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Review: Syfy's New Series - Helix – “Pilot;Vector”

The CDC gets involved with a possible outbreak situation in a remote Arctic research facility but when they get there, things are not as they seem.
The CDC gets involved with a possible outbreak situation in a remote Arctic research facility but when they get there, things are not as they seem.
Photos: ©2013-14 Syfy, a division of NBC Universal. All Rights Reserved

Helix Series Premiere - Pilot; Vector

Rating:
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Season 1, Episode 1 – Series Premiere
Air date: Friday, January 10, 2014, 10PM E/P on FX

Helix is not for the squeamish or the casual viewer. The intensity of the situation demands your undivided attention because there is always something in the minute details of every single second of this pulse-pounding, chilling 90 minute series premiere.

I’m a huge fan of movies like Outbreak and Contagion because viral outbreaks have happened before. As history denotes, the world has endured the Black Plague, the small pox epidemic, Polio, various cholera epidemics, and more recently, the SARS and H1N1 viruses. I love the boldness of the “Pilot” episode, which sets up the characters and explains how the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) gets involved with a possible outbreak situation in a remote Arctic research facility.

In the “Pilot” episode, you immediately notice the attention to detail in the make-up and the way in which Dr. Peter Farragut (Neil Napier) looks so completely infected. His veins are visible through the skin and his eyes are bloodshot. It looks so real, and my hat is off to Napier for delivering such a powerfully convincing performance. Not only am I scared for Peter, I am also scared of him, so much so, I found myself cringing when he shows up in unexpected places. Restraining him isn’t easy as whatever infection he’s afflicted with has given him a boost in strength.

The origins of the virus or pathogen are still unclear but what stands out as a big red flag is Dr. Hiroshi Hatake (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his evasiveness in providing clear answers to Dr. Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell). Sanada is beyond stellar – he is phenomenal. His quiet, albeit menacing, presence instills automatic respect and fear. He’s hiding something but I’m not sure whether he’s the “bad guy” in this scenario.

As we head into the second half of the series premiere, “Vector,” things are quickly spinning out of the CDC’s control but to be honest, they were never in control of this dire situation. With over 106 scientists in the Arctic compound, it’s anyone’s guess who is infected. There is also a frightening scene when you see the icy graveyard of deceased monkeys. Although Alan and his team are told there aren’t any monkeys, poor Dr. Doreen Boyle (Catherine Lemieux) finds out the scary way that there are. Lemieux is new to the scene as Helix is her first English-language television debut. You wouldn’t be able to tell it though because her American accent is pretty spot on with a hint of southern added for her character. I immediately liked Lemieux’s character the moment I saw her. Doreen’s wit, sarcasm, and caring nature shine through. She’s not one to suffer fools and I think her suspicions about Army Major Sergio Balleseros (Mark Ghanimé) are not too farfetched. From the moment Balleseros comes on scene, you know something isn’t right. The Army’s presence in this reeks of government conspiracy.

Without spoiling things too much, I highly recommend you watch Helix and see just how exciting a bio-hazard drama can be. The writing is sharp, the acting on point, and my only gripe concerns the outdoor scenes. If you are in the Arctic, you would never go outside without full protective winter gear – face mask, goggles, etc. Other than that, everything is top notch. The CGI effects and the set design really help to set the ambience of the scenes, allowing you to immerse yourself fully into their world of chaos. And the song playing repeatedly, Dionne Warwick’s “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” gives Helix the right amount of creepiness to make you quiver whenever it plays.

Tell me what you thought of Helix. Leave a comment or Tweet me @judybopp.

Tune in to Helix, Fridays at 10/9c only on Syfy.
For more on the show, go to http://www.syfy.com/helix.