HELIX (2015) – S02E01: ‘San Jose’ Review
‘Helix’ is a sci fi, stranded zombie story that was SyFy’s surprise hit of last season. Produced by ‘Battlestar Galactica’ visionary, Ronald D. Moore, ‘Helix’ returns with a season that strongly bears the his hobby for completely screwing up the established status quo to present a story unrecognizable from its debut season.
Season 2 opens with a comprehensive recap of the entire first season, which is the only familiar thing about it so far. The first scene is Kyra Zagorsky’s Julia coming ashore on a strange Island called St. Germaine, in search of something, only to be kidnapped by some creep in a mask. This creep, later revealed to be Caleb, interrogates Julia with the phrase ‘do you know the way to San Jose?’ Which is coincidentally also the name of this episode. Besides that, not much comes of this except for a mid episode (is that a thing?) twist.
In the meantime, a new CDC team than the one from Season 1 investigates a boat full of dead people, killed by a disease; almost a throwback to the opening of the Pilot episode of last season. This new CDC team consists of Neil Napier’s Peter Farragut and Jordan Hayes’ Sarah from last season joined by another new pretty boy, Matt Long’s Kyle. They confirm right away that the disease is not Narvik, the virus from last season, but something new. A survivor is found, who suggests that their time on a nearby Island may be responsible for the virus that killed her shipmates. This leads the team and the new girl to the same island as Julia to investigate a possible outbreak. Upon arriving, creepy things happen like a field of human skulls, a dead rabbit and human traps set up everywhere, one that Sarah gets caught in.
During her triage by pretty Texan Kyle, we’re given a bit of back-story about things since we last left these guys. Apparently no ones seen or heard from Billy Campbell’s Alan Farragut in a year. And since the finale, Sarah and Peter have been going to investigate viruses wherever they can, possibly in search of Narvik. Up until now there was major confusion, at least for me, if this show was even a continuation of last season but a reboot since it mirrored scenes from Season 1 and no story elements from it were referenced.
The survivor girl at this point takes off into the woods, causing Kyle, Peter and Sarah to go chasing after her until they happen upon the same cabin where Julia is being held. As the creepy Caleb tries to use tweezers on her face, the CDC team bursts into the cabin finding… Not a thing. Then, in a very cool time lapse of a dead rabbit body in a jar, it’s revealed that Julia is on the island 30 years in the future from when Peter and the rest of the team are. This reveal sets the tone and the format of storytelling for this season and establishes the hook immediately cementing audience interest and return every week.
Psyching us out, Caleb was actually trying to forcefully remove Julia’s contacts to expose her immortal status. Which explains why she hasn’t aged a day in 30 years. Obvi. After finding out that she’s an immortal, the man right away lowers his defenses apparently knowing she would arrive. The how or why isn’t explained yet, and neither does Julia ask. It’s one of the same complaints I had last year about characters spouting obviously cryptic dialogue but other characters never actually calling them on it. Julia reveals that a new disease that started on this Island 30 years ago which is what she’s investigating is afflicting the immortals.
Back in the past, Peter and team find the boat survivor murdered and strung up. Their thoughts are interrupted as a mob of hooded people ask then to follow them to their compound as the wood are ‘dangerous’, an understatement. All questions of the girl’s murder are suppressed in haste as they agree to go with them, which is ridiculous given that they just found a murdered dead body and then immediately the only people that may have been responsible for it. Yet no insistence of answers are required as they blindly follow them to their ‘compound’. Probably the last place you want to go with a group of strangers after the possibility of you dying has arisen.
Turns out the compound is an impressive gated community, but creepy to be on an isolated Island such as this. The Team explains the situation to, what looks like a council, in a large meeting hall. All very cloak and dagger. Literally. They wear cloaks. The possibility of an outbreak and the CDC team’s request for access and to run tests don’t even phase the council as they rely on ‘Michael’ for all their needs. Michael himself, played wonderfully by Steven Webber, assures the team and invites them to spend the night in another amazingly vague speech. Michael is basically this season’s Hataki, the leader of this new place shrouded in secrets and creepiness.
While Season 1 had a crap load of problems with unnecessarily cryptic ‘reveals’ and storylines that didn’t make sense, weren’t explained and with Season 2 debut, doesn’t seem like they ever will be. The Season 1 finale suggested a globe trotting metropolitan setting, moving away from the whole ‘stranded’ concept. But Episode 1 of Season 2 rehashes the same formulaic elements of Season 1 as well as the similar setting, conflicts and even familiar character archetypes it seems.
‘San Jose’ ends in the future, where Caleb brings Julia to the same compound as where Peter is in the past, but completely in ruins. Caleb promised Julia to bring her to Alan Farragut, and so he did in the cemetery where he is buried. The last shot sees an alive and bearded Alan in the past, living among the people of the compound.
So there it is. With an irritatingly interesting debut, Season 2 guarantees that I’ll be tuning in every just to see where and how this ends. Despite having so many problems, ‘Helix’ manages to engage audience interest and has a story that’s too good to ignore despite the faulty execution of it all.