After barely escaping with their lives, the survivors of Season One attempt to move on from the horrors that took place at Arctic BioSystems. But when their work takes them to a mysterious and remote wooded island, they quickly discover the Ilaria Corporation's reach is deeper and darker than anyone imagined, and a deadly new virus presents a threat that no one thought possible.
Let's be honest, even Season 1 of the SyFy's 'Helix' would never be mistaken for 'great' television. But it seems like a masterpiece compared to this second (and last) season of the show, which turns out to be a big, lumbering, incoherent mess. To add insult to injury, the showrunners weren't even nice enough to provide fans with any closure, giving us yet another cliffhanger in the final episode, which will never be resolved.
That first season of the show, for those who watched and remember, ended with a lot of promise. The artic base where the characters spent the overwhelming majority of the episodes was destroyed in the Season 1 finale, leaving viewers with a cliffhanger that promised the show would open up and become less claustrophobic in tone during Season 2. It ended with a dandy of a closing shot, revealing that the character of Dr. Julia Walker (Kyra Zagorsky) was both an immortal and working for the evil Ilaria Corporation. It also concluded with the main character, Dr. Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell), escaping the artic base and returning to civilization with the goal of both stopping the spread of the virus he had a cure for and tracking down Julia (who was kidnapped during the artic base's destruction).
Season 2 opens on two fronts: with the team of Dr. Peter Farragut (Neil Napier), Dr. Sarah Jordan (Jordan Hayes), and newcomer Dr. Kyle Sommer (Matt Long) investigating a totally new virus on the remote island of St. Germain. Julia has also arrived to investigate the island, but is kidnapped/held by a mysterious figure wearing a militaristic hazmat/gas mask suit. However, the conclusion of the premiere episode brings fans the real surprise: the scenes with Julia are taking place 30 years in the future, as she's come to the island to investigate the developments of the scenes we're learning about in the 'present day' material.
While the above is a pretty interesting premise for the season (although both the island setting and the time jumps can't help but to remind viewers of Lost), it's pretty much all downhill from this point, as the new season can never really seem to decide where the story is going or what it all means. The trio of scientists in the present-day scenes stumble upon an island cult being headed up by a charismatic leader (played by 'Wings' Steven Weber), who – naturally – knows more about the virus than he is saying. They also learn that Alan Farragut is already part of the cult community and has been working undercover to find out what's going on.
In addition to the meandering storyline, only a small portion of which I've spoiled here (trust me, it gets crazier as it goes along), I couldn't help but be disappointed by the overall setting of this season. After promising a more global stage for the series at the end of Season 1, the majority of our characters are once again in a locale that feels very claustrophobic. I'm sure a lot of this had to do with the show's budget, but trading a season's worth of scenes in laboratories for a season's worth of scenes on this island's abbey actually results in a 'more of the same' feeling, despite the new setting.
The only real bit of redemption here is that the actors (and the acting itself) are still pretty good, even though I have the feeling the cast was just as confused as the home viewer as to what exactly was going on. You can almost see the look of dreariness in star Billy Campbell's eyes during much of this season, as if he can't believe what he's gotten himself into or what has happened to a show that was once pretty promising science-fiction. Given all the various ways they might have continued the story, the writers here seem totally out of ideas…or, better yet…willing to try them all in an effort to save the series. Unfortunately, inept storytelling and plunging ratings killed 'Helix' long before the featured virus ever could.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Helix: Season 2' arrives on Blu-ray in a slightly thicker than standard keepcase with a hub inside that holds two of this release's three discs. The hub holds discs one and two of this set, and the inside right of the case holds the third disc. A single insert contains a code for a UltraViolet digital copy of this second season. The reverse side of the keepcase's slick (seen from inside the case) contains a list of episodes and special features for each Blu-ray, with a brief synopsis of each show. The first disc in the set carries five episodes (plus special features), while the remaining two discs contain four episodes each (plus special features). Unlike the Season 1 set, there is no slipcover for this release (or, at least, my copy did not come with one).
There are no front-loaded trailers on any of the discs, just the standard Sony logo, followed by the main menu – which is a still of the box cover photo with menu selections running along the bottom of the screen. All three Blu-rays are 50GB dual-layer discs.
The Blu-ray has been encoded for Regions A and B only.
Just like Season 1, each episode of 'Helix' has been shot on digital cameras and is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Also, like Season 1, this Season 2 transfer of the show is an above-average one. Details are pretty sharp and stunning (although just a tad drained of color) when the show shoots outdoors, however – despite the new island locale for Season 2, there's still a ton of scenes that take place inside dark and dreary places, which often come off as soft-looking on these Blu-rays. Black levels are once again pretty good, although perhaps not as strong as they were on the prior season's release. If the first season had a 'sterile' look to it, with a lot of blues and grays, this season has a more 'earthy' appearance – with a lot of greens, yellows, and browns.
Another good job by Sony in that these episodes appear to be free from any serious issues, although noise does creep in every now and again in some of the darker sequences. I didn't notice any problems with aliasing, banding, or other glitches that frequently pop up during Blu-ray transfers.
Each episode's featured audio is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that is pretty impressive, given the content of the episodes, which doesn't always lean toward big action sequences. Ambient sounds are the most noticeable when it comes to the rear speakers, and while this isn't the type of audio that will blow the doors off your sound system, everything is clear, distinct, and exactly what you'd expect from a 5.1 lossless track. I never got a true sense of immersiveness while watching/listening to episodes, but I have no major complaints about the tracks either, which are free from any obvious glitches.
In addition to the English track, each episode also includes the option of either a lossy French 5.1 or German 5.1 track. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, Arabic, Dutch, French, German, and Turkish.
The Season 1 release of 'Helix' gave fans a nice selection of bonus materials, including a couple of highly enjoyable audio commentaries. This time around, there's no participation from either the cast or crew, as all Sony gives us are some deleted scenes and an outtakes reel.
I can't blame 'Helix' for trying to mix things up a bit in Season 2 with a whole new locale and a different virus than the one we saw during the first season. However, the show isn't much better this year at providing a clear end-game as to where it's headed, and I really felt that star Billy Campbell was wasted for much of the season. 'Helix' started out as a very interesting series. It's a shame it ran out of gas so quickly. For Fans Only.