I miss Fringe. I miss the strange and unexplained investigations of Fringe Division and the tough yet lovely Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and brilliant mad scientist Dr. Walter Bishop. And despite a number of TV shows both old and new that are currently airing and quite good, nothing is along the lines of Fringe. That is, until Helix debuted this month on SyFy.
Helix’s pilot gets going when the facility’s shady director, Dr. Hiroshi Hatake (played with a muted mix of disdain and cunning by Lost alum Hiroyuki Sanada) calls in a team of researchers from the CDC and U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases to investigate and contain a viral outbreak—about which, of course, he knows more than he’s telling. The group is led by Dr. Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell) and Dr. Julia Walker (Kyra Zagorsk), brilliant scientists and former spouses, the former part because Alan walked in on Julia studying biology with his brother—a man who, conveniently, is a researcher at Arctic Biosystems and the first victim of a violent infection seemingly of his own design. The military, embodied by Mark Ghanimé as Maj. Sergio Balleseros, is, not surprisingly, more interested in the new wounds promised by the research than in the old, emotional ones plaguing Julia and the brothers Farragut.
The first few episodes each cover a single (consecutive) day and show the team’s attempt to identify the source and nature of the virus, which looks like an aggressive black goo cousin of the one in Prometheus. This allows Helix to fiddle with our anxiety about superbugs, the decline of herd immunity, and rapidly advancing biological research in much the same way that Contagion did, though in the more gruesome, athletic zombie key of 28 Days Later. Speaking of music, the show juxtaposes upbeat elevator tunes and horrific events à la American Horror Story, to varying effect. (Helix’s aesthetic sensibility is definitely less sophisticated than that of the FX show at this point).
We’ve seen this all before and still the show captivates…
- There’s always the mysterious corporation behind the scenes – Arctic Biosystems, a high-tech, research facility whose staff (some unknowingly) work on mutagens for nefarious purposes. How many video games (ex. Half-Life) have you played along these lines? Or movie (ex. Resident Evil and the Umbrella Corp.)? Yea, this tune has een played before and it’s still Good!
- There’s always a secret agenda – In this case, Arctic Biosystems conducting research on behalf of a secret third party, more than likely the military because the military is ALWAYS behind it right?
- And, at this point, why the Hell would anyone ever want to go to Antarctica? I mean, anyone remember The Thing? Anyone ever read At The Mountains of Madness? Nothing of any good ever happens in Antarctica!
The SyFy TV show Helix has the real possibility of ‘filing the void left by Fringe and hopefully going the distance. We’re still early in the series, but things are definitely looking up.
Watch the first episode of Helix here: