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If you thought the Reginald the Vampire flashback episode featuring the vampire origin story of Maurice (Mandela Van Peebles) was an unexpected departure episode for the new series, showrunner Harley Peyton clearly said, "Hold my blood" with this week's "The Odyssey."
When last we saw Reg (Jacob Batalon), he was escaping his bad choices on a bus to Spokane. "The Odyssey" picks up with Reg looking for definitive answers about whether he can ever become human again. Inside a creepy hotel, the show gets a little existential (and B&W) as Reg meets mysterious Jenkins (Bernard Cuffling) and tours around the strange property. We also get Maurice to the rescue, and the pair get to meet an ancient elder, Abraham (Danny Wattley), who lays down some charismatic truths for both of them.
Not exactly an expected episode for a freshman season series, but creator/showrunner Harley Peyton says he's thrilled that SYFY were immediately onboard to do something different. "When I pitched them 8, I gotta tell you, I had no idea what they would say," he tells SYFY WIRE. "The episode is in a haunted hotel. But they actually really, really loved it. And that's been one of the wonderful things about working with SYFY is that they're pretty fearless when it comes to this stuff. But I had no way of knowing that until this script."
Peyton notes that he wanted the hotel to be a maze that Reggie had to move through, and eventually out of, to get him ready for the finale episodes. "Inside, there are all kinds of supernatural obstacles and weird elevators — which was our Doctor Who tribute — but the most important stuff is what you don't really think about at first, and that's the personal stuff. So it's about Sarah [Em Haines] and it's about Todd [Aren Buchholz]. There's that wonderful moment where he's going up an elevator and it opens and suddenly he's in the Slushie Shack. This place violates the space-time continuum and allows him to have those moments, including one with himself. And then we're actually back when he said that prayer to figure out what he had done and why he had done it. Again, another great episode for Jacob, obviously, he's in almost every scene."
Swooping in to get Reg back in the game is Maurice, which gives the pair a lot of quality time to muse on their eternal existences and their own growing friendship. "I gotta say to start off, I didn't have that friendship with Jacob. You instantly feel like he's a friend you've known your whole life," Van Peebles says. "His ability to just be so welcoming and funny, charismatic; it makes everything go smooth. We cultivated a friendship off camera because we're both not from Victoria, so we didn't know anyone there. We're spending all day, pretty much every day, together. And we both are vegan! I think that allowed us to free ourselves up for the fun of it, and really put ourselves in those scenarios and just react naturally, as two friends, going through some crazy scenarios."
The reveal of Abraham culminates in a meeting of the trio that Peyton admits has "a lot of The Wizard of Oz" in it. And there's also a surprising vampire origin story tale that comes right from the Johnny Truant source books. "Johnny wrote that and what's important about it is that it leads us into angels and Season 2," Peyton says with his fingers crossed in hopes for a series pick-up. "That origin story, with angels coming to Earth to destroy all vampires, is all part of a ramp into the next season. I wanted to get the origin story out there. And I wanted it to be from Danny Wiley, who played Abraham."
Van Peebles says of that moment, where Abraham also gives Maurice some peace about his family, was surprising and appreciated. "Even though Maurice is the mentor, and he's been around for such a long time, he's learning stuff. He thought Abraham was a myth," the actor muses. "But he's a vampire so powerful that he can communicate the only thing that really matters to Maurice, which is family, I think that moment was a nice place to play some realism and ground it in actual feelings. Even when I was filming that, which was towards the end of six months being away from my family, I could just think it would be great to get that comfort that they're doing all right."
The episode ends on a light note, with Reginald calling Maurice his dad before they head back home. Van Peebles remembers shooting it at four in the morning with Batalon. "It was cold and we're just laughing because it's keeping us warm. Delirious because it's so early in the morning. And it's funny that it's pointed out in a joke, but subtextually, that is kind of what a sire is. I brought him into the vampire world and I'm responsible for him. Getting him on the right track and getting him ready for The Assessment. Now that we're leaving this crazy hotel, it's time to get focus back on track."
Reginald the Vampire stakes out new episodes on SYFY every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.