Syfy often connotes re-runs of “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” and epic monster showdowns, but lately it has been dominating with original TV series. The brilliant “Helix” debuted in 2014, and season 2 is well under way. “Helix” features terrific acting, a marvelous balance of horror, humor, intrigue, and complex character development. If you haven’t seen “Helix,” you’re seriously missing out.
Season one of “Helix” (available on Netflix), was something of a mix between “The Thing” and “28 Days Later.” There’s an outbreak of a virus, Narvik-B, which creates zombie-esque vectors. CDC researchers Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell), Julia Walker (Kyra Zagorsky), and Sarah Jordan (Jordan Hayes), arrive in the Arctic at the isolated Arctic BioSystems (ABS) to investigate further. Propelling “Helix” is a lovely mix of genres. It’s difficult to pull off jump scares, but “Helix” successfully executes more than a few, while still encouraging genuine laughs.
This delightful concoction of genres is what solidifies “Helix” as one of television’s freshest shows. Season 2, while altering the formula, has maintained and surpassed the precedent set in season 1. It’s a blend of “The Last of Us” and “Lost.” The intricate array of characters evolves over the course of the series, and from episode to episode it’s unclear who to trust. This complexity adds depth, and even the sinister Ilaria Corporation, pulling strings and implementing their seemingly maniacal plans, can’t be viewed as fully evil.
Humor, surprisingly, abounds in “Helix,” from the ironically upbeat opening theme to comedic moments peppered throughout the show. A particularly clever and hilarious scene references the “Andy Griffith Show” intro. Nuanced scenes like this lend “Helix” a delicate fusion of macabre wit, horror, and suspense, and accordingly what makes the show so frighteningly binge-worthy.
A strong core of characters forms a solid foundation. The shadowy Hiroshi Hatake (Hiroyuki Sanada) provides a steady dose of secrecy. Sanada’s body language and facial expressions evoke a feeling that even with innate comments he’s somehow deceitful. Neil Napier portrays Alan’s estranged brother Peter Farragut, and the two have a wonderfully volatile chemistry. Mark Ghanimé offers his talents as Sergio Balleseros, whose allegiance can’t quite be pinpointed. Season 2 adds Matt Long as Texan Kyle Sommer, complete with gun and Southern drawl. Also new for the second bout is cult leader Brother Michael, played by the seasoned Steven Weber.
Now well into its second run, “Helix” has upped the ante, substituting a tropical setting for the previous frozen tundra. It has similarly swapped the brooding Hatake for the charmingly deceitful Brother Michael. A unique blend of genre elements remains however, making “Helix” a masterpiece. It’s infectiously irresistible, and a compelling reason to stay in on Friday nights.
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