This Van Helsing review contains spoilers.
Van Helsing Season 4 Episode 11
“You pathetic old hags.”
It’s reasonable to think the revelation of a relatively intact United States government and military might be the most compelling reveal to emerge from the latest episode of Van Helsing. Nope. “All Apologies” throws a little shapeshifting into the mix, and as long as Sgt. Miller and Julius can control the growing Van Helsing army, there may even be a flicker of light at the end of the apocalyptic tunnel.
We receive verification that the inner circle vampires possess shapeshifting abilities, a power that neatly coincides with Hansen’s revised allegiance to the Dark One and her followers. Despite the present concern he exhibits for Violet and Jack, we’ve rightly questioned his motives. Now, however, there can be no doubt on whose side he plans to fight. In an episode rife with reveals, the necessary torture scene in which Michaela and Bathory attempt to pry information from the recesses of Hansen’s mind speaks to the desperation they feel as their hold on the Van Helsings slips away. As Hansen weakens under the stress, we see him as a young man and later learn that the middle aged version is merely a facade partially intended, it seems, to facilitate the relationship with his daughters.
As things begin to spiral out of control for followers of the Dark One, the discord between Michaela and the Oracle surfaces and leads into a delightfully gruesome scene during which Jack and Ivory take the first steps toward freeing members of the Sisterhood. It’s makes sense to credit Vanessa’s influence when Jack uses her power to return the sisters to their human state, and whether she does it to simply add to the army they appear to be assembling doesn’t really matter. Like Vanessa, she’s decided it’s better to employ violence only when no other option exists.
This ritual scene also gives viewers a chance to better gauge the darkness Vanessa’s team faces, and when Michaela willingly allows her heart to be cut from her body and placed in a ceremonial box, the fact that she remains fully conscious doesn’t initially bode well for the good guys. While it’s likely that Ivory will always hold a certain amount of reverence for Jack, watching them work together and play off each other’s skillset, only reinforces the enormity of Jack telling her that she need not feel obligated to the Van Helsing cause. Given her past, though, there’s no way she’ll be anywhere but by Jack’s side. And while it’s not really clear whether Ivory intends to sacrifice herself in an attempt to bring down Michaela, Jack controls the situation and puts her knife into Michaela’s boxed heart giving Ivory a chance at some well earned payback. “This is for my sisters,” she declares just before removing Michaela’s head and putting the team one step closer to taking out the Dark One.
Nevertheless, it’s Axel, Julius, and Violet who drive the bulk of “All Apologies,” and their assault on the military compound from which Hansen operated, arguably produces the most significant reward. It’s fascinating to observe the sisters disagreement about their father and whether or not he’s worthy of their efforts to rescue him. “I can’t let dad suffer,” Jack tells Violet, but she sees their relationship in a completely different light referring to Hansen as “our so called father.” Of course, Axel not only has his hands full preventing the sisters from charging into battle without a plan, but recognizes that as the lone team member with any real combat experience, it’s up to him to devise a plan that allows Violet to search her father’s office for the missing pages.
As it turns out, the plan to cause enough of a distraction to allow Violet to sneak onto the base and into her father’s office works perfectly and gives Axel a chance to confront Colonel Nicholson (Aaron Douglas) and learn whatever he can about the military’s current role and status in this ever changing world. Once again, Julius puts his body in harm’s way knowing that his recuperative powers will kick in, but that doesn’t mean the pain of automatic weapons fire doesn’t sting quite a bit. While it might seem an obvious move in traditional circumstances, Nicholson’s decision to run Axel’s name in the military database produces a hit revealing his assignment to protect Vanessa. Whether the colonel understands her significance in the larger sense, however, isn’t clear. Still, it verifies for Axel that there is a world out there and the military already knew about Vanessa’s importance when they sent him to guard her.
The episode’s rapid pace moves even quicker as Julius finds a file that mentions a Sunshine Unit, Axel escapes from his handcuffs, and Violet finally recognizes the importance of the painting in her visions. How ironic would it be if “Sunshine” is Vanessa’s military code name? Violet’s visions now make sense, and when she recovers the missing pages hidden behind the painting’s backing paper, it’s reasonable to assume it was Hansen sending her those images all along. Now that Axel’s back in control, Nicholson presents an interesting dilemma. On the one hand, Axel should just take the colonel out of the equation because dead men tell no tales, but that’s not how Team Vanessa rolls. It makes sense that Nicholson doesn’t immediately buy into Axel’s tale of a vast government conspiracy that runs more deeply than anyone could reasonably think possible, but he’s not stupid and agrees to follow and observe as they begin to make their way off the base.
“All Apologies” juggles a lot of moving parts, but one that bears careful study moving forward is Hansen and whether or not he joins the fight with his daughters and Vanessa. If he’s physically able, does it make sense to abandon the Hansen persona and return to his true form, or does his shapeshifted appearance open more doors as they dig deeper into the conspiracy? Nevertheless, even though things appear to be coming together for Vanessa’s family now that the pages have been recovered, Axel’s primary challenge will be knowing who to trust and where to go next. To this point, things have been fairly cut and dried, and while the urge to rescue Vanessa will undoubtedly prevail, it’s likely going to be more complicated than any of them can imagine. But they do have Hansen on their side, and he does possess knowledge of the Dark One and her plans.
With only two episodes remaining in the season, it seems unlikely that all the plot threads will be addressed, and for the eternal optimist, that’s certainly a good thing. “All Apologies” brings out the best in Van Helsing which is a testament to the writing, acting, and directing on a show that operates much of the time without its central character and star. Make no mistake, we want Vanessa back, but in the meantime, her crew does a nice job holding down the fort and taking the fight to the bad guys.