This Van Helsing review contains spoilers.
Van Helsing Season 4 Episode 4
Let’s be clear from the start. “Broken Promises” is a great episode. Vanessa’s stunning transformation and later reconciliation with Axel may highlight this chapter, but it’s the increased employment of mysterious psychic connections that really drives Van Helsing into fascinating unexplored territories. From the beginning of her journey, Vanessa’s role as the potential savior of mankind has been at the center of the tale, but now, even that expectation has morphed into something far greater.
Though it seems contrary to everything we’ve learned about Vanessa during her post-Rising odyssey, the lone surviving Van Helsing seems to finally embrace this new messiah status that correlates with her decision to save rather than kill. At first it appears she’s going to fight the apocalypse one vampire at a time as she pursues a small band through the woods, ultimately turning each human. She admits that she had been “following the wrong path, the path of darkness,” but her epiphany now points her in a new direction. For someone who did her best to keep others at arms’ length, this is quite a departure, and if early indications reveal anything, Vanessa has some decisions to make.
It’s difficult to ignore the Christ figure allusions, and when Vanessa kneels, hands outstretched and proclaims “This is the way. I am the light,” the feeders drink of her blood and find themselves reborn. Later, when Vanessa continues her journey, she finds the flock following her, and though one kneels and kisses her hand, she sends them on their way nonetheless. Still, this is a new Vanessa who injects a level of kindness into her rejection that we’ve rarely seen in the past. It appears she’s transitioning from the tortured anti-hero we’ve watched for three seasons into a more Campbellian hero, a change that offers her a chance at a personal redemption she doubts is even possible.
Accepting Vanessa’s attitude change is one thing, expecting Axel to come around turns out to be the challenge we feared. The lighting surrounding Vanessa has noticeably changed, and now, as she walks through the woods, the bright sunlight peeking through the trees, she and Axel finally face each other regarding Scarlett’s death. Okay, so we know Axel’s not a big talker, but he barely gives her a chance to explain herself before firing off several rounds from a high powered rifle into her chest. Sometimes the most effective action sequences require the least amount of movement, so when she quickly recovers, snaps off the barrel of the gun, and effortlessly throws Axel twenty feet into the air, the assumption is that he’ll get the message that maybe they need to talk rather than fight. Nope.
In the end though, too much history exists between Axel and Vanessa for him to finish her in the only practical manner – cutting off her head. That she’s willing to sacrifice herself to give Axel peace merely reinforces how we now see Vanessa, but more importantly, how she sees herself. Though he understandably tells her he can’t ever forgive her, we’re treated to a wonderful scene as the two sit around a campfire in an attempt to see the other’s point of view. She offers him a paper compass and explains “If you ever need me, follow it,” prompting him to tenderly address her one last time as “Sleeping Beauty.” It seems likely they’ll cross paths again, but who knows.
While we’ve had plenty of time to adjust to and accept Vanessa’s abilities and later those of her sister, the new wave of supersoldier vampire killers that includes Violet and Jack reminds us of the role science plays in creating these uber beings. The impact of science and scientists run amok is a well used staple in science fiction literature, film, and television, and here things get even more complicated as the virus mutates and spreads. Additionally, at this point in the narrative, it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of the different classes of vampires, a number of which clearly have a genetically enhanced component. Over the past few weeks, we’ve learned that both Violet and Jack possess regenerative capabilities, so it comes as no surprise to learn that the two young women turn out to be the adopted daughters of Hansen. Both are drawn to Vanessa, and it’s not a stretch that the three will ultimately join forces.
And while we learn more about Violet and her desire to get away from her father, she too begins to understand that something extraordinary is going on with her. “I’m not who you think I am anymore,” she tells Lee the bartender and begs him to come with her. “I need to find her, and I want you to come,” a situation that neatly parallels Vanessa’s parting with Axel. Whether this is merely a teenager seeking freedom from her parents or the realization that her father has something to do with these disturbing visions she experiences doesn’t really matter. Once we see the photograph of young Violet and Jack, Vanessa’s eventual role as a mentor appears inevitable. We hear Hansen lament failing his other daughter, so it will be interesting to learn how long Jack has been on her own and whether the family she seeks includes Hansen and Violet.
Considering all the changes taking place with Vanessa, Violet, and Jack, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that an eventual showdown with the Dark One looms in the distance, and both sides continue their preparations. Van Helsing’s use of stunning visuals consistently augments the basic storyline, but tonight, the image of a well manicured and attired Sam, replete with a nifty pair of eyeglasses, may be the most riveting of them all. Driving a big Lincolnesqe town car with the similarly dressed Oracle by his side, the fourth Elder exudes a coolness that momentarily makes us forget his inherently evil nature. Meeting with the Sisterhood to waken Michaela, “the great mother of the Sisterhood,” the stark visual contrast gives way to a resurrection ceremony.
Though Sam has his newly acquired powers, Michaela seems displeased and deems him unworthy to fight by their side in the coming conflict. A rift between the Oracle and Michaela appears, but whether that amounts to much remains to be seen. The interesting part of this meeting revolves around Michaela’s assessment of Sam which seems to change as she gets closer to him. She tells him that she knows he “killed innocents for pleasure,” an acknowledgement whose meaning is not immediately clear. What Sam’s role in the confrontation with the Dark One and ultimately Vanessa and her followers is still to come, but his appearance at the gates of Hansen’s Denver compound doesn’t bode well for the humans inside.
With a niche genre series like Van Helsing, the writers and showrunner walk a narrative tightrope as they approach each season’s conclusion, and we don’t really know if we’re headed for a season or series finale. “Broken Promises” asks viewers to see Vanessa with new eyes, and whether she realizes it or not, her army of followers are beginning to recognize just how special she’s become.