As soon as I watched the trailer on Hulu, I wanted to watch this new urban fantasy show. Starring Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon as Daimon and Ana Helstrom and based on a Marvel comic, the pair unite in the series to hunt the worst of humanity. One of the reasons the trailer intrigued me was the inclusion of dark humor and demons. I was curious if the show would have decent world-building or fall into the trap of stereotypes. But Helstrom manages to avoid black and white characterizations and has detailed world-building with vivid characters. Not only are the main characters engaging but the secondary characters are equally mesmerizing.
In Helstrom, Damien and Ana are the children of a serial killer who had taken Ana when they were children, leaving Damien with their mother, Victoria (Elizabeth Marvel) who ultimately must be institutionalized. Daimon is raised by the head of the psychiatric hospital where Victoria is kept, Louise Hastings (June Carryl). Daimon grows up to be a professor of ethics at a college while Ana eventually gets away from their father and runs an auction house with her partner Chris Yen (Alain Uy) and is watched over by caretaker Henry (Robert Wisdom). Daimon aids the church in exorcisms with the help of a new partner, novitiate Gabriella Rosetti (Arianna Guerra). Ana and Daimon are reunited when they discover their father is back from the dead and they must hunt down the worst of humanity along with attempting to save their mother from madness.
Some of the details of the story are taken from the comics but are spun into a new version. And while some of the details won’t be surprising if you pay attention to details, with enough hints from the plot, there is plenty of actions, twists, and suspense to keep viewers engaged. Both Daimon and Ana have a rich background and detailed backstory that help both characters be interesting and enjoyable. I especially love the growth in both characters and their sarcastic, dark wit. Both are very honest about who they are and their intentions toward each other and their mother. But it is through their unwilling interactions with each other that helps each change and help them fight the evil they encounter. Not only that, neither are depicted as perfect or heroes but simply trying to do the best they can in the circumstances they are given.
Beyond the main characters, the secondary characters are equally fascinating. I truly loved the character of Chris Yen. Despite his lack of desire to be pulled into the supernatural aspects of Ana’s world, his strength and love for Ana are part of what enables him to be such a strong character, to help her and Daimon. Louise Hastings plays the part of the wise teacher but she also has her flaws and weaknesses which make the character deeply engaging and sympathetic. The Caretaker is enjoyable and well portrayed. His willingness to see beyond the origins of Damien and Ana is what I like best about the character with his refusal to see either as irredeemable. Victoria, their mother, is strong even in what seems like weakness and the portrayal by the actress is brilliant.
The world-building is fantastic. Not just the rich characters but also the design of the various supernatural elements and the origins of the Helstrom father. The various demons are well thought out and the references are not the standard fare that viewers normally see in paranormal shows. The plot does not build the Catholic church as the ultimate authority of good and does not bill either Daimon or his sister as evil. In fact, their fight with evil is what makes them such complex characters, neither perfectly good nor evil. The blend of paranormal elements with the questioning of morality, of what makes good and evil, is what makes this show so unique. Even the demons have explanations for their actions, although it is ultimately their actions that illustrate the evil in them, as they are willing to harm others for the sake of their goals.
If you like wicked paranormal with brilliant, dark humor and demons, this is the show for you. It is complex with rich characters, both the protagonists and secondary characters as well as the bad guys. Nobody is portrayed as black and white and everyone does questionable things in the pursuit of their agenda but the good guys keep trying to help. I love everyone in the story and can’t wait for a second season, which I fervently hope is on the horizon.
Rating: 5 out of 5 possessions