Van Helsing Season 4 Episode 9 Review: No I In Team

Van Helsing delves into Jack's past as she navigates the new world order of a vampire apocalypse.

This Van Helsing review contains spoilers.

Van Helsing Season 4 Episode 9

“We are alive because of you,”

Viewed in isolation as a pure standalone episode, “No I In Team” delivers a powerful look at a small group of young women and their reaction to the nightmare apocalyptic circumstances that appear virtually out of nowhere. Viewed within the context of the larger Van Helsing landscape, this chapter provides an intimate study of Jack’s experiences on the day of The Rising as she and her teammates learn more about themselves than they ever expected when they innocently leave home to compete in a high school archery tournament. Still, despite its compelling depiction of the terrifying journey through an end of days scenario, “No I In Team” disappoints a bit by failing to move the story any closer to the inevitable showdown between Vanessa and Dracula. That’s not necessarily bad, but there’s not a lot of season left either.

To this point pre-Rising flashbacks have focused on either the early days of the Van Helsing connection to the vampire world or the darker aspects of clandestine genetic engineering experiments that ultimately come to define our heroes. So watching Jack (Nicole Munoz) party with her teammates the night before their big match presents an enjoyable, carefree side of her we’ve not seen and likely won’t see again for quite some time. Once the girls head outside to board their team bus, the revelation that the molded cases the teammates carry contain competitive bows explains some of the weaponry skills we’ve seen Jack display in the field. It’s a nice touch, but more importantly, speaks to the lost youth and innocence Jack, Violet, and other kids their age are forced to confront without warning.

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The handheld camera shots and smart-phone footage employed throughout much of the episode accentuate the pandemonium Jack and her teammates experience as the girls alternate between periods of uncontrollable screaming and the realization that they face a kill or be killed situation. It’s easy to expect these athletes to handle the situation better, but let’s not forget they are teenagers thousands of miles away from home in the middle of what we know to be a vampire apocalypse. Without time to consider the consequences, Shona (Natalie Sharp) is the first to confront one of the newly turned, and she instinctively breaks a bottle and repeatedly stabs it in the neck with the jagged glass. Considering what we’ve seen with various levels of vampires, it’s somewhat surprising that the newly turned feeder doesn’t recover and renew the attack. 

Read more: Van Helsing Season 4 Episode 8 Review: The Prism

Director Michael Nankin wisely refrains from an over reliance on jump scares, the absence of which only adds to the episode’s intensity. He deftly employs extended moments of hushed anxiety punctuated with the attacks that occur more and more frequently as the experience continues. It’s a bit disconcerting to watch Jack lose control, but unlike Shona, she’s forced to confront the worst of all scenarios – killing one of her own. Her blood soaked hand represents the first of countless lives she’ll be forced to take, and even though the others correctly tell her she had no choice, the act shakes her to the core. She doesn’t see the killing as either strength or bravery, but we understand that in time she’ll come to terms with the new world in which she regrettably lives.

The archery team’s saga begins with five girls and a coach who clearly recognizes the after effects of underage drinking but apparently doesn’t possess the foresight to monitor her charges during the dangerous evening hours. That, however, is a discussion for another day since she doesn’t last long anyway, and the remainder of “No I In Team” centers around the survival trial the four remaining girls now face. Obviously, we know Jack survives, and the knowledge of her Van Helsing blood leaves open the possibility that she’ll be faced with the unthinkable. The blood spots on her neck tease that she has been bitten off camera, but in the end, she’s just one of the girls trying to stay alive.

As trained competitive athletes, it’s only a matter of time until they get their acts together, gather weapons, and make the logical decision to head for the nearby police station. Understandably, Jack remains in a state of shock after killing her teammate, and when the group enters the abandoned precinct, the eerie stillness hovers overhead waiting for the perfect narrative moment to be broken. And broken it is when a single gunshot rings out, and we learn that Shona has been shot by a terrified police officer hiding among the furniture. While this incident alters their game plan, it also snaps Jack out of her funk, and she does her best to calm the adult officer. It’s not very encouraging that virtually all of the officers desert their posts and ignore the commitment to protect and serve, so the accidental shooting is somewhat mitigated by Officer Rudolph’s decision to honor the oath he took.

Before we examine the trip to a nearby clinic for medical supplies, let’s talk weapons for a moment. However technologically advanced, I’m not sure how practical using only their competitive bows would have been against vampires, but I still would have like to have seen a coordinated assault. That said, Jack’s lead pipe appears to be a great choice, and we can vividly picture Vanessa smashing a vampire’s head to a bloody pulp with it in her hands. Am I the only one that sees the big, red fire axe as a nod to Christian Kane’s swashbuckling historian Jacob Stone from The Librarians? Nevertheless, when Jack and Shelley (Jessica McLeod) leave the station armed only with a lead pipe, a fire axe, and two bullets, the success of their mission to find a doctor appears remote. What really shines through though is the loyalty both show to their gravely wounded teammate and the willingness to risk their own lives to save hers.

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The journey to the clinic puts another roadblock in the girls’ path, and when they encounter a religious fanatic who won’t STFU as they try to avoid detection, it must cross their minds to simply put her down rather than risk getting caught. They don’t, of course, and the woman finds death on her own, but this won’t be the last ethical challenge Jack faces moving forward. And while the episode primarily focuses on the genesis of Jack’s apocalyptic journey, narrative tidbits are still sprinkled throughout. Violet manages to contact her sister to let her know their father is sending a helicopter to the roof of their hotel, and it now appears we’ll watch a race against time if they’re to catch a ride to safety.

As the story reaches its crescendo, we learn that Brittany (Matreya Scarrwener) has killed Officer Rudolph, and Shona dies leaving the final three to head to the roof to meet Hansen’s helicopter. Jack sums up the mantra they’ve come to reluctantly accept when she tells Brittany that “You did what you had to do.” In the stairwell melee, however, Brittany gets turned and is about to attack Jack when the creeper from an earlier hotel scene reappears and tells Jacqueline to “get to the roof.” So who is this guy? The most logical explanation seems to be that he works for Hansen as an invisible bodyguard for Jack, but that makes his absence on the rooftop somewhat difficult to reconcile.

And then we have that final heart wrenching exchange as Shelley tells Jack that she has been bitten and can’t be “one of them” just before professing her love and throwing herself off the building’s roof, leaving the blood drenched Jack alone as the helicopter leaves her behind. Even though the overall arc doesn’t move much, witnessing Jack’s baptism by fire allows us to view her with a totally different lens. Yes, Violet has trained hard, but she’s always enjoyed the sheltered environment Hansen provides. Though they both have Vanessa’s blood coursing through their veins, we can’t help but acknowledge the similar paths traversed by Jack and Vanessa and wonder whether those common experiences will somehow bond them more tightly.

Even though “No I In Team” doesn’t advance the central arc much, that doesn’t mean it’s without considerable merit. Learning the intricacies of Jack’s path to the present provides much greater insight into the kind of role she’s likely to play once she reconnects with Vanessa and Violet. Now we wait for the Van Helsing women to reconnect, and while it might be excruciating, the payoff will be worth it.

Dave Vitagliano has been writing and podcasting about science fiction television since 2012. You can read more of his work here. He presently hosts the Sci Fi Fidelity podcast.

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4 out of 5