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Series: Helix
Symptoms include black mucus discharge...

Helix is a 2014 Syfy Original Series, centering around Dr. Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell) and his team of CDC staff who have been dispatched to an arctic private research facility, Arctic BioSystems, to contain an unknown virus. Farragut and his team must contend with both the unknown pathogen and unforthcoming scientists reluctant to disclose the virus' origin or its basis in their unregulated research. Matters worsen when Alan's brother Peter, one of the first research scientists infected, escapes from isolation, while Alan's team begins to realize that The Virus not only grants Super Strength, but rewires its victims' brains to become a "perfect contagion machine."

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This series provides examples of the following:

  • Abusive Parents: The Farragut brothers had an angry, violent drunk for a father, which, according to Alan, lies at the root of some of Peter's behavioral tics, even when infected.
  • Action Survivor: Of the main ensemble, only Major Balleseros and security head Daniel have anything in the way of combat training. The rest are scientists, wholly unprepared for aggressive Plague Zombies, and tend to survive through luck and quick thinking.
  • The Ageless: Hatake and the board of Ilaria Corporation are a group of immortals from the 1500s.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Used by Peter to make his way around the facility. Lampshaded by Major Balleseros during an attempt to trail Peter:
    Balleseros: "Now I know what a TV dinner feels like."
    Alan Farragut: Didn't think you were old enough to remember that one.
    Balleseros: Die Hard? Sure, saw it in third grade.
    Alan Farragut: Ouch.
  • Alcoholic Parent: The Farragut brothers' abusive father, who, as detailed in "Single Strand," was so often drunk that Peter would regularly rifle through his pockets and offer to split their contents with Alan.
  • All There in the Manual: Supplemental material is available at Syfy's Helix website, particularly the Access Granted subsection, which contains in-universe personnel files, video resumes, and cryptic documents.
  • Alliterative Name: Dr. Hiroshi Hatake, head researcher and Morally Ambiguous Doctorate at Arctic Biosystems
  • Almost Out of Oxygen: Invoked In "Single Strand," by a few of the quarantined in level R who decide to override the base's oxygen scrubbers to force Hatake to negotiate.
  • America Saves the Day: In the pilot, this is Lampshaded by Dr. Sarah Jordan when she points out to their army liaison that neither the CDC nor USAMRIID should have jurisdiction over Arctic Biosystems, as it's in international territory. Major Balleseros handwaves this away, noting they've been allowed temporary access as the first to receive the distress call.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Ilaria Corporation is a front for a group of immortals that have been plotting to Take Over the World for half a millennium.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Downplayed. For the first two days of the mission, Alan needlessly bickers with ex-wife Julia while pulling rank as mission lead and dictating where Julia focuses her efforts. He later apologizes and reveals that he's snappish because he feels he can't protect her from The Virus if he doesn't know her whereabouts. She chides him mildly, but its made clear that, in their brief time together, he's reignited his old torch.
  • Animal Testing: Animal testing is treated as expected and practical, to the point where Doreen becomes suspicious that staff claim not to use monkeys, which would be necessary given their research. The CDC researchers must use lab rats to test pathogens. Yet, after the missing monkeys are discovered, a researcher refers to their infection with Synthetic Plague as "an abomination," while Doreen herself points out expressions of fear on their frozen corpses, to show that, compared to the Science Heroes, the Morally Ambiguous Doctorates have gone too far.
  • Animals Lack Attributes: Justified in-universe, the base's lab rats have no sex organs, which perplexes Doreen when she examines one and can't tell if it's male or female.
  • An Arm and a Leg: In the pilot, a security team member is killed and his lower arm is severed when Peter decides he needs a Borrowed Biometric Bypass to infect other research scientists.
  • Apocalypse How: Constance wants to engineer a Societal Disruption through the NARVIK-A strand, then rule the survivors.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: In the cryogenics lab, we see rodents submerged in oxygenated fluid, something we've been able to do in a lab since the '70s.
  • Armies Are Evil: Balleseros' cryptic conversations with Hatake and blatant sabotage imply the Synthetic Plague is government-funded, and he's been sent to help keep it secret at any cost. In spite of this, he's out of the loop enough to be taken aback when he stumbles onto a group of frozen monkey corpses.
  • Artistic License - Animal Care: In the pilot, Doreen is a veterinary pathologist, but does not make an effort to set a nonlethal trap for an escaped lab monkey that is very likely to be agitated, fearful and prone to jumping, whether or not its infected with The Virus. Instead, she hopes to catch it with her bare hands. It's no surprise that it attacks her, and she's incredibly lucky not to be scratched or bitten.
  • Artistic License - Biology: Frequently, in spite of the attempt to ground Plague Zombies in epidemiology, using fictional CDC employees.
    • The CDC team accepts injected RFID chips from a shared device. This is risky, considering that this could be a method of transmission of The Virus, and they don't know who are asymptomatic carriers, including the device's handler.
    • Arctic Biosystems' designer lab rats, who lack sex organs so they're more docile, are a solution in search of a problem. Lab rats are already docile, and removing sex organs removes both avenues of study (effects on reproduction, etc) and ability to compare or extrapolate from research on non-customized rats.
    • Less than a day is insufficient time to determine, via rat observation, if The Virus is airborne. Even if true this shouldn't be cause to remove a Hazmat Suit, as it could be absorbed through the skin, and bodily fluids can aerosolize.
    • Mutagens are, in and of themselves, not so disturbing to work with as Julia and Hatake say. They're used in cell biology.
    • Alan is frightened that an infected Peter will be killed by halothane gas, and wants him alive because he may have developed antibodies. That takes five days, while Peter's had The Virus for three.
    • Viruses are not typically searched for by shape, and when Julia says she's searched for all of them, "even isocahedrons" she's treating the most common shape as though it were unexpected.
    • The Zeiss phase-contrast microscopes depicted can't produce such animated images, much less show a virus that's smaller than usual (viruses also don't move like protozoa). They'd need electron microscopes to see such small objects.
    • In "Vector", Julia says rabies "doesn't include a compulsion to spread the disease", but that's exactly how rabies works. This error is odd since Peter's first symptoms are a supernatural exaggeration of rabies. His frightened refusal of water mirrors its hydrophobia, and the neck pulsations evoke the painful throat spasms that happen after those with rabies try drinking. It would have been more accurate to says that rabies does not include higher reasoning like deduction and complex tactics.
    • Isolation and safety protocols are more talked about in the abstract than abided by. Isolation facilities should be larger and more secure given Arctic Biosystems extensive work with pathogens. In "Vector", Dr. Bryce is correct that he and Sulemani should be separated from the sicker Haven, since late stage infectees are super strong and violent. In "274", Daniel is likewise correct when he thinks the now-symptomatic Sulemani and Bryce should stay isolated from the asymptomatic in quarantine, and Alan's failure to account for this results in Bryce and Sulemani's deaths.
    • By the same token, the fact that they move down from full Hazmat to simple face masks is extremely poor judgement, given the strength, speed, and determination of the Vectors to spread the infection. "274" shows that they can be slipped off relatively easy, and infection is a death sentence no matter which strain is contracted. Worse still, even face shields aren't employed consistently.
    • In "274", the failure of the rapid response test is almost a Foregone Conclusion, given that Sarah sampled too few people to be assured of its efficacy, even given a limited population and time frame to work with.
  • Artistic License - Engineering: Several design elements of Arctic Biosystems are infeasible or unwise given its location. According to the map in the pilot, the base is in the Arctic Ocean with no landmass to anchor it, despite its many underground levels. It also shouldn't have survived being seated in ice for so long, as instability and constant movement would gradually crush it, in the same way many incarnations of the Antarctic Halley Research Station were. Its depicted as having solar power generation (solar panels would likely be rendered ineffective or crushed by snow) and horizontal-shaft wind turbines which easily freeze and are inoperable in high winds.
  • Artistic License - Geography:
    • Arctic Biosystems is "above the 83rd parallel" which is treated narratively as a kind of no-man's land of international territory, freeing it from governmental scrutiny. But in reality, its location would probably subject the Research Inc to significant attention from an intergovernmental body with vested interest in monitoring it: the Arctic Council (of which the U.S. is a member country) and an affiliated NGO: the International Arctic Science Committee.
    • Being above the 83rd parallel, and taking place entirely in January 2014, the base should not be routinely experiencing blazing daylight, but rather a fairly long polar night.
  • Artistic License - Medicine: The very fact that Alan and Julia accepted a mission that would involve treating a brother and an ex-lover, respectively, is a massive conflict of interest, special request for Julia's presence or no, particularly since neither could be expected to make necessarily detached decisions with their respective histories. It is at least called attention to.
  • Artistic License - Physics: In the pilot, Major Balleseros claims that "freezing rearranges tensile strength," confusing tensile strength for molecular strength.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: Parts of the base are sleek, modernist and spare to the point of creepiness. Some promos Exaggerate the contrast, showing Bad Black Barf dripping on stark white modernist furniture and walls.
  • Bad Black Barf: Vomited by the infected into the mouths of their victims in order to transmit The Virus. Peter often has rills of black mucus at the corners of his mouth, to the point where spatters of it mark his trail around the base.
  • Bilingual Bonus/To Shakespeare: In a video on the Access Granted website, we see the whereabouts of the third "runner" from Peter's attack, Dr. Raver, while Hatake's voice recites a monologue in Japanese. When translated, it is the "What a piece of work is man" speech, from Hamlet
  • Bioluminescence is Cool: Discussed in "274" when Sarah shows Julia her bright idea for a rapid response test: Using bioluminescent crystal jellyfish proteins so that a positive test emits a Sickly Green Glow.
  • Black Blood: Justified as a marker of infection with The Virus, and easily visible through Tainted Veins.
  • Blondes are Evil: Sutton, with a touch of Faux Affably Evil.
  • Body in a Breadbox: In the pilot, Alan finds that Peter has killed a luckless security tech, stripped his clothes and squirreled his corpse away in an Air Vent.
  • Boom, Headshot: In "274," Alan is forced to kill an infected Sulemani this way, shooting her with Daniel's gun as she charges Julia.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: In the pilot, knowing his RFID chip is deactivated, Peter finds a workaround to get into a lab and infect others via the severed arm of one of the security guards, which contains a valid RFID chip.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The Virus has incredibly "focused behavioral patterns" that cause its victims to behave in this way, as they are compelled to spread the contagion. Though violent and paranoid, Vectors are also cognizant enough to form plans to access uninfected, like Peter, who manages to find a workaround for a biometric lock.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: The arctic location of the research base precludes normal cell phone use. Arctic Biosystems has a state of the art satellite communication system with 10 gpbs, but it only functions for an hour each day. Then it's sabotaged.
  • Clean Up Crew: Implied in "274". Doreen and Balleseros are convinced one of these, under Hatake's direction, has made off with Doreen's dissected monkey corpse, particularly since her necropsy lab appears to have been scrubbed with formaldehyde.
  • Closed Circle: Several factors conspire to keep the CDC rapid response team at Arctic Biosystems. It's CDC protocol to achieve full containment of a pathogen before leaving, the helicopters that transported them can't stay, due to the Hostile Weather's ability to coagulate fuel, and satellite communication to the outside world, though instantaneous, is only active for an hour a day. Then the satellite is sabotaged.
  • Computer Voice: Arctic Biosystems has a neutral, not unpleasant female voice that makes periodic announcements and status alerts, including when Peter breaks out of isolation, and also announces the Previously On segment.
  • Contamination Situation:
    • The series begins in the immediate aftermath of Dr. Peter Farragut's infection with a Synthetic Plague, turning him into Patient Zero and the ensemble's Tragic Monster, a carrier of The Virus who spreads it throughout the research base where he works. The CDC rapid response team includes his brother Alan and his ex-lover Julia, both of whom want to see him saved despite interpersonal tensions and shared estrangement.
    • Peter soon infects Julia, and she has to cope with realizing her fate and being the sole CDC member in quarantine with other infected.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: In "274" Julia talks to the heavily sedated Peter about her inability to handle the mixed emotions and memories that have been dredged up when she sees him.
  • Cure For Cancer: In "Aniqatiga", Hatake claims that this is what his team of scientists were trying to develop but it didn't work out so well and they ended up inadvertently creating The Virus instead. It's clear he's lying through his teeth, though.
  • Cut Phone Lines: In "274," when he hears Alan's intent to call the army in for backup, Balleseros blows up the satellite and communications system so Arctic Biosystems is both cut off from the outside world, and its intrabase phone lines disconnect.
  • Daylight Horror: Balleseros' discovery of the group of infected monkeys frozen alive, and his sharing the discovery with Doreen, take place in snowy arctic daylight, the better to notice that many died in terror.
  • Deadly Gas:
    • In the pilot, Alan is frightened that the Knock Out Gas released in the air vents will have this effect on the infected Peter. He needn't have worried, the halothane doesn't faze Peter at all.
    • In "274" Doreen has to release this in the observation box to stop the rapid growth of viral Meat Moss from an infected monkey blood sample.
  • Deadly Lunge: Standard M.O. for infected animals and humans, to get close enough to victims to vomit Bad Black Barf into their mouths and transmit The Virus.
  • Decontamination Chamber: Both depicted and merely inferred between scene changes. In particular Julia is caught and infected by Peter while she's taking a shower as part of decontamination procedures in "Vector."
  • Defector from Decadence: Hatake used to be part of the group of immortals controlling Ilaria Corp., but parted ways with them due to disagreeing over their ultimate goal of ruling the world.
  • Definitely Just a Cold:
    • Early in the mission, Sarah begins to exhibit a hand tremor, which Julia incorrectly interprets as a symptom of infection until Sarah tests herself. Sarah blames fatigue, and the viewer is likely to attribute it to delayed fear reaction from a trauma-filled day. But in "274" she pops pills in her quarters, and reveals a large vertical scar on her back. "Single Strand" attributes it to a tumor, and reveals her pills as gabapentin (an anticonvulsant/painkiller).
    • In "274," after being infected by Peter, Julia goes into denial and tells Alan she fainted in the shower due to fatigue, later projecting and accusing Sarah of being a Zombie Infectee herself.
  • Designer Babies: Arctic Biosystems lab rats are genetically engineered to lack sex organs, which, according to Daniel Aerov, makes them more controllable.
  • Diegetic Switch: In "Vector," an easy listening piece goes from slightly muted, tinny Source Music played over speakers to clear Background Music while Julia encounters and then is attacked by Peter while showering during decontamination.
  • Distress Call: Arctic Biosystems sends one that's intercepted by a military listening post, reporting an outbreak of The Virus and specifically requesting the aid of the CDC's Dr. Julia Walker, which kicks off the plot.
  • Dramatic Chase Opening: The opening scene of the pilot intercuts the slow, walking pursuit of Hazmat Suit-clad Hatake and Aerov with the panicked running of an infected Peter, presumably escaped from isolation, barreling down hallways and trying to hide in a lab, only to be dragged off screen by a fellow infected. Hatake and Aerov eventually discover a prone, exhausted Peter a short distance away from two infected human corpses.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Arctic Biosystems has several subterranean levels.
  • Emotional Maturity Is Physical Maturity: Hatake mocks the Scythe for this; despite the fact that both are over five centuries old, the Scythe was made immortal while still a teenager and still kinda acts like it in spite of his best efforts.
  • Enclosed Space: Arctic Biosystems, an isolated arctic research base.
  • The Engineer: The CDC's army liaison, Major Balleseros, is a systems engineer who's job it is to analyze the facility itself to discern structural methods of transmission.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Julia has evidently joined Ilaria following the seven-month time skip at the end of season 1.
  • Genre Shift: Around Episode 7, "Survivor Zero," the show's dramatic focus shifts from a claustrophobic Zombie Apocalypse to an elaborate meta-human World Domination scheme.
  • Glowing Eyes/Technicolor Eyes: Dr. Hiroshi Hatake hides luminescent silver eyes behind tinted contacts, suggesting Professor Guinea Pig hobbyism.
    • Sutton is revealed to have them as well, and Julia gets them after Hatake injects her with something.
  • Godzilla Threshold: When Peter's infection reaches its terminal stage, Alan insists on employing a cure-all developed by Arctic Biosystems, even though it has a 75% mortality rate. Not only does it nearly kill Peter, it also fails to kill the virus.
  • Gory Discretion Shot/Scream Discretion Shot: Subverted. When Peter breaks into a lab full of scientists, the viewer only sees what seems to be a sudden blood spatter on the glass of the lab door, accompanied by a woman's scream. But the subsequent episode's opening scene shows no one is wounded, and reveals Bad Black Barf as the method of viral transmission.
  • Grim Up North: Set in the blistering cold of the Arctic, in a research lab full of Morally Ambiguous Doctorates
  • Hazmat Suit: Part and parcel of interacting with the infected during an outbreak. Both CDC members and Arctic Biosystems staff use them. They're referred to as Racal Suits, a kind of containment suit specifically designed for work with pathogens. Defied after the first two days, even though best practices would require continued use.
  • Healing Factor: Hatake is noted to heal faster than normal. He and all immortals have accelerated healing, though anything that would definitely kill a human will kill them just as easily.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Balleseros defects from Ilaria, mostly due to Anana's influence.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • In "Vector," Balleseros kills Dr. Graff, a Reluctant Mad Scientist, when he catches Graff trying to leave via snowmobile, and Graff explains that the goings-on at Arctic Biosystems must be exposed. Balleseros stabs him In the Back.
    • In "Single Strand," Balleseros kills Doreen once she's uncovered the purpose of the virus and the unknown RNA contained therein. What makes it worse is that he asked her to do the research, meaning he knew he was going to kill her once she got results.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Daniel sacrifices his own life to let Hatake out of a Sadistic Choice between sparing him or Julia, knowing Hatake could never choose him over his own flesh-and-blood daughter.
    • In the season 1 finale, when Julia is kidnapped by the Scythe with the virus and cure, Alan tries to save her. Knowing he's outmatched, she grabs the cure and kicks him out of the rising helicopter they're currently in. It takes off with her, but Alan is saved by the snow.
  • The Immune: The immortals are immune to all forms of disease, and as a bonus those infected with NARVIK-B actively ignore them.
  • In the Back: In "Vector," Balleseros does this to Dr. Graff after he announces his intent to expose the research at Arctic Biosystems.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: Bossa Nova easy listening.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In episode 5, Alan confronts Daniel over the Transgenics lab. Daniel correctly points out that he had no reason to cover up a virus he needs the CDC to cure. Secondly, he correctly questions why Alan trusts Major Balleseros more when he has known him as long as Daniel.
  • Kill It with Ice: Extreme cold inhibits the spread of NARVIK, though it doesn't actually kill it. The Vectors are rendered docile while exposed to extreme cold, but the temperatures required to do this are just as deadly to humans.
  • Knock Out Gas: In the pilot, head of security Daniel releases halothane gas into the Air Vents where the infected Peter is holing up, calculating a dosage that should knock Peter out for four hours. It doesn't affect Peter at all.
  • Leave No Witnesses: Constance makes it clear that this is the result once a cure is found. Fortunately, Alan is at least Genre Savvy enough to know it's not in their best interests to let her have all the cards.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band:
  • Maniac Monkeys: Though their existence is at first denied by staff, Dr. Boyle discovers infected macaques are the source of zoonotic transfer after she's attacked by an escaped specimen. Balleseros later finds the rest of the infected lab monkeys frozen outside the base.
  • Meat Moss: In "274," adding growth factor to a petri dish of monkey blood infected with The Virus results in an explosive growth of black biomass that coats and fills the observation chamber and threatens to shatter it until Doreen releases Deadly Gas therein. Alan and Sarah end up repeating this experiment but aren't as careful with containment, which nearly goes south until Alan turns a fire extinguisher on it. Fortunately, this teaches them that cold inhibits the virus.
  • Mega Corp.: Ilaria Corporation and its subsidiary Arctic Biosystems, who Doreen notes are "big pharma," and must be rich indeed to afford an arctic Elaborate Underground Base base that can house and employ over 120 people. Justifiable, as it's run by a cabal of immortals who have been around for centuries, and as such have had plenty of time to build up resources.
  • The Mole:
    • Balleseros is secretly an Ilaria plant on the CDC team.
    • Peter is revealed to be working for Ilaria in the season 1 finale.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Implicitly, every researcher at Arctic Biosystems, who come there to take advantage of the opportunity to perform research unencumbered by regulatory agencies.
  • Not So Different: In "274," when Daniel shoots one of the Vectors who's coming toward Dr. Hatake, Alan is outraged and insists that he panicked. Daniel counters that he made a judgment call and that Alan would have done the same. Alan does eventually have to turn a gun on a Vector, but Daniel is still using false equivalency; the one Daniel shot was trying to surrender, while the one Alan shot was flat-out homicidal.
  • Not Using the Z Word: The CDC refers to those who attack others to spread The Virus as "Vectors."
  • Old Flame:
    • For Alan, Double Subverted, though initially standoffish at the prospect of Working with the Ex, then outright combative as he bickers with Julia, he confesses that its become Anger Born of Worry, and he can't stop feeling protective of her.
    • For Julia, this is Subverted with her relationship with ex-husband Alan. Though she appreciates Alan's concern, she not only doesn't reciprocate, but the sight of Peter brings back memories of her unhappy relationship with Alan, and the reasons she turned to Peter for comfort.
    • However, for both Peter and Julia, this is Played Straight, as an infected Peter, though acting on his viral programming, first attempts a tender kiss before resorting to a Deadly Lunge, and Julia later admits to herself that she still has feelings for Peter, in spite of the fact they haven't spoken since Alan caught them cheating.
  • Patient Zero: The CDC team's best guess is Peter Farragut is the first human infectee of NARVIK-B, The Virus that turns its victims into super-strong Vectors compelled to infect others. However, the CDC is stuck with hosts who refuse to tell the whole story, and from the rantings of Vectors, other scientists likely went before him.
  • Plague Zombie/Technically Living Zombie: "Vectors," infectees of Synthetic Plague/The Virus NARVIK-B, are biologically driven to infect others via forcible transmission through vomiting Bad Black Barf into their mouths. If Peter is any indication, Vectors only last a few days before the infection progresses too far for them to keep functioning. Episode 5 shows that Vectors are intelligent enough to take out lights so as to set ambushes in the darkness.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: Based on the Glowing Eyes alone, Dr. Hiroshi Hatake has been doing some interesting side research. He also appears to have some sort of control over the vectors; at the very least, they show no aggression towards him and allow him to pass without attacking.
  • Reluctant Mad Scientist: Its clear that some Arctic Biosystems staff are ambivalent and regretful about the work they've done, some of which may have been performed under duress.
    • In the pilot, Dr. Peter Farragut makes a hand signal meant to indicate "danger" in his video logs while claiming he's excited to work at Arctic Biosystems, and "understand[s] certain things now."
    • In "Vector" Dr. Tracey, infected with The Virus, rants semicoherently about how she should have known that genetically engineering a virus would never be used for anything good, and, alternately, that it couldn't possibly be her fault, and there was no way for her to know.
    • Also, in "Vector," after witnessing DeKlerk's capture, Dr. Graff grabs a snowmobile, and, when found by Balleseros, explains unregulated research has lost its appeal, calls it "an abomination" an expresses his intent to expose Arctic Biosystems. Balleseros stabs him In the Back.
  • Research Inc: Arctic Biosystems is a private company staffed by over a hundred Morally Ambiguous Doctorates who specifically come to the base, stationed in international territory, to exploit the opportunity to perform research unburdened by regulatory agencies.
  • Sadistic Choice: The Scythe forces Hatake to choose between letting either Julia or Daniel have their heads blown up, with a 30 second timer before they both go. Hatake can't bring himself to choose, so Daniel sets his off deliberately.
  • Science Hero: The CDC's rapid response team of pathologists and their liaison from the Army Core of Engineers have been sent to save the day in a base full of Morally Ambiguous Doctorates.
    • Dr. Alan Farragut: Head of the CDC's Special Pathogens Branch and lead of the mission
    • Dr. Julia "Jules" Walker: One of the CDC's senior scientists
    • Dr. Sarah Jordan: Young mentee of Dr. Farragut
    • Dr. Doreen Boyle: Veterinary pathologist
    • Major Sergio Balleseros: Systems Engineer
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the pilot, Dr. Doreen Boyle dryly notes that, given the shared tensions between divorced fellow CDC members Alan and Julia, and Alan's brother Peter, "this is gonna be the most frakked-up family reunion ever." The show is executive produced by Battlestar Galactica's Ronald D. Moore.
    • In "Vector" Major Balleseros quotes John McClane while trailing Peter through an Air-Vent Passageway. Alan Lampshades it when he comments on how Balleseros should be too young to remember Die Hard.
  • Sibling Triangle: In the past, Julia became unhappy in her marriage to Alan and turned to his younger brother Peter for comfort. After Alan caught them in bed together, Julia divorced Alan and totally cut off contact with Peter. In the present, both brothers carry a torch for Julia, while Julia struggles with unhappy memories of her marriage to Alan and still-present feelings for Peter.
  • Sickly Green Glow: In "274" the rapid response test Sarah develops to diagnose infected patients glows green to indicate The Virus.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Beware of easy listening music.
    • The Instrumental Theme Tune is a jazzy bit of Bossa Nova that slows and warps to a stop while Bad Black Barf drips off of the "X" in the Title Card. Closed Captioning refers to it as "Happy Instrumental Music"
    • In the pilot, Dionne Warwick's Baião-influenced "Do You Know the Way To San Jose" serves as musical bookends, as Source Music in the opening scene, Peter's introduction as an infectee as he's discovered by Dr. Hatake and his head of security, and as Background Music in the closing scene of Peter's first sucessful attempt to infect others as he circumvents a biometric lock to assault a lab full of screaming scientists.
    • In "Vector," another bouncy easy listening tune in the same genre as the Instrumental Theme Tune serves as musical bookends, playing as Source Music during two frightening encounters, when Dr. Doreen Boyle is accosted by an infected Dr. Tracey, and in the closing scene when Dr. Julia Walker encounters a likewise infected Peter Farragut during decontamination.
    • Subverting the trend is the music played during closing credits. It begins by picking up where the "Happy" Instrumental Theme Tune left off, and has the same instrumentation, but is instead tense with a rising background whine that evokes Psycho Strings before warping to a stop again.
  • Stalker with a Crush: After asking a series of increasingly personal questions in their various interactions, Dr. Hiroshi Hatake wistfully peruses an album of pictures of Dr. Julia Walker, both posed and taken from distances suggesting covert surveillance.
    • It turns out he's her father.
  • Static Stun Gun: Arctic Biosystems security techs have 600 kV stun batons, which knock humans out cold, but only irritate Vectors.
  • Super Strength: Exhibited by infected "Vectors".
    • Peter Farragut can rip through restraints and 600 kV stun batons don't faze him.
    • Infected monkeys can rip off cage doors from the inside.
    • Infected rats can barrel through glass partitions, or topple the shelves on which they're caged with little trouble.
  • Synthetic Plague: Its clear that The Virus originates from mysterious, ethically-dubious research into biological superweapons, but Arctic Biosystems' staff is willfully opaque as to the details. Constance reveals that NARVIK-A is a bioweapon meant to be released into the general population, the cure to which only the Ilaria Corporation will have. NARVIK-B is an alternate strain developed by Hatake for unclear purposes.
  • Tainted Veins: Victims of The Virus develop black veins, particularly visible in the denuded infected lab rats the CDC researchers use for testing.
  • Take Over the World: Constance has this goal.
  • Tested On Humans: Balleseros tells Doreen that he and his superiors suspect the outbreak may have begun as a deliberate effort to test a Synthetic Plague on human subjects that got out of control.
  • There Was a Door: In "Vector," an infected rat breaks through the glass walls of its own cage and that of an uninfected potential victim, even though its Super Strength could've surely dislodged its cage's lid quite easily.
  • They Call Him Sword: The Scythe is an assassin named after his Weapon of Choice, to the point that he hates being called by his real name.
  • Time Skip: The season 1 finale jumps ahead to Day 235 for one scene, goes back to the present to round off events at Arctic Biosystems, then goes back to 235 to set up the next season.
  • Title Card: White brickwork with black lettering. Bad Black Barf drips off the "X" as the Instrumental Theme Tune ends.
  • Title In: Usually denotes timeline: "Day 1, Day 2," etc. in black font on a white background, though text also introduces an Establishing Shot of the CDC HQ.
  • Trash the Set: In the season 1 finale, The Scythe blows up Arctic Biosystems, leveling the whole facility.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: An Action Survivor example, given the setting. Doreen is a no-nonsense, Genre Savvy scientist who rolls with everything thrown at her, in contrast to the more feminine, and more frequently victimized Julia and Sarah. Doreen dies in "Single Strand," the fourth episode.
  • Vein-O-Vision: In "Bloodline", we see some people through the eyes of a vector that's crawling through a dining-area ceiling duct, and a network of vessels shines pale green inside each person.
  • The Virus: Unlike NARVIK-A, which causes hemorrhagic shock and eventually liquefies its victims, NARVIK-B, the mutated strain Peter Farragut carries, does not kill its victims, but instead modifies their behavior so they become super-strong, paranoid, aggressive and biologically driven to infect others via forcible transmission, which entails assaulting and restraining victims and vomiting a black secretion into their mouths.
  • We Are Everywhere: The immortal Ilaria member whom Alan is torturing in the season 1 finale time skip claims that "Ilaria is everywhere".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Of the six staff members Peter attacks after he bypasses a biometric lock, we only see five in-series, though six are named. In a video on the Access Granted website, we see the sixth, Dr. Raver, dressed in parka with name tag, walking along a cliff side, then collapsing while Bad Black Barf drips from his mouth, all while Hatake's voice recites from Hamlet in Japanese.
  • Working with the Ex: Dr. Alan Farragut must work alongside his CDC peer and ex-wife Dr. Julia "Jules" Walker, who, in spite of their interpersonal tensions, has recommended him to head the mission as a personal favor due to the fact his brother Peter is among the infected.
  • Zombie Infectee: Played With in many ways.
    • In "274" Zigzagged when Julia goes into denial after her infection by Peter. When Alan finds her in the shower, she claims she passed out from fatigue, and tries to psych herself up, insisting "You. Don't. Get. Sick." A test initially and inexplicably clears her of infection, while she begins to project, accusing Sarah of being infected. But when Julia witnesses a Vector attack a security tech and coughs, she Subverts it, showing her mucus covered hand and insisting she be quarantined. Later she realizes her swab still reads clear, so the rapid response test used to diagnose her and dozens of others doesn't even work.
    • Also in "274," the trope is Exaggerated when an escaped Dr. Bryce is discovered attacking a lab door with an ax while demanding a cure, and upon confrontation, still insists he isn't infected.
    Dr. Bryce: "I'm not even infected!" *swings ax, coughs Bad Black Barf* "Or at least I wasn't until you threw me in with the rest of 'em!"
    • Then, Inverted in "274," when Julia's psychological projection causes her to accuse coworker Sarah. Though Sarah exhibits a prominent hand tremor, that symptom is from another medical condition Sarah is keeping secret.

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