Helix (Episodes 1-3): C+


First impression of Syfy's Helix: disappointing.

The main characters are generally interesting. Especially "Doreen", who is essentially a live action translation of "Pam" from Archer. Least interesting: the main dude "Alan". So far he's serious and responsible but also predictable and flat.

Main Characters

On the other hand the minor and incidental characters are one-dimensional cardboard cutouts. They exist solely to complain about things, to die, and give the main characters something to do. There's no real feeling that the incidental characters exist outside the range of vision of the main guys. Side note: incidental characters with depth is something that the show Almost Human does well.

The shallow nature of the incidental characters ties into the larger problem with the show: there's a contrived air around decisions and events, with characters being oblivious or making poor choices as a way to bring about a certain situation or to allow the plot to move forward.

The most egregious example is an infected woman (yes, it's a zombie show) who keeps breaking loose and attacking people. The main characters keep locking her in a lab room but are continually surprised when she attacks them, either as they're hanging out with her (!), moving through the lab on the way to some other destination (!), or as they open the door to check on her. She literally attacks people on four different occasions. Maybe time for restraints?

A second example is related to that whole story arc. At one point a security guard shoots the woman (who is attacking them) and the main dude Alan loses his shit on the guard for "shooting a patient" instead of just restraining her. It's a non-fatal gunshot wound. The next time the woman is attacking people, the security guard draws his gun but accidentally drops it right next to Alan, leaving Alan with the choice of whether to stick to his morals or die. On the surface it's a interesting character development scene, but the situation that makes it happen is so contrived it's hard to appreciate it.

I think Helix is pretty clearly trying to tap into the Walking Dead gold mine. That's fine, but they're imitating a little too closely - I don't think Walking Dead's oblivious characters and contrived situations are a necessary part of its appeal.

Between the interesting main characters and the hints of a rich backstory, the show has promise if it can be a little smarter. I'm enough of a sci-fi zombie-horror fan to keep watching, so I'll let you know if it gets better.

You can watch the first three episodes of Helix online here: