This Van Helsing review contains spoilers.
Van Helsing Season 4 Episode 12
“Am I the only one staring at three blank pages?”
For such an exposition heavy episode, “Three Pages” still finds plenty of time to move the core Van Helsing tale forward, and at the same time clearly demonstrate the show’s continued willingness to provide real stakes for the characters no matter how important they seem to be to the overall narrative. Penned by showrunner Jonathan Lloyd Walker and Gorrman Lee, season four’s penultimate chapter skillfully sets up what promises to be a blockbuster season finale and leaves ample room for a continuation of Vanessa Van Helsing’s hero’s journey.
As the team scrambles to decipher the recovered pages and devise a plan to kill the Dark One, it’s fascinating to watch Colonel Nicholson (Aaron Douglas) try to make sense of this new world into which he’s stumbled. It’s difficult to blame him for drawing the line at the mention of Dracula, but since he’s become integral to the team’s present success, Ivory and Jack drag in Avery’s dead and decomposing body to verify the reality of the shapeshifter problem. Fellow soldier Axel does what he can to bring the colonel on board, but the situation quickly turns urgent and a moment of truth arrives when Nicholson learns that he’s the only member of the group that’s neither a Van Helsing nor a former vampire.
That said, it’s no surprise that “Three Pages” centers on the blank pages’ contents and the search for the weapon with which to kill the Dark One. Though much of the focus lately seems to fall on Violet, Jack takes the lead here. She cuts her own hand, and allows her Van Helsing blood to coat the pages, revealing an ancient language and diagrams that none of them understand. It’s here that the sisters recognize the dilemma – only their father will be able to decipher the pages, and he’s currently near death in his true form as young Willem (Dakota Daulby). Using Nicholson’s untainted blood to jump start their father, the sisters understand the risk they take with this action, and the colonel solidifies his standing in the group.
Even though the writers once again call on the shared vision narrative device, it still works because we know Jack and Violet don’t have much time left with their father. Once revived, Willem simultaneously touches each girl’s forehead, and the accompanying flash of white light sends them all back to their father’s Victorian era study and his watershed moment with Charlotte Van Helsing. The fact that we know his time is fleeting highlights the bittersweet nature of this family revelation which also gives Hansen a chance to recap for his daughters and viewers the events that led him to this point in time. His narration feels a bit rushed given the importance his story holds, but when he recounts the role Nazi Germany’s eugenics experiments played in the run up to Blak Tek, any other missed details seem inconsequential.
When we initially see two bassinets in an otherwise deserted nursery, first thoughts turn to Vanessa and Scarlett, but as Hansen points out, their births merely signify the first stage of this decades long project. Reading about their origins in a file is one thing, but seeing it is quite another, and both girls have a decision to make about their father. “You made us to sacrifice to the vampires, to bring back the Dark One,” Violet says angrily, confronting the uncomfortable truth about their situation. We’ve watched as vampires return to the human state and set out on a redemptive path to make up for actions that clearly were not their fault, but here, when Hansen admits to a second turning point in his life, the highly emotional exchange brings out a side of him long hidden. “You went from weapon I needed to children I loved.”
Hansen’s claim that The Rising caused him to change his plans and bring his children into the fight against the Dark One is difficult to dispute, but as seems to be the case whenever it comes to their father, Violet takes more convincing than Jack. Hansen has been so bad for so long that it’s hard to feel much compassion for him in what proves to be the last moments with his adopted daughters, and when he tells them they can walk away from this situation if they choose, Jack leaves no doubt about whose blood truly runs through their veins. “It’s what we have to do,” she declares as the vision ends and they return to the real world and the challenge of opening the portal, killing the Dark One, and saving Vanessa.
Between the Oracle, Michaela, the Sisterhood, and the Dark One, we’ve experienced a lot of rituals and ceremonies, so moving to the gymnasium and its pentagram painted floor seems not only natural but strangely comforting. After the vision quest with their father, the pages’ contents now make sense, and the sisters prepare to open the portal. Nevertheless, Van Helsing wouldn’t be true to itself if it didn’t put one last challenge in front of the team which recognizes that Bathory must be removed from the equation if they’re to succeed in their mission. It’s a solid plan, but it does seem as if one bride should be able to recognize the shapeshifted version of another.
Throughout this brief exchange we get the feeling that Bathory knows this is Willem taking Nicholson’s form, and when she follows him to the containment module, the plan appears in danger of falling apart. Of course, few plans unfold as expected, and when Bathory returns to her form as the Oracle and squares off with Hansen, Julius is ready to step in. If there are any remaining questions regarding Hansen’s loyalties, those are dispelled in rapid fashion after he becomes trapped in the module with the Oracle. Everyone, including Hansen, understands that they can’t chance an attempted rescue, and though she’s still full of bravado as she remains trapped, the Oracle has only one play at her disposal.
Family, whether by blood or by circumstance, has always been at the forefront of the Van Helsing saga, and even though Hansen’s past actions can’t be discounted, the decision to leave him in the chamber with the Oracle is painful. However, tensions run high, and Bathory still has cards to play with the emotionally raw sisters, and as it turns out, Axel as well. This is not the first test Axel has faced, and perhaps the Oracle has little idea with whom she’s playing, but her attempt at using his residual pain connected to Scarlett’s death not unexpectedly falls flat. It rarely bodes well when a character attempts to stare down a psychopath separated by a mere pane of glass, and when first Axel and then Jack lock eyes with the Oracle, the fear is that her powers may be so strong as to circumvent containment pod. It doesn’t turn out that way, but it is a nice detail that keeps us momentarily on edge.
Even though time is clearly of the essence, Jack and Violet methodically begin the latest ritual despite Axel’s reticence that something seems off about the Oracle. Are the Van Helsings walking into an elaborately planned trap? Regardless, when Jack announces that “I offer my life to all those who lost theirs,” her connection to Vanessa is unmistakable, and her developing relationship with Ivory clearly gains traction. “I hope you’re here when I get back,” she tells the former Sister before taking on the greatest challenge of her life.
Like all sisters, Violet and Jack have their disagreements, but their devotion to each other has never been in question, so the decision to have them recite the words on the pages and enter the now opened portal hand in hand cements the bond not only between themselves but the larger Van Helsing entourage. “All we got now is hope,” Julius tells Ivory. Fortunately, the wait is short, and when the portal spits out the sisters, our first inclination is to expect a triumphant Vanessa to follow. “The Dark One is gone,” Jack tells the group before losing consciousness, and when Violet begins to convulse, it’s apparent that no further explanation is forthcoming. Even here, though, something seems a bit too easy, and while time may elapse at a different rate in the dark realm, the sisters’ explanation will bear watching.
In a sense, the trinity of the missing three pages mirrors the trials Vanessa and her daughters face as well as the inherent power each possesses. “Three Pages” leaves us feeling a bit unsteady heading into the season finale, but there’s no one more resilient than Vanessa. Now we wait to learn the fates of the next-gen Van Helsing sisters.