There’s perhaps understandably a lot going on for this season ender of Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut. We could already guess we were headed for some sort of dramatic climax, with Lev’s pivotal speech and Irina’s staging of a daring escape emerging as twin sources of escalation for one more episode of this show. It was mostly a question of how the story was going to bring those two together, and how its more grounded, procedural style thus far might lend itself to those necessary final flourishes. As has been so strongly espoused throughout the flight training of the Vampire Cosmonaut, the landing is the trickiest, most important part to get right. With that in mind, how did this series stick the last step here? In the spirit of the people’s commonwealth, I can say it’s mostly…fair.
My main source of contention with the mechanics of this ending, as I suspect will be for a lot of people, is how counter it seems to the established structure and tone of the show. Going for a ‘Big Finish’ at this stage shouldn’t necessarily be a mistake for a story, but Vampire Cosmonaut had always previously excelled by ending its other arcs on simpler, quieter beats. Irina’s successful space launch was punctuated by the pair simply huddling underneath a parachute, an evocative image the show pointedly kept flashing back to afterwards. So for the story of Lev’s flight to climax with a humanity-revolutionizing improvised speech by him and an improbable mad dash to the podium by Irina comes off like the series misunderstanding its own strengths, or possibly even forcing itself into that kind of presentation because it feels obligated to at the final stage.
And the issue powering that choice in tonal shift seems to be borne out of the swerves in prioritized details the show suddenly makes in this last episode. The major one is that old bit about vampire racism. Remember how the series clunkily tried to engage with that idea early on, only to seemingly realize it was kind of a weak thread and quietly sidelined it for the rest of the run? Well, Lev remembers, and he’s going to try to bring it back as some kind of thematic through-line for the whole story in the big speech he just makes up. To be sure, Irina’s status as a dehumanized experimental subject still very much feels like a component of what Lev, and the writing, is trying to articulate here. But it ends up needlessly buried under the reminders of the (apparently worldwide!) oppression of the vampire race and the crowd’s immediate animosity as a reaction to the subject.
Trying to ‘solve’ the vampire racism as an overall arc can only come about as a result of those kinds of odd, previously-unfocused details suddenly injected back in at the eleventh hour here. Lev’s parents turn up basically out of nowhere, in some head-scratching interactions that mostly exist so the boy has a source for some sage advice about not being beholden to the propoganized whims of the Soviet government. It’s seemingly this last push that spurs Lev’s decision to come clean in a broadcast with the entire world about Irina’s role in the space program, and then things get smoothed over with the even brisker revelation that Comrade Chief and Halrova were apparently Pro-Irina all along. These nuances of the characters and their agendas hadn’t really been made clear up until now, as the story simply focused on Chief’s basic decency and Halrova’s enigmatic goals. Making it out to always have been about ushering in some kind of progressive revolution for Zirnitra feels like a desperate effort to increase the feel-good scope that’s otherwise simply about getting Lev and Irina back together.
It means everything getting to that point climaxes in an odd, somewhat unbelievable situation, wherein Anya and Irina fight their way through several guards while Lev tells the truth in his speech then welcomes Irina onto the stage with minimal resistance. I understand the humanistic optimism being embraced by Vampire Cosmonaut in its final lap; I certainly would like to believe that national and racial differences could be bridged as easily as they have here. But to not really touch this kind of plot since the first few weeks of the show, only to return to it with the resolution being that the crowd is racist against Irina until she talks for a minute and they decide they like her now, complete with a slow clap(!) – well, it comes off awkward and unearned. Vampire Cosmonaut had no problem taking the slow-burn method in working up to its rocket launches, so speedrunning societal change this way with the details confirmed at the last minute feels almost like watching an ending to an alternate-universe version of the show.
So the beats of the story it’s telling are clumsy and awkward, but at least the way it puts them together mostly works in spite of itself. The contrast between the bombast of Lev’s ceremony and Irina’s necessarily understated escape helps the oncoming converging crash of those two components feel compelling. Plus there’s just an enjoyable irony about Irina needing to escape under cover of sunlight rather than darkness in these circumstances. There’s great use of music there, and when the time comes for Lev to make his fateful presentational decision, the held silence in that moment lands, selling the tension of what would certainly make for a bizarre real-world occurrence. It’s just bits like that which remind us of the storytelling strengths Vampire Cosmonaut has always had, before it detours into immediately-accepted public platitudes and propagandists who planned for the best all along. I even kind of appreciate Lev’s speech for the part where he adorably lists off all the things he loves about Irina. Oh, and Anya’s still the MVP of this show, wearing her earnest space-cadet shipper heart on her sleeve as she fights to get Irina back with Lev and pulls a flying headbutt on a guard to do so. A true patriot.
But the most appreciative thing I can say about the actual content of this finale is that I can see how it sets up for some interesting directions the story could go moving forward. This kind of fundamental societal shift I think actually makes the best case so far for Vampire Cosmonaut‘s alternate-universe history angle. Showing where the progression to later, modern times could head makes for some bold ambition, exemplified as we flash past cameos of what I presume are later light-novel characters to Lev’s prophetic vision of vampires and humans, living on space stations together. That’s the kind of platitude I think this show could have worked on even without the big slow-clap-punctuated speech: Being together and moving forward, bit by bit, is how the focus on Lev and Irina up until now had worked so well. It makes me wish the show had actually stayed true to the point of their efforts espoused at the very end, and properly, comfortably depicted “a small step towards the future”, instead of the unnecessarily overt upset it seemingly felt obligated to go out on.
Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut is currently streaming on
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.