Last Friday’s Van Helsing was everything I could ever expect from an episode featuring the vampire hunter sisters. “Crooked Steps” was easily my favorite episode of the season, and not just because it shed some light on Van Helsing history and added layers to the mythology that left our heads spinning.
No, what really sets this episode apart is that it was a really bold move on showrunner Neil LaBute’s part. An entire episode focused on an island — with only three characters — had everything to go wrong, especially when half of the episode featured only Vanessa and Scarlett talking. But that’s when strong writing and directing really make one hell of a difference.
“Crooked Steps” showed us that the twins seemed to finally have found their rhythm together, and gave us some precious bonding moments between them. Ever since Scarlett was introduced last season, I’d wanted nothing more than for these two to get along and fight together. Sure, they have been fighting together for a while now, but it seems that the sisterhood missing piece has finally fallen into place for them.
While there were some very important moments and some key information about the overall mythology of the show, and what we can possibly expect for the rest of the season, the general quieteness of “Crooked Steps” was really what did it for me. Usually, I am all for the action sequences and the fight scenes that are coreographed to perfection, but the introspective tone of this episode, plus the stellar performances from both Kelly Overton and Missy Peregrym made it the very best episode of season 3 so far.
Kudos to Jonathan Scarfe, who did one hell of a job wearing the director’s hat for the third time this season. While “Fresh Tendrils” and “Super Unknown” were both fantastic — that gunfight scene in the premiere remains my favorite action sequence of this entire show — he really struck gold with “Crooked Steps”. Not to mention the cinematography of this episode, that was by far the most gorgeous thing to ever grace Van Helsing. There were so many incredible shots that just made me want to pause and admire how beautiful it looked.
But let’s get down to the juicy part, shall we?
Van Helsing family reunion
Vanessa and Scarlett seemed to have been on the road for a little while, when they finally get a decent lead from the family book. Who knew that vampire blood could activate a hidden map there, right? The new clue leads them to an island, but not before Scarlett gets shot in the back by a shotgun. That scene was every bit as painful as it was hilarious, because of course the ninja wouldn’t be fazed by getting shot anymore, when she knows she’ll heal almost immediately.
When they find the lighthouse, they discover that the place hasn’t been touched since the Rising, which means there’s plenty of food and booze, much to Scarlett’s delight. True to its introspective tone, the scene that follows highlights something that these characters haven’t had for quite sometime: peace and quiet.
Watching Scarlett eating peaches out of a jar, as she and Vanessa talk about their mother was the epitome of peacefulness on this show, and also marked the calm before the storm for the sisters. Not to mention how visually stunning that entire scene is — the twins sitting on the rocks, with a gorgeous backdrop and a beautiful blue sky, having a meaninful conversation? It doesn’t get any better than that. I’ll bet the wind probably made shooting this scene a nightmare, but the end result was one of the most beautiful scenes of the TV fall season so far.
Eventually, they find the location of where the third Elder might be locked up and — surprise, surprise — the only way in is by sacrificing a Van Helsing. Thank God, this time it wasn’t a life sacrifice, but it involved getting shocked, so it kind of sucked for our favorite ninja. Peregrym has truly embodied Scarlett’s snark, and her deadpan delivery in stressful situations always makes me laugh.
It turns out that the third Elder is none other than Jacob Van Helsing (Michael Eklund), brother of the infamous Abraham Van Helsing. And let me tell you, Eklund’s performance was absolutely delightful to watch. He was the epitome of the eccentric, seductive vampire and every single scene he was in — whether he was interacting with Overton or Peregrym or both — was just breathtaking.
As delightful as Jacob was, he didn’t come bearing good news — besides the fact that they’ve had his totem all along around Scarlett’s neck: the necklace with the Dark One’s blood. According to him, the twin vampire hunters were destined to follow in his and his brother’s footsteps. In his own words — “Only one will continue to the end. Never both”.
That doesn’t sound ominous at all, right? At first, my immediate thought was, this is it. This is how Scarlett is going to die. After all, Missy Peregrym has just signed on for a full 22-episode season with CBS’s new drama FBI, so I figured the chances of her coming back for a potential season 4 are kind of slim, unfortunately.
However, as the episode progressed, it became more and more evident that Vanessa is the one following in Jacob’s footsteps in becoming a full fledged vampire. In fact, I truly believe she’s well on her way to becoming an Elder herself, so that would kind of leave the fate of the world on Scarlett’s shoulders. Of course, that doesn’t mean Scarlett is safe, even if that was Vanessa’s intentions by the end of the episode.
The vampire in her is getting stronger by the minute, as evidenced by her total destruction of the third Elder. That scene was so grotesque and disgusting, that I’m pretty sure Scarlett’s reaction wasn’t Peregrym acting. She actually looked incredibly grossed out and I definitely don’t blame her. I couldn’t even watch it myself.
But here’s the thing, what “Crooked Steps” really set out to show us is that Vanessa and Scarlett have finally bonded as sisters. There’s a lightness about them, a camaraderie that wasn’t there before. But the moment that Vanessa chose to betray Scarlett — yes, I know she had the best of intentions at heart and I believe she really was just trying to protect her sister — that kind of went out the window, at least for the time being.
When she faked not feeling well, and then hugged Scarlett, thanking her for everything, I knew something bad was about to happen. But I did not expect her to just leave her sister stranded on an island. Sure, there’s plenty of food there, so she’s not going to starve, but what the hell was Vanessa thinking? Scarlett is right — she’s not in control. And she proved it by attacking that poor soul by the end of the episode. She’s closer and closer to losing her humanity completely and that absolutely terrifies me.
I really can’t wait to find out how Scarlett is going to get the hell off that island, and I hope it’s sooner rather than later.
Van Helsing airs on Fridays at 10/9C on SYFY.