Premiere Date: Friday, September 23 — 10/9C, Syfy
DOC: All this blood, but where are the wounds? What the–?
— “Seen You” (S01E02)
It is three years after vampires claimed the Earth, and soldier Axel (Jonathan Scarfe) is fulfilling his mission: protect Sleeping Beauty (Kelly Overton), a comatose young woman whose blood holds unique properties that could save humanity from the ravening hordes.
Returning to his base camp after a long absence is solider Ted (Tim Guinee), who brings back with him a motley crew of survivors, none of whom seem appropriately grateful and all of whom want to know a) what is the deal with Sleeping Beauty and b) why Axel has a pet vampire. Her name is Doc (Rukiya Bernard), she has been with the mission from the beginning, and in the second part of this premiere, we discover that it was she who first noted the weirdness in the otherwise dead Vanessa (for such is Sleeping Beauty’s name). And Vanessa is very much not dead…
The second episode of Van Helsing is by far its most interesting, but also its weirdest placed. It gives us the skinny on Vanessa, Axel, Doc and the vampire apocalypse — not to mention, we meet Vanessa’s bratty daughter Dylan (Hannah Cheremy), who is nowhere to be found in the post-vampire world — and it feels like we should be getting all this stuff later. Like, build up the tension a bit, show! Give us a reason to care about these characters, puzzle out their relationships to each other and make some assumptions of our own before simply showing us a particularly harrowing day in the life. The volcano eruption, the dark, heavily-accented vampire lords (Paul Johansson and Laura Mennell), Vanessa’s blood, all of it could have been teased far longer before we were presented with a simple answer to all our not-yet-burning questions. Indeed, this backstory-filled episode felt so out of place here, I actually felt the need to check whether it had been aired out of intended order. Apparently not.
So if what we have here is a mystery-thriller-action show that really doesn’t care much for the mystery part, how does it hold up as a thriller or actioner? It’s… okay. I would by no means suggest Van Helsing is appointment television or anything, but in a season offering up sundry apocalypses (we are all really into the end of the world at the moment, apparently) it has some definite advantages over the others. For one, Kelly Overton’s Vanessa is captivating, and while her maternal yen for her missing daughter may very well get tiresome as the show goes on, her innate righteousness, her impressive martial skills and her signature uniqueness make her a fun heroine to root for, especially when the world in which she exists is so black-and-white. Secondly, Christopher Heyerdahl is in this, and he is never not worth watching, especially when his character seems to hide secrets hinted at with only those expressive eyebrows. And thirdly, Vanessa and Axel are totally going to be A Thing, and for those of us who live and breathe angst of this sort, boarding a new ship is always a delight.
If none of those elements appeal, however, then Van Helsing is probably not for you. It really doesn’t have too much more to recommend it, especially not for any rabid fan of the original comic. You, stay away — you’ll only get really pissed off.