If flash-forwards weren’t enough for you, Helix has another fun surprise in “Cross-Pollination”: we get to jump back to 1601, with Michael (then Michel) building an empire as an immortal, then cuckolded by his wife and forced to raise a child on his own. Julia hears all of this from Durant, an explanation as to why the island has been created, what Michael has been doing on it all this time, and why it has such a strong connection Ilaria. Since Ilaria wants to significantly decrease the human race by genocide, Durant knows there’s a better way to do it that won’t cause a bloody mess – Michael’s apple trees, which have been tinkered with so that they cause infertility in men.
All of this is dropped on the viewer about five minutes into the episode, and it means that it’s easy to miss all of this exposition shilled out like a Sparknotes version of the real deal. Helix is still playing games with its audience, since this is clearly not the only reason why Peter is on the island; still, it’s good to get a new explanation for all of the events, because so far this second season has asked the audience to rely on the storytelling’s jumps without detailing what they mean or their connection to last season.
At least now there is a connection – it’s all part of Ilaria’s grand scheme, although Michael is an offshoot of Ilaria doing something different on his own island. The disease that makes people go crazy and then die is something different entirely, a human design made to kill people quickly instead of simply passing on the virus to new hosts. Alan and Kyle figure this out while searching for Sarah in a bloody warehouse where “experiments” occur; again, it’s a new explanation, and one that is starting to paint a clearer picture of what’s happening, as a whole, in Helix.
To be honest, the show has slowed down the crazy approach it once had. “Cross-Pollination” involves Sarah piecing together what happened to her the night before; she lost her baby after some of the islanders surgically removed it from her, but what this means is still a mystery. Perhaps they’re interested in an immortal baby that didn’t come from Michael, or maybe they just don’t like Sarah very much. Whatever the case, it leaves her in a shocked state, and incredibly mad at Alan because he was a part of it even though he was drugged into doing it without knowledge of what he was doing.
That 30 year jump we’ve been seeing has dropped out of the narrative of late, and that’s had some impact on what Helix has been doing with Julia. Since we’ve now gone back in time to explain why she goes to the island, it leaves the question of why it took her thirty years to get there in the first place. Unfortunately, Helix has fallen into the dilemma that many flash-forwards can present: if you’re not going to come back to it regularly, why do it in the first place? It feels like something that could have waited until well after we learned about her mission to go there.
But “Cross-Pollination” does present new problems to the twisty plotting, and though I don’t think it’s as entertaining as its first season, it is at least more coherent. The show is attempting to build a narrative out of a lot of disparate parts, and even if these episodes take a lot of exposition to get there, I applaud the showrunners for trying to clear things up. Helix doesn’t need any more mysteries – it needs to figure some out, and the show has come to the point where it’s not stacking secret upon secret anymore. This direction means that there’s not a ton of insanity within these episodes, but just more plot-driven, a good thing if Helix wants to get crazier in the future.