This Van Helsing review contains spoilers.
Van Helsing Season 4 Episode 8
Van Helsing returns to the 19th century for a peek into Willem’s dark past, but it’s the pronouncement that he’s working against the Dark One that saves “The Prism” from wandering off too far into the weeds and forces Violet and Jack to make a monumental decision about their father. Should they trust the man who’s lied to them about virtually every detail of their lives?
Trips to the Victorian era continue to play an important role in understanding the current landscape, and now that we know Hansen began life as Willem, his association with Jacob Van Helsing in the pursuit of the Dark One, lends him a new sense of gravitas. Once we learn that he is not only vampire but also in league with the Oracle, Michaela, and the Sisterhood to resurrect the Dark One, his importance grows exponentially. He’s no longer simply The Boss, but a man who starts out as an innocent cog in the Van Helsing family machine and gets caught up in the dangerous game Jacob and Abraham play. Running an errand for Jacob, Willem falls prey to a vampire, but it’s not entirely clear why he chooses to turn Jacob upon returning to his mentor’s home. It would seem he’s somehow psychically compelled to betray Jacob in the name of a force he’s yet to meet.
Experiencing the genesis of the Van Helsing family’s connection to the vampire world still resonates, and Jacob confirms the family’s strength and commitment to the cause when he pleads with Willem to kill him rather than let him live life as a vampire. The importance of this scene, however, lies not in the relationship between these two, but in the fate of the three pages from the family vampire book. Jacob renders them invisible with his blood, but now we learn that Willem tears them out and then lies to the Oracle that they were already gone when he obtained the book. Returning to the present, it’s not clear whether those are the ashes of the burned pages, but it does appear that he’s released Jack, perhaps after she’s memorized the pages’ contents. She does, after all, have Van Helsing blood running through her veins.
Though Jack’s importance in this fight remains clear, Violet seems to have gravitated towards the narrative center, and when she arrives at a deserted bus depot, the fantasy of running away to Hawaii with Lee seems a distant memory. The photographs and notes on the bulletin board from families looking for lost loved ones, set off a brief outpouring of emotion that reminds us this is a young woman who’s just had her world turned upside down. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to watch her hug the teddy bear she finds in an abandoned suitcase as she sobs uncontrollably. The enormity of this solo mission momentarily proves too much, but Lee does show up, and though he likely has little idea what he’s walked into, he certainly gets points for his loyalty to Violet. The brief feeder attack also gives us our requisite decapitation but little else which is perfectly okay.
Because of their gross overuse, I’m usually not a fan of dream sequences and visions as plot devices, but when Violet begins experiencing visions, this sense of the unknown draws us deeper into her world. The dreams begin repeating themselves, and we soon figure out that the Oracle and Michaela are utilizing some sort of psychic connection in an attempt to learn what Violet knows about the missing pages. It’s a cool effect, and with Lee at the center of the dreams, we momentarily feel good that Violet will not be doing this alone. Of course, it doesn’t take long to realize that the Lee in the visions is a bit too pushy about the pages, and the possibility that his body has been commandeered by the dark side has to be considered.
At first it seems obvious that the grandfather clock, the painting, and the brass object in Violet’s visions must possess some sort of symbological meaning beyond the literal, and while the flashback to the day of The Rising fills in some blanks, for now, we’ll just hold those in reserve. Eventually, everyone figures out that the Oracle and Michaela use Jack as a conduit to remotely control Violet’s thoughts, it would appear through the pentagram brand Jack receives. Okay, that’s maybe pushing the genetically engineered sister envelope a bit, but still okay though; they’re vampires for cryin’ out loud.
Violet’s physical strength has never been in question, but here her survival depends as much on her intellect and fortitude than raw power, and once she understands the illusionary aspect of this experience and breaks the chain, she regains control and claims to know the location of the missing pages. The role of the Sisterhood and Ivory remain one of my favorite plot points, and when she and Scab re-enter the picture to confront Violet, it sets up an opportunity for some quick thinking on Violet’s part. Shooting the chandelier down which pins Ivory and Scab is classic, but it is a bit disconcerting that she doesn’t finish the job by removing their heads.
While Violet and Jack certainly have their hands full holding off the Dark One’s minions, a struggle for control within the dark braintrust could be the opening the sisters require. However, it’s Willem’s unexpected declaration that he intends to help his daughters that stands to at least momentarily hinder any further progress they make. Not that both girls aren’t feisty, but it’s Jack’s refusal to believe anything her father tells her that makes plain how she sees his future. “I hope she doesn’t flinch when she takes your head.” Of course, he clouds the picture by telling her he knows the location of the missing pages, but at this point, she has no reason to trust him.
So what’s the deal with the three missing pages? We know Willem tore them out after he turned Jacob, and it makes sense that he’s been protecting them for the past century, waiting for the chance to use their power. That is, if we believe him. He tells Jack they’ve been right under her nose this entire time, but even that doesn’t really help us understand the episode’s end. On one level we desperately want Hansen to renounce the darkness and protect his daughters, and while that appears to be the direction his arc is moving, Van Helsing has misdirected us before.
Vanessa’s allies have come and gone throughout her journey, but rarely if ever do we see an individual so radically change his narrative function. That said, it certainly bears watching Hansen now that he’s apparently rejected his association with the Dark One. “The Prism” now asks us to re-evaluate how we feel about a man who heretofore represents everything Vanessa and her followers oppose. Can he convince Vanessa to trust him? This should be good.