Review of Van Helsing on SYFY
By Amy Romine
First episode date: July 31, 2016
Have you seen this series?
Vanessa Helsing, distant relative of famous vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing, is resurrected only to find that vampires have taken over the world. She is humanity’s last hope to lead an offensive to take back what has been lost.
A marine sits in a metal chair talking to himself, we think. Then we see a tube leading from his arm to the mouth of a caged Vampire. Just behind him is a window showing an unconscious woman laid out on a table. Is she alive, dead, napping?
In the opening scene of the new show Van Helsing, this same woman is in the same position, motionless on this same table. Three ugly vampires storm the room, the lead Vampire sees the woman and bites her neck. As she is being bit she moves, her left hand makes a fist. The vampire biting her neck pulls back, pukes up blood all over the woman and then stumbles back falling to his knees. It is then the woman wakes and proceeds to kill the other two vampires.
Van Helsing premiered on Friday, September 23rd in the 9 PM CST time slot with two back-to-back episodes. The first set in 2019, three years after a volcano exploded and changed the world. The destructive aftermath of this volcano resulted in the Vampire population becoming the ruling party. The second episode is set in 2016, in the days surrounding the volcano’s eruption we follow the life of our mystery woman, Vanessa Van Helsing, played by Kelly Overton. Vanessa is jobless and donating blood for some birthday money for her tween daughter, Dylan. One thing leads to another and we get our back story.
So let’s talk about the show, you have military, nasty vampires, apocalypse survivors, and a mystery woman. The plot unfolds pretty flawlessly, the setup is a little predictable but not bad. The bait is set, how will Vanessa save the world from Vampires? At first you get a Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets the Walking Dead feel. A couple of holes, like what were they doing for three years stuck in a hospital while the world fell apart.
The characters are strong, there is a definite chemistry between the main heroes Vanessa and Axle. Axel, played by Jonathan Scarfe is the marine whose been guarding sleeping beauty for three years. His focus on the mission is a little absurd but we will go with it.
Writers all have strong science fiction backgrounds but no one overly note-worthy. Interesting names in the directors ’chair including Amanda Tapping (Stargate, Sanctuary and Supernatural) Jason Priestly (Haven, Dark Matter & The Night Shift), David Frazee, (Intelligence) and Simon Barry (Continuum) and Michael Nankin (Battlestar Galatica & Defiance).
Overall the plot is strong, writing is solid-ish, acting and directing seem to have a good chemistry. Concerns for the series will be the sustainability of the main character chemistry and for me, the biggest weakness is the main Vampires in the show. I found them non-mysterious and bordering annoying. Especially the singing/humming whatever it was in an attempt at intimidation. For me they have no presence, no threat and if I didn’t know they were Vampires I would think they were low level mafia. Unfortunately without a big bad to fight against our heroes plight does not seem as dangerous.
I’m Putting Van Helsing to the three episode test. Those who are not familiar with the three episode test, here’s how it works. This is a test I’ve developed after years of television watching. It is simple, and works wonders in the judgment of whether a show is engaging and potentially lasting. When a show premieres I give it three chances, three episodes to hook me. Why three? Well, I’ve found many times it will take three episodes to completely flesh out the potential of a show.
The pilot is just that – the pilot. Sometimes they are action packed, amazing and lift the show off the ground. Have you ever watched the second episode and gotten a completely different feel from it? Where are you are asking if it is the same show? Sometime the pilot sucks, just not enough ump, but then watching episodes two and three you really get into the meat of the plot. And sometimes, the pilot is amazing, the first episode is okay, and the second episode complete pulls you back into the fun!
Thus, three. If you can’t hook me in three, I doubt you will be around next season to hook me at all. It is not always accurate, but 98% of the time it works.
Van Helsing premiered with two back to back episodes which I will count as a single first episode.
Love to hear your thoughts on Van Helsing or any other show you recommend I put to the test.