(WARNING: May contain spoilers.)
I was delighted when Jeri Ryan joined the cast of Syfy’s new horror show, Helix, but I hated the interpretation of Constance Sutton, the teeth-pruning, book-hurling, face-slapping, killer-snogging COO of EvilCorp LLC. This is a terrible depiction of an evil woman in power. (Except for the teeth-pruning. That’s awesome!)
No reflection on Ryan, who is playing a badly written part as well as she can.
It got me thinking about the other women characters in the show:
Julia — faithless
Sara –arrogant, unethical and probably sloppy. The show set it up so that the ludicrous “test” (which was reviewed with no rigor whatsoever) somehow became Sara’s fault, even though both Julia and Alan, senior staff, could have actually spent five minutes checking it.
Denise — smart, honest, professional and brimming with personal integrity. We knew she was going to die as soon as she started trusting the sociopath, but the writers didn’t have to kill her in a way that demeaned her just for a cheap “shock-shot.”
I know, you’re going to say, “Well, aren’t scientists’ heads in pickle jars just as demeaning as having a naked rat crawl out of her mouth?” No, they are not. We did not know, and respect, the scientists in the pickle jars, and we did know and respect Denise. She deserved better.
After the initial pulse of white-hot indignation faded slightly, I decided knee-jerk outrage might not be completely fair. I took a look at the men. Honestly, they don’t fare much better.
Peter — Well, he’s been in a coma since the first ten minutes of Episode One, except for that one time when he crawled naked through the ductwork to infect Julia with the virus or viruses, so we don’t really know.
Hiroshi Hataki — the Asian or Asian-American director of secret base Arctic Where-the-Hell-Are-We One is the architect of the virus, or viruses. He also may have discovered a cure for all viruses in the world, ever. He’s either helping the CDC team, or he’s not. He’s either protecting Julia, or he isn’t. He is either in league with the sociopathic killer, or he isn’t. His words and his actions don’t match. It is hard to interpret his motivations. That’s right. He’s… inscrutable.
Daniel — is stupid.
Alan — is laughably ineffectual as the leader of the CDC team. He is also unethical and hypocritical, sternly lecturing Sara for “getting high,” and then slamming her up against the wall for a bit of half-unclothed sex in the next episode. Yes, nothing says self-control like shagging your subordinate in the changing room.
Sergio Balleseros — is a sociopath. I hate him. He is the best written, most intensely acted and most suspenseful character in the show, because you only know that he will do anything. Anything. We don’t know who he’s working for (although we know someone who thinks he’s working for her), we don’t really know what his mission is, and we don’t know if we can believe a single word that comes out of his mouth.
(And by the way, this guy? I don’t completely grasp how the character is Serbian-Brazilian, but this actor; whoa. Yes, some of it is his looks, but a lot of it is his intensity. One to watch.)
So, basically, the men aren’t any better than the women. There is still no excuse for Constance. If these impulse control problems are related to surviving the virus, how come the other survivors (and we know there are at least two) don’t display the same behavior? Theatrically leveling her pistol at Alan’s head in Level R was melodramatic and stupid. All a woman with complete command would have to say is, “Fine. We’ll leave you down here, but we’re going.” What’s especially disappointing is that the first “half” of Constance Sutton, the obviously lying corporate-speak shill we meet at first, was well written, with her jargon and euphemisms. I especially liked the line about, “EvilCorp is value-add.” That was perfect, making me hope for an evil mastermind whose idea of making a point is not to throw a book at someone. Alas, those hopes were dashed.
It’s a sad state of affairs when I keep watching a show because the human monster killer is holding my attention, but I can safely say that after all, Helix is at least egalitarian.