DEADtime TV: Helix ‘San Jose’

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“Do you know the way to San Jose?” Helix’s opening song and its antagonist in a Scarecrow mask ask at the beginning of “San Jose.” No I do not, sir, and I also do not know why San Jose is the subject of said episode, which is sort of a reboot of Helix that takes all of the first season’s developments and does the opposite of them. Alan Farragut is the star of Helix, you say? Well now he’s not; it’s his brother Peter (yeah, the one who nearly died and became a weird rage machine, in that first season) who heads up a CDC investigation on an island – nope, we’re not going back to the arctic, man, but a tropical clime – with a disease that causes people to die of pustule overload – nope, not zombie-like symptoms.

Did I mention that instead of being set in the present, we’re also going to jump ahead 30 years later because we can? I guess that might be one of the tipping points for a viewer who was sort of intrigued by Helix last season but was thinking about dropping out because of all the random shit that happened by the finale. “San Jose” starts off with a recap with what happened in last season, but you don’t need it. Nope, you don’t need it at all. Those who did see last season won’t really have an understanding of what’s happening in Helix now, so anyone who didn’t tune in isn’t missing anything. In fact, “San Jose” is so totally different from what Helix was doing at the Arctic Biosystems base that you might think you’re watching an edition of American Horror Story, this time set in the jungles of St. Germain (also a place in France, but not that place).

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It’s not a bad thing that Helix is jumping away from its initial ideas; in fact, I kind of like the fact that now we’re out of the arctic and into a new atmosphere. And “San Jose” introduces a cool new disease, one that is pretty disgustingly gruesome. It’s the way that Helix mixes it all together that makes this first episode such a mess of ideas.

Peter, Sarah, and new guy Kyle Sommer are all investigating this outbreak, mentioning the Narvik virus but never going into more detail than this. Clearly the CDC is on the lookout for Narvik, especially since the Ilaria group – that corporation of silver-eyed immortals hell-bent on unleashing the strain to the public – has been operating in France with Dr. Julia Walker as president. But other than that, “San Jose” is not interested in season 1 of Helix. It’s all about moving forward with its plant-themed second virus, one that looks like it has been bioengineered by a cult living on St. Germain headed by smarmy Steven Weber.

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On the other side of the spectrum is Julia, stepping off a boat and right into a trap after being bombarded and tied up by Scarecrow guy Caleb. It looks like maybe Peter, Sarah, and Kyle might intercept Caleb before Julia is in any more danger and then, look at that, Helix flashes forward 30 years! Is this an ingenious move, or a very dangerous one? It’s tough to say. The way it’s done is kind of cool – a dead rabbit decomposes as the years pass by – but I have my doubts whether the writers can pull this flash-forward off without it feeling awkward at best and seriously disastrous at worst.

Season one was all over the place, it really was. It had that fun drive to it, that the writers clearly didn’t know where this was going but whatever was happening, they were going to crash head-first into the destination. The same is true of season two’s opener, but at the same time, “San Jose”’s lack of answers to last season, plus it’s new addition of infinity more questions, leaves a lot to be desired. The twists and turns of “San Jose” are fun, and I can’t help but be excited for a new outing and a new virus; at the same time, there’s a strong expectation that this season is going to crash and burn without giving the audience any kind of strong resolution. If it keeps piling on questions, sooner or later the amount of unanswered plot will break the show. But hopefully the next weeks yield more focus on the meat of Helix’s story.

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