Checking In on Dracula

I’ve been watching and enjoying NBC’s Dracula series, starring The Tudors‘s Jonathan Rhys Meyers. I made a blog post here about the series not long after it debuted, mainly talking about how different the series is from Stoker’s original (Dracula is a Tesla-like industrialist who is working with Van Helsing to destroy a secret society that controls the world’s energy interests), and since then I’ve been posting in a TrekBBS thread about the series.

Last night was the seventh episode out of ten, and I feel like this might be a good point to collect those per-episode posts. My initial blog post covered the first two episodes, and there wasn’t a post on the third as I was at Philcon that weekend, so while I watched the episode I didn’t write about it.

From November 16th, on episode four, “From Darkness to Light” —

Four episodes in, Dracula remains the most sympathetic character here. His plot to neutralize Lady Jayne Wetherby was really quite admirable; I didn’t even suss to the endgame until it happened.

Meanwhile, the ostensible heroes of the series continue to be either stupid or utter bastards. Why did Mina do what she did in Van Helsing’s office? Why would she even suspect that something weird was going on? And how can one root for the Order of the Dragon? They’re worse monsters than Dracula.

I really like this version of Renfield. He’s part sounding board, part mentor, and all capable.

The twist with Lucy wasn’t unexpected after last week’s bacchanal. Mina’s obliviousness was almost amusing.

Some context here. Lady Jayne Wetherby is the Order of the Dragon’s vampire hunter. (She hasn’t done any vampire hunting since that episode.) In this particular episode, she was hunting a vampire in London. The promos made it look like she would be hunting Dracula.

No. She was, in fact, hunting Dracula’s lieutenant, a vampire from the old days, who had come to London. Dracula then set up his lieutenant and sent him into a trap where Lady Jayne could defeat him and Dracula could appear sympathetic. All thoughts of distrust Lady Jayne had for Dracula were banished, and the Order believed that the ancient vampire that had been haunting Londond was destroyed.

Mina broke into Van Helsing’s secret office and discovered some his researches into vampirism. How did she know there was a secret office? Why did she look? That still hasn’t made any sense, and it comes to a head in episode six.

The Order of the Dragon executed one of their members because he sold his industrial shares to Dracula.

From November 30th, on episode five, “The Devil’s Waltz” —

I love how wonderfully deceptive this series’ promos are.

For two weeks NBC has been teasing that Dracula was going to slice open Jonathan’s neck publicly. And when we got to that scene… someone (Mina, maybe?) only dreamed it. (Another misleading promo was for two episodes back, where they kept hinting that Dracula’s secret was out and he was going to be hunted — except it turned out that Dracula’s just introduced lieutenant was hunted and killed instead.)

The flashbacks to how Dracula met Renfield were nice. And I really hoped Dracula made the Order’s torturer suffer for what she’d done.

The rest of the episode didn’t captivate me in quite the same way, because it was set-up for things that will pay off later — Dracula’s revenge on the Order for their attack on Renfield, the Order’s recruitment of Harker, etc. I’m not even sure where Lady Jayne’s loyalties lie at this this point, and I wonder if Dracula could actually get her to turn on the Order now that she knows that Renfield was tortured.

The Order’s torturer Janina Kleiberson, by the way, was played by Neve McIntosh. Doctor Who fans know her as Madame Vastra, but she also appeared alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Gormenghast.

And as we see later, in episode seven, the “dreams” are Dracula struggling with himself to keep his subconscious desires and hungers in check.

From December 7th, on episode six, “Of Monsters and Men” —

Last night’s episode was all about “move, countermove, guile, and deceit.” There are so many plots going on, I’m not sure who’s playing whom.

Take Harker. Davenport is playing him, and now it turns out that Dracula is playing him, too. Davenport’s endgame, as we learned last week, is to recruit Harker into the Order, presumably as a spy on Grayson’s interests, but what’s Dracula’s endgame with Harker?

Then there’s Lady Jayne’s games with Lucy. Is she trying to seduce Lucy? If she wanted to drive a wedge between Lucy and Mina she certainly succeeded? But I can’t help but think this is part of her game with Dracula.

And, of course, Dracula pulls off his biggest game yet — walking in daylight. If that doesn’t alleviate Browning’s suspicions for a few weeks I’ll be surprised.

There’s only four episodes left at this point, and the pieces are being positioned for the endgame. Only I have no idea what that endgame is.

The Harker/Davenport/Dracula game. This involves General Shaw, a senior British Army officer who is under the control of the Order of the Dragon, who has influence over the Middle-East. The game involves forged documents that implicate Shaw in a war profiteering scandal. Dracula, we learn, planted those documents, and Davenport exposes Harker to the truth. Why did Dracula plant those documents? As we learn in the next episode, it was to discredit and neutralize Shaw. Why did Davenport expose Harker to the truth? Because the Order wants to recruit him so they have an “inside man” in Dracula’s organization.

Lady Jayne’s games with Lucy become more apparent in the next episode.

From this morning, on episode seven, “Servant to Two Masters” —

Early on in last night’s episode, I had the thought — this is the episode where Dracula doesn’t win. Generally, each episode has put a challenge in front of Dracula — becoming a majority shareholder, walking in sunlight, etc. — and somehow he triumphs over it. But this week, everything Dracula wanted he lost.

He wanted to control his bloodthirst. He failed.

He wanted to possess the Dresden Triptych. He failed.

He wanted to demonstrate his machine. He failed.

Each of these failures came about because of his own actions. (Even the Dresden Triptych. True, he couldn’t have known that agents of the Order had intercepted his communications and thus known that he wanted it, but because of his communications earlier in the series he jeopardized his possession of it.) And he’s coming ever so closer to crossing the line entirely with Mina.

He didn’t win, and that’s the point. Last night felt very much like the close of the second act with Dracula beginning his fall. From here, the final three episodes are likely to see Dracula’s descent into evil and his final destruction. Yet, I’m still rooting for him — to recover the Triptych, to find love with Mina, to destroy the Order, even if he has to take them down on his way down. Even at the worst we saw of him last night, he’s still the most compelling, most sympathetic character in the series.

Lady Jayne’s game was interesting. I realized when she began to seduce Lucy that her questions to Dracula about how to destroy her husband had nothing at all to do with her husband; her story was just a convenient cover so that she could use Grayson’s own tactics against the people in his life.

The attempt by the Order at recruiting Harker was, I thought, rather brazen and laughable. “Hello! We’re a secret society you know nothing about, and your boss is an terrible person!” 🙂 What I found especially amusing was the self-delusion on Browning’s part; if he listened to the argument he posed to Harker about controlling energy and being at the mercy of the Turks, he should have realized that Grayson was offering the world an escape from the Turkish threat he feared.

The Dresden Triptych. It’s a centuries-old painting of Dracula’s lost love, a woman who looks astonishing like Miss Mina Murray.

And about Miss Mina Murray — the flirtation she has had with Dracula sharpened a great deal this week. As she tells him this week, he can have anything he desires — and it’s clear that she might well be talking about herself. Dracula desires her, but he’s struggling to resist her. Mina’s desire is likewise growing, but she doesn’t understand why he’s resisting her. And now her father is aware that there’s a connection between Dracula and Mina — and he’s not approving of that at all.

Which way is Harker going to fall, with Dracula or with the Order? Given his disgust with Dracula when he realized he had been played, and given the growing connection between Mina and Dracula, Harker is going to fall in with the Order. He’ll see it as the best, perhaps only, way to eliminate his romantic rival.

With three episodes remaining, where is Dracula going? I feel like my initial speculations still hold true — “Harker will betray his employer to the Order of the Dragon because he sees it as the only way to save Mina from the vampire’s grasp. With his identity exposed, his business interests under attack by the Order of the Dragon, and his love for Mina possibly spurned, Dracula will go over the edge, his full capacity for evil will be revealed, and his former ally Van Helsing will have to destroy him.”

I said to a friend recently that Dracula is batshit insane, but it’s a good kind of batshit insane. I couldn’t have imagined when I sat down with Dracula in November that I’d be actively rooting for the vampire, yet he’s by far the most sympathetic character, the one with actual goals and the industry to achieve them. There’s simply no other character in the series that is as compelling, and it will be interesting to see how the series deals with the fall of its central character over the next three weeks. I expect it will be very entertaining.

Right now, the series is moving the pieces into place, and the endgame will soon begin.

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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