Dracula Season 1 Eps 1-3 (TV Show Review)
I remember watching the Gary Oldman and Keanu Reeves Dracula movie with the former in the titular role and really enjoying it. It was a bit hard to follow at times, but overall I enjoyed it for sure. That was almost a decade ago and ever since I’ve enjoyed reading various types of vampire fiction. My fascination with the genre started with Buffy and Angel however, and after all these years, I’ve seen and read a lot of different stuff and enjoyed most of it. Novels such as Matt Forbeck’s Carpathia are really fun and shows like True Blood are the same. I’d credit the latter for really invigorating my interest in watching vampire shows since it got me to watch Vampire Diaries, although I didn’t like the show that much and gave up in the middle of the first season.
And now we have NBC’s Dracula which stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the titular role and is very much a reimagining of Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula. Having seen the first three episodes of the show by now, I have to say that while the series often feels cliched and clumsy, it does have some good moments and that I find the characters to be quite fascinating. And the motivation behind Dracula doing what he does is also quite interesting although it seems somewhat shoehorned in. My verdict though, at this early point, is that this is a decent show.
The core concept here is that wanting to take his revenge on the Order of the Dragon for the murder of his wife and children, Abraham Van Helsing brings Dracula back to life and after a decade of preparation the King of Vampires takes his place back in society as Alexander Grayson, a wealthy American industrialist with interest in British business. The Order has relocated to London and the base of the Order’s power is its investments in oil and petroleum. Its members are now some of the most influential people in the country and in order to bring them down, Van Helsing and Dracula present to the public the concept of wireless power that is dependent on geomagnetism or something like that. Essentially, its a 1% vs 99% allegory of sorts. Its a really weird concept for a story based on the most classic of all vampire characters, but it is interesting nonetheless.
The first episode does a lot to set up the stage for all the important characters. Essentially, we have General Cassander of Alexander’s army as Dracula (Alexander/Jonathan Rhys Meyers), with the King of Qarth as his manservant and aide Renfield (Game of Thrones/Nonso Anozie), while The Huntress plays his reincarnated wife and aspiring physician (CW’s Arrow/Jessica De Gouw) and her friend is a sexually-uncertain Lady Morgana (BBC’s Merlin/Lucy Westenra). Oh and Dracula now plays vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing (Dracula 3D/Thomas Kretschmann). Quite a fun mix I have to say.
So anyways, that slight bit of silliness aside (thanks to my friend Marc for pointing some of those out), I should say that this series is slow-paced. After the big reveal of Grayson’s business interests and proposition in the pilot episode, we don’t see any more of his particular technology, or really see how he plans to bring the Order Draco down. There is financial manipulation and blackmail involved, as we see in episodes one and three, but beyond that, we are kept largely in the dark. And the weird thing is that it is never really explained why Van Helsing went to Vlad Tepes to seek help against the Order. Or even how he found out where his casket was being kept. There are a lot of questions raised in the first three episodes, but few are answered.
Other than that however, I liked the interplay between some of the characters, and even just some characters on their own. I love that De Gouw’s Mina Murray is put forward as a liberal thinking woman who wants to break free of some of the strictures and restrictions of society to be someone different. She is studying under Van Helsing as an aspiring physician, a full doctor in fact, and that’s great. There are some minor plots involving her chosen profession, and its good to see that the show addresses how that fits in with her relationship to Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s Jonathan Harker, who is a journalist looking to advance into London society but lacks the means to do until Grayson comes along. Much of episode three is built around that triple relationship actually, and I think that it was the best of the three, by far.
Another positive thing is the show’s portrayal of same-sex relationships. British society is no stranger to such, and they were even prevalent during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, although kept hush-hush nonetheless. The show explores that to a certain degree and we see both genders involved. With the relationship between two of the male characters however, things take an unexpected turn and the relationship ends rather violently. It made the relationship come across as nothing more than a convenient plot point and I’m not sure how I feel about that. It was too… casual perhaps. On the other hand, there is a slight developing relationship between two of the female characters, and I’m really interested to see where that goes. It could end up being cliched and silly, which could come about rather easily in fact, and so I’m hoping that the writers improve over the subsequent episodes.
One other criticism I have is that the show does very little to develop the Order itself, three episodes in. We see only the basic stuff, nothing deeper or more nuanced than what is hinted. And that is frustrating. Considering that the show is supposed to be a 10-episode mini-series, this is almost unforgivable since the Order is the villain of the show and there is a distinct lack of characterisation for it. So this is another room for improvement that I’ll be looking for in the next set of three episodes.
Putting all that aside however, I really the characters of Mina, Lucy, Lady Jane Weatherby and Renfield. They are some of the most fun and interesting characters on the show and they are played by some really good actors. Lady Jane is caught up in a bit of a cliched plot however since she is Grayson/Dracula’s sexual interest and there are a fair few such scenes between them on the show. That kind of ruins things a little bit, though I can kind of understand why that’s there. Still, its a bit too expected.
With Renfield particularly, he is his master’s compass and performs admirably in that role. Additionally, he isn’t limited to just being a valet, but he also assists both Grayson and Van Helsing with planning the downfall of the Order and he represents Grayson’s business interests to certain individuals. So its nice to see that there’s much more to his character than is let on. Anozie’s performance is really good too so that’s another plus.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers is kind of okay here in these first three episodes. I mean, he fits the role perfectly as an aristocrat of the upper class London society and he has the mannerisms down really well, but often I feel that his heart really isn’t in it. He lacks a particular spark in his performance and for that reason I’m not enjoying the show as much as I’d like to.
Still, when all is said and done, the writing is interesting enough to get me to keep coming back, and I will definitely move through the next three episodes soon as I can, so there’s that. To recap: first episode, decent; second episode, decent; third episode, rather good this one.
Posted on January 27, 2014, in Dracula, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged 2014 Fall Programming, Ben Miles, Bram Stoker, Dracula, Horror, Horror Drama, Jessica De Gouw, Jonathan Harker, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Katie McGrath, London Society, Mina Murray, NBC, Nonso Anozie, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, R. M. Renfield, Revenge, Review, Review Central, Supernatural, TV Show, TV Show Review, Urban Fantasy, Vampires, Van Helsing, Victoria Smurfit. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.