Van Helsing season 1 – Yet another flirt with apocalypse

I lost count of the shows which deal with some sort of apocalypse or dystopiam future. The last one I saw, binge watched to be more precise was Van Helsing, inspired by a graphic novel of the same name, which I have not read. That means I feel free to watch the show on its own premises, something I simply can´t do with Game of Thrones.

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A volcano explodes in yellowstone and throws tons of particulate matter into the atmosphere making it possible for vampire to walk on the streets and infect people with vampirism. In the meantime a single mother is selling her blood to raise money for a birthday gift for her only daughter. Vanessa Seward is this struggling mother who lives next door to Susan, a punkish girl with a big heart always beaten by abusive boyfriends. That same day, a vampire who steals blood from blood banks tastes Vanessa´s blood and is healed, meaning, he is turned into human, and the ancient vampires of that coven set out to find the mysterious donor of that bag, cause she might be the key to their future.

They eventually find her, and in the fight that ensues, Vanessa kills most vampires and when bitten by one of them, slips into a coma, not before telling her daughter to look for Susan. The vampire who bit her shows signs of transitioning to human and escapes.

Vanessa is taken to the hospital where a coroner discovers that she is not quite dead and notifies her sister at the nearest army base. Soon a group of marines arrive to recover the body of the Sleeping Beauty. That day, called the Rising, marked the day the vampires or feeders took the world for themselves. In the chaos that ensued, the group of marines, that doctor, and comatose Vanessa get stranded in the hospital.

Fast forward five years.The world is ran over by vampires, and UV lights still can hardly touch the earth, although in some places the air is clearing. We find out that recently turned vampires who do not feed properly on human blood and starve, eat spoiled blood, animals, or other lesser creatures, become ferals, zombie like feeders, like the lowest caste of the vampire society, mere beasts, dangerous ones. Older vampires though gather the knowledge of generations, such as Dmitri, and others, not so old, survived and thrived in the world after the Rising due to their ruhtlessness and cruelty, such as Julius.

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There is a scheme that sounds familiar to anyone who has watched too much tv or read a lot of comics in the past twenty years. The recurrent characters and themes are all there: survival of the fittest, questions of loyalty, family, morality and ethics, a common person dealing with a completely absurd situation, horror making us more like beasts than humans… weak and strong human beings, who rises to the challenge, who fails, and the answers try no to be obvious and end up being, guilt, shame… nothing is ever explored in depth, of course, cause it is not art cinema neither good literature, but not a single cliché goes untouched.

Like many shows, among which I think Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one to pioneer the trend, this one centers on a heroin, a woman with special abilities and who can stand against this horror, fighting her own dilemmas in the process, finding our who and what she is, and embracing her role as a major protagonist in the events that should lead to the redemption of humans and the downfall of evil.

It is the age of strong female characters, many of them far from the big cleavage, tight pants and mini skirts stereotypes. This one is a mother looking for her child.

Rating this show is not an easy task. I can´t say it is a great achievement, such as Penny Dreadful, the writing is weak, for instance, nor that it is innovative in any way as TWD was when it first showed on TV. But it is well done, well played, the season 1 ended on a cliffhanger that was well wrought and made us truly look forward to season 2, instead of feel cheated on answers.

It is a show that was not supposed to be good, but which, like Grimm, is oddly entertaining,  and delivers exactly what is promises, a vampire/zombie apocalypse show, with action and plot twists, a strong female lead character and decent writing.

All in all, I am looking forward to season 2.

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