The name Van Helsing has always been an integral part of the Dracula mythology, but the vampire hunter is no stranger to reinvention either. Although most adaptations portray Abraham Van Helsing an older gentleman waging a lifelong battle against the forces of evil, the character was seen in the 2004 blockbuster of the same name operating under the younger and much more handsome guise of Hugh Jackman’s Vatican-sponsored Gabriel.
Syfy has also put their own spin on the source material, with Van Helsing proving to be one of the network’s most consistently popular shows since it first debuted in the summer of 2016. Kelly Overton plays title heroine Vanessa, a descendant of Abraham who possesses the ability to turn vampires back into humans.
The hit fantasy series is set in a post-apocalyptic future, where Vanessa awakens after three years in a coma to discover that our planet has irrevocably changed. An eruption at Yellowstone had covered the entire world in a thick cloud of ash, presenting the optimal conditions for vampires to ascend to the top of the food chain and overrun the human population.
The bloodsuckers swiftly find out that she has a power capable of turning the tide in the battle between the two sides, and set out to stop her. As far as unique hooks go to capture an audience partial to a bit of action-orientated genre fare, Van Helsing has a doozy of a pitch, and manages to strike the balance between embracing the outlandish aspects of the mythos but never treating it as a joke, and it helps that Overton quickly settled into her role and has provided a solid foundation for the show ever since.
Creator Neil LaBute’s work in film, television and theater has always been regarded as dialogue-heavy, but something like Van Helsing isn’t exactly designed to be based around lengthy monologues and exposition. The series got straight to the point and set out a stall as an entertaining fresh look at tropes and archetypes audiences have seen innumerable times already, and over the four seasons so far it has proven to be a far superior show than it had any right to be.
The pilot episode drew in over a million viewers on Syfy but those numbers quickly started to tumble, and ratings had dropped by over 50% by the thirteenth and final episodes of Season 1. However, Van Helsing has maintained solid numbers ever since, with the difference in viewing figures between the Season 2 premiere and the Season 4 finale only 120,000, showing that the core fanbase has remained firmly on board throughout the show’s entire run.
It also helps that Netflix picked it up for international distribution, allowing Van Helsing to find a much wider audience around the world as part of the streaming service’s content library. In December 2019, it was officially confirmed that a fifth season has been picked up by Syfy, but fans should start bracing themselves because it came with the caveat that it would also be the last. The end is nigh, but the sense of finality should at least spur the creative team to tie up all of the loose ends and make sure the cult favorite ends on a satisfying note.