The first episode of Van Helsing aaaand…. Hmmm… yes… hmmm
My first “hmm” actually comes from the fact Syfy has provided us a huge guide on how the apocalypse happened, the different kinds of vampires et al
Which is nice? I mean guides like this are great on, say, Defiance which is bringing two different media (TV and computer games) together or on Game of Thrones which has been running forever and built so many many plot lines
But if your new show requires a wikia? That kind of suggests “hey we suck at world building communication. Go do your homework”.
Then we have the fake lead in – where we start with the action half way through the episode: Vanessa Helsing being attacked by vampires as she lays comatose and having a nifty, but seemingly excessively gory fight scene.
Before cutting to “36 hours earlier”
I hate this trick, I hate this a lot in any episode – but if you’re doing it in the pilot, you’re virtually announcing that the first half of the very first episode has absolutely nothing to convince a watcher to keep watching. This doesn’t bode well
To the actual episode we get a nice little text lead in – it’s 2019. 3 years since “The Rising” began and civilisation has fallen
Wait wait… that’s 3 years from now… zomg it’s a dystopian world where Donald Trump won!
Vampires rule the streets… ah, not Donald Trump supports. Don’t worry guys, it’s not as bad as that! We also have a human saviour, y’know, conveniently labelled in case you don’t get it from the first episode (honestly it’s not exactly subtle. Actually, the whole dystopia isn’t exactly hard to see either – this show does love to beat you about the head with things to make sure you get it).
So to the ACTUAL beginning of the episode – we’re introduced to Vanessa in a secure hospital place where she has been snoozing for a very very long time. She is guarded by Axel, a marine who is all on his lonesome except for Doc, who is now a vampire so he keeps her locked up and feeds her blood. Doc and Axel apparently had a thing. I’m going to need someone to address this character rather than have her stuck in a cage making animalistic growling noises.
He is finally joined when one of his fellow marines returns, Ted, bringing a whole posse of survivors with him who all join them in the bunker after a fight against raging vampire-zombies (honestly at this stage vampire/zombie is fairly interchangeable. Bites infect, the vampires are “feral” so pretty mindless).
There’s a gazillion of these people, most of whose names I don’t remember and I imagine will die over the next few episodes – ablative extras. The ones to note:
Sam, a deaf man (which is very unusual in a post-apocalyptic scenarios to see any disability) and Mohamad a Black man. While neither of these are developed characters, they quickly support Axel during conflicts so will probably continue as Important Sidekicks
We have John who repeatedly fights with Axel because his wife was left outside and he’d kind of like to go out there and save her and Axel won’t let him.
There’s also Dead Lady, Cynthia (who gets upset over dead lady) and Nicole (who is generally hostile)
We have a fair bit of everyone sniping because Axel has all the diplomacy skills of a bull running at Pamplona and keeps pointing guns at people while the survivors have a couple of people who are just arsey for funsies and don’t really like Doc the vampire not being properly murdered.
There’s also Ted wandering around acting like Axel’s best friend in a totally not suspicious way. Oh and Vanessa is still unconscious as she has been for several months for reasons.
Since something has to happen, some fool opens the doors and turns off the UV lights so vampires can get in and we can have some fight scenes. According to the handy-dandy guide vampires are super strong yet Axel regularly wrestles with them with little problem. Also you kill vampires by causing mass damage which is basically an excuse to have people beat on corpses until they become squishy and paint blood everywhere. Nice
Dead girl is bitten so Cynthia (I think) has to beat her head in with a fire extinguisher and then be super duper upset about this and exposition her origin story to Sam who I hope can read lips otherwise this scene is even more pointless than it originally seems
This is when Vanessa wakes up and murders all the vampires attacking her. She was also infected but totally doesn’t change because Super Powers. Nicole decides this makes Vanessa evil because Tension!
Apparently Vanessa has a daughter out there somewhere called Dylan who she’d quite like to see. Axel, being the diplomat, responds “nah she’s dead. And the world’s over”. He also wants to keep her locked up because he has a mission to guard her, damn it, and he will do this until the sun explodes
Also, because of water shortages he totally has to shower naked with her, of course. She protests but he points out that he’s totally seen her naked a gazillion times when she was unconscious and helpless so it’s totally fine!
Axel is a class A Arseweasel. Worst, because we all know how cishet romance tropes work, we all know these two are going to get it on.
Vanessa wants to find her daughter even if she doesn’t know where she is or the world now or anything else, she’s going to go out that front door. Axel says no, he will keep her locked up until the sun explodes because those are his orders and a little thing like the world changing isn’t going to change his orders
While totally-not-evil Ted is going to help Vanessa get out to her daughter because he’s totally friendly and – SHOCK! He was the ones who let the vampires in and he is going to hand her over to them dead or alive (this is desperately attempted to be foreshadowed by him saying he had to do some “desperate things” to survive. Ok. You survived. And now are safe – but what, a promise is a promise no matter how undead and fangy the person?). Axel totally isn’t phased because he knew only Ted could open the door and didn’t mention it before because it’d be totally rude or something
Ted takes Vanessa captive but she remembers she has super powers and stabs him in the eye with the knife he’s already stabbed her in the hand with. Don’t worry, her Chosen One package comes with Wolverine like healing.
Ted is dead. Axel still wants to keep her locked up forever like the love child of Wolverine and Rapunzel, she still wants to wander the vampire haunted wastes. They both hate each other so we know they’re most certainly going to fuck. This is how TV cishet relationships work. Ignoring female boundaries, awkward communal bathing, mutual contempt, lots of snarling and WEDDING RING.
Also one of those vampires who bit Vanessa crawls out of their little body pit – he’s now human. Yes, Vanessa’s blood de-vampires people.
Well that pretty easily tells us how she’s going to save the world. Hopefully that means we can see human Doc soon as well, since she’s apparently the one with answers beyond “lock her up forever”
So far I'm not impressed, I have to say. I also kind of hear the spectre of Wynonna Earp lurking above this say "oh bless you, you tried."
Also, the artist who prepared the awesome promo art kinda deserves better