Van Helsing: It Begins – Tactical Error (Review)

 Van Helsing - Season 1

To the most casual observer, the season finale of Van Helsing was slow and perhaps a tad too expository. However… Neil LaBute added enough peripheral details to keep the start of the episode from dragging. Things came together nicely as many questions were answered by the show’s creator.

Personal favorite Amanda Tapping kept the pace steady as the sesaon finale’s director and while the episode  was, in many ways, word heavy, the fall and rise of Vanessa was satisfactorily told.  

On a sidenote: For those who do not wish to read to the end of this review; Axel does return…

Dimitri proves yet again that he is not the cleverest vampire in the pack (Question: What does one call a group of vampires? A bevy? Could they be called, like crows, a murder? Answers on a postcard please…) when he makes the tactical error of giving blood to Van Helsing for a snack.  Almost predictably, she becomes uber strong and almost rips the heart out of the vampire leader’s chest.

Somewhat disappointingly Vanessa does not rip Rebecca’s head from her shoulders. Still, that would have circumvented the nasty twist in the tale of Van Helsing’s confrontation with Dimitri’s treacherous sister and Dylan.

Although the shock of seeing her daughter with bloodstained lips may not necessarily overly upset Van Helsing. She can, after all, turn the kid back with one well placed bite. Rebecca playing the Dylan card seems to suggest that, like her brother Dimitri, she too is capable of committing the odd  tactical error.

“It Begins” brings the story of Mohamad and Sheema to a close. The guy was trying to free his sister from the clutches of Dimitri’s sister.  Sadly, she liked living like a bird in a gilded cage and when Mohamad tries to take her away, she bashes him in the head with a candleholder.

Twice.

Sheema then grabs the backpack loaded up by her unconcious (Dead?) brother and runs right into the breaching blast by Taka’s fighters. Apart from a bitter dose of irony, the last movements of Mohamad’s sister are confusing. It does look as though both have paid for their treachery dearly.

In this episode it appears that the only characters who are without sin may well be Vanessa, Dylan and Axel. Taka, the sanctimonious leader of the resistance group turns out to be in cahoots with Rebecca. He then betrays her betrayal (She arranged for Taka and his people to inhabit Fox Island, a place that was supposed to provide a safe haven for the bent resistance leader. Dimitri reveals that the Island is a lie.)

The episode ends with Van Helsing confronting Rebecca, who then shows off vampire Dylan.  Flesh, who was the only member of Taka’s group to go after  Vanessa to save her, is nowhere to be seen.

After the episode’s final reveal, the camera speeds toward the bunker where Axel was locked by Doc earlier. Sure enough, the Marine climbs up the air duct to escape his prison. Axel sounds odd though, and from that brief glimplse of his eyes, he has been turned.

With guttural breathing and a sort of grim determination, the Marine heads toward town.

Van Helsing’s last episode of the season tells us who the woman is and that there is something in her lineage that “mum” was not too keen on. Hence the hiding her daughter in plain sight move.  The ingestion of blood by the savior of humanity was a game changer and the only frustrating thing about “It Begins” was Rebecca coming through with her poisonous head still on her shoulders.

We also learn that vampires do age, albeit very slowly, and that they do die. The creatures also, just like many of their human counterparts, fear death.  “It terrifies them,” says Dr. Sholomenko just before he sets Vanessa up for a futile escape.

Dimitri also shows us his achilles heel; it is an overwhelmng sense of hubris. This is what motivates him to use his own sperm to impregnate Vanessa. “This was not the plan,” cries an angry Rebecca.  It does not matter though as the rejuvinated Van Helsing takes this moment to really reach out and touch the vampire leader.

LaBute has given fans of the show a decent cliffhanger ending. Axel looks to be heading off to find Vanessa (Even in his vampiric state, the Marine would go after the woman he’s so close to. Although, he may be looking for Doc first for a little “pay-back.”) Van Helsing has found Dylan and the two-timing brother and sister may be dead.

Sam is nowhere to be seen but since his focus was on Mohamad, he may not return for a second season. SyFy have already ordered another 13 epiosdes of this dark and unsettling retelling and revamping (See what we did there?) of the Van Helsing mythos.

Vanessa Seward dies in this season finale and Vanessa Van Helsing has risen from the ashes of our heroine’s previous identity to take on the vampires.  This was a splendid series that disregarded genre tropes and created a new sort of blood sucking menace.

Well done.

Cast:

Van Helsing: He’s Coming – Boogeyman (Review)

Van Helsing - Season 1

Van Helsing this week  delivers a double dose of horror in”He’s Coming.” While we learn just what goes into the creation of feral’s, drinking too much animal blood, the truth that Sam spoke of last week is revealed. It is a case of “like sister, like brother” and it seems there is more than one kind of boogeyman in this universe.

Sam has become a new kind of threat and a new sort of monster. This vampire plays by his own rules and will no doubt continue to pop up like some horrific “Sam-in-the-box” to chase down Mohamad and Vanessa.

Julius learns the hard way that Dimitri is the Big Bad to be wary of.  The vampire may claim that he does not fear death, but Julius fears Dimitri enough to do his bidding.

Of course the big shocker this week was not Sam becoming some creepy and disturbing new boogeyman but Mohamad’s betrayal of Van Helsing. Clearly this little acorn is just like the sister he so desperately wants to find.

It may well be that Sam will catch up with his former little buddy to dispense some skewed form of justice. The new vampire, who killed Julius’ confidante after she saved him from becoming a mindless feral, only has eyes for Mohamad.

“I can hear you, Mohamad,” says Sam; not Vanessa, but Mohamad.  Clearly in Sam’s warped brain, Sheema’s brother’s betrayal of him is worse than his traitorous action against Van Helsing.

This week’s episode ends in an apparent cliff-hanger.  Vanessa being held by the throat in mid air, looking for all the world like a dead savior of humanity.  We know, however, that Van Helsing is too much like the vampires that she turns; she cannot, apparently, die.

It would be a good time for Marine Axel Miller to show up, although he would be vastly outnumbered.  While Doc has vanished from the storyline,   she could turn up to save Miller. After all, the former medico and vampire cannot be harmed by vampires now that Vanessa changed her back and she does “owe” Miller something.

Sure she has been banished by Van Helsing, but the very fact that she cannot be turned may make her useful. Since the doctor has proven that she places her own safety so highly, she may well try to use Axel, if he is alive, to keep on living.

“He’s Coming” also showed us how the resistance was working to overcome the vampires. We know, however, that this will fail as Sheema is still working for Rebecca.  As Vanessa learns, betrayal comes easy in this new world and Sheema is clearly very good at setting up her fellow man.

The majority of the episode looked at Vanessa and Mohamad running away from Sam.  There was, though, another look at the vampire hierarchy and a chance to learn just how effortlessly powerful Dimitri really is.

Tossing Julius about like rag doll reminded him and the audience of just what Vanessa Van Helsing is up against.

This penultimate episode of Van Helsing has set things up very well for a season one cliff hanger ending. The small pocket of resistance may be gathering itself for a full-on attack but the odds are against them. Sheema and Mohamad have seen to that.

Vanessa and the small group of survivors from the hospital have been decimated and Brendan showing up has opened up some new and interesting possibilities.

Overton earns huge kudos for her evolutionary portrayal of Vanessa.  The woman is becoming  more bad-arsed by the episode. She has, however, proven to be somewhat flawed in the area of character judgement.  Jonathan Scarfe is sorely missed but Christopher Heyerdahl has proven to be a show stopper.  His vengeful, and damned scary, “Vampire Sam” is to die for.

Van Helsing airs Fridays on SyFy. Tune in and catch the next installment of this blood curdling season one finale.  Will Sam somehow inadvertently aid Vanessa in his quest for revenge?

Cast:

Van Helsing: Last Time – Sam (Recap/Review) [Update]

Van Helsing - Season 1

[Update] Susan, Vanessa’s friend and neighbor was erroneously identified as “Karen.” This has now been corrected, Mike’s Film Talk apologizes for any confusion.

Just when it seems like Van Helsing cannot get any darker, “Last Time” goes jet black with an ending sequence that raises goosebumps and may give the more faint-hearted nightmares. Sam is indeed the murderer whose actions tore apart the two groups in the hospital.

In this episode, Vanessa takes her tiny group to Susan’s house in the country.  When they arrive the house is deserted; the occupants dead or missing. As they search the house for a safe place to sleep, Mohamad finds a ham radio.

There is a moment of hope.  The man on the other end of the radio relays to the group that Denver is supposed to be a safe haven. Salt Lake City, the man says, has been destroyed.  Mohamad answers to the caller with clicks of the microphone as it is broken.

Later, Susan’s abusive father attacks a horse she learned to ride on, the man has been turned into a feral vampire.  The group capture the creature and there is no mercy shown by Susan who tells of what her father did to her as a human.  The feral is killed.

Sam shaves his beard with a straight razor he found in the house.  It drops years off his face but when he smiles there is nothing youthful at all in his countenance. It is the same cheerful grin Sam had while killing the man who locked him up in last week’s episode.

Susan is nowhere to be found and Vanessa stops Sam and Mohamad from burying her father in case she wants to say something. The three separate to find the missing woman.  Sam is told to search the woods for Susan.

Rebecca and Dimitri skulk and argue after learning that they will no longer get newborn babies from the cult. Dimitri is especially angry. His sister asks for permission to clean out the rest of the human resistance. Dimitri wants her to prove that Vanessa Van Helsing’s blood will allow them to walk in the daylight.

This is rather important as the ash filled skies are slowly clearing. When the ash settles the vampires will be forced back into the shadows.  The sun is already breaking through, each time the two walk near a window their skin burns.

Van Helsing - Season 1
Rebecca and Dimitri

Sam kills Susan.  She dies after hugging him. He wraps his hands around her throat and strangles her. After the act he cuts off an index finger. He then meets up with Mohamad and Vanessa. Sam tell them Susan was not in the woods.

Mohamad looks at his friend and goes back into the house, saying he will check for Susan one more time. He goes upstairs to Sam’s backpack and finds the fingers.  He realizes that John was not the killer; it was Sam all along.

Vanessa learns that Sam has the fingers and Mohamad tells her that they killed the wrong man earlier.  Sam admits he killed Susan. Van Helsing is outraged. “Why,” she shouts.

“It’s who I am, says Sam, It’s who I’ve always been. Since I was a little boy.”

Vanessa has the shotgun and plans to shoot Sam with it. Mohamad insists upon going along. As they reach their destination, Sam furiously signals to his friend. Van Helsing demands to know what the killer is saying but Mohamad is too upset to translate.

He tells Sam to shut up and his friend tells Mohamad to tell Vanessa the truth or he will.  Mohamad jumps Sam and beats him. Van Helsing pulls him off and says they will leave the wounded man for the feral’s to kill.

She takes the machete that Mohamad brought to the woods and cripples Sam. They leave him to die.

As the two discuss where they should go next, Sam is attacked by a feral. He manages to stab the creature in the head with a piece of wood. As he tries to grab the feral by the throat it bites his hand. Sam’s scream of pain can be heard at the farmhouse.

Van Helsing - Season 1
Vanessa and Mohamad

Vanessa and Mohamad bury Susan next to her mother and father. Out in the darkening woods, Sam can be heard, He is breathily shouting “Mohamad, I can hear you.”  The final shot is of the freshly turned Sam running through the woods toward Mohamad and Vanessa.

Cue goosebumps.

This episode was brilliantly dark and unsettling.  Last week’s episode made it fairly clear that the finger taking murderer was Sam. This episode cemented it.  The tall deaf man was, as Vanessa tells Mohamad,   a psychopath and she is right.

There are a few things still outstanding however.  What “truth” was Sam speaking of. What secrets are being carried around by Mohamad. It may all lead back to the sister he is searching so hard for; Sheema.

He may have been doing something similar to Sheema before turning up at the hospital. However, the lack of information and the lack of interest by Vanessa is worrying.

Axel is still missing and while it may be wishful thinking, it would be nice if the Marine turned back up. It seems pretty certain that we have not seen the last of Doc or Axel, although she may not have anything to fear from the military man, Van Helsing will certainly kill the medico if she returns.

Van Helsing airs Fridays on SyFy. Tune is and see if Mohamad’s secret is revealed.

Cast:

Guest starring Tom Cavanagh as Micah, Christopher Russell as Theo and Gwynyth Walsh as Magdelene.

Van Helsing: Stay Away – Banished (Review)

 Van Helsing - Season 1

Van Helsing this week took a very dark turn. “Stay Away” moved on from the last episode’s events and Doc ends up being banished from Eden. More importantly, is turns out that those “turned” by Vanessa, stay turned.  As both Doc and Magdelene find out at the end of the episode.

Axel did not turn up in this segment so he may still be trapped in the quarantine zone in the bunker.  Mohamad, however, is at last reunited with his best buddy Sam.

The episode starts with Van Helsing and her little band of survivors being attacked by vampires. As they fight the attackers help comes in the form of a tall bowman and another archer from Eden.

Vanessa and her group follow the tall archer, Theo, back to a compound being run by Micah. The places feels like a religious colony and there are a number of very pregnant young women roaming the grounds.

Moments after Van Helsing arrives a vampire called Magdalene shows up, seconds before she arrives, bells ring out a warning and the mystery of the bells is solved. Micah and his followers provide Magdalene with blood as part of a “deal.”

Vanessa distrusts the place despite Micah and Theo’s assurances that everything is fine. Van Helsing takes a shine to the tall bowman and they bond over a katana training match.  Susan is less enamored of Theo and called him Zorro.

Sam spies a familiar bit of clothing on the washing line. It looks like Mohamad’s Nirvana t-shirt. He follows the man hanging up the washing and is locked into a room.

Susan has real misgivings about Eden. She asks Vanessa if she finds it odd that for all the pregnant women around the place, there are no children. Doc reluctantly delivers a baby via C-section. Van Helsing holds the baby.

She asks Micah about the lack of children in the commune and he explains how Eden works. It is not, he says, a cult. Susan still looks very skeptical and Micah says his motives are pure.

Van Helsing asks Doc about Axel. She reveals that she left him to die behind the quarantine doors. Vanessa realizes that Doc shut Axel in with Gorman and deserted the man who kept Doc alive for months.

Vanessa banishes Doc from the group.

Flesh goes to see Micah for counseling.  Van Helsing and Theo have their training match and play “getting to know you. Vanessa proves just how capable she really is.

Sam explores the room he is trapped in and discovers pictures of Micah and other people at Eden. Flesh comes out of his meeting with Eden’s leader a changed man. Micah offers to do the same for Doc and she refuses his offer of help.

Micah also reveals that he knows about everyone in the group, including why Vanessa is wanted by Julius. Sam escapes from his cell.  Vanessa and Theo share a meaningful moment and she actually bites him on the shoulder during their make out session.

She explains to Theo that she is similar to the vampires in that she has “abilities.” Van Helsing tells him about being able to kill Feeders or turn Vampires.

The two compare notes and Theo tells Vanessa  that Micah takes the babies and the mother’s to the resistance in Seattle. The human resistance group, says Theo, have taken back the city. Vanessa knows that this is not true.

Sam finds Mohamad and attacks the man who took him captive. The two men struggle as Mohamad urges his friend to let the man go. Sam kills the man.

The newborn baby and her mother are taken into the woods, via the road.  Micah’s second in command stops the wagon and helps the new mother and baby off the vehicle. She tells the mother that she is watering the horse.

(This is possibly a nod to the 1965 John Wayne, Dean Martin western titled “The Sons of Katie Elder.” In that film, the horse drawn wagon of captured  Elders are stopped over a stream. When the deputy in charge asks what they are doing the driver responds, “Watering the horses.” Cue one ambush where the Elders are meant to die.)

As the driver disappears into the woods with a bucket, Magdalene turns up for the baby and its mother. Van Helsing and Theo arrive in the knick of time and stop the vampire from taking the offering from Micah.  Theo had no idea that Micah was doing this.

Vanessa learns of the pact as Sam and Mohamad are caught trying to leave  Eden. Micah asks Flesh what they should do with the group and he suggests banishment. Handing a knife to Flesh he tells the man to think as they do.

Mohamad explains what Sam found. Van Helsing arrives and reveals that Micah has been giving the newborns and their mothers to Magdalene.  Flesh is furious and he killed Micah by putting the knife through the leader’s throat.

Flesh decides to stay and help the commune now that Micah is gone. Theo tells Vanessa that they will destroy Magdalene. He then tells her he will join her later. He gives her a katana sword to take with her.

Mohamad stops the group to ask where Doc is.

Doc has hunted down Magdalene to warn her about Theo. Doc then reveals that she was turned by Vanessa but she wants to turn back.  Doc offers to help the vampire escape if she turns her into a vampire again.

Magdalene agrees by biting Doc’s forearm. Nothing happens and Magdalene dislikes the taste of Doc’s flesh and blood. The vampire pushes Doc to the ground and tells her to stay away.

The doctor is not well and truly banished as she is not welcome in either camp.

Van Helsing this week was very dark.  The pact with Micah’s group and the local vampires was disturbing. (Although not too surprising as Tom Cavanagh usually plays rotters of some sort.)

More upsetting was the reveal that Doc was nothing as she appeared. So stricken by fear that she preferred being a vampire. Suddenly all her issues with Alex made perfect sense. He “saved” her, via Van Helsing’s bite, and the woman was happier as a vampire.

No wonder she left the Marine to die.

This will not be the last we see of Doc however. Like Jonathan Scarfe, who plays Axel, Rukiya Bernard is listed for all 13 episodes on IMDb.

We can reasonably expect both to turn back up. The big reveal though is not Doc’s preference to drink blood. It is that the vampires cured by Vanessa cannot be turned back. This is, in essence, “a game changer.”

Van Helsing airs Fridays on SyFy. Tune in and see how this series continues to evolve.

Cast:

Guest starring Tom Cavanagh as Micah, Christopher Russell as Theo and Gwynyth Walsh as Magdelene.

Van Helsing: Help Out – Guilt (Recap/Review)

 Van Helsing - Season 1

The strain of being trapped in The Farm is beginning to take its toll on Van Helsing and the others. “Help Out” manages to cut the survivors down by two and Mohamad meets a girl in the woods outside the bunker.

It is the morning after the night before and John’s body is on the floor with blood surrounding its head.  Van Helsing begins cleaning the blood up and as she gets the corpse ready to be moved a hungover Axel and Flesh arrive to help out.

Flesh is troubled by Axel’s “disrespect” for the dead and later thanks the Marine for his help in “getting them this far.” The two men then discover a number of putrefied bodies in one of the kitchen freezers.

Vanessa and Susan share a bunk and later they kiss.  Van Helsing admits to her friend that when she killed John, she wanted to kill and could not wait to do it again.

Doc does an autopsy on one of the corpses. She suddenly vomits and believes it is down to the alcohol from the night before.  She tells Axel and Gorman that the new bodies in the freezer need to be moved.

Vanessa goes to help Axel and thanks him for “having her back.” As their conversation continues, Vanessa learns that he read her personal file back at the hospital. The atmosphere between the two changes.

Van Helsing locks Axel in the quarantine area but lets him out when a vampire appears. The Marine shoots the creature before he leaves area.

Mohamad runs into a woman, Emma,  who is gathering wild mushrooms and berries for medicine.  She initially thinks that he is a feeder.  After introductions they two go to find more mushrooms.

Axel and Susan try to hunt down the vampire and they discover that the thing has healed itself. They also find a room that looks like a abattoir with blood all over the walls.

Rebecca, Darius’ sister, sets up Quaid to take the blame for her bloodhound, Sheema.  She and the doctor return the woman to a human camp to be killed. This will allow the vampire to use Sheema longer as a way to hunt down the rest of the  resistance.

Doc discovers that her nausea is down to radiation and not her hangover. Once she finds the levels are way too high for them to remain in the shelter, Doc passes out.

Axel gets concerned and all the group, except Gorman, go to check on her. He manages to wake her up and she unlocks the door to the lab. Doc tells the group that the entire place has been contaminated. She hands out iodine pills to counteract the radiation.

Vanessa now distrusts Axel and Doc explains that if they do not get out quickly enough  the radiation will kill them anyway.  Susan and Doc get into an argument and Axel notices that the only one who is not getting sick is Van Helsing.

Emma kisses Mohamad and then runs off. She runs past two of Julius’ special vampires and they ignore her. Moments later Mohamad runs past and they ignore him as well.

Rebecca’s plan works and Quaid dies, shot by Taka after Sheema backs up the vampire’s version of events.

Axel finds Doc crying and she confesses that she was not trying to save Smith when she got bitten. Doc also tells Axel that she is a coward, not a  hero and that she is a bad person.

This scene is a huge signpost for what happens moments  later when the two go looking for Gorman.

The Marine comforts her. Susan and Sam come in looking for Gorman who has gone missing. Sam finds a way out of the bunker and the survivors all head out except for Axel and Doc.

Axel heads into the quarantine area and Doc holds the door open for him. Gorman finds Axel and the two fight. As they get closer to the door, Doc panics and locks them both in.

She screams through the door and runs off leaving the Marine to die. Gorman attacks Axel and the two disappear beneath the glass in the door.

Later a bloody hand raises up and smacks against the glass.

On top of the bunker the escapees are attacked by vampires.  Vanessa becomes a one woman killing machine. Doc climbs out of the bunker and tells Van Helsing that Axel is dead.  She says that Gorman bit him.

The fortified ambulance runs out of gas and Vanessa learns that Axel lied to her about her file. Van Helsing also finds out that she was meant to be taken back to The Farm before the vampires took over.

As Susan and Vanessa talk, the bells begin ringing again and she decides they need to check them out.

This episode finally allowed us to see what has been eating Doc for so long.  Her guilt over sentencing Smith to die and her continued cowardice in the face of the vampires is overwhelming. It is not, however, enough to let her save Axel.

Mohamad’s new friend may not be all that she appears to be.  It is a bit odd that Julius’ special troops completely ignored her. Although that could be down to their mission to find Van Helsing and bring her to back to Julius.

Clearly Axel is not dead, although he might have been turned by Gorman. Either way, the tough Marine may not be quite so attached to Doc since she left him to die in the contaminated bunker.

The feeling of this episode was one of confusion and melancholy. Certainly the group was not as tight, it was as thought the death of John broke something. Radiation sickness may have caused a lot of the disharmony but some it may be down to the group dynamic changing.

Vanessa is evolving, her abilities to kill are improving exponentially as the series progresses.  It is odd that Axel  lied about the file but he may have done so to make Van Helsing feel less exposed.

It will be interesting to see how Axel gets out of the bunker. With Mohamad searching for the group; the smart money is on the young man and  his new friend releasing the Marine from the quarantined section.

Overton and Scarfe have brought a lot to their characters and Bernard, as Doc, is just killing it. Heyerdahl has managed to make Sam much more than the big silent type. David Cubitt will be missed as his character was one we loved to hate. 

Van Helsing airs Fridays on SyFy.

Cast:

 

Guest starring  Chris Ippolito as Gorman,  Christie Burke as Emma, Jennifer Copping as Quaid  and Gwynyth Walsh as Magdalena.