Helix Review: “Bloodline” (Episode 1.08)

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<i>Helix</i> Review: &#8220;Bloodline&#8221; (Episode 1.08)

Jules: Hatake is your father.

Really? That’s the big reveal? If having Star Wars in our cultural genetic code didn’t prime us to look for secret paternity, Helix had been hinting so strongly at this since day one that it was essentially a known quantity. It’s right there in her name: JuLeia (Sky)Walker was destined to be the villain’s daughter (and his one vulnerability). Search your feelings: you know it to be true.

But “Bloodline” does probe one of the show’s genuine mysteries: the origin of the genetic alteration that Julia shares with Hatake and Connie. There’s still not much information on what powers, other than killer silver eyes and immunity to vectors (and possibly, given Hatake’s coolness in the face of torture, resistance to pain) that alteration may confer. But that immunity may itself be the key, as any future plans for Jules obviously must start with survival.

Otherwise, for all the incidents in this episode, it disappointingly returns the crisis to status quo. Most of what happened over recent days is undone: Julia was near death, now she’s all better. Connie gets the upper hand on Hatake; he turns the tables and kills her. Ilaria packs Jules up to take her off the base, Alan and Sarah save her. Anana’s hellbent to get to the bottom of what’s happening, then just disappears. Needless to say, Alan and Sarah have made little progress on the virus. Sergio’s life-threatening ice axe injury? Merely a flesh wound.

Jules early on tells Alan and Sarah she feels not just recovered from the virus, but better than ever, bolting all the food in sight. All of a sudden, she chokes, heaves, spasms, throws her head back and … laughs. She even tosses in an imitation of a mini-Alien in case we missed the reference to John Hurt’s abdominal explosion in that movie. It’s pretty funny, but as punked as Alan and Sarah feel in that scene, I felt after the episode. There’s more the promise of horror than the real thing, and in its absence, there’s time to wonder when the payoff’s going to come. After all the complications with the Ilaria Corporation and Anana and Jules’ infection in the last few weeks, it feels like we’re back where we started: Hatake back in charge, the CDC no closer to a cure, an unknown number of infected turning up at random intervals. Helix’s borrowings from canonical sci-fi accentuated its sometimes fascinating, sometimes frustrating struggles to realize its own mythology while creating a cohesive story.

However, Connie and Hatake’s confrontations do shed welcome new light on his estrangement from the group who either naturally possess the genetic alteration they share (i.e. they’re another species, possibly aliens), created the alteration, or underwent a mutation together. The answer may lie in the “Willis hypothesis” Connie keeps harping on. It’s a Hatake hobbyhorse that she accuses him of chasing at the expense of their original project. The theory seems to have something to do with believing that mutation, rather than adaptation and natural selection, is the primary means of species change. Whatever, or again, whoever—maybe Connie, Hatake et al. were humans experimented on by aliens rather than aliens themselves—caused the change, Hatake appears to have been trying to replicate it for decades, using the kidnapped children as experimental subjects.

Ilaria seems to be solely interested in the virus and blind to Hatake’s genetic work (at least in this direction). The Corporation wants to reduce humanity to give its own people/creatures dominion over the world. So Hatake tried to stave that off until he could give Jules the genetic protection she needed to survive the thinning. Maybe he sought to alter her as a child, to provide that protection, but something went wrong, and he’s been trying to get her back and finish the job ever since. Did the mother, who’s been ripped off the family photo, interfere? Hatake may have succeeded at last with Jules, using the virus to splice in the genetic change rather than inducing a mutation. But Connie calls her an abomination: “She’s not one of us” (whoever “we” are).

That scientific thread is compelling—much more so than the characters this week. Anana and Daniel/Miksa’s family drama, Sergio’s spasm of humanity, Alan and Sarah getting in touch with their inner Unabombers … it all felt like filler. By the way, Alan and Sara get the materials for their explosive from Connie’s soldier, who’s heard of dextrose but not ammonium nitrate? Well, his boss is dead, and he’s on life support, a nice counterargument on behalf of natural selection (survival of the least clueless).

The vectors, who mostly sat out this week, were sorely missed. They seemed to be the intelligent, even crafty version we thought we were getting with Peter in the first couple days, rather than the black ooze-slobbering maniacs we’ve seen lately. Maybe they decided, after giving this episode a sniff, to hold out for something meatier.

Andrew Westney is a Charlotte-based writer and journalist currently reviewing Rake and Helix for Paste. You can (and should!) follow him on Twitter.