boyle, to be especially bad. And if it’s just one actor/actress that is bad, in my experience that is pretty damn good for a Syfy show. Others aren’t necessarily good, but they are passable. Neil Napier who plays Peter is miles better at being a Vector than being a normal scientist. Jordan Hayes as Dr. Sarah Jordan was best in small bunches and Luciana Carro as the Inuit woman Anana was merely tolerable, but that’s also because she was part of the only storyline that never really caught on for me. There were also several actors that were really good as well. Mark Ghanime as Bellesaros was great. He played the sneaky role extremely well. Kyra Zagorsky was fantastic as Julia Walker in a difficult role and Meegwun Fairbrother did an amazing job playing multiple characters. However the stars of the show were Billy Campbell as Alan and Hiryuki Sanada as Hatake. Campbell played the no-nonsense do-gooder role to perfection. Sanada is what helps set the show apart. Hatake as a character is who drives so many mysteries of the show and he has to be despised, loved, and mysterious all at once and he pulls it off beautifully.
Overall, I cannot recommend this show enough to you. It is thrilling from minute one and the way the story unfolds, you will remain on the edge of your seat and be constantly guessing what is coming next. The season finale was a flat-out 10 and ends with a hell of a cliffhanger. The writers did a masterful job of evolving the show and expanding the story for it to continue in season 2. It is the most watched Syfy original show in the channel’s history, and it definitely earned the title. I am constantly stating that networks are always trying to recreate great shows from the past, but all great shows stand on their own. Helix absolutely stands on its own, but I find it extremely comparable to Lost. The quantity and quality of the mysteries that are thrown our way are extremely comparable to Lost, and it has the same sense of isolation that the island did. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I think season 1 of Helix is better than season 1 of Lost. Don’t get me wrong, Lost is one of the best shows of all time and Helix can’t begin to compare to Lost as a whole show because we have only seen one season, but just season vs season, I give the edge to Helix. It’s that good.