This Van Helsing review contains spoilers.
Van Helsing Season 4 Episode 10
“I can’t believe we’re negotiating with a moron in the goddamn apocalypse.”
After last week’s solo mission into Jack’s past, “Together Forever” gets the larger Van Helsing narrative arc back on track and introduces an element that up to now has remained in the shadows. The government is watching, and while it’s not yet evident how much it knows about Blak Tek and its experiments, the revelation that it’s out there and paying attention adds another intriguing layer to the chaos taking place in the Western United States. And even though Vanessa’s still trapped in an alternate world with the Dark One, her daughters more than make up for her absence.
One of the things I love most about Van Helsing is its willingness to take vampire mythology and carefully inject textual elements borrowed from the disparate sources of history and literature. When we find Violet and Julius caged as part of what first appears to be some sort of human trafficking scheme, it doesn’t take long to recognize a mashup of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, The Hunger Games, and ancient Roman gladiatoral combat. Ringmaster Darius (Adam Greydon Reid) perfectly channels the best of Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman and Blood Drive’s Julian Slink (Colin Cunningham) as he emcees a low-budget, televised fight-to-the-death seemingly intended for wealthy patrons weathering the apocalypse from the comfort of their protected bunkers. Of course, the big reveal at the end indicates that the country’s intelligence agencies are alive and well, and President Archer (Jill Teed) is more than just a fan of the show.
With Vanessa and Dracula safely ensconced in a parallel realm for the time being, her followers face additional challenges as they navigate the badlands. Serendipity aside, Violet’s reunion with Julius offers him a chance to atone for leaving her in Ft. Collins, and her the opportunity to explain the significance of the amulet, the missing pages, and the mysterious portal they supposedly open. We know where this is headed, of course, and once her number is called to step into the pit with Carnage, Game of Thrones fans can’t help but hope she doesn’t commit the same mistake Prince Oberon makes in his bout with The Mountain. It’s exciting to watch Julius resume his training of Violet and the effortless manner with which they concoct and carry out a plan of escape.
The ultra violent and graphic action sequences maintain the tightly controlled formula that’s worked so well throughout the series’ run, and tonight three compelling one-on-one matchups highlight the episode. Even though there’s a significant mismatch, we feel fairly confident when Violet takes on Carnage, and at Julius’ urging, she improvises the maneuver that ultimately wins the fight. However, it’s not her victory that truly highlights the scene; it’s Darius’ decision from here on out to refer to Violet as “The Slayer,” an obvious and long awaited nod to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s iconic character. Nevertheless, Violet’s refusal to finish Carnage nearly negates her hard fought win. “Sadly, The Slayer did not live up to her name, but I’m sure she’ll learn soon enough,” Darius tells the audience before letting Violet know she’ll receive a second chance and a shot at an all expenses paid trip to an apocalyptic version of Shangri La. We’ve long suspected there must be pockets of the past out there, but it’s Darius’ hubris that prevents him from seeing the true depth of the formidable young woman he believes he controls.
While Violet and Julius dance in the blood stained swimming pool, Axel and Jack prepare to enter the fray. As soon as the camera shows Axel speeding down the road, Van Helsing compass in hand, and Jack clutching her competition level bow crouching off to the side, the inevitable meeting seems mere moments away. Fortunately, the revelation that she’s Vanessa’s daughter created by “those Blak Tek bastards” occurs rather quickly, and the fatherly twinkle in Axel’s eye is unmistakable. Though we know Jack can clearly take care of herself, it’s important that she learn the truth about Vanessa and the emotional weight she carries as mankind’s savior.
The episode’s rapid pace continues, and as Jack and Axel scope out the building that houses Darius’ fight club, he has his hands full trying to keep her from charging in without a plan. It’s not the first time he’s had to convince a Van Helsing to temper her approach, but she seems to be quickly gaining appreciation for his experience and more importantly his connection to Vanessa. And if the reunion of Violet and Julius and the meeting of Jack and Axel aren’t enough, then the surprise appearance of Ivory (Jennifer Cheon Garcia) and Scab not only raises the stakes for our heroes but comes with an unexpected and emotional development.
The arrival of the Sisterhood paves the way for Axel and Jack, and inside, Violet and Julius manipulate their way into a marquee match – The Yeti vs The Slayer. In one of the more entertaining fight scenes, we actually witness three simultaneous individual clashes as Violet takes on Ivory, Jack goes after Darius and the amulet, and in a long awaited rematch, Julius goes mano a mano with Scab. “Sorry, kid, this one’s personal,” he tells Violet as he shoos her away from Scab before taking on the newest sister.
The Sisterhood remains one of the more enigmatic aspects of the Van Helsing narrative, and though Scab more than holds his own against Julius, we know where this is headed. Rowland Pidlubny’s portrayal of the emotionally and physically abused man-turned-vampire remains one of the more compelling storylines as Scab fights for acceptance and respect in a new world that offers opportunities for the previously disaffected. The physicality of movement Pidlubny brings to Scab conjures an animal like presence that belies the deeply buried human spirit he’ll never have the opportunity to regain. Julius doesn’t commit the Oberon Blunder and cleanly removes Scab’s head putting an end to their long, drawn out personal battle.
Van Helsing doesn’t often make room for individual, emotional outpourings, but when Ivory goes after Julius for killing Scab, a unique opportunity presents itself. Long an alluring figure, Ivory’s surprising attachment to Scab and his devotion to the sisters leaves her strategically vulnerable. In this case, however, that turns out to be a win for the good guys. It’s not clear whether Violet completely understands the power she wields, but she turns Ivory nonetheless, and for the first time we glimpse the tortured woman underneath the white face and red warpaint. Pledging allegiance to Team Vanessa as Julius tenderly comforts her, Ivory’s addition can only help as the stakes continue to increase.
Yes, we miss Vanessa and Dracula, but “Together Forever” gives the characters and the audience a jumpstart that should carry through to the season finale. As Team Vanessa draws closer together and augments its ranks, Van Helsing gears up for what promises to be the ultimate showdown. It’s probably not wise to get caught in the crossfire.