Last night NBC broadcast the finale of Dracula.
It was not the definitive conclusion I had expected from the start, when the series was commissioned as a 10-part mini-series.
If that’s where Dracula ends, I’m content. There are a number of balls still in the air, pieces are still in play on the chessboard, whatever metaphor you want to use, but for the first time since the series began we’re in a recognizable position for a Dracula story — Dracula has enemies in Van Helsing and (five seconds after) Harker who know his secret, Lucy is a vampire, and Dracula’s interests have taken major blows and he’s essentially on his own in a foreign land. Some of the series’ outstanding unique issues — the Order of the Dragon, Grayson Industries, Mina’s loyalties — aren’t resolved, yet I could, if necessary, graft the last half of Stoker’s novel onto this and feel satisfied.
As I said, though, this wasn’t the definitive conclusion I was expecting when the series was announced as a 10-episode mini-series.
Is the Order of the Dragon defeated? No. Van Helsing has had his revenge on Browning, but Dracula’s vengeance is still unfufilled, and the Order, despite the loss of Browning and Lady Jayne, is still there behind the scenes. And now Dracula is in a weak position to execute his revenge. Grayson Industries’ big device just exploded, killing dozens, perhaps hundreds. Grayson would find soon find himself in legal and professional difficulties due to his liabilities. His plan to ruin the Order financially simply isn’t feasible now, because who would want to do business with him after that debacle? Dracula’s best bet, frankly, would be to take this opportunity to get out of London; the world probably believes that he died trying to stop the explosion, and he and Mina could set up shop somewhere else, New York perhaps.
Ah, Mina. In this episode, Mina finally made her choice, and I don’t think we can say she chose poorly. Dracula may be a vampire, but Harker just engineered the deaths of a number of people, including his best friend.
Speaking of deaths, I was quite surprised by Browning’s death. Not that it happened — I expected that Van Helsing would get his revenge — but how it happened. Browning’s lack of recognition at Van Helsing didn’t surprise me; when he killed Van Helsing’s family, he was only doing his duty, and he probably did the same thing to dozens or hundreds more. I didn’t see the cruel twist to Van Helsing’s plan coming, and when it came I was both impressed and horrified. He’s not unhinged, except maybe for his murder of Renfield. No, that revenge required planning, and this Van Helsing is a diabolical bastard.
Lady Jayne’s end unwhelmed me somewhat. In general, this felt like something that the writers knew they needed to deal with to get it out of the way, and as a result it had a perfunctory feel to it. Her discovery of Alexander Grayson’s secret was reactive (since the Seer gave it to her by giving her the location), then their final confrontation in the wreckage of the demonstration was too quick (since Grayson disarms her almost immediately), followed by a far too long death scene. I would have liked to see Lady Jayne work the truth out for herself, and I’d have liked to see her work through the feelings of betrayal and disgust she must surely have been feeling.
I haven’t said a great deal about Dracula because, other than what I said above, there’s not a great deal to say as this episode wasn’t really about him. I was hoping he would see through Harker’s deceptions, and I was disappointed when he didn’t. He got his machine back, he put on a demonstration, things went horribly wrong. This episode had Dracula in the backseat as other plots advanced.
As I said up top, if this is where the series ends, I’m satisfied. Dracula entertained me for ten weeks, and I’m happy with that. I’ve enjoyed the look of the series, the production values have been good, it’s been fun to look at the episodes and try to figure out how the stories individually and as a whole work, and, frankly, I got wrapped up in the characters.
Where could Dracula go in a second series? The heroic characters from Stoker’s novel, barring Mina, are in no way heroic in this series going forward from where we end things. Dracula may be a monster who has to drink blood to live, but Van Helsing tortured Browning and turned his children into vampires using Dracula’s blood, while Harker was complicit in the deaths of dozens or hundreds. Dracula remains the most sympathetic character in this milieu.
If there’s a second season of Dracula, I hope Cole Haddon and his team went into this season with an inkling of its plan, because what this episode sets us up for — a cat-and-mouse game between Dracula on one side and Van Helsing-Harker on the other — doesn’t strike me as viable over the long term.
Though I’m not sure where another season of Dracula could go, if the production is as entertaining as this season was, I’ll gladly watch it.