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In the Van Helsing universe, time never acts the way we’d expect it to. When characters aren’t hurtling backward or forward hundreds of years, they’re settling scores, struggling with unresolved traumas, or reminiscing over better days.
Season 5, Episode 9, “The Doorway” is no different. By some stroke of willpower (and probably luck), Vanessa (Kelly Overton) summons Axel (Jonathan Scarfe) to join her in the Dark Realm to hash things out. Only, in this place, time acts like an endless whirlpool, keeping Vanessa prisoner, and forcing her to relive her most formative — but also painful — experiences.
However, something tells us that it’s not all pain without gain, and that if she can get out of the Dark Realm, Vanessa will be the stronger for it.
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers ahead for Van Helsing Season 5, Episode 9, "The Doorway"**
Having separated from the others, Axel and Violet (Keeya King) have set up camp in the woods to crash for the night. As she’s been suffering from insomnia, Violet volunteers to take night watch yet again, allowing Axel to catch some Z’s.
He’s not asleep for five minutes before he falls into a deep dream — but is it a dream? When he wakes up, he’s smack dab in the middle of a farm, being chased by a shadowy demon. As Axel approaches, he finds Vanessa, laid out behind a bale of hay, her throat slit.
Axel carries Vanessa to the farmhouse not far away, where she can heal, and try to explain what the ƒ*** is going on. Vanessa’s best guess is that when she and The Dark One lept into the portal, The Dark One sent her here, a kind of gulag-for-one constructed from Vanessa’s memories. That shadowy thing out front is the guard, making sure Vanessa doesn’t escape through a door standing in the middle of the front yard — a door out of the Dark Realm.
And the farmhouse is no ordinary farmhouse. As Vanessa says, “This is where Sam killed Susan. And where I should have killed Sam,” instead of opting out of executing him in the woods, where he was eventually turned. The place is about as far from a “home on the range” as you can get.
One memory leads to another, and Vanessa ends up regaling Axel of the litany of trials and tribulations up to this point: having “died” in her apartment from blood loss, and losing her daughter Dylan (Hannah Cheramy); being reunited with a turned Dylan and having to keep her alive on human blood; turning Dylan back, and then ultimately losing her to the sunlight when it didn’t take.
But something about being forced to process all those traumatic experiences makes Vanessa wonder: does she have more control in this mental prison than she was at first led to believe? One minute Vanessa wishes Axel were there with her, and the next — poof — he’s there. If she’s going to get through that door, she’s going to have to come to terms with her own power, her own darkness. A darkness that’s been following her since childhood, having first appeared after a fatal car crash that killed her mother and stepfather. It’s the same darkness, the same shadowy figure loitering in the front yard. Vanessa recalls another memory, the one of her assisting Scarlett’s suicide and watching Axel’s heart being broken. What Axel said to her then — “You can’t fight the darkness. You are the darkness” — takes on an entirely new meaning now.
Suddenly it dawns on Vanessa that, “What if the darkness out there… is me?” Valid point. All this time, Vanessa’s been waging war against an external foe, without ever really reconciling with the one inside herself. Turns out the farmhouse, this mental prison she’s engineered, was her way of forcing herself to do just that.
To test her hypothesis, she and Axel brave into the front yard, where the shadowy demon appears. Vanessa tells it, “There’s no need for disguises anymore. I know what you are.” The wisps of smoke and sackcloth disappear, revealing the darkness to be none other than… Vanessa herself.
Darkness-Vanessa lunges at our heroes, but Vanessa doesn’t fight it. Rather, she accepts it, and by accepting the darkness, absorbs it. Like, literally. With great fortitude, she manages to integrate the darkness into herself, and keep it from overtaking her own light.
Now finally in control of all sides of her personality, Vanessa sends Axel back to his sleeping body in the woods, and she, in turn, walks through the portal and lands in D.C. where she will reunite with her daughters to defeat The Dark One. Only she’s planning on making a more subtle entrance: in the guise of Nina, the slain leader of the vampire brood.