Let me start by saying I wasn’t a huge fan of the 2004 Hugh Jackman starrer that shares this TV series’ name. Luckily that’s all the two have in common; a name.
Since I’m a glass is half-full kind of guy, I suffered through the last couple of minutes of “Sharknado: The 4th Awakens” to catch a special presentation of Syfy’s “Van Helsing” pilot. Man, was I glad I did. To my surprise, the first hour was much closer in tone to “The Strain” than “Vampire Diaries,” “Twilight” or even “True Blood.” I’ve been burned by Syfy before, you see, tuning into “Z Nation” expecting the next “Walking Dead” and realizing it was just a silly soulless corpse of a show. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the gore and nasty zombie kills but you’ve got to give a rat’s ass about a show’s characters. Otherwise, what’s the point of following their journey? As a matter of fact, “The Strain” may have its faults yet it’s the cast of characters that keep me coming back week after week.
Anyway, back to Van Helsing… It only took one episode for me to fall in love with Simon Barry’s “Continuum.” Knowing that he, along with the producers of “Fargo” and “Hell On Wheels” were part of the team behind “Van Helsing” definitely sparked my interest in this series. While some folks make the decision to watch certain shows based on the actors involved, I tend to research the creative team. A great spectacle will only take you so far, but a wonderful story and interesting world-building is the lifeblood of a tv series.
That leads me to my next question… How would Mr. Barry and his team breathe new life into the ridiculously tired vampire genre? Yes, I believe Syfy is late to the party on this one. Well, Vanessa’s the show’s secret weapon! Not only is Kelly Overton fantastic in the role, but her bite cures vampirism. What?!? That’s right, talk about a twist. The show’s unique spin is that the famed Van Helsing’s descendant, Vanessa, can somehow turn diseased vampires human again. That certainly opens up a can of worms, doesn’t it? Did ol’ Van Helsing accomplish something in the past that altered his bloodline? Will there be flashbacks?
I’ve watched the first three episodes and though I’m onboard (for now), the pacing has been a tad sluggish. Naturally, it takes a few episodes to set up a series’ universe and get to know our characters. However, aside from Vanessa and Jonathan Scarffe’s character Axel, I haven’t really connected with the supporting cast. That may change over the course of the season, but nowadays you’ve got to come out of the gate strong. Audiences have little patience and far too many options in this golden age of television. Though I’ve enjoyed “Van Helsing” much more than Syfy’s “Hunters” which was D.O.A., I do hope the writers pick up the pace. You only need to look at a series like “12 Monkeys” to understand that pacing is crucial and filler episodes are unacceptable.
My verdict, Syfy’s “Van Helsing” shows promise with its twist on vamp mythology. However, it needs to pick up the pace and get us to connect with its characters, otherwise it’s on to the next monster slayer. The creative team and cast are excellent, so I trust they’ve got some surprises up their sleeves. I’m ridiculously thrilled that Syfy is delivering these high-quality genre shows again and it’s up to us to tune in and support the network. Do you plan to catch the premiere? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Van Helsing‘s two-hour episode premiere kicks-off this Friday, September 23 at 10/9c.
Check out Syfy’s official series description…
Van Helsing is set in the near future, where vampires have risen and taken control. Vanessa Van Helsing is humanity’s last hope, as her unique blood composition gives her the ability to turn vampires human. With this secret weapon, Vanessa becomes a prime target for the vampires. Van Helsing comes from the producers of Fargo and Hell on Wheels. Acclaimed director/playwright Neil LaBute serves as showrunner.