NB: Please note that the legend stated in my previous review will henceforth apply to all reviews >8D.
Okies…we can all agree that Jonathan Young is downright BRILLIANT 8D. He entered the cast of Sanctuary mid-season One with pomp, flair and an attitude to match, which has added such a deliciously sophisticated spice via his character of Nikola Tesla, antagonising in a most irritatingly satisfying way! In a manner of speaking, Jonathan Young, as Nikola Tesla, sort of punctuates the dynamic of the Five, nothing is EVER dull when he’s lurking, as he stirs up the relationships between its’ members. And really, let’s face it, besides his obvious genius he’s quite simply a hormonal teenager with an outstanding talent for egocentric preening 8D. In spite of, or maybe BECAUSE of, his irritating ego, we Sanctuary-obsessors have fallen hopelessly in love with Tesla’s sophisticated quirkiness, his blunt quips and dry wit. His self aggrandizement is almost as endearing as it is annoying. Maybe that’s the reason why Helen Magnus still puts up with him after all these decades!
Episode 10 of Sanctuary Season 2 provides a WONDERFUL analogy for Tesla’s striking characteristics, and the personal drive that impassions him in his work. ‘Sleepers’ showcases a vivid, even COOL, illustration of what Nikola Tesla is all about, every nuance of his, every propensity that drives this brilliant abnormal. Besides its’ overwhelming coolness as an episode, it is a turning-point for the character in his relationship with the abnormal world.
We were first introduced to this member of The Five in Episode 7 of Season 1, where we also discovered the secret of his work, a devious, nostalgic one, carried out in complete covertness. Having gone into hiding sometime during the 1940’s (which Magnus covered up with a well placed memorial service), he was given ample opportunity to work on his resurrection project. The fact that Magnus did not question the nature of the work that he was carrying out speaks volumes for her faith in him, if not her trust (I don’t think anyone would go THAT far 8D). Helen Magnus knew that whilst he was in hiding, he was carrying on a project dear to his heart, but did not question its nature, and lost touch with him for over 50 years.
In the episode ‘The Five’, in Season One, we learned of the unique enhancement, for lack of a better word, of Tesla’s natural abilities and genetic makeup. The rare and precious Sanguine Vampiris blood, as sourced by the resourceful Helen Magnus, brought out extraordinary and unexpected dormant genetic traits in the arrogant genius, whilst bringing out various other phenomenal traits in Magnus, Druitt, Watson and Griffin.
Since this discovery, Nikola’s primary desire has been to discover more about the origins of his abnormality, the secret truth of his ancestors, and resurrect what was once the most powerful race in human history. Over time, Tesla’s passion for this mission has escalated into a growing obsession. In ‘The Five’ the lengths to which he was prepared to go were revealed to us, a violent confrontation with each of his oldest friends really didn’t help with their trust factor 8D.
He proclaimed his love for Helen, following up this declaration with a violent exposing of his secret project, and the threatening of her life. I wonder if despite his manic obsession, he really would have allowed his pawns to harm Dr. Magnus? In Druitt’s case, the threat was sort of understandable, considering the continuing tension between them. Tesla’s behaviour is more like that of a hormonal teenage boy, as observed by Helen in Revelations; “Really, I’m surrounded by adolescents!” 8D.
Despite his apparent hankering after Helen’s affections, which he knows can never be returned because of the impassioned John Druitt, Tesla’s life ambition and obsession is the resurrection of the race of his ancestors, the “greatest abnormals ever to walk the Earth”. Whilst in hiding, due to Helen Magnus’ blessing, he worked diligently and devotedly to reawakening, or even introducing, the Vampire gene into human DNA. We saw his first prototypes in ‘The Five’, with his creation of the vicious, if “dumb as tree stumps” vampires before Helen’s very eyes. He demanded her help (after confronting Druitt) to help him in completing his project, but of course the insightful Dr. Magnus refused. Since it was the first time Helen had met him since his disappearance, the intensity of his obsession evidently shocked her.
In this episode of Season Two, “Sleepers” we’re privy to the further story of Nikola Tesla’s efforts in his egomaniacal, albeit genius, scheme. We realise that his first prototypes weren’t quite sufficient in his grand plan, and in view of his obsessive determination, we sort of take for granted that he wasn’t going to let the setback stop his efforts. We haven’t seen Nikola since the traumatic events in ‘End of Nights; Part 2’, so this episode is a bit of an eye opener as to his activities since his brilliant and, FOR ONCE, helpful efforts at the beginning of Season 2 8D. The discovery of his progress is somewhat of an accident for Magnus and her team.
Despite the global ramifications hanging in the balance, ‘Sleepers’ just seems too much of a fun ride to be taken too seriously in the greater story arc of Season Two. The overwhelming grooviness of the episode, the overhanging irony, the downright hilarity and the dry wit bouncing to and fro like a pinball machine all make us view the entire show as a delightful comic relief in what is otherwise a weighty and darker second season. It’s not really until the very end of this entertaining tale that we are more or less brought back to Earth with a sober thud, as we see a rare moment of brief grief and panic in the brilliant Vampire, as he seeks solace in the rock-solid presence of one of his oldest friends and colleagues, and also in her wine cellar.
The panic in his eyes as he realises all that he has worked for is virtually null with his ‘de-vamping’ (*COUGH* O.o) and the sudden and unexpected discovery of a latent skill…it is a rare, and very touching moment for both the character, and the actor (please see the credits for further enlightenment)…and slightly rocks the ending of the show with a tragic but hopeful touch. It leaves the viewers with a a gently pulsating glow of fresh beginnings and new, exciting things to come.
It could be supposed that over the heavy story arc weaving throughout this season, ‘Sleepers’ could be seen as a stand-alone episode, although it definitely has it’s place, albeit a small one, in the arc for the brilliant character development and insight into Nikola Tesla, and all with whom he associates with.
On a personal note, I find it a little hard to admit when an episode is strictly ‘stand-alone’, it may well be stand-alone within the greater plot arc, but it almost always contains absolutely priceless background and insight into certain characters. In the long term, it simply makes the greater arc fuller and weightier because we understand and appreciate on many more levels. Here’s an analogy: If you ever studied biology at school, it’s like studying the basic structure of a plant, it’s functions and growth, but to fully understand it we must look through a microscope to perceive the structure and functions of its’ very cells. So, it’s not so much diverting or pausing the story to take a breather, as diving even deeper into it, and usually on a much more personal level.
As we move through this fantastic episode, it’s a great chance to gain insight and understanding into the technical aspects of Nikola Tesla’s work. Of course initially we don’t realise that he is directly responsible, but we nevertheless discover key points, beginning in the very first scene. The perplexing factor is not so much the death of Trust-Fund-baby-come-recovering-drug-addict Chad Spencer, but the disappearance of his body, without any trace whatsoever. The subsequent footage showing the dead man strangling his own friend (also a Trust Fund sapling), is nothing short of baffling, but isn’t that what scifi is about… explaining the impossible? 8D.
After the LOVELY little homage to San Diego Comic Con 8D the shrewd Magnus and her team trace the young rehab patients back to their clinic, a prestigious health spa, aptly named ‘La Casa de la Nueva Vida’ (The House of New Life) on some sunny, cheap tourist beach in Mexico. Magnus and Will make their way to the elusive clinic and all mystery is blown wide open as they discover that the devious ‘Dr. Baumschlager’ is none other than the brilliant, the arrogant, the infuriatingly irritating Nikola Tesla.
As Magnus and Will arrive in the cheaply exotic area of Mexico, Helen herself already has a sense of foreboding as to the truth of the mysterious demises. It’s all uncovered as she comes face to face with the elusive ‘Dr Baumschlager’, none other than her arrogant genius friend. Upon meeting the annoying Doctor, Will closes his eyes in frustration and leaves Helen to dig deeper, and chastise the little precocious boy that is Nikola Tesla.
The vampire himself has no reason to be disappointed, it seems he wasn’t hiding from the shrewd and insightful eyes of Helen Magnus, (they’ve known each other too long for that), more that he might develop his grand research in the peace and quiet of a hermit, aw heck and why not some sun and girls to go with it? 8D. The true collateral damage of his dear project is all too soon dawned on him, as Helen figuratively slaps him upside of the head and demands to know the extent of his work. Much in the attitude of a mother reprimanding and interrogating an errant adolescent after a wild night out on the town “Come on, out with it, I want to hear you say the words!”
As Tesla confesses the true nature of his research, pretty much the whole situation is self-explanatory, and Tesla follows the Sanctuary colleagues back to Old City to both assist in undoing the mess, and no doubt also to revel in the success of his own handiwork >8D.
Meeting the Trust Fund ‘babies’ for the first time is just plainly awesome for the audience. Arguably, the round, liquid black pupils are the coolest visual effect in scifi to date 8D, it sort of makes one want to go down to the closest goth/Specsavers shop and buy the largest, blackest contact lenses you can find >8D.
The relationship between Nikola Tesla and Helen Magnus is delicious to watch in its’ pendulum fluctuations. It swings from being one of colleagues, working towards a common goal, to that of a chastising mother and teenage son, between that of a lustful adolescent and the self-respecting scientist. Most of these flips are driven by Tesla, himself being the egocentric, witty genius that he is. He has no cause to feel guilty, the repercussions of his actions rarely concern him in their far-reaching consequences, unless, as we saw in ‘End of Nights’, the very fate of human-abnormal relations hangs in the balance. Even then, it could be argued that his motives were purely of self-interest, out of his age-long vendetta with the Cabal, and their responsibility for not only driving him into decades hiding, but for the very downfall of ‘his ancestors’, ‘the greatest abnormals ever to walk this Earth’.
This humorous callousness allows him to play his friends as a game of Texas Hold ‘Em. He enjoys manipulating, enjoys being in control as much as Helen Magnus does, although for completely different reasons. He sort of tries to take on the role of puppet-master, although given the nature of his work it rarely works out in his favour for any lengthy period of time. Like a child trying to control the ball game, he pulls strings, gets the participants in his little game all riled up and spitting in frustration at him (it’s all very amusing you see 8D), but inevitably, either the ball gets too big, or the ‘adults’ take over. In ‘Revelations Pt 2’ and ‘End of Nights’ we saw him at his scientific best, a true member of the team, despite his grumbling and self-martyrdom, as he struggled and sought to find a solution to help Helen Magnus and her team. Compared to what we had previously experienced of the Great Tesla, it was a beautiful breath of air, and a rare insight into another side to the ego-centric and witty brilliance in the character that we have come to love.
Seeing his toned-down, more sober side, it drew us, as an audience, even closer to understanding and bonding with this melodramatic character. As with any personage, be it on T.V, film, movies, stage, or written, one of the key elements to holding the audience captive and allowing us to develop a rapport with the character, is to keep us on our toes, swaying us this way and that, letting the unexpected happen…allowing us to see the many facets of the person that makes them so relatable, or at least magnetic. We don’t have to like a character to find them interesting either. In Tesla’s case, it’s simply side-splittingly funny, to watch his foiled attempts at global domination, his brilliant wit, and his fallible genius and as we delve deeper into the plot of ‘Sleepers’. To be perfectly frank, it’s really such a delicious exercise in basking in the dry wit and foiled brilliance of our favourite Vampire (HANDS DOWN!). There is a also a touch of poignancy in the episode, adding a slightly darker lining to what is otherwise a fun ride, and this poignancy gives the episode the perfect amount of weight to make it a memorable and touching anecdote in this second season.
Nikola Tesla’s guinea pigs (for lack of a better analogy) are nothing more than pawns in his Grand Plan. Unfortunately for the doctor, he completely underestimated his pawns’ self-awareness, resolve and intelligence. It is utterly devastating for him, as it turns out their aspirations for the resurrection of Sanguine Vampiris are almost more determined and motivated as his own. It’s simply downright FANTASTIC to watch the ongoing exchanges between Nikola and the young Trust Fund brats, almost like watching a person arguing with a 134-year-younger version of himself! One can fully picture the young, wealthy, dependent and brilliant Nikola Tesla, fresh out of college, walking through the world as its’ Master, usurping dominance and revelling in a ‘peering down the nose’ view of ‘commoners’. These kinds of people are always convinced that they are superior, confident in their own precocity and intelligence; they exercise this sense of dominance over every project they undertake. Age and experience are irrelevant! Fortunately, in Nikola’s case, these annoying traits are paired with an adorably dry sense of humour 8D.
It’s comical watching Tesla move through the plot of this episode, becoming more and more entangled in his own web, himself becoming frustrated with these precocious, wealthy kids, finally experiencing a taste of his own medicine, a sample of the angst and resentment he causes his own colleagues 8D. Not sure if he actually realises it, but he suffers from it nevertheless.
There is definitely some cold, calculating callousness that is going hand in hand with the young ‘prototype’ Vampires’ desire for power, it may either be a side effect of the Vampiric trait, or it could well have been that cold selfishness that often emanates from those who have had everything in life. Such people are often perceived to have a cold, brittle shell about them, impervious to human sympathy or emotion, which we see not only in the relatively coldly regarded death of Steve, but also in the mere fact that Chad Spencer simply paces coolly through the episode, shooting his friends frigidly, and gloating with them over their instant successes. The cool pacedness of their actions almost make it seem as if they have no goal in sight, they’re simply along for the ride, although we later discover otherwise when Nikola Tesla comes face to face with his ‘protégées’.
Besides the obvious exposing of Tesla and his work in the episode ‘Sleepers’, by association, though also in their own right, we very much see a further development and understanding of those around him; particularly, in Magnus, the rest of the Sanctuary team, and in their relationships with the exasperating Nikola. Aside from the interesting and amusing ebb and flow of Helen and Nikola’s relationship, the energy and communication between her protégées and the Vampire are quite something when take a moment to think about it.
Let’s take a look at Will for instance. In the very first scene, back on the exotic Mexican coast in his and Helen’s discovery of the irritatingly predictable Nikola, Will almost hangs back in some tentativeness. It’s almost like a child looking on while the ‘adults’ are talking, definitely something Nikola would gloat over, and yet Dr. Zimmermans’ own special abilities and specialist knowledge and experience press him to take some firm authoritative ground where it suits. After listening for some time to the chastising going on between the two age-old friends, it’s almost as if Will can’t NOT say something when it calls to him, and he bursts into the conversation to input his own train of thought with the line “We’re talking about vampire blood here, it’s not cold medication”.
For all Tesla’s superiority complex (PARTICULARLY over Helen Magnus’ protégée, whom he dubbed with some scoffing amusement in ‘Revelations’), he himself is very much the immature young brat in this circle of professionals, though he definitely has much weight of years and experience behind him. Will, in terms of age, may very well be a baby by comparison, but he definitely makes up for it in emotional maturity…something which Nikola seems to lack entirely 8D. Both of them are brilliant and reading into the human mind, though very much from a different approach. Nikola tends to use his years of experience and blunt irony to get straight to the pin-prick of a person’s motives, while Will uses his psycho-analytical skills and EXTRAORDINARY instinct to decipher and unravel the mysteries of either human or abnormal phenomena.
Although Will often hangs back as an underling in awe of the presence of The Five, which we especially saw in ‘Revelations’ upon meeting Druitt and James Watson, he very much holds his own ground and even impresses the older and more experience with his observation and incredible instinct. His own predecessor, James Watson, was particularly impressed with his budding qualities, and I wonder if we will see Dr. Zimmerman step in to play Watson’s role in The Five’s adventures. Let’s not jump to conclusions, because as we all know, in Scifi, NOBODY DIES }>8D.
We even see an interesting relationship between Kate Freelander and Nikola Tesla budding to develop in the episode ‘Sleepers’. Though they only meet briefly in this particular show, their separate actions, leading up to the confrontation, give some precursor to the potential growth of the relationship. Let’s ideate on Kate for a minute here. After her intense initiation in ‘Penance’ we are seeing more and more of Kate fitting and settling into her work at the Sanctuary with a comfortable and confident ease. Her pride in her work and her devotion to Magnus gives her a hugely respectable place in the team, and on occasion when she is required, she falls into place by Magnus side as a respectful colleague, and sometimes, as a student. We see her strengthened, and often FIERCE determination to defend hers and Magnus’ honour, such as in her interrogation of Laura.
Hers and Magnus’ relationship is definitely relaxing into it’s own rhythms, as we see in their ninja-like approach to the Trust Fund penthouse, and even the brief “Are you kidding? I invented it!” exchange between them speaks volumes for their comfortable association.
Kate’s responding smile is open and almost gratified in her expectation of the wise and accomplished woman inventing some of the coolest of moves. I’m just going to jump in here and say WELL AS IF WE’RE SURPRISED….Helen Magnus is, and always will be, the ultimate in kick-butt heroines, who look good in leather and are more intelligent and insightful than anyone WE’VE ever imagined 8D. BUT…I digress, and as we finally see the younger and emotionally immature Kate come face to face with the older and equally emotionally immature Nikola, the sparking chemistry between them is delicious….and totally giggle-worthy 8D. Nikola Tesla’s throw-away comment “Young people nowadays” and Kate’s indignant reaction is nothing but a prologue for what could potentially be a SPICY association 8D.
Oh and also, this particular scene is just deliciously funny in every way, but especially in the biting relations between the coolly feminine Helen and her hormonal and shameless friend. I think most of us burst out at LEAST a snort of laughter, if not a tirade of giggles at the spicy exchange between them in the scene.
“You know, I’ve often wondered what this moment would be like, me…you tied up…it’s a shame you brought the children”
In a way, it mirrored their conversation at the beginning of the episode, although probably with some more adult overtones 8D. Like Helen said, she’s surrounded by adolescents 8D. The most Sanctuary-crazed of us, I can say without a doubt, probably include it in our list of favourite Sanctuary quotes, if not, favourite quotes of all time! We simply MUST bask in the genius wit of the writing of Jonathan Young’s lines, and even more in his tight-lipped delivery of them. I don’t think anybody could pull off such a brilliantly ironic manner of speech as deliciously as J-Yo can! But where would his snaps of wit be without Magnus to coolly rein him in and figuratively slap him upside of the head with a loving but firm hand?
Given the very nature of the overall plot arc, and the protagonists we love so much, it’s a direct contrast to what we’ve experienced so far. Our heaviest driving personalities (by the way, I’m mainly referring to the members of The Five here) give us the weight of their tens of decades of life experience, their scope and vision of the world is so much larger and all-encompassing.
They understand much of the very core of human nature, and not only human, but those creatures living on the fringe of what we perceive of the ‘normal’ world.
They’ve witnessed the passing of many loved ones, the knowledge these mountainous characters have gained over a century and a half is invaluable, and was not attained without a tragic cost. Not only the members of The Five, but the younger members of The Sanctuary network are all acutely aware of the global importance and the far-reaching consequences of their work…entire civilisations are hinged on their savvy and their finesse.
Within the Sanctuary Network, it’s not only the intellectual understanding that is valued, but also the life experience, as in the case of Kate and Will, the instinctual understanding of human nature, its’ seediness, its’ virtues, as well as the ability to think on one’s feet.
Holding the spoiled Vampire terrors up against the constant underlying force of the Five is like comparing Lady Gaga to Fauré’s Requiem. The young, wealthy, spoon-fed drop-outs all have no scope of the implications of what they hope to achieve. Considering their breeding, they’ve not had any life-experience, no wakeup call to violently shake them into the reality of the world they live in. These young brats simply get caught up in the fresh high they’re enjoying; they’re very much in it for the joyride. First designer drugs, then vampirism…it’s all the same, it’s a wicked high, a careless joyride, though this new phase definitely seems to have some attractive long-term rewards! They arrogantly exploit the decades of questionable work put forth by Tesla, and as Nikola so delicately (and memorably!) accused of his test subjects “You’ve turned a symphony into Rock and Roll…..FRENCH-CANADIAN Rock and Roll!” 8D.
As far as the young vampires themselves go, their group dynamic is pretty typical of any middle-classed, adrenaline junkie, young adults, comfortable in their own popularity, prepared to risk the lives of those ‘beneath them’ in order to promote themselves.
Take Chad for example, the first ‘accident’. Good-looking, way too cool for his own good, the girls trail after him, his friends are equally as arrogant yet they acknowledge him as their crowning glory. He is the pusher, the ring-leader, in a sense the ‘alpha-male’ 8D. Darrin, his closest sidekick, is almost as a young Tesla would have been. A cold genius, detached, dangerous in these very qualities, and Nikola cannot believe his ears at the news of his dropping out of pre-Med ‘because the parties were lame’.
Despite Chad’s cool demeanour and determination, it is perhaps Darrin who, in his quiet, brilliant genius, would have been the most dangerous element in their little global domination project! No doubt Tesla would be more than a little disgruntled by his obvious intellect anyway >8D.
The girls of the clique are pretty much just the faithful followers, Laura perhaps a little higher in the echelons because of her relationship with Chad, but the reality of their endeavour hits a little hard when she accidently sucks Steve to death XD. Steve is the red-shirt…the guy who wants to be in the clique, whom they lead by the nose and dupe with their attractive promises, whose destiny is to merely become their pawn, but ultimately becomes the unfortunate mishap.
This tenth episode of Season Two of Sanctuary is especially interesting in terms of filming locations. Almost the entire show is external, on location, and very VERY little of it is filmed within the Sanctuary set. From the initial woodlands setting (which was filmed just around the corner from the studio), we briefly visit Magnus’ office within the Sanctuary, also Will’s office is briefly touched upon, before we are whisked away into town to watch the antics of our precocious Vampires, an exotically cheap location on the coast of Mexico, and the contemporary penthouse, Trust Fund HQ.
It gives this particular episode a peculiar edge, a fresh view on the world in what has otherwise been a tensely emotional season. It also serves to give ‘Sleepers’ an overhanging ‘hip’ feel, much of it is set downtown, we see designer shopping strips, a luxurious penthouse suite splashed with monochromatic modern decor. It’s a very ‘young episode’ in terms of style, the characters driving the plot are young adults, carried away with their own precociousness, and their haunts are edgy, exciting, extremely fashionable and hip from beginning to end.
As a whole, this AWESOME tenth episode of our favourite show (come on…admit it…ADMIT IT 8D) has been an incredibly exciting and fun Ferris-wheel ride. At first glance, it seemed to be nothing more than an excuse for a cool and hip episode, with wow-factor, but on a second take I don’t think we can deny that ‘Sleepers’ has not only be a giggle and snort from beginning to end, but also has been very a very thought-provoking show, not only for we the viewers, but for many of the characters, especially Nikola Tesla, and also to a certain extent, Dr. Helen Magnus.
Their final interaction is merely a short scene, but the quiet exchange between them says volumes for the sober strength of their relationship, which stand despite all of Nikola’s infuriatingly hilarious propensities. It’s almost as if, despite the tens of decades of irritatingly arrogant selfish projects, Tesla values the friendship of his closest colleagues just as much, or at least acknowledges his dependence on them, and seeks solace in their comfortable familiarity.
Thanks for reading, and DO feel free to post feedback, as well as your own perceptions of the episode!