After having spent four seasons in the Van Helsing universe, you'd think we would have come to expect and even be able to anticipate the many twists and turns on this ride.
Then something like Episode 2 of Season 5 comes along, with its almost unprecedented number of identity crises and plot reversals, and we're left feeling like we just played a game of Guess Who while riding Kingda Ka. And it all got kicked off last week with Jack's act of derring-do that did Olivia van Dracula in.
Or did it?
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers ahead for Van Helsing Season 5, Episode 2, "Old Friends."
In the final moments of last week's episode, "Past Tense," Jack (Nicole Muñoz) had risked life, limb, and the linearity of history to assassinate Olivia von Dracula (Tricia Helfer) at the town fair before the latter could be transformed into The Dark One. Say what you will of Jack, but she does not waste any time.
Unfortunately, neither do the citizens of Abel, who hang Jack by the neck until death without due process under the law (obviously the concept is still some years away). In any other show, such fatal acts often signal the abrupt end of a character's arc. Not so in Van Helsing. Here, the two deaths prove only temporary and set in motion a series of events that force all characters to reexamine everything they thought they knew about, well, almost everything.
For the grieving Count Dalibor (Kim Coates) in particular, the scales drop swiftly. Whereas before he had been incredulous to the idea of supernatural doings in Abel, after Olivia's death, he's done a full 180. When Michaela (Heather Doerksen) darkens his chambers, he unleashes his fury: He admits he saw her and her coven concocting potions in their crypt and accuses her of dissimulating her true occultic nature all this time under the guise of a beneficent midwife.
Having no need to continue in the ruse, Michaela adds insult to Dalibor's injury: She tells him Olivia's sterile womb was rehabilitated with the spilled blood of his villagers. The realization that he and his son have been involved, even unwittingly, in Michaela's crimes leaves Dalibor shook.
Meanwhile, Sisterhood vampires sent into the woods by Michaela to exhume and decapitate Jack's corpse are surprised to find that corpse not only fully intact but also on the attack. Jack eliminates one vampire and turns the other, who happens to be Florian's sister Alexandra (Sarah Aratoóvá). Once a fierce critic of Jack and her powers, Florian (Matúš Kvietik), grateful to have his sister back, sees the time traveler in a whole new (and much more flattering) light.
In the woods, Jack is met by an old acquaintance from the future: The Oracle, or Bathory (Jesse Stanley), as she's known in this timeline. Jack learns that Bathory isn't evil — at least not yet; in fact, Bathory's mother was an OG vampire hunter before she was seduced by the darkness and had to be euthanized by Bathory herself. Jack finds all this understandably hard to swallow, and it forces her to ask herself if she can really ally herself with Bathory, knowing what she'll become. However, war makes strange bedfellows, and the two decide to team up to vanquish The Dark One.
Not a minute too soon, either, as Michaela has already kicked off her How to Make Your Very Own Dracula at Home process. Step One: Kill a bunch of peasants and drain their blood. Step Two: Bathe Olivia's corpse in said blood until she comes back to life. Which she does.
Sort of. She may walk and talk like the late great Olivia, but deep down she's nothing but a hollowed-out husk of her former self. Olivia's not stupid either — she knows things are not as they were before. She tries to resume her motherly duties as if everything were hunky-dory, but flashbacks of her own murder spoil the idyll. When Dalibor gets a look at her coddling their child against her soulless bosom, he's twice shook, and sequesters his risen beloved in the dungeon — to spare them both the suffering.
A full moon has risen, and Jack, Bathory, and the vampire hunters have gathered in the woods to summon and destroy Michaela before she can fill Olivia with the spirit of The Dark One. Jack spills some of her own blood on the insignia on her arm (the one Michaela branded her with in the future), and the spell allows Jack to appear in Michaela's mirror and lure her into the woods to do battle.
Michaela accepts Jack's invitation, but rather than going in person, she tricks Jack by sending that Ur-example of misdirection: Her own doppelgänger. Michaela couldn't have pulled this — dare we say — deft trick at a more pivotal moment, for the diversion distracts Jack and the vampire hunters long enough for Michaela to summon and embody The Dark One in the undead Olivia back at the castle. Which happens.
Looking back, the entire episode had all the hallmarks of a side-splitting, comedy-of-errors type farce… if it weren't for the fact that, you know, the most awesome evil known to humankind was being released onto the world.
New episodes of Van Helsing premiere every Friday at 10 p.m. ET on SYFY.