Helix Season 1 Finale Review: Out of the Cold, Into the Madness

By Tim Surette

Mar 29, 2014

Helix S01E13: "Dans L'ombre"

I should start this review with the news that Helix was renewed for Season 2 today, so the finale's gargantuan WTF cliffhanger ending will only keep us scratching our heads for nine months, instead of the for rest of our lives. Phew! I don't know if Syfy was cutting it close or if it simply timed the announcement in order to gain some extra press for the finale, but I'm guessing it was the former. In keeping with Helix's love for living on the edge, I like to think that the show's writers threw a bunch of insane revelations into "Dans L'ombre" and then just crossed their fingers that they'd have a chance to explain them by way of a second season. Because seriously, what the heck? I still don't know what happened in this episode... and I watched it TWICE.

It brings me great sadness to say that "Dans L'ombre" wasn't everything I'd hoped it would be. What did I hope it would be? An hour full of mutant, human-sized rats terrorizing Arctic Biosystems, basically. Or at the very least, I wanted to see another swarm of vectors vomit their insides out while kissing healthy scientists. So maybe my dreams were a bit big. Instead, the episode focused mostly on getting Julia's mother Jane (formerly Jaye the ghost/hallucination) out of that damn box she parachuted into with the Ilaria hitmen, as well as determining why the Narvik virus had spread to the real world (sorry, Puerto Rico!). And for the most part, it was a big mess, just like most of the second half of the season. 

If there's a silver lining to be found here, it's that Helix has showed signs of cleaning things up and moving on by sweeping a bunch of stuff under the rug. Or maybe the writers just got really bored with the confines of Arctic Biosystems, because they blew the whole damn place up and set up a Season 2 that'll be set in... France!?!?

It's too bad that getting Jane out of harm's way was entirely unexciting, and that the spread of the virus to the outside world (and the answer of how it happened), were weightless because they lacked real details. Getting Jane was as easy as barging into a room with guns. And the big "shock" that Peter was working with the Scythe the whole time landed with a dull "Oh." rather than a "HOLY SH*TSNACKS!" The Scythe's little speech about Peter coming in second to Alan was a useless misdirection that didn't make any sense, given that Peter cut off his binds right after it and the two began talking about ruling the world together. That's an abusive partnership, if you ask me; there's nothing worse than being beholden to a centuries-old teenager (ask any mortal girl on a vampire show). And it was Peter who unleashed the virus in Puerto Rico? Excuse me, but would anyone care to explain how that happened? According to "Dans L'ombre," it may have taken place before we even joined the show (Peter said it almost transformed him into "one of those things"), which sounded like the writers admitting that they were making shit up as they went along. 

And in the final moments of the Arctic Biosystems portion of the episode, Helix turned into a spectacular ball of confusion that made no sense and may go down as a legendary finale of awkward science fiction. Hold on to your britches and try and follow along, because the final minutes were bananas. Anana brought like a dozen snowmobiles to help everyone evacuate but one has to wonder how two people (maybe three if Balleseros got out, too?) managed to simultaneously drive 12 snowmobiles in arctic conditions. A scientist told Sarah that she was pregnant. And before anyone could escape Arctic Biosystems, the Scythe set off all the explosives planted inside a few episodes ago with what looked like the same detonator that failed before. But it worked this time, because that's how this show operates. After Arctic Biosystems was leveled, Jane was killed by the Scythe because she called him by his first name Spencer? Ha ha. After the Scythe escaped to his escape chopper (with a "Here's my ride!" one-liner to send him off) Alan tossed Constance Sutton's head into the whirlybird, sending the Scythe into a fit of crying out for his dead mom. I don't know when Alan had the time to fetch Constance's head, but then again I'm still waiting for an explanation of how Alan managed to build a trap over a huge ice crevice from last episode. And which canister did Julia give to Alan before he was kicked out of the helicopter and fell to the ground, the cure or the virus? Did I imagine all this happening? Did Syfy send me a practical joke screener? I am apologizing to my editor who is reading this paragraph and is like, "What the fudge?" But honestly, Jen, this all happened! There was a pregnancy reveal, a high-tech research facility exploded, a mother's throat was cut for addressing a teenage super-assassin by his Christian name, and a severed head was hammer-tossed into a fleeing helicopter. This all happened in about three minutes, and it was Helix at its horrible best. Yet with all this inexplicable madness crammed into its final minutes, Helix still managed to fill its middle 30 minutes with boring filler.

So now it's time to talk about that cliffhanger, which technically began as a cold open. Helix has always been about one day per episode, yet "Dans L'ombre" started with Day 235. That's either a note of confidence that Helix will last 18 seasons or that the show is about to break that one episode = one day routine. We saw Alan beating the cheese out of some silver-eyed man tied to a chair (my screener had unfinished visual FX and said the man had one silver eye as opposed to two, I don't know what the finished product showed... but the difference could be important) and later learned that he was torturing the man to find the whereabouts of Julia. And the in the final scene, after Arctic Biosystems was but flaming rubble, Alan was in France (I think) sipping on a cappuccino at a Euro cafe and later met with Peter on one of Europe's famed cobble-stoned streets. Peter, possibly still working with the Scythe (we don't know), played buddy-buddy with Alan and inquired about Julia, and Alan knew. That's when we flashed up to a conference room in an Ilaria Corp. building, where a business meeting with all sorts of silver-eyed rich assholes were gathered around a table, and who should sit down at the head of that table? This crazy bizatch!

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa x infinity!? 223 days pass, and now Julia is CEO of Ilaria? Or at least middle management or important enough to call a meeting of a bunch of immortal old people? It's a shocking moment, but it's also an end-of-season cliffhanger with no basis other than to make us do spit takes. Any theorizing at this point would be entirely baseless and we'd just be guessing. Did they offer her a benefits package she couldn't refuse? Was she always working for Ilaria? Did she find it all too boring to hang out with regular mortals and this became her support group? WHO KNOWS. Great television will give us something to think about with a shocker that makes sense. Helix just wants us to be all like, "Say whaaaaat?" But that's what Helix has become, a carnival freakshow of a program that's more involved with showmanship than making sense. 

And as much as I'd like to abandon this thing, I can't. If Helix purported to be a serious science-fiction drama, then yeah, I'd have a gripe. But it's embraced its madness in a way that shouts, "This is who I am! Love me or leave me!" I fault no one for leaving, but I will still think fondly of this show because when it has been good, it's been a lot of fun. However, I don't know if it's been fun enough to stick through a second season. We'll get one anyways, and I hope it comes with more rats in a microwave and inappropriate bossa nova jams, because I loved that. 


– Tulok, wondering why Anana was worried about Balleseros being on his own in the Arctic cold: "I thought he was supposed to be some special ops badass." Anana: "He's from Brazil!" Ha, those warm weather wussies. 

– Sorry, there was not enough Hatake in this episode for me. He's one of the best.

– Wow, Blake (the Scythe's girlfriend and fellow Ilaria assassin) went down with a simple shot to the head. What was the point of her as a character? Anyone know?

– But that's not nearly as bad as the Scythe, who was such a disappointment after such an awesome introduction. He spent most of his time on this show tied to a chair with twisty ties rather than carving people up with his namesake blades. However, he did kill an old woman, so he's got that going for him.

– Seriously, what happened in this episode? I'm so confused I may never recover.

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  • pay-attention Apr 16, 2014

    If you are going to write an article about the show,you should pay more attention to the show. Here are some things you must have missed,not in same order as you stated them. The three assassins looked at explosives on wall and made comment(amateurs!),so they must have had a way to have disabled them or blocked the signal from detonator. The ice trap the one girl fell into was part of the plan they set in motion when talking in Hatake's office(all while knowing they were being watched on surveillance cams) Then the part where Daniel and Julia were at the snow cat and she said he could think of her as a sister,they then showed a scene of the snow cat outside plowing around on the ice(one would likely assume making the ice trap. Ballaseros has definitely flipped sides,but he has been after the list from the beginning as a side agenda.He seems to have his own plans and does what he wants. I don't think anyone really trusts him(If anyone did in the least ,it would be Annana). before the scene where the explosives went off,Hatake said that Scythe would have only one weakness(which is presumably when they went to get his mother's head,before they all ended up in the room to leave. The man that was being interrogated only had one silver eye.This was not a mistake(If you watch it again,he hits him and one of his contacts falls out).....revealing that he is one of the Immortals. There is definitely a lot of weird jumps and crazy turns in the show,but a lot of it is explained if you pay attention.If the show takes the time to explain things like setting a trap or finding the enemy's weakness....why waste time in the show actually showing the whole trap being built or them going to retrieve the mother's head?

  • marygalvin88 Nov 21, 2014

    There was also this part:
    "Anana brought like a dozen snowmobiles to help everyone evacuate but one has to wonder how two people (maybe three if Balleseros got out, too?) managed to simultaneously drive 12 snowmobiles in arctic conditions."

    I assumed that the large number of snowmobiles were the drones that the three assassins used as diversion when they arrived. Balleseros HAD already left by then, presumably to take the list to Anana. He knew where Anana and her brother were going, met them, went back, and used the drones. Remember that Balleseros was abducted by Ilaria when he was younger and would know everything about their technology and how to work it. I also don't think Balleseros is as complicated as people are giving him credit for. He wasn't after the list from the beginning, first of all. Remember when he was about to be picked up near the beginning of the season? Had no list then, nor had he looked for it. This became a goal after getting to know Anana and her people and drawing parallels between himself and the missing children. He could still fall apart in the future, but I believe his motives at the end of the season are pretty straightforward. He was never a terrible person. He was brainwashed, but still had a conscience. Even when he killed Doreen, you could tell he hated doing it, but at the time he was still controlled by the way he was raised and trained.

    That being said, I do think the show lost its footing here and there. If you're going to reveal that someone has been working for the opposite side all along you should have some small hints that people can look back at and say "ah, that makes sense now". Out of the blue rarely works unless it's done just right, usually in a high risk moment. Tensions didn't really build enough in that moment when the Scythe and Peter were alone.

    Scythe was definitely a disappointment (he mostly just sat around, even when he wasn't tied up) and there were too many reveals for one episode when the show had been revealing things on a more leisurely basis previously. I think they just didn't plan that well and all of a sudden realized they were out of episodes and still had big reveals they wanted to do before the season was over.

    Side note: did anyone else think it weird that Peter was the younger brother? His inferiority complex fits with that, but all of the stories about Peter being the risk taker and protecting Alan always made me think he was the less responsible, protective older brother, which would make plenty sense. Weirdly, of all the flaws, this might be one of the ones that bothers me the most.

    With all its flaws, I still really enjoyed the show. It was insane, but like it's been said, fun. I'm nervous about the second season, but I'll watch it.

  • coreyjosephthompson Nov 23, 2014

    I don't think Peter was the younger brother. The scythe called him "second son to the second son". I took that as Peter was second fiddle to the second son.

  • coreyjosephthompson Nov 23, 2014

    And to author, if you watched it twice it seems you watched it with your head up your rear because It doesn't seem you watched it at all.

  • missunderstood_contender Apr 11, 2014

    I find there are some shows you take seriously (say Breaking Bad), and some you don't. Helix is just one of those shows you can't take seriously. It doesn't mean that you don't love it, that you don't enjoy the ride, that you're not super excited for the start of Season 2 (I am!!), it just means that you love it exactly as it is, and don't expect anything more. Tim's absolutely right, this show really does shout "This is who I am! Love me or leave me!" I admit at the start, when I first saw the promos for Helix, I was hoping for another Battlestar Galactica, or Firefly. Maybe even Lost. Were my expectations way too high? Hell yes. But, as soon as I got to know the show and allowed myself to not take it seriously, I can say that I absolutely love Helix. It's become one of my favorite shows. Usually, I love shows that blow my mind and force me to think in a different way, but Helix just breaks my brain with its madness, its strange quirks, and its unapologetically blatant inconsistencies and plot holes... and guess what? Inexplicably, I love it!
    The last few minutes of the finale was a very good example of that. If you take it seriously, Helix is a televisual train wreck, but if you take it as it is, you're in for quite a ride. Here's to Helix Season 2!! :)

  • DsHs Apr 04, 2014

    If you're starting or thinking about watching this show:
    This is a train wreck. Watch the first couple of episodes and just imagine the rest, 'cause whatever you have is probably better.

    Spoilers ahead:

    When it started it was interesting. Strange disease, lots of curiosity and suspense, weird murders, weird symptoms... And then we have zombies and imortal people and pointless relationships. The focus changes too much too fast and the show we have in this 13th episode is not the same we had in the 1st episode. It's like they don't know where they're going, but are still pressing the accelerator. Either that or they have a goal, no idea how to get there and are just trying stuff.
    In shows like The Walking Dead (I know, it's a somewhat unfair comparison, but bear with me), we have a "what if". What if zombies came to be? Ok, let's explore that. That basis changed very little in 4 seasons.
    Now in Helix we don't have a solid basis. What if a strange disease was developed in a remote location and control was lost? Ok. Let's exp... Wait, what if that disease made people try to infect each other? Still ok, I guess it has a psychological effect or what-not, so let's write around tha... And what if there's people who can resist it? Still makes sense... And what if these people are immortal, have been living for centuries and some look like kids while others look old and the only way to kill them is if the writers really want to? So, it's another vampire show...
    Well, this is what I call a "Lost point" (both form being the point where they lose my interest and a reference to the show Lost), because this is the kind of stuff that makes a snowball that can only be solved with a "we were all in the purgatory, so it doesn't have to make sense" kind of ending.

    By the way, has anyone noticed this research facility has every kind of resource, but sometimes it lack basic stuff?
    Has anyone noticed the endless supply of contact lenses that match the color of the character's eyes?
    Anyone noticed that the army/higher organization is composed of imortal people that are sent one at a time to a place they know from the 2nd or 3rd episode is a place that people go to vanish?
    What about the fact that this brazilian fellow is constantly picking a different ally and everyone trusts him even after he was declared a killer?
    Can we forget the imortal kid? No, we cannot. Why? Because he kills around 15 people during an elevator ride, but is pushed, stumbles and fails to even hit any major character. Do you remember his entrance? "They call him Scythe... because he kills a guy with explosives, hits an old lady in the throat and... well, I guess he doesn't do much else besides annoyng the lead character".

  • josephbayse Apr 02, 2014

    I'm afraid in nine months, when season two starts, I may not care. Loved the first season. It kept me anxiously awaiting friday night. Tastes can change alot in nine months.

  • aktarian Apr 01, 2014

    Wow, that was some really expensive coffee. There had to be at least €300 there....

  • geoffmaze Apr 01, 2014

    First season was OK, it had some hits and some misses. Really don't like the Scythe, just can't take him seriously as a bad ass. Storyline overall was convoluted but I think there are enough good ideas to make for a quality sci-fi program. Needs a lot of tidying up. I'll be back for S2 but won't be waiting for it on pins and needles.

  • suzana_53 Apr 01, 2014

    the show was great until they introduced the whole silly immortal characters... lazy

  • Ronin0985 Apr 01, 2014

    From a meta stand point, what I think Ron Moore may have done was trick SyFy into making a Road Runner cartoon on their own dime. Still, the immortals of Ilaria and their story have me thrilled that the show got another season.

  • sergioleandro1 Apr 01, 2014

    This started so interesting. Why did it get so bad? How is Ronald Moore producing this crap?

    There's no logic, no tension, no fun. Just plain old stupid.
    Screw you show, I'm going home! No 2nd season for me.

  • lightfireLT Mar 31, 2014

    This show and the ending proves - we all, them who watched this torment are indeed some sort of sadomasochists. It is after all a terrible show. Bad acting, bad script, bad decision making and lots of whaaaaaaaaa moments and yet we still watch it. Just like TWD, but much much worse. It is a narcissist, pointless and yet somehow narcotic (must be Moore influnce) show and to think of it - this was renewed and Firefly hasn't..

  • hvanhagen Apr 21, 2014

    even one season was waaaay to much for firefly. this show will always take place at #1 of the worst shows ever.

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