This Van Helsing review contains spoilers.
Van Helsing Season 4 Episode 7
“You ready to find out who you really are?”
Van Helsing hits its fourth season midpoint in full stride with the addition of horror fiction’s most renowned vampire and an intriguing plot twist that opens the door for any number of characters to step into the line of fire. Penned by former showrunner Neil LaBute, “Metamorphosis” introduces Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica; Lucifer) as the seductive Count Dracula now freed from the prison realm in which Abraham Van Helsing trapped her a century ago and brings the Dark One to the forefront of the story. The cards have been dealt, the stakes have been raised, literally and metaphorically, and it’s time to hunt some vampire.
On the one hand, it’s easy to view tonight’s episode as the last leg of an apocalyptic marathon, especially after Tricia Helfer’s long anticipated Van Helsing debut as Dracula finally materializes. But with the revelation and Vanessa’s acknowledgement and initial acceptance that Violet and Jack are her daughters, a vast amount of emotional territory begs for exploration. Watching Vanessa and Jack trudge through the woods in the opening scene as they learn about their shared pasts reminds us that we’re experiencing the new Vanessa, and even though Violet hasn’t yet revealed the truth about their genetic connections, a mother/daughter dynamic begins to develop. Once Violet arrives and presents the truth about their adoptive father, everything changes, and a new tightly knit bond naturally forms.
Despite the bizarre details surrounding this inevitable encounter, all three understand the higher purpose facing them, and any deep dive into childhood tales must be set aside and addressed at a later date. Still, after Vanessa explains that she “was born in a research facility, me and my sister,” and engineered to be half human/half vampire, her sage advice that the sisters depend on each other foreshadows the coming confrontation with the Dark One and her minions. But it’s the discovery of the hexagonal pool that gives Vanessa an opportunity to begin tutoring Violet and Jack and launches a series of events that drive the episode.
When Vanessa notices two handprint access points obscured in the pool, both she and viewers return to the season two finale and the caves leading to the Elder’s crypt. Though brief, her explanation is a nice callback, and when she realizes that her assistance is required as well, the significance of the resultant beam of light shooting into the night sky can’t be ignored. “And light shall lead the darkness to its end.” Of course, before confronting the darkness Vanessa’s new family understands awaits, the three find themselves navigating parallel realms that even though we’ve experienced this concept previously, a true understanding continues to prove elusive. Fortunately, Vanessa takes us all off the hook explaining that she doesn’t fully understand either and to just take everything in stride.
While this reunion of the Van Helsing family’s latest iteration certainly holds plenty of promise, Jack’s separation into her own psychological construct foretells her later decision to protect her sister. In a rare occurrence, we actually see Jack frightened by her surroundings, and it’s her monumental decision to follow the voice she hears that completely changes the narrative landscape. The voice leads her to a crypt, but it’s her decision to open it without really considering the consequences that proves troubling.
It remains to be seen how long the perfectly cast Abraham Van Helsing (Michael Eklund/Wynonna Earp) will play a role, but he’s clearly not pleased Jack releases the black smoke monster that coalesces into the Dark One. We knew killing the Dark One would not only be difficult but likely come with a high price as well, so to discover the missing pages contain necessary information for this latest turn comes as no surprise. “You must make a weapon; find the pages; open a portal,” Abraham tells them before finally admonishing Vanessa. “Take your children with you.” Classic.
The Dark One roams free, and Vanessa’s greatest fear has been realized. Nevertheless, round one of the battle between good and evil commences with a well orchestrated skirmish after Sam and the Oracle arrive. It’s not the first time Vanessa and Sam, now the fourth Elder, have gone at each other, but it appears that it may be the last. Returned to his more devilish, horned visage, the fourth Elder clearly possesses a physical strength Vanessa finds difficult to counteract. She manages to wound him, but this gruesome struggle is about more than establishing physical dominance. He horrifically rips out her guts and savagely impales her on a stone cross grave marker, but it’s his decision to then wax poetic about his childhood fascination with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein monster that exposes more truths about the delusions under which he’s been operating. Christian crosses appear periodically in Van Helsing, and here, the white marble grave stone physically keeps Vanessa off the ground and gives her time to recover despite her grievous injuries.
Though it seems Sam’s winning the battle after taking the amulet from her, the gravely wounded Vanessa initiates a psychological battle intended to make him question the Oracle’s motives regarding his importance to the greater purpose. Much of this scene’s power draws from Sam’s desire to drink the amulet’s contents as Vanessa does her best to prevent it. None of us know the result should he succeed, and when he proclaims “I must evolve to fulfill my final purpose,” it appears Team Vanessa has lost this stage of the fight. But, hey, this is no ordinary amulet, and after he consumes its contents and casually throws it aside, we see it mysteriously fill again with blood keeping Vanessa in the game.
That said, the game now noticeably changes, and the truth of Sam’s purpose revealed. “Behold your master,” Helfer’s Dracula commands after emerging from the fourth Elder’s chest as a black mist. However, Sam’s vision of the Dark One is brief as she turns him to ash, but it’s Vanessa’s reaction to this act that requires further study. Tears fall on her cheeks, and we have to wonder whether she mourns Sam’s loss or understands the enormity of the task she now has staring her in the face.
Regardless, Vanessa must now go toe to toe with Dracula who isn’t quite ready to exert control until she has some of her informational blanks filled in. While she notices the world is blacker than ever, Vanessa discretely frees herself and regains possession of the amulet. But this scene more important serves to send Vanessa’s hero’s journey into uncharted territories, and we’re left to wonder about her response to Dracula’s arrival. Dracula tells Vanessa she senses “some of myself within you,” which we know to be the case, but the Dark One maintains control even in the face of Vanessa’s blood red death stare. “I bow to no one,” Vanessa informs Dracula before delivering the episode’s most shocking line. “You misunderstand. I wish to stand at your side, not at your feet.” Granted, Dracula’s been out of touch for awhile, but this turn of events certainly won’t be easily accepted.
Nevertheless, these two powerful beings refuse to concede even an inch, and when Dracula lays her expectations on the table, Vanessa refuses to budge. Perhaps having learned a subtle cat and mouse approach from Sam, Vanessa refuses to accept Dracula’s insistence that she “spill the blood of your children,” and sets the Dark One up for the ultimate fall. Even dark Vanessa wouldn’t give into the promises of power, so we simply wait to see how this confrontation plays out, and when Vanessa leans in for what appears to be a kiss, instead she explains quite plainly where she stands. “Nobody fucks with my family” just as she throws both of them into the six-sided well and the realm into which Abraham Van Helsing had originally trapped the Dark One.
There’s no question “Metamorphosis” introduces more narrative change than we’ve seen in awhile, and with the introduction of Dracula, Vanessa must now rethink her approach to bringing down the Dark One. Fortunately, both her daughters understand the stakes, and though they possess both the amulet and the Van Helsing family vampire bible, it’s not a given both will see this through to the end. In a move reminiscent of her aunt Scarlett, Jack holds off the Oracle so that her sister can begin the search for the missing pages. It seems a mismatch and with things going sideways from the Oracle’s perspective, Jack appears to be in grave danger. She’s tough and resourceful, but it may not be enough.
And somewhere Abraham Van Helsing senses a movement in the force, and the accompanying light imagery implies that there is hope the family will overcome this latest twist. Van Helsing takes a narrative leap drawing on the iconic Dracula’s presence, but each step of the way LaBute and current showrunner Jonathan Lloyd Walker continue to hit on just the right blend of traditional vampire source material and an original take that works within a contemporary landscape. “Metamorphosis” leaves us necessarily concerned for our hero and her daughters, but mankind’s savior always finds a way. We just have to wait for the reveal.