This Van Helsing review contains spoilers.
Van Helsing Season 2 Episode 12
“You gotta hang onto hope. What else is there?”
After a two week detour in which the bulk of the cast remained in the background, “Crooked Falls” takes a bold step toward clarifying the true nature of the vampire assault on the human race. Whether it’s time travel, zombies, or vampires, writers must establish a consistent set of rules whereby the characters live and die, and while Van Helsing has at times played fast and loose with those rules, tonight’s episode presents a new wrinkle regarding the ferals that could change everything. The rules of the game have most decidedly changed.
What hasn’t changed, however, is Van Helsing’s ability to keep viewers off balance, and after a number of near misses, Julius not unexpectedly returns via the enhanced ferals while Phil and Lucky (Andrea Ware) opt to go out as heroes. For whatever reason, the sporadic appearance of many of the characters plays a role in how invested we become in them, but these two really drive home how emotionally wearing life on the run can become. So when they have a chance to catch their breath and discover they have a connection, it’s difficult not to root for the success of their relationship. All of which makes their explosive exit more painful but also more meaningful. Knowing what he went through as a vampire and then as the subject of scorn once turned back, Phil (Vincent Gale) decides to stay by the side of the woman who saw him for what he truly is, a hero. Hopefully, the writers won’t rob these two of such a moving moment.
Nevertheless, “Crooked Falls” brings together the entire team minus Vanessa, and the decision to move the narrative to the weather station makes a lot of sense from a pacing standpoint. The clever red balloon tease has been visible just often enough to make it important that we see what’s actually taking place there and on what scale. And there does appear to be more going on that meets the eye. Still, it’s surprising that the inhabitants disagree about taking in refugees from the apocalypse, which then raises a critical question about the balloons. Why put them out there?
It’s one thing to continually play “gotcha” with character deaths, but the introduction of ferals who appear to be adapting as the result of someone’s deliberate genetic engineering works well alongside what we’ve learned is taking place at BlakTek with Dr. Harrison. The sudden development that ferals now possess the capabilities to work together, use tools, and execute plans puts another roadblock in the path of the human race, but also opens up a new chapter as the search begins for the group responsible for this development which turns out to be quite a complex piece of engineering. Doc’s return also sparks a medical collaboration with The Boss (Adee Frizzell), and watching the two work together puts Doc back into a situation in which she feels comfortable and with someone who appreciates her skillset. And after her run-in with Axel, it’s nice to see her able to admit her past to The Boss who simply takes it in stride.
Lost in all of these developments though is the return of little Callie, the girl with nine lives. Throughout much of the series she’s been little more than an afterthought, but when she emerges from the trees and leads Phil and Lucky to Crooked Falls with her map, something seems amiss. Her role here though is two fold. She forces Axel to acknowledge that despite his opinion of Doc’s survival instincts, she did get him to Vanessa who clearly turned him back. But more importantly, when we see Callie on the radio which Jesse (Jessie Fraser) clearly says is not working properly, her revelation that she fixed it immediately raises red warning flags. It’s not clear to whom she is speaking, but it sure sounds like Dr. Harrison at BlakTek. We don’t know where Callie’s been and with whom, but her story has certainly taken a fascinating turn.
With Vanessa temporarily out of the picture, the focus has necessarily turned to Scarlett, and when we see her with her parents in the opening scene, it’s really not clear what we could possibly learn of value that we don’t already know. But when this turns out to be her vision of the Elder as her father reaching into her mind, the scene’s importance quickly becomes clear. The Elder apparently believes Vanessa is either dead or out of the picture and has turned his attention towards Scarlett. “If only you truly understood everything,” the Elder tells her ominously. What is it she doesn’t understand? Is there going to be an unanticipated twist regarding the ancient vampire? Nevertheless, Scarlett’s appearance here becomes much more momentous once The Boss learns about the key they lost to Dmitri.
Like Vanessa, we’ve been fooled once before as to the identity of Vanessa and Scarlett’s mother, and now it’s Scarlett’s turn to come to terms with a woman who professes to be the Van Helsing matriarch. Introduced only as The Boss, the woman who apparently calls the shots at Crooked Falls sounds very much like the Van Helsing sisters, going out alone among the ferals, answering only to herself. Unlike the twins, however, she possesses advanced genetics knowledge and has been working on a vaccine. Is this the woman who hid the key behind the painting at The Farm and arranged to have her daughters grow up separated from each other?
While I’m not a fan of splitting up the team, especially since it’s been such a huge part of the Van Helsing mythos, the mother/daughter journey that The Boss and Scarlett embark on holds a wealth of promise, not the least of which is coming face to face with the Elder. When The Boss learns that Dmitri possesses the key, she tells the others, “only she and I could take care of this now.” As mother and daughter depart the weather station, she tells Scarlett they’re not coming back and then takes the opportunity to reveal her true identity. Assuming she’s telling the truth, it seems the dynamic has shifted and once Vanessa makes her way to Crooked Fall to reunite with Axel and the others, their quest will now turn to finding Scarlett. It’s a dangerous approach to take because it feels as if the narrative is floundering slightly by moving in circles. That said, the direction the show seems to be headed feels good.
Heading into the season two finale with the knowledge that Van Helsing will return next year makes some of the narrative choices easier to understand, and “Crooked Falls” succeeds as it brings the science to the forefront and ramps up the identity intrigues. As Scarlett and her mother embark on their journey, the question remains whether they’re going after the key or Vanessa. Time will tell.