This Van Helsing review contains spoilers.
Van Helsing Season 2 Episode 6
“And here we are. Home at last.”
Whether or not truth prevails depends on whose truth one believes. What is true, however, is that Van Helsing once again manages to shock its audience as the mystery of Vanessa’s origin story ratchets up more than a few notches. “Veritas Vincit” seamlessly introduces a dynamic character with the potential to completely alter the landscape in the human race’s battle for survival, but as always, things may not be quite as they seem.
With visions of a red door looming overhead and red balloons off in the distance, it’s Susan’s appearance in her dream that finally sends Vanessa back to where her journey began: the Farm. And while her single-minded drive often works to her advantage, Vanessa has been known to embark on a mission without a thoughtfully conceived plan. At times, her brusque manner as she pushes aside those who care about her and only want to help can be a bit unsettling, but Julius is rapidly learning when to step in and when to give her space. Nevertheless, it’s Vanessa’s refusal to return Axel to a human state that is most puzzling.
Having watched Axel struggle valiantly this season, it’s especially difficult to reconcile her stance particularly since she offers no convincing explanation for her refusal. Nonetheless, he follows her to the Farm, perhaps still following orders to protect “the woman on the table.” Does he hope she’ll change her mind or does he plan to simply bite her? Surely Vanessa doesn’t still hold it against him that he kept from her that fact that he read her military file. Or is she still reeling from the effect her bite had on Dylan and simply fears history might repeat itself? Either way, he warns her that opening the red door may not lead to the answers she seeks and tells her, “It’s not what you think.”
At this point Vanessa knows she’s different, and we can only imagine the stories she’s concocted in her head to explain what it is she’s become. Now though she may have someone more able to understand her conflicted feelings. The female warrior who’s been lurking in the shadows the past few weeks finally reveals herself, but not before she and Vanessa go toe to toe in a tightly choreographed duel in the hallway, each going through her personal cache of weapons during the struggle. Scarlett Harker (Missy Peregrym) admits that she’s been following Vanessa for quite awhile, and once she learns that Vanessa can actually return vampires to the human state, she acknowledges an awareness of Dmitri’s interest in the woman who can bring down his plan for a new world order. It’s understandable that both women raise their guards against the other, but before Vanessa can make clear that Axel’s with her, Scarlett stabs him with her long blade. Can Sgt. Miller ever catch a break?
The disclosure that Vanessa and Scarlett are sisters is handled brilliantly, beginning with the shared vision of the red door and the creature seemingly behind the reveal. And while it’s certainly true that what she finds after digging deeper inside the facility turns her world upside down, the knowledge that she’s not alone should help give her some direction as she struggles with Dylan’s death and her own journey of self-discovery. We know she’s never truly been alone, but it’s also reasonable to conclude that people like Flesh, Doc, and Mohamad see her only as a means to an end. If their childhood memories of this place prove true and accurate, Scarlett is family, and in spite of the hurdles the two women face in their burgeoning relationship, that’s an important connection.
Even though their relationship gets off to a rocky start, the disturbing images of the clear, plastic bassinets in the lab are only the beginning of the discoveries that tie them together. One of the most haunting and frightening things they uncover in the lab is the cylinder containing what Vanessa presumes is a hybrid fetus, part of the experiments the military must be conducting here at the Farm. It’s understandable that Vanessa momentarily freaks, especially when she connects the dots to what Dmitri was doing at the Citadel. Taken all together though, we have to wonder how much Axel actually knows about what’s been going on here.
We learn a lot about Scarlett’s backstory as the two women get to know each other, but the surname Harker obviously ties into Bram Stoker’s novel in which Jonathan Harker joins forces with Abraham Van Helsing to kill Count Dracula. Having trained for this moment her entire life, Scarlett presents more of a militaristic approach to their search, providing a perfect match for her more impulsive sister. Even so, Vanessa’s past comes flooding back, and whether it’s the facilitation of the video game she activates or the playroom with the mural, she remembers her mother Abby’s argument with one of the doctors. “This is where we began,” she tells Scarlett.
Showrunner Neil LaBute continues to borrow sparingly from Stoker’s mythology, and the introduction of the Jonathan Harker connection in the guise of Scarlett is genius. There’s still much we don’t know, but watching both women piece together their pasts with the present potentially sets up mind-blowing and heartbreaking scenes. Why is it that neither remembers the other and their time spent at the Farm? The video game triggers Vanessa’s memories and in turn leads Scarlett to fill in some of the gaps. And while we can more than speculate that Vanessa’s DNA has been tinkered with, the question now arises whether something similar was done to her sister. Scarlett’s description of her father paints a picture of a difficult childhood and a suicidal man more than willing to submit his child to experiments if he thought it would prevent or stop the inevitable vampire apocalypse.
And what of the mothers? Vanessa’s been told that her mother died in childbirth, but tonight she recalls Dmitri telling her that her mother abandoned her when she learned of her daughter’s true nature. How does he know this, and will he use it to further manipulate her? If Scarlett is Vanessa’s blood sister, then did the Van Helsings give her to the Harkers for safe keeping? There’s still much to learn, but Dmitri’s appearance and the phone call Vanessa answers at the episode’s conclusion must have some kind of connection. Could it be their mother? It’s also implied that someone may be watching Vanessa and Scarlet via the surveillance cameras as they search for clues. That the facility appears to be going into lockdown mode is likely the result of the military rather than anything Dmitri intentionally did. Do we have three interested parties inside The Farm, and if so, does each know of the other?
Though the narrative device of an adult recovering repressed memories upon entering a forgotten childhood locale crops up fairly often in television and film, the use of the hidden key in the mural and the fact that Vanessa has come full circle here twice adds an intriguing twist. Now that the initial shock has worn off, Vanessa and Scarlett must take on Dmitri who clearly knows even more than he’s let on, but does he know what’s been taking place within the walls of The Farm? And while the memories and Dmitri’s involvement can be reconciled, the creature who led the sisters here “so we would understand” remains a critical piece of the puzzle.
It’s been clear for awhile now that Dmitri knows far more about Vanessa’s role in all of this than he’s let on. He draws his version of the red door on the mirror, which displays his reflection by the way, and admits that he too sees these memories and that Vanessa has changed their destiny. When he says he now fears “what she has awakened,” does he refer to the fact that her consumption of blood doesn’t necessarily keep her alive but fortifies her in the fight against him and his kind? But as powerful as Dmitri has been portrayed, even he recognizes that it’s time for him to take on an ally.
Dmitri’s messenger is confronted by a masked woman with an inverted cross etched into her forehead. She acknowledges a “200 year old blood feud” and then agrees to grant him an audience with Maya. Dmitri has his army, such as it is, and has apparently forged an alliance of some sort with Maya, but it’s still unclear what he hopes to achieve as he stands poised to face Vanessa and now Scarlett.
We are left with a number of questions, some more important to Vanessa’s arc than others. Doc continues to confound with her behavior, and when she can’t sit still for a few more seconds while Julius attempts to prevent the IED from going off, he’s forced into an extreme response. With whom has Dmitri forged an alliance against Vanessa, and does he truly mean to go to war against her? The key Vanessa recovers from behind the wall must open something, and will that be the sisters’ next quest? But Scarlett’s outfit raises a red flag that’s easy to miss given how quickly everything transpires between the sisters. Her attire is clearly reminiscent of Sam’s total-protection approach allowing him to walk unaffected in the daytime as the sun blocking clouds have begun to dissipate. Why does Scarlett need such protection even down to the dark lenses covering her eyes? It will be interesting to see what happens when she eventually leaves the Farm.
LaBute’s astute casting choices continue to shine, and Missy Peregrym’s impressive debut and instant chemistry with Kelly Overton (Vanessa) open a wealth of narrative possibilities as the two face an uncertain future on the way to the truth about their past. “Veritas Vincit” opens a door through which there may be no going back, but then, following Vanessa has never been for the faint of heart.