Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Van Helsing, Season 3, Episode 13: Birth Ritual

Ok, things have just got… mystical. Super mystical. And I know you’re all saying “it’s a show about vampire apocalypse, how is it not mystical?” because it isn’t… I mean, apocalypse/dystopian shows tend not to be. While there’s been suggestions of woo-woo round the sides, we’ve played more into genetics than magic which is why the holy man felt so out of place last episode. Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic shows rarely involve actual woo-woo, even when they have things like zombies and vampires: they need that Realness to be impactful

But before we get to woo-woo, let’s catch up with Denver

So, Denver hasn’t entirely fallen, just one sector of it, so far. And this sector still has the time and resources to send out people to murder escaped prisoners? I call shenanigans.

Anyway Sarah is being investigated by Scary man from Black Tech (and you knew the evil company of evilness was definitely operating in Denver). He had CCTV hidden in the room and knows Sarah engineered Caitlin’s death and is almost impressed by her cold blooded remorselessness. The mayor of Denver is not amused to be covering up a murderer because he believes in the rule of law and all that. He’s adorable. Sinister science person makes it clear, oh-so-politely, who is really in charge and it’d be a shame of Black Tech lost faith in the mayor

Honestly he just has to say “I’m afraid of accidents” in a sinister tone to complete the whole thing

Black Tech wants Sarah around because she’s crafty. She also claims to have turned the repellent they use into a super vampire poison which is really useful…

… if it’s true. I don’t know. Sarah could be planning anything. Her main goal is to continue her DNA study of the ancient vampire blood Scarlett gave her - and whatever the results are she’s super shocked

Julius is trying to help the defenders to try and save Denver, in particular forcing them to change their tactics. They want to wait until reinforcements arrive (from Black Tech) because the vampires are contained… which they would be if they were feral, mindless and vulnerable to sunlight. But intelligent and immune it’s only a matter of time before they bypass the defences and everyone is screwed. Julius convinces them to go on the offensive and volunteers in a near suicidal mission: something Sarah objects to (and this is why i doubt her claims about the vampire poison).

They find Frankie dead so Julius can have more angst and guilt. And the Sisterhood using several captured humans as bait, including Kelly. Remember her? I swear Kelly is the dark one, she’s survived everything!

Angst angst time for a confrontation with with Scab and a cliffhanger.

Right now to the heady woo-woo of Vanessa’s story

Vanessa has returned to the asylum place where they killed the first elder to confront the big bad, Mohammed sort of following and being kidnapped by Sam who is also honing in guided by the shadowy figure known as the Oracle in the credits so we’ll run with that

The Oracle lures them both inside where it’s all ominous - and Vanessa confronts Sam, her eyes glowing red and there’s a brief, savage fight which Vanessa seems to have the edge… until the Oracle arrives and uses shiny woo-woo to freeze them both so she can talk at them

There’s a lot of talk and denial and anger but basically there is no fourth elder. This is the audition for the fourth elder (or something more since we seem to end up with a vampire who is way way way more powerful than the previous elders) and the choice is between Sam and Vanessa. Sam’s all in for this while Vanessa is in natural denial - though the Oracle, Sam et all keep poking her over what she’s done to turn herself into what she is.

The Oracle leads them into a secret labyrinth which is huge, impressive, ominous and has a great big thunderstorm. Which is perhaps a little over the top but hey we’ll run with that, we need a little melodrama. The Oracle continues to talk about what a disappointment Vanessa’s denial of her true destiny is - it feels like she really wants Vanessa to be the elder but she’s super unco-operative. The Oracle demands their tokens, because all elders have to have a token of their pain and suffering (for reasons): Sam has his tooth jewellery and Vanessa has Dylan’s ribbon…

But Sam also has to kill the light inside him, the source of his love - Mohammed. And he does this with lots of creepy crooning about how Mohammed and his love made him human and that’s awful while Mohammed makes it clear he wants Sam to die 10,000 deaths. Sam kills Mohammed and I can’t help but think that that’s two black men who were introduced expressly for Sam to kill - and I’d really like to see more of the foundation for why became so obsessed with Mohammed than what we had.

Which is when Scarlett and Axel arrive - Axel is still trying to convince Scarlett that they should leave Vanessa to it but Scarlett insists so of course Axel stays. They make their way through the labyrinth to the Oracle who promptly freezes them

We now have a truly bizarre scene. Since Sam has just murdered Mohammed to destroy his love, it’s kind of assumed by everyone that Vanessa has to do the same with Scarlett (not Axel, Axel isn’t her light, sorry Axel). Scarlett remembers that their vampire ancestor guy also said one of them had to die and realises this is the moment… and promptly demands Vanessa kill her as it’s the only way to kill Sam… Which I could kind of get since it would make Vanessa an elder, but we leap from there to Scarlett deciding there’s another way based on… the complete nothing from the holy guy in the last episode? And she announces that Vanessa killing her sister will INCREASE the light inside her?

I mean I was working on “light” basically being a metaphor for love/humanity but I can’t see how a bit of sister murdering is supposed to increase her love/humanity. And if it is actually some supernatural woo-woo you can absorb why does Sam killing Mohammed remove his light? And aside from all of this, why is Scarlett so convinced and happy to go along with this

She physically forces the sword in Vanessa hands into her own heart for much grief from everyone (and, honestly does this even count as Vanessa killing her) and Axel swearing vengeance against Vanessa despite Vanessa really not having a choice here

To which the Oracle decides to make things even more confusing by announcing Vanessa didn’t even have to kill her sister since she’d already killed her daughter. Except she didn’t - she tried to save her daughter and it all went pear shaped… that counts now? And if becoming an elder means destroying the light/love/humanity inside you by killing everyone you love surely she’d need to kill both? I mean if you have a big family can you just kill a second cousin you’re kind of fond of but, y’know are willing to clip from the family tree?

And if killing Scarlett added nothing to the whole elder creation process, why even freeze her whole elder ceremony to aid and abet Vanessa to kill her sister? Shits and giggles?

Anyway, Scarlett also wanted Vanessa to learn her lessons from her China vision about not being such a rabid honey badger all the time and find her inner zen or something

Vanessa is now officially far too disappointing to be an elder so Sam gets the prize and a really really nifty CGI/Costume upgrade. Axel’s long since left the party so that leaves Vanessa facing Demon Sam!

And Demon Sam is super powerful and dangerous and scary and he fights Vanessa and easily defeats her - but she bleeds and her blood falls on the miraculously preserved body of Victoria Lily Van Helsing… who wakes up

And this is the cliffhanger of the episode. So she swapped Scarlett for Lilly? This is… ok? This is the plan? Who even knows?

Ok… I don’t mind this episode? And I don’t mind this kind of reboot feel. In fact I’m super happy to get all mystical with Vanessa and demon-Sam etc etc etc - that really will work for me. Though I think it will jar so much with the more mundane Sarah/Jolene/Phil/Julius storyline (which is much more reality based and this show already suffers from severely divergent storylines). My issue is that this all kind of came from nowhere? The woo-woo, the fourth elder getting demon power, all these prophecies throwing around and Scarlett suddenly deciding that she needs to die, again, for no apparent reason. The episode is good but the whole season has done very little to prepare for it. It feels disconnected and Scarlett’s motivations in particular are completely bizarre (and why would murdering her sister increase the light inside Vanessa? This doesn’t make any sense). They could have made this work with more foundation - but that foundation isn’t there. The tokens, Scarlett’s sacrifice, the idea of light and dark inside, they could have done far far far more with all of this all season and not leave this last episode kind of coming out of nowhere

I actually really like Sarah’s character in that she’s ruthless, cunning, extremely intelligent, usually planning 4 steps ahead and has no scruples about plotting, lying or killing. While at the same time being kind, loving, compassionate and layered. I like, her, I like her a lot - she may be the most compelling character on this show…

… which I admit isn’t saying a lot since between Axel-kill-his-sister-he-needs-some-back-story to Vanessa-rawr-honey-badger to Julisu the angsty to Phil the angsty to Mohammed the… uh… there? Scarlet… Scarlet… Scarlet has swords. Yeah there’s not a LOT of depth here. It’s notable that fridging: Dylan, Polly, Phil’s family/Lucky and now Frankie and Scarlett is like the core/only motivation of pretty much most of the main cast. If they didn’t have someone to mope over they’d have little personality. Even Mohammed had his dead sister before he was basically turned into Sam’s Mcguffin.

I’m not fond of a lot of these characters and as I’ve said. I also think Sarah and Jolene are doing a LOT of diversity lifting with both the gay male characters, Felix and Mohammed basically being fed to Sam for his ongoing storyline.

The whole season had a difficult time with coherent storylines - we had the plot regularly split between 3 or 4 storylines at once that had little to do with each other and it often left me wondering what the point of various episodes are. That has centre now into two storylines… but they seem even more divergent than usual

They seem very confident in this being renewed because my we have some cliffhangers here!