Syfy has hit an impressive number of home runs this last year in terms of quality sci-fi content, but the channel’s new addition Van Helsing may strike out.
Van Helsing follows the story of Vanessa Van Helsing (Kelly Overton), a woman violently woken into a post-apocalyptic world where vampires have taken over, who quickly learns that she has a unique ability to turn vampires back into humans. It’s a tantalizing premise for sci-fi fans itching for a female lead they can latch onto, especially those with a Buffy the Vampire Slayer sized hole in their heart. Unfortunately, Van Helsing doesn’t live up to its potential.
The series’ first two episodes, which will air back-to-back on Friday, Sept. 23 at 10 p.m., do their best to create the polarizing effect achieved by The Walking Dead‘s memorable beginning, but it ultimately fails, leaving the audience more confused than ever. Instead of learning and experiencing the new world through the eyes of Vanessa, we’re thrown into it in medias res through the eyes of Axel (Jonathan Scarfe).
This confusing start has the unwanted effect of failing to develop any emotional connection to the characters by the end of the first two hours. While, to the series’ credit, many of the much-needed answers make their way into the second hour, the wooden dialogue keeps us at bay from establishing any emotional ties to the lead or the supporting cast.
Perhaps it’s simply a matter of bad timing that the series follows closely on the heels of Wynonna Earp’s remarkably fun and emotionally stirring first season. Van Helsing feels dull and lifeless in comparison. Based on premise, the shows could almost be blood relatives – two lead female characters taking on the mantle of their mythological ancestors, using a game-changing power only they can possess. The difference is Van Helsing can’t hold a candle to its predecessor based on style, substance or cultural relevance.
The prognosis isn’t completely dire. Overton does a fine job as a lead, putting her all into each scene we watched. In fact, having her comatose for much of the first two hours may have been a detriment to the series. I can’t find a fault line with any of the actors, even One Tree Hill‘s Paul Johansson, who is reinventing his image as powerful head vampire Dmitri.
In this golden age of television where pushing boundaries has become a relative norm, Van Helsing doesn’t bring enough to the table at its onset to earn the attention of an audience already overwhelmed with quality TV choices. In spite of a devoted lead, even one that can bring the dead back to life, Van Helsing is already at death’s door.
Will you tune in to the Van Helsing premiere? Sound off in the comments below.
Van Helsing premieres Friday, September 23 at 10 p.m. ET on Syfy.
Associate Editor Kelly Townsend always had strong opinions on TV growing up, so it was only natural to evolve from couch musings to online journalism. She can't ever choose a favorite series, so please don't ask. Her writing has also appeared on IndieWire and Tribute.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.