Sunday, October 23, 2016

Van Helsing, Season 1, Episode 6: Nothing Matters

Well. Shit. That episode was an utter kick in the teeth and the feels. But looking back, at the end, what exactly could they have done differently? I mean, I know what they could have done – but that’s easy to say when you don’t have to live with the decision. I know what the “right” answer is – but the right answer comes with a vast amount of risk which is easy to discount when you’re not taking it.

So, the other plot lines first:

Vanessa and Susan make their way through the tunnels filled with naked feral mutant vampires. They get out and, in the process, have some excellent bonding moments and shows us really clearly what excellent friends they are. They get free – but not before Vanessa is bitten

Julius’s minion tries to follow but eventually retreats, scared off by the mutant vampires. Julius isn’t convinced Vanessa is dead, he knows protagonist plot armour when he sees it.

Sheema’s resistance cell uses her information to run right into an ambush. Oopsie. The survivor of the ambush blames this on Sheema and is willing to torture and kill her for her betrayal but she is saved by… Rebecca. Ominous sexy vampire who let her go last episode

Sheema didn’t betray the resistance but, as Rebecca told her, she “has her scent”. She could smell where Rebecca was and which tunnels she’d been in. With this cell dead she now wants clues to the Resistance leader – known as Taka. And she’s going to use Sheema to get it

Now to the hospital – and one of Brandon’s group and the little girl Callie go exploring and decide all the dramatic “stop” “keep out” signs are just there for funsies and set off one of Axel’s booby traps which would have killed Callie if she weren’t a little girl and short.

Brandon’s group, especially the woman who saw Callie nearly die, is absolutely enraged and furious and wants to kill Axel for this

Ok, there’s a whole lot of reasons why I’d want to kill Axel dead. But him booby trapping his besieged base of operations while constantly being under attack by vampires and then having the decency to warn people about said booby traps isn’t one of them. It’s quite reasonable, this is actually one decision of Axel’s I actually agree with

Brandon brings out Axel and asks if he’d like to totally tell the people who have taken over his base, locked them up, banished one of them to their doom and are considering doing the same to the rest his nice little booby trap map, please, ‘kay?

Axel decides no

Brandon decides to go for some violence

Axel still decides no.

Brandon keeps trying to play good guy but honestly fails badly at it. It’s actually really creepy the way he constantly does the “now look at what you’ve made me do!” act.

This is when Vanessa and Susan arrives. Now Brandon has a bit of a quandary especially since she reminds him that she literally sacrificed herself so his people could be safe and reach the hospital and this is what Brandon does? He clings to the murder as a reason for why they have been the world’s worst house guest and Vanessa declares she will be Switzerland – as soon as the Doc has patched her up

Does Brandon believe her? I don’t even know, but what can he do given how much he owes her?

Of course Vanessa makes a plan working through Doc – and it’s a plan that relies on Axel trusting someone else which may actually get some of the more background characters involved. And good timing because Sam just read the lips of Brandon’s gang planning to execute them all – all the while angry lady is trying to stab Axel with a spear (Brandon again tries to play nice guy ignoring the fact he just beat Axel and banished Mohammed).

The plan works, the lights go out and Axel gets out and goes on an utter killing spree- including people lying helpless in their beds, blatantly untrained in the face of his military professionalism and generally a whole lot of cringeworthy deaths that make you think “he didn’t have to kill them”. He doesn’t hesitate and cuts through half of Brandon’s people with brutal efficiency before capturing the rest. Including Brandon.

Callie is safe – but only because Vanessa, who Callie likes and trusts, convinced her to hide as part of a game.

In the aftermath, not all of Axel’s group is remotely happy with what he did- or the plans for Brandon’s survivors: exile. Flesh is horrified by what they did – killing people and John pipes up as well. Axel hits back that they didn’t have to do anything – it was all him (a fact he uses to shame criticism) and brutally asks what alternative they have or had

Which is the whole moral quandary of this. Should Axel have been less brutal in his taking over of the hospital? Should he have spared people? Should he have let them stay?

And how much of this could have been avoided if there hadn’t been so much hostility when Brandon’s group first arrived?

Brandon begs for them to stay, begs them not to banish him along with his fellows – the lady who stabbed Axel sobs that she can’t go back out there. But, they point out, everything that’s happening to Brandon’s group is exactly what Brandon planned to do to them.

This has to set up a comparison between Brandon and Axel who are very similar. In some ways they’re the same. Doing brutal, vicious things they think are necessary for the safety of their faction (though how many of Axel’s group he considers his faction is another matter). But while Brandon has that abusive “I’m a nice guy, why are you making me hurt you, you’re forcing me to do this” creepy vibe which is really nasty; Axel has loud and overt violence and intimidation – growling about what he has to do and demanding other people step up if they think they can do better or have a better idea. Ultimately, it’s a similar tactic even a similar abusive dynamic – the use of necessity as an excuse and motivator and absolver, but the methods are very different.

Callie, the child runs from Vanessa when she says Brandon’s gang can’t stay. They try to get Callie to stay – but the child runs out with Brandon’s group, following them out into the vampire haunted wasteland and near certain death

In the aftermath, Doc tells Vanessa that different rules apply here. And she responds “nothing matters now”. Which is much broader and more bleak – at it’s widest it could be interpreted as saying there’s no point in this world if they’ve thrown out morality entirely

And for more ominousness, Doc cuts her finger. She puts the cut in her mouth – and seems to enjoy the blood. Add to that that Susan recognises Flesh – and is scared of him. Looks like he was an important, powerful vampire and now we have an indication that the cured may not be all that cured.