We made it to Denver! We made it to San Francisco! Our crew has split up and each group has finally made it to their intended destination in “Pretty Noose”, even though things didn’t quite go according to plan for everyone. Last week’s episode was more about laying the ground work for the rest of the season, and I have to say — knowing what’s coming next — they did an exceptional job.
“Pretty Noose” served as a bridge and it also felt like a return to the show’s roots, checking in with everyone, but keeping the episode balanced and the pace just fast enough to keep you on your toes. While our guys in Denver were just settling into their new normal lives again, without having to worry about being attacked by vampires, things in San Francisco took a sharp turn for the worst with Vanessa, Scarlett and Axel.
But let’s break this baby down, shall we?
Arriving in Denver felt a lot like going through customs when you’re visiting another country. The Crooked Falls crew got separated from our group, so we just check in with Doc, Jolene, Flesh and Julius as they are finally leaving quarantine and being reintegrated to society in a vampire-free Denver.
Every time we checked in with this group, it felt like the moment to take a breath from the intensity of what was going on in San Francisco. Denver managed to rebuild itself into a whole new society, with new rules, new currency and designated living quarters.
Doc and Jolene get to be roomies, which just amplified the tension we have all been feeling since the moment they met. Their entire plot in this episode was just so refreshing to watch and dealt with such care that it just made me smile every time Rukiya Bernard and Caroline Cave were on my screen. Because Doc is such a scared and skittish person, and she is absolutely terrified of what she feels for Jolene.
I honestly don’t even think it’s about the fact that she has feelings for another woman, but rather that she has feelings for anyone at all. She has always been such a closed off person that she has never even allowed herself to get close to anyone or even feel anything. What a sad existence she had been living, especially considering she is living at a time that literally every single moment of your life counts.
So I absolutely love that they’re giving these two a chance to be happy, even if it’s just for a little while. I am so glad that Jolene is the one to help her get out of her shell and explore her emotions and defy her fears. I can’t wait to see where this is going.
As for Julius and Flesh, it’s a completely different story. Julius has been human again for over a season now, and I have gotten so used to him, that sometimes I forget that he was once upon a time an evil vampire. But Flesh hasn’t really been around human Julius for that long, so he definitely still holds a grudge. After all, Julius was the one who turned him into a vampire in the first place; the one who gave him the Flesh nickname.
To say things are tense between them is an understatement — especially when they’re assigned to the same apartment. But poor Julius just wants to make things right and make the best of this second chance at life Vanessa gave him. And let’s face it, human Julius is just this giant teddy bear of a man, who wouldn’t hurt a fly. He is one of my favorite characters and when Flesh started yelling at him, I just felt so bad and wanted to protect him from all harm.
Also, I am aware that we have now learned that Flesh’s name is actually Phil Fleischmann, but this will take some getting used to. Poor Phil is taking this second chance at life in Denver the hardest, especially after he lost Lucky in Crooked Falls. Julius, on the other hand, just wants to be part of society again after almost a hundred years, and sets out to find himself a job and just try to live a normal life.
His entire rapport with Frankie — the bar owner who ends up hiring him — was golden from the very first second. Is it too early to ship them? Because I already do.
Back in San Francisco, Vanessa, Scarlett and Axel find a group of soldiers when they arrive in the city. The young men tell them that their entire crew is gone — that a different, more powerful kind of vampire has wiped out pretty much the entire city. They’re all that’s left and they haven’t left yet because they are still looking for their missing comrades.
Axel sympathizes with them — and this is the point where the episode takes a turn for the worse for our trio, because Scarlett suggests that they split up, so that Axel can help the soldiers. He is obviously not happy about the idea, but the sisters end up convincing him that it’s for the best and that they’ll be fine without him for a few hours.
Things go okay for a little while and, even though I am always against the splitting up thing, this was a great way to showcase and shed some light on two very important relationships in Van Helsing — Vanessa and Scarlett, and Scarlett and Axel. But we’ll talk about them in a bit.
First, let’s talk about the new San Francisco crew. Their introduction could not have been better and Barry is the sweetest soul in the universe — even though he smashed that vampire’s head to dust in what was probably one of the most gruesome scenes in the history of this show. So despite that display of violence, Barry is actually a really nice, innocent dude, who just wants to help in any way he can.
I loved the fact that their leader is a woman, and Marybeth runs a tight ship there, despite her lack of experience in leadership. So she, along with Barry and Dre are the new faces we’re going to see for the next few episodes.
But since “Pretty Noose” was all about relationships, let’s talk about those, shall we?
Vanessa and Scarlett
Probably the most important relationship in Van Helsing, the vampire hunter sisters are still learning how to navigate their complicated sisterhood. Even though they are twins, they were raised separately and led wildly different lives before the Rising. So ever since Scarlett was introduced in “Veritas Vincit” last season, they have had to learn and adapt to now having a family again.
They don’t really know how to be sisters — Vanessa especially — but “Pretty Noose” served as one hell of a wake up call for them. I feel like they had a breakthrough in their relationship in “Super Unknown” a couple of episodes ago, when Vanessa finally started to open up to Scarlett. So in this episode, it feels like she’s trying harder to be a good sister, like when she calls out Scarlett on being distracted because she’s worried about Axel going off on his own.
The ninja obviously deflects — even though we all see right through it, Scarlett. Your sister included — but that leads to such a touching moment between them. Talking about Dylan makes Vanessa shine with pride and Kelly Overton played that scene beautifully. When her voice breaks, as she’s telling her sister about how kind her daughter was, my heart broke for both of them. They could have been a family, if only things hadn’t gone sideways when they were kids.
But it was Scarlett getting poisoned that really seemed to hit home for Vanessa. When her sister’s life is in danger, her search for the B’ah isn’t about getting the totem anymore — it becomes a race against time to find the second Elder, kill it and get her blood, so she can save her twin sister.
Her desperation to find the B’ah is evident, especially towards the end of the episode, when Scarlett’s condition begins to deteriorate. It took her a while, but it feels like the second there was even a possibility of losing her sister, it finally sunk in for Vanessa that Scarlett is really all she has left and that they must stick together.
Scarlett, on the other hand, kind of wears her heart on her sleeve — even more so after she started whatever relationship she has with Axel. She is the one who hasn’t been afraid to try and get to know her sister; she’s the one making the effort when Vanessa was just keeping her distance.
For her, it seems that the fact that she has a twin sister sunk in a hell of a lot faster than it did for Vanessa. The scene where she wakes up feverish and nearly hallucinating due to the poison in her system, only showed us what truly matters to her now. She immediately asks about Vanessa and is terrified when she learns that her sister went to fight the B’ah on her own. Her first instinct, even when she’s dying, is to go help her twin and protect her.
And then, her second question is about Axel. Missy Peregrym did a fantastic job in this scene, because she displayed such desperation and vulnerability that really showed us that Vanessa and Axel have become the two pillars in her life. And for a character that was such a lone wolf for over three years — only dedicating her life to killing vampires — that is HUGE. She has not only let people in, but it looks like she genuinely cares about them — maybe even loves them. Her character development has been nothing short of amazing in the short amount of time she’s been on the show.
Scarlett and Axel
Oh, where do I start with these two? What I love most about them is that they totally snuck on me. I did not see this relationship coming, but the next thing I knew, I was already shipping them so hard. I love love love how their relationship has subtly progressed and Missy Peregrym and Jonathan Scarfe have such an amazing chemistry together that it’s impossible not to root for them.
Even though we haven’t really seen a lot of obvious moments between them, it’s all in the looks, in the discreet touches, in how they worry about one another and protect each other. In “Pretty Noose”, it felt like they were a little more open about their relationship, but that was probably because the prospect of splitting up had them both on edge. Axel, especially, seemed to have thrown caution to the wind in front of Vanessa, and he didn’t care who saw how much he cared about Scarlett.
His hesitation in leaving her behind told us so much about where his heart is, and Scarfe played that beautifully. It’s funny that they were both trying to keep it light and casual when they were saying goodbye, but it was obvious that they were both nervous and unsure about going their separate ways, even it was just for a few hours. After all, in a post-apocalyptic world, right now is all you have. So it felt like they were both very aware that this could be the last time they were together.
When Vanessa confronts Scarlett about it, the ninja denies it and tries to play it off as something casual. But even Vanessa knows it’s not casual anymore for these two. It may have started as something light and fun and “just blowing off steam”, but it hasn’t been that anymore since the premiere at the very least — when Axel dropped everything he was doing in the middle of a gunfight to tend to Scarlett, who had just taken a bullet to the neck.
I really, really love where they’re going with this relationship and I just hope against hope that they both make it to the end of the season. After all, “Pretty Noose” ended with Scarlett nearly dying from the second Elder’s poison and Axel being taken by the B’ah.
Just please let my favorites be happy (and survive) together, TPTB. Please. That’s all I ask.
Van Helsing airs on Fridays at 10/9C on SYFY.