This Van Helsing review contains spoilers.
Van Helsing Episode 6
Give Brendan credit. He was right about one thing; there is a killer on the loose within Seattle Valley General Hospital. Unfortunately for him and his group, that’s about the only thing he was right about. He messed with the wrong guy and seriously underestimated a United States Marine in “Nothing Matters,” tonight’s moment-of-truth episode of SyFy’s Van Helsing. But while Brendan’s hubris forces his people to return to the horror that is the outside world, the season’s sixth episode leaves the previous week’s exposition behind in favor of some much needed action that propels the story forward.
We knew this moment was coming, and writer/showrunner Neil LaBute’s decision to accelerate the chain of events, removes any fear that the narrative might bog down into a drawn out prisoner/jailer discourse. Axel continues to make the hard choices no one else wants to make, and the fact that the others question him even after they’ve been freed is difficult to fathom. Is Axel the only one paying attention? Set against Vanessa’s unwavering mission to find her daughter, it’s Axel who acts as the savior raising the question whether Vanessa will ever make the agonizing but logical decision to abandon her search and help him lead the team to a more secure location.
It should come as no surprise that director Amanda Tapping (Dark Matter, Olympus) focuses on the burgeoning relationship between Vanessa and Susan, and the manner in which their return changes the narrative’s direction. Vanessa’s emotional journey plunges to a depth that makes us wonder how she’ll ever recover as she battles not only physical issues but the pangs of guilt after Callie leaves when Brendan’s group is forced outside. Kelly Overton’s performance reveals a vulnerability that’s been only hinted at, and it’s fascinating to watch the role reversal as Susan lends her physical and emotional support. When Susan sings a lullabye after Vanessa collapses in her arms, the lyrics could not be more poignant. “Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.” Watching the two buoy each other up stands as one of the episode’s many high points.
There’s still a bit too much going on, and the fact that we only fleetingly see Mohamad and Sheema forces viewers to wonder why two such compelling characters have been introduced and then suddenly pulled back. This approach does little to create audience engagement, especially with a figure as likable as Mohamad, but maybe that’s the idea. Both lurking, waiting for the correct moment as the anticipation grows.
That said, Mohamad scavenges some weapons confirming the hope that we haven’t seen the last of him, and now his reunion with his sister can’t be far behind. And while Sheema’s appearance is likewise brief, it serves to answer several critical questions. Working with the resistance, she’s been set up by Rebecca who leaves the plans for Sheema to find. It might be unfair to judge her on this one act, but like her brother, youth may be blinding her ability to accurately read people and situations. Rebecca shows up, and we learn this charade was all about confirming that Taka transcends urban legend and actually exists.
Obviously, the decision was made to focus on dissension in the hospital, and while it was clearly the correct choice, there are some character reactions that just don’t ring true. After everything they’ve been through, when Vanessa sends a message to Axel about a plan to take out Brendan and his group, it’s now up to Axel’s team to trust each other to avoid execution. Axel knows that means killing Brendan’s group, yet John hesitates. Really? Again? Have these people been paying attention? It’s one thing to take the high road, and Axel takes no pleasure in killing, but Brendan sets this sequence of events into motion putting his people at risk and in the end gets most of them killed.
Axel finally exiles Brendan and three others, but when little Callie sees what’s happening, she runs out to be with them leaving behind a teddy bear and a weeping Vanessa. Really? “Who knows what’s right and wrong in this new world,” Doc melodramatically says to Vanessa who seems to be getting worse, and then when Doc cuts her finger, she relishes tasting her own blood. Wait! What? The writers can’t just throw that out there and have it mean nothing.
To a large extent the power of Van Helsing lies in the struggle Axel and Vanessa face coming to terms with the inevitable fact that they must work together and accept the other’s impulses if they have any hope of ending the vampire scourge. Now that we’re six episodes in, we need to see the story arcs start coming together, and while “Nothing Matters” begins that trend and neatly answers a few nagging questions, it would be nice to see some clarity within the vampire community that speaks to motivation and purpose. The table has been set; it’s time for a bite.