(In ho-nor of New Comic Book Day, I figured we’d go another round with our SuperheroScifi guru, Mr. Prince Adam…Thanks for reminding me this exxxists, sir. I’m ashamed I haven’t checked it out yet, but I shall correct my misdeeds posthaste! 😉 xoxo)
“Vanessa Helsing, distant relative of famous vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing, is resurrected only to find that vampires have taken over the world.” (SyFy)
At the end of every episode, the credits indicate that this show was “inspired” by the Zenescope comic book. The similarities between the show and the comic are that they both center on a female relative of vampire hunter Abraham Van Heling., and in both cases, the female lead was resurrected after presumed death. The difference between the two characters are; the comic book version being the daughter of Abraham Van Helsing, resurrected after hundreds of years, while the TV show incarnation is the great, great, great granddaughter of Abraham Van Helsing, who was resurrected three years after death.. If I had to compare this show to anything, I’d say it’s The Walking dead but for vampires. Essentially the story tracks a core group of survivors, who have been combating and also are always on the run from vampires. As for how the vampires took over, and forced humanity into slavery, as well as being their breakfast lunch and dinner, that is explained and I dig the explanation. A volcano eruption in Wyoming has covered the air with smoke, smog, soot etc. This accumulation of darkness has in effect blocked out the sun, allowing the vampires to rise up and take control of the earth. To prolong the darkness, the vampires have taken control and are messing around with power plants. With all this going on we’re thrown into a feud between two sects of vampires. The ancients and the ferals. Ancients are more humanoid in thought, speech and appearance. While they can’t live forever, they live several hundreds of years. Meanwhile, ferals are newly minted vampires, lacking the proper amount of human blood consumption following their turn. This causes diminished intelligence and more animalistic look, mannerisms and behavior. I love these new added wrinkle in vampire mythology. I also find it unique that both are after Vanessa for different reasons; the Ancients want to use her to prolong their race, while the ferals want to exterminate her to protect themselves. There’s a fascinating power struggle at play in this book.
Having the surname of Helsing isn’t what makes Vanessa so interesting to both sets of Vampires, it’s the blood that courses through her veins that is most unique. One night, before The Rising, single mother Vanessa was celebrating her daughter’s birthday. The two were attacked by a vampire. While the young girl escaped, Vanessa was furiously bitten by a feral. However, rather than turning herself, her external wounds heal, and the vampire who bit her ends up dying. She is taken to a Seattle hospital, for observation, but shortly after The Rising, the military took control of her case and began running tests and experiments on our comatose. Hero When we pick up her story three years after The Rising, Vanessa awakens in the now run down Seattle hospital while her fellow members of The Resistance, are fending off a vampire attack. Once again Vanessa is bit, however this time, the vampire who bit her begins throwing up blood, appears to die, but later returns to life as a normal human. The idea of Van Helsing having powers has never been a part of any version I’ve seen or read before. So this is very new and interesting to me. I loved that the reveal of Vanessa’s heritage was a slow burn, over the course of the entire season. I was eagerly awaiting, watching every new episode hoping to get the next piece of the puzzle. The nature of her abilities is a bit of a mystery. That mystery deepens, when Vanessa is captured by the vampires. There are two instances when this happens, and in both, Vanessa must bite a human and or drink human blood. In both cases, her healing factor quickened and she got stronger. I’m starting to think that Vanessa is somehow a vampire/human hybrid, and that’s why Dimitri wants her, because she can birth them daywalkers, as she is the original daywalker. That’s just my theory for now, so we’ll have to wait until Season 2 to see if I’m right.
I’ve mentioned the resistance Vanessa is in league and travelling worth, so let’s give them a closer look. The core group consists of Axel Miller, Sam, John, Doc, Flesh, Mohamad, and Susan. Each one had unique reasons for taking up the fight against the vampire’s, most of which make you as a viewer instantly connect with them. Even before finding out she was a Van Helsing, Vanessa took up the fight to find her daughter, who had gone missing when Vanessa was attacked. Susan was a neighbor and best friends to Vanessa. Vanessa had saved her from an abusive boyfriend, and then turned her human after they had reunited and Vanessa realized Susan had been turned during The Rising. Susan fights out of loyalty and payback to her best friend. John is a former military man, along with Axel. After his wife was killed by vampires, his vendetta against them led him to take up arms against them. Doc is the doctor who presided over Vanessa and who the government had working on a cure for vampirism. She was bitten, but Axel kept her confined and fed from his own blood, until Vanessa returned her to human form. Flesh is the first vampire Vanessa encounters, and turns back to a human being. He stays with the resistance to atone for the sins he committed as a vampire, chief among them, slaughtering his wife and kids. Sam and Mohamad are kind of a package details. Both used to be slaves and escaped. Mohamad now hunts vampires in search of his sister, who is still at one of their slave camps, while Sam has taken to protecting Mohamad. I thought certain actors deserve recognition for excellent work, while others weren’t so good. Kelly Overton juggled the feelings of confusion over her new status quo, and sadness over her characters missing daughter perfectly, all the while flipping the switch just enough to go full on badass when the character had to fight the undead. Vincent Gale as the vampire reborn as a human known as Flesh, was strong in portraying his characters sadness and repentant over killing his entire family. He questioned whether he was worthy of forgiveness and a second chance. As a viewer you can believe and appreciate his pain, but also question whether he can truly atone from something so heinous. A fantastic performance was given by Christopher Heyerdahl as Sam. The character of Sam is deaf and suffers a speech impediment. The veteran actor portrays these aspects of his character and the vocal and physical mannerisms with such sincerity and care. All this is heightened because we’re dealing with a world that is over-run by Vampires. I’m so thrilled the creative team put this actor and character front and center on the show and made him a force to be reckoned with, rather than a frail person in need of rescuing. My two favorite frightening performances belong to Paul Johansson as Dmitri and Laura Minnelli as Rebecca, The vampire duo don’t speak very often but are so menacing and methodical in their mannerism and movements, they are instantly imposing in every scene they’ re in. Even if the show was on mute, you’d understand the fear other characters, both vampire and human have towards them. On occasions when they do speak, there accents are passable, and never end up being over the top. Several actors do give over the top performances. I thought Rukiya Bernard as Doc and Hilary Jardine as Susan, went unnecessarily over board in most of their scenes, regardless of the events that were unfolding, or the emotion that was called for. On the other hand, I thought Trezzo Mahoro was rather bland as Mohamad. While I thought the friendship between Mohamad and Sam was written well, the character of Sam elevated it and made it stand out. Finally, actor Jonathan Scarfe who played Axel came off a little too stereotypical armed soldier to me. He felt like a one dimensional G.I. Joe character.
When I mentioned this show is like The Walking Dead for Vampires, I meant that because our resistance group is constantly on the run from them late in the season. The original base of operation for our resistance is the abandoned hospital outfitted with booby traps and UV lighting, it keeps the vampires away. When the power source is damaged, Vanessa and Axel head out into the streets on a parts scavenging mission. It is here, they meet another group of resistance fighters who have wounded members. Vanessa and Axel, take them to the hospital. Shortly thereafter, one of the members of the incoming resistance is murdered. Blaming Axel and Vanessa’s crew, the new tenant’s mutiny, taking control of the hospital. Believing Mohamad to be the culprit, they banish him to the unprotected outside world. Axel, Vanessa and crew eventually reverse mutiny, exile their captors and take back control of the hospital. That success is short lived as the vampires use a human to trip up the hospitals U.V defenses and launch an attack. This forces our protagonist to flee and head to an abandoned army bunker. Their peace and respite are once again upset when a grenade is set off, barricading them inside, While stuck inside, the murderer seemingly attempts to strike again, when John gets a little too rough with Susan, to the point where he is choking her. The group calls him out on it and upon further investigation, find evidence connecting him to the previous murder. The group ultimately decides to kill him. Most of the group find a way out of the bunker via underground tunnels, however, one of the key figures in the group is killed, as they try and thwart off vampires in their escape. The remaining survivors head to a farming community of humans who have bargained with the vampires; blood in exchange for peace. A darker pact is revealed. In that the head of the community is providing actual young children and babies are being offered up to the vampires, not just blood. The leader of this group is killed, and Flesh decides to stay with this community to help them rebuild. As Vanessa and the others embark on their journey to Dmitri’s concentration camp, the killer strikes again, meaning Vanessa and company were wrong in killing John. The killer is taken out to the woods and wounded to the point where he/she couldn’t get away and was left there as vampire fodder. The Final act of the film finds Vanessa betrayed by one of her own and led straight to Dmitri. The final battle between Vanessa taking on Dmitri and Rebecca features deception and death. It also answers the question of what happens to Vanessa’s daughter, tantalizingly setting up season 2.
This show is insane, in the best possible way. There’s always a threat of a vampire attack and our main characters are always on the run. As a viewer, just as you get used to their new situations, those situations get upended. Every time they meet fellow resistance groups, they encounter people who are secretly in league with the vampires. Some of these defectors happen to be some of the shows main characters. Add to that a serial killer in their midst and WOW! Trust me, you won’t see the reveal for that one coming. I’m not giving you spoilers on any of the big reveals or events of episodes, because that would absolutely ruin the season as a whole. I love that this show goes the Game of Thrones route and isn’t afraid to kill off, or change the status quo of our main characters. It takes balls to do that, and make things more interesting. The show doesn’t shy away from violence. Heads are chopped off, vampires are stabbed through the neck etc. The violence and blood spatter is more in line with Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, you know that hyper exaggerated style. My top 3 favourite episodes are Help Me, Stay Away, and It Begins. Help Me is the pilot and instead of slow expository setup, it throws you right into the craziness of this post-apocalyptic vampire run world with a vampire attack on our main heroes and their home base. Stay Away is a great episode because the mysterious killer is revealed. It Begins is the season finale and gives us the war that’s been brewing for the first nine episodes. The reveal at the end was so big, that it had be going full Darth Vader, screaming “NOOOOOOO”; especially with the knowledge that I’d have to wait for season two. If you’re a fan of vampires and The Walking Dead formula, this show definitely should be on your watch list. Finally, SyFy has given us a show we can truly sink our teeth into.