This Van Helsing review contains spoilers.
Van Helsing Episode 10
Part of the experience of Van Helsing requires the viewer to stay alert and not become lulled by show’s deliberate pace for fear of missing the significance of the small details. Tonight’s tenth episode “Stay Away” abandons restraint, and from beginning to end, assaults our senses with one startling scene after another. If we learn anything from this chapter, just like Vanessa and the crew, it’s a mistake to get too comfortable.
There are so many turning points that it’s difficult to know where to start, but Doc’s rapid descent may be the biggest shock of all. To see her come unhinged so soon after leaving Axel to die at Gorman’s hands isn’t all that surprising since she has teetered on the edge of sanity the entire time we’ve known her. However, it’s still disconcerting to see it unfold. Watching her stand frozen, Munchlike, as the ferals attack in the opening sequence catches us off guard a bit, but by the time we reach the end, it’s somehow fitting that she finds herself alone in a clearing amidst the skeletons of dozens of babies harvested by Magdalene (Gwynyth Walsh).
In some ways this is Doc’s episode, and while Rukiya Bernard’s portrayal of the psychically broken woman tugs at our heartstrings, watching her stare at the blood on her hands after delivering the baby conjures up an image of Lady Macbeth coming to terms with her own guilt. When she finally comes clean to Vanessa about Axel’s demise, like Vanessa, we feel nothing for her, and it’s this disgust from Vanessa and from herself that eventually leads Doc to beg Magdalene to turn her back. In the end she gets what she deserves. Nothing.
Though certainly not as emotionally draining as Doc’s devolution, the introduction of Eden adds an unexpected, but welcome new dimension to the experience. Headed by Micah (Tom Cavanagh, The Flash), this peaceful agrarian community at first appears to have escaped the vampire aggression, but we quickly learn that it’s not quite that simple. Cavanagh is deliciously creepy as the cult leader/diplomat, and from the start, things seem a bit too perfect. However, like Vanessa and the others, we’re willing to give these people the benefit of the doubt in return for a clean bed and a hot meal. But it doesn’t take long to learn of Magdalene’s connection to Julius and the arrangement she’s brokered with Micah. It appears the church bells we’ve heard over the past few episodes coincide with the arrival of Magdalene, and when we take in the fact that Micah trades Mason jars full of blood for protection, that we’re not that surprised says a lot about the world and characters Neil LaBute has created. Taken in conjunction with the pregnant women that seem to be everywhere, it’s difficult to get a read on this place.
Micah’s revelation to Vanessa and Susan regarding the true purpose of Eden doesn’t ring true for Vanessa or the viewer. Claiming the pregnant women are wives of Resistance fighters who are provided a safe haven and then reunited with their families seems plausible, but he should have stopped there. Going on to state that they are just doing their part to take back the Earth from the vampires sounds like a sleeper agent reciting a memorized scenario.
Arguably the most vulnerable character in the series has been Flesh, who no matter what he says or does to convince the others he’s a loyal member of the team, ends up having his past thrown in his face. But when Micah breaks his confidence by airing Flesh’s darkest secret, it draws out a side of him we didn’t know existed. There are a number of satisfying scenes in “Stay Away,” but none more so than Flesh plunging his knife into the back of Micah’s neck after Mohamad and Sam reveal the leader’s blood scam with Magdalene. Despite his duplicitous behavior, Micah does offer Flesh one piece of sage advice: “Embrace who you are or you can hang onto what you were.” At first glance it seems reasonable, but upon further reflection, that’s exactly what the vampires want. Abandon your humanity and join us.
There’s a lot to like in this episode, but one thing that deserves special praise is the manner in which the characters remain true to their experiences. They’ve seen and done too much to survive to suddenly let their guards down no matter how appealing Eden might be, and rather than take a bite from the apple, Sam kills the man who imprisoned him without batting an eye. Horrified at first, Mohamad understands his friend’s act, and sets out to leave with him letting us know that their bond is as strong as ever. After missing Sam’s spray painted message back at the gas station, the writers made a great decision to not draw out this reunion, and employing the Nirvana tee shirt on the laundry line is a nice touch.
Through all of this emotional and narrative upheaval, Vanessa finds time to show off her sword skills to Eden resident Theo, possessor of some impressive abs, and after he takes her to see his parents’ graves, they start making out. We don’t know how far they go, but she does draw blood when she bites him. I’m going to take the stand that she simply gets carried away by the passion, but we can’t ignore that she earlier admits to a certain satisfaction and desire to kill. Surprisingly, she tells him the truth about her abilities. Ferals die; vampires turn human.
In the end, it’s somewhat satisfying that Flesh decides to stay because he believes in the concept and recognizes that Micah simply betrayed it. Vanessa and Theo have a sweet goodbye as do Mohamad and Emma, and it’s down the road they go. Sam, Mohamad, Susan, and Vanessa — off to see the Wizard. But this is no L. Frank Baum children’s allegory with a bittersweet resolution just beyond the poppy fields. Dorothy knows where she’s going and who she needs to see; our heroes courageously trek into an unknown that has been anything but kind to them. And let’s be honest, it’s entirely possible that someone in this group committed the murders back at the hospital. I’m not sure what more we could ask for as the story arcs continue to advance and the personal dynamics shift. Look out vamps; here we come.