Helix Season 1 Review “Single Strand”

Helix Episode 4 Single Strand (6)

Helix continues to ratchet up the level of tension, raise the stakes, and move events at the Arctic Biosystems base closer and closer to spiraling completely out of control with every episode. “Single Strand” was no exception.

It was an episode demonstrating that as terrifying and dangerous as the vectors are, the secrets of Hatake and his associates represent an even greater danger that is creating an increasingly volatile situation. That situation is beginning to overwhelm the base and its inhabitants.

In taking a step back from the overall crisis and focusing more on the people trying to survive it, this week’s episode provided some much needed pathos for the characters we’ve come to know over the last few weeks. As such, it was the first episode in which the actors all seemed to truly inhabit their characters. Their interplay felt genuine and their actions felt natural.

That is, except for one. Julia’s inexplicable decision to (clumsily and comically) draw the attention of a vector that wasn’t looking for her and wouldn’t have seen her was horror cliché at its worst. It was as if she deliberately made noise before leaving a great hiding spot and yelled, “I’m over here!” Helix can and should do better than this groan inducing moment.

Aside from that, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Julia’s story this week. Being trapped on the quarantined level gave actress Kyra Zagorsky much better material to work with than she’s been given up to this point and made her character more than an extension of Farragut’s relationship with his brother. She played the desperation of the situation excellently and emotionally, especially in the scene with “J” (who I’m not convinced isn’t a hallucination) after she helps Julia escape the vector chasing her. Zagorsky turned in a really good performance here, and for the first time since the show began made me actually care about Julia.

Also earning my investment for the first time since the show’s beginning is the relationship between Alan and Peter Farragut. Conceptually, I’ve always understood that Alan and Peter’s relationship has been the shared bond of their abusive past versus the complications arising from Julia and Peter’s adulterous betrayal of Alan, but the show hadn’t done anything to get me to invest in that relationship emotionally.

Giving these two characters a chance to actually, fully interact did wonders for their story. Billy Campbell (Alan) and Neil Napier (Peter) were fantastic in their scenes together, and writing those scenes to resemble the long goodbye of an Alzheimer’s patient was a brilliant way of tying their past tragedies to their present one. Peter’s information about Hatake’s interest in Julia and confession of the reason he came to Arctic Biosystems also gives Alan’s character more beats to play in coming episodes. I hope we’re treated to more scenes between these two, because their scenes here truly elevated the episode.

Unfortunately, the scenes featuring Sarah (Jordan Hayes) fell flat. While I’m happy the revelation of her cancer came early (in a show with this many mysteries, that would’ve been a horrible one to stretch out), there seemed to be an inordinate amount of time dedicated to a story that didn’t really go anywhere. Spending more time on her realization that the test she developed didn’t work, and her efforts to redeem herself by trying to create a new one would’ve been more interesting and done more for her character as well.

One character who continues to be pitch perfect is Hatake (Hiroyuki Sanada), who grabs your attention with every scene he’s featured in. His cold precision in everything from his speech (how badass was his, “I will handle this personally”?), to his murder of the three mutineers, to his dealings with Balleseros, captivates. Of all the characters, his is one of the two I most want to know more about.

The other of course, is Balleseros, whose actions once again close out an episode on a note of, “what is going on?” He continues to act on an agenda that is just as mysterious, if not more so, than Hatake’s. And his murder of Doreen (NOOOO!!!) further proves that he’s possibly the biggest threat to everyone at the base. Kudos to actor Mark Ghanimé, who really played that murder scene as if it pained Balleseros to have to kill a person he sincerely liked and respected.

And so the rabbit hole that is Helix continues to get deeper and deeper. What’s your take on all of this? Sound off in the comments below, and maybe we can solve this mystery together. Just don’t plunge a syringe into my neck and pour rats on my convulsing body to eat me once we’re done.

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