This Van Helsing review contains spoilers.
Van Helsing Season 2 Episode 9
“Vampires aren’t real, dad.”
With Vanessa in the hands of the black helicopter shadow government guys, Van Helsing takes the opportunity to explore some of Scarlett’s backstory with views of her early training and first vampire kill. In the dialogue driven “Wakey, Wakey,” a sleep metaphor deftly weaves itself throughout the episode as new realities present themselves, and the characters must adapt or die.
Flashbacks continue to provide important information, and tonight’s peek into Scarlett’s teenage years reveals a turbulent experience that shaped the woman she’s become. We’ve heard about her parents’ preparations for the vampire apocalypse, but to witness the impact this had on Scarlett as she navigated already difficult teenage years is heartbreaking. Nevertheless, the woman we now see able to fend off the daunting members of the Sisterhood one moment and open up to Axel in another, has seemingly found a balance in her life.
After establishing the shadow organization’s involvement with vampires and Dmitri in particular in “Everything Changes,” tonight’s flashback moves forward 10 years to 1986 and a teenage Scarlett engaging in knife training in her family’s barn before later fending off a teenage boy in the front seat of his parents’ car. The timeline gets a little fuzzy here since the episode opens in 1986 as a partially concealed vampire goes into a small town diner and orders a raw steak to which the cook responds, “We serving Doberman’s now?” Do the waitress and cook know he’s a vampire? Are vampires common knowledge in this world? Regardless, he asks for information about the Harkers and is directed to a farm on the edge of the county.
“Scary Scarlett” has clearly had a difficult childhood, and it becomes even more challenging when the vampire from the diner approaches her in the loft. Not ready to take him on at this point in her training, her father fortunately arrives in time to shoot him and force Scarlett to learn the most painful lesson of her education. “That my dear was a vampire, and you’re going to kill it,” he tells her, hoping to make this momentous act easier by pointing out that it’s already dead. It’s critical that we see this stage in her development so that we have a better sense of the adult she’s grown into. And whether it’s the reality that her father’s predictions are coming true, or that she’s possessed by the sheer terror of the situation, the act of cutting off its head with her sword is a life changing experience. “Your mother would be proud,” Harker tells her, but that’s of little consolation to her at this point.
Of course, Scarlett’s life gets only more complicated when her father tells her that “this is your purpose now. Until you’re ready, we need to make them think that you’re dead.” Does he refer to the vampires or the shadow organization from the Farm? And while Harker does his best to protect Scarlett, she now must enter the next stage of a life that has her constantly looking over her shoulder. That’s a terrible existence for a 16-year-old, but this experience represents a wakeup call for the young girl and sets the tone for a life that is no longer her own to a certain extent.
Scarlett’s softer side also peeks out just a bit from her black leather armor, as her exchanges with Axel show us that there’s more than just a vampire killer underneath. Their conversation about how she got so “kung fuey” drives home the point that the past makes us who we are, and even though he teases her that he comes from a long line of military men, the truth about his past explains a lot about Sgt. Axel Miller. Though he now accepts that his sister’s abduction was not his fault, the experience, nonetheless, taught him a valuable lesson, not unlike the ones that Scarlett and Vanessa have learned.
Coming off last week’s episode with Sheriff Walt, it’s great that there’s still a chance for a little humor here. First, it’s wonderful to witness any of these characters smile, so when Scarlett starts making out with Axel in the back of the abandoned armored vehicle they find, his response qualifies as the line of the night. “I knew that shower story was bullshit.” Then, when they wake up the next morning lying on a bed of cash only to find three members of the Sisterhood outside, Scarlett’s not quite finished. Explaining to Axel that she was just “blowing off steam; I’m not that into you,” she takes another step out of her shell exposing herself emotionally. We all know they like each other, and that’s enough for now.
At the same time, and perhaps even more importantly, Scarlett wakes up to the realization that after Vanessa’s bite, she too has changed. Her Houdini like escape abilities have been taught, but her newly developed capacity for rapid healing apparently comes from Vanessa. Is it Scarlett’s Van Helsing blood in conjunction with her sister’s powers that leads to this physical alteration, and will she discover that other changes have taken place as well?
Van Helsing keeps its action sequences tight, and tonight it’s Scarlett and Axel’s confrontations with the Sisterhood that bring out the best fight scenes. You have to love the revelation that the Sisterhood refuses to follow and fight when Scarlett and Axel enter the cemetery, because it’s “hallowed ground.” But when their bullets seemingly have no effect on these women, we have to ask, what are they? Even though there’s not much direct contact, it’s still a cool scene. When the Sisterhood finally smokes them out of the armored truck, the swords commence flying, and we get some real action with awesome consequences. Come on, the sword to the eye is impressive. But it’s this three on two scene that produces Scarlett’s most significant wakeup call of the day. One of the sisters bites Scarlett and then immediately turns human, only to then be killed by the one remaining sister.
So is Scarlett gradually transitioning to possess the same powers as her sister? If so, because of her past, she’ll likely approach these gifts differently than Vanessa who for a time has viewed her abilities as a curse more than a blessing. Now that Dylan is dead and the sisters have found each other, will they attempt to rebuild their lives away from the mayhem? First things first; Scarlett and the others have to find Vanessa before heading to safety.
“Wakey, Wakey” also provides some resolution to the Sheriff Walt story, and as expected, Walt’s team is overrun leading the one remaining deputy to offer to show them the way to Crooked Falls in return for taking him with them. Any reluctance on Axel and Scarlett’s end is somewhat understandable since they’re likely afraid this guy will only slow them down once they’re out in the open. However, in a clever attempt to keep Dmitri at bay, Scarlett gives the key to Julius to hold since she’s certain that’s what the Sisterhood is after. And in Walt’s swan song, now a vampire, he’s beaten to death by Julius ending what has been an enjoyable, albeit brief run. Doc though continues to progress and when she observes one of the deputies being bitten, she unflinchingly shoots him dead where he stands. We see her carry a weapon almost constantly, but Doc has woken to the fact that this is survival of the fittest.
Fortunately, there’s more fun to be had, and after the team separates, Doc and Julius find themselves holed up in a convenience store. Watching Julius’ amazement at the nacho/cheese chip combination is a lot of fun, but seeing Doc turn him onto a Kit Kat bar might be the episode’s highlight. What really comes out of this scene though is the fact that these two are getting to know each other, and while they have the common bond of having been turned by Vanessa, Julius carries much more baggage than Doc.
Nevertheless, the joy is short-lived, and the story now takes a drastic turn when Scab and Dmitri find them on their way to Crooked Falls. “You could have been my greatest warrior, but look at you now,” Dmitri tells him, evoking images of Brando in On the Waterfront. Continuing her heroic transformation, Doc jumps on Dmitri, but too late, the vampire leader takes the key from Julius and utters the episode’s big reveal, but not before killing Julius. “I will free the Elder. His gratitude will bring me great rewards, and this power will lead us to victory.” Given what we’ve seen thus far in Van Helsing, whether or not Julius is actually dead will have to wait until next week, but all indications point to his demise.
“Wakey, Wakey” brings to a close the brief respite Axel’s group enjoys but not before setting up the next showdown in what should prove to be wild ride to the end of the season. Dmitri, Vanessa, and the shadow organization all vie for control. Who will be left standing when the dust settles?