Syfy’s “Van Helsing” explores the cost of being a monster on this week’s episode.
Season 2, Episode 3 “Love Bites” Aired 10/19/2017
Written by Jackie May
Directed by Michael Nankin
*spoilers contained within*
Syfy’s Van Helsing is a series we’ve been speaking of for quite some time. UMU originally launched with the news of Johnny Depp being cast in Universal’s The Invisible Man, along with the announcement of Syfy’s upcoming series, Van Helsing.
Season two’s third episode – “Love Bites” is a remarkable episode the continually progresses the story of Vanessa Van Helsing, while also maintaining a unique ability to be accessible to new comers just tuning in for some vampiric fun. Van Helsing, while original in its own way, does play as a sort of The Walking Dead/The Book of Eli hybrid. And this is where the series works best as it not only celebrates everything that we enjoy about vampires and monsters, but it further elevates the legacy and iconography of Bram Stoker’s mythic vampire hunter. Here, Van Helsing, is a woman and a mother. It’s a first for the character, while sharing a special lineage to Zenescope’s “Van Helsing” comic book. In fact, Zenescope’s own Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco are thanked in the opening credits as “consulting producers.” Van Helsing is a special show through and through and one we hope you’re watching, even if you just started.
“Love Bites” begins in 1936 and we’re given Julius Romanski’s (Aleks Paunovic) backstory, or more appropriately, we’re shown the delicate line that men/women walk between humanity and monster. Julius is a prize fighter trying to raise enough money to support his ailing mother, but after throwing a fight, he’s left nearly for dead in an alley way. Julius is soon approached by Dmitri and is then turned into a vampire to which he visits his mother and turns her.
In present day, a now human Julius – freed from his vampiric curse, approaches Van Helsing (Kelly Overton) to atone for his past sins. While Van Helsing, her daughter Dylan (Hannah Cheramy), and Julius head for Denver, it is painfully obvious that Dylan – a vampire – needs fresh human blood. After not being able to feed off of Julius, Van Helsing learns that she’ll need a human for her daughter to feed off of. Julius warns her to “not underestimate the cost of being a monster” and this is truly the heart and soul of the Jackie May written episode. Van Helsing finds a traveler for her daughter to feed off of. He promises that he’s alone and not a parent, but when it comes time for her daughter to feed, he goes to shoot her, which prompts Van Helsing to subdue him. After the feeding is done, Van Helsing hears the man’s child call out for him. This only reinforces Julius’ warning of being a monster and it goes on to torment Van Helsing as she’s forced into making “horrific choices” that most parents pray they’d never have to make.
Having the ability to turn vampires, Van Helsing ultimately resorts to turning Dylan back and it appears to have worked. “Love Bites” concludes with a fun, light-hearted snowball fight between the now make-shift family of Van Helsing, Dylan, and Julius. Dylan sees the sunlight and cutting the joyous celebration short, Dylan begins to scream as the sunlight begins cutting through her skin. Van Helsing immediately runs to her daughter, but their final moments together end with Dylan turning to ash and blowing away in her mother’s arms. It was a very shocking moment to have Van Helsing’s daughter die during the closing moments of the second season’s third episode. And, unlike other shows or movies, it does not look like the idea of resurrection could factor into the story.
Director Michael Nankin gave fans a very atmospheric episode, along with one that expertly connected itself to the heart of the story. The idea of always being on the edge of being human or being a monster was adeptly shown throughout Van Helsing’s story arc, but also mirrored along the way in the side plots, as well. Perhaps the best was Sam (Christopher Heyerdhal) connecting with a bullied child named Felix. As Sam takes on Felix’s bullies, we begin to see how Felix slowly develops his attraction to vampirism and the brutality that comes with it.
As always, Kelly Overton and Aleks Paunovic are standouts. Kelly Overton, a mother herself, is wonderful as Van Helsing. She brings a humanity to the role that is extremely relatable, along with a great physicality to the action. However, “Love Bites” showcased more of her dramatic acting capabilities as opposed to her physical acting and it was terrific. Paunovic, was one of the true highlights of the episode as he played his character of Julius as a man tormented by time and a desire to make his life right in any way possible.
The humanity of the characters of Syfy’s Van Helsing are always at the forefront of the stories being told. It’s a characteristic of the story telling that hearkens back to the days of the classic Universal Monsters and is just another reason why we’ll continually root for this series!
Van Helsing airs Thursdays at 9pm on Syfy. Check your local listings.
(Steven Biscotti – @reggiemantleIII)