NBC has arrived right on time for the vampire craze that's currently taking hold among our younger and older and—admit it—probably female generation with the period drama Dracula, and I don't want to waste any more of your precious seconds with a generic intro because you really need to read this next sentence: In the pilot episode, the famed bloodsucker pretended to be an American trying to bring wireless, clean, free energy to Victorian-era London. And now let's give that line another run, just to make sure you absorbed it all.
In the pilot episode, the famed bloodsucker pretended to be an American trying to bring wireless, clean, free energy to Victorian-era London.
Okay, did you get that? It's the first thing you need to know about this version of Dracula, who by all rights is the king of all vampires (from a pop-culture standpoint; I do not know who is currently the actual King of All Vampires), and whose presence has been felt in everything from classic literature to breakfast cereal. Once one of folklore's most dangerous villains, the Dracula of NBC's Dracula is now a champion for eco-friendliness.
The second thing you need to know is the answer to, "Is this show serious?" And that answer is "NoYesIdunno." The pilot seemed to take this new version of the Dracula story very seriously, without a whiff of camp, so we'll have to take the episode's word—not to mention the lack of smiles on anyone's faces—and believe this is serious project. But it's not that easy to tell, especially because the famed bloodsucker pretended to be an American trying to bring wireless, clean, free energy to Victorian-era London. And while yes, duh, that premise is totally preposterous, Dracula has the potential to offer some low-key Friday-night fun.
In the opening of the pilot, Dracula was festering in raisin form in a dank pit somewhere, when all of a sudden an adventurer had his throat slit by a mystery man (to be solved later in the episode) and his blood splashed all over Raisin Dracula's face. The magic of vampirism lapped it up, and the wrinkly corpse was moisturized into Henry the VIII: Showtime Edition (The Tudors' Jonathan Rhys Meyers, for those of you who can't afford pay cable)! Then the episode immediately and inexplicably jumped forward in time and backward in shirtlessness, to when Dracula and his giant friend R.M. Renfield (Nonso Anozie, the guy who tried to scam Dany in Game of Thrones Season 2) were creating a fake identity for the Count. And that identity was American businessman Alexander Grayson. So Dracula—who is, I dunno, maybe British or Transylvanese in this version of the tale—is pretending to be an American human who's in England for business, and that business was trying to bring wireless, clean, free energy to Victoria-era London.
Yes, once again, that is totally ridiculous, but it's these little differences and deviations from the plentitude of Dracula lore out there that made the first episode of Dracula an interesting—not good interesting, just interesting interesting—watch. Where else will you see Dracula—THE Dracula—handing out lightbulbs that are screwed into air to snooty, well-dressed party attendees while a team of subterranean DraculaCo employees work levers and boiling goop into magnetosphere-harnessing wireless, clean, free energy? Because that is what happened! Dracula came out like he was Steve Jobs presenting iLight, and he blew the minds off the frilly partygoers with a scientific magic trick. The Count on Sesame Street makes more sense than this, but that's part of Dracula's charm.
And in one major change that's sure to upset anyone who majored in Dracula in college, NBC's Dracula has re-imagined the vamp's normal arch rival, Abraham Van Helsing, as a partner for Dracula, with the odd couple teaming up to exact revenge on the Order of the Dragon. That's like pairing up Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi in a fight against the Jedi, if my Dracula knowledge is correct (I only minored in Dracula at Transylvania U). And yep, it was Van Helsing who brought Dracula bag from his jerky nap, because they both hold a grudge against the Order of the Dragon.
About the Order of the Dragon: As if we weren't going to be gaga enough over Dracula himself, he has an enemy we can all agree to hate with this new version of real-life society. The group was rich, old, and white. BLEH! The worst kind of people. And several centuries ago, they barbecued Dracula's girlfriend! But just to make sure there was no possible way these old prunes could be perceived as sympathetic in any way, Dracula rewrote them so they were also in charge of the oil industry. The oil industry! How perfect is that? Of course the show called it "petroleum," but we know better, these guys are Exxon and BP and everyone else who drenches pelicans in sludge and lights cigars with 100-pound bills. Dracula's plan to take them down is to bring wireless, clean, free energy to Victorian-era London, which will sap all their oil-industry profits, rendering them powerless. Go Dracula, go!
This battle led to Dracula uttering the best lines of the fall season to date when he described he Order of the Dragon. When you read the following bit of dialogue, keep in mind it's DRACULA who's saying it:
Now [the Order of the Dragon does] their dirty work via private clubs and boardrooms, they employ business, politics, and oil. And that last thing, Renfield, will be their undoing. They believe they will fuel the next century, and if they control it, they control the future. But from the moment we demonstrate the viability of geomagnetic technology [elaborate hand gesture] *PFFFF* No more money. No more power.
Dracula, an undead king of monsters who can turn himself into a bat, just said, "But from the moment we demonstrate the viability of geomagnetic technology..." I never in my life imagined I would hear Dracula say anything like that. In fact, here are some things I thought I would hear Dracula say before he ever said a word about geomagnetic technology.
– [On phone with Pizza Hut] "Yes, I'd like one large, cheesy crust pepperoni pizza. With extra garlic, please."
– "Oh God, that's a tough one. But if you had a stake to my heart, I'd have to say Team Edward."
This is cool, hip Dracula for the 99 percent. He wants to take down Big Petroleum with progressive technology. He's an undead man of the living, a Dracula who might stand outside Whole Foods with a clipboard, asking people whether they think corporate suits should be held accountable for damage they do to the environment. It's a worthy cause, but is it a Dracula cause? The quicker you answer in the affirmative, the sooner you can enjoy the looniness of this show.
But lest you start to think that NBC's Dracula is entirely unrecognizable compared to the vampire you thought you knew, fear not! Dracula is still as horny as ever, and just like with most other Draculas, his true love may've been reincarnated into some lass named Mina for him to love all over again. While other aspects of Dracula are malleable (his energy-wasting, his rivalry with Van Helsing, his facial scruff and hairstyle), Dracula knows full well that the matter of the character's sexiness is not. He can still turn women into puddles and he still has a soft spot for eternal romance—two important aspects to both Dracula's target audience and his reputation.
And here's where the pilot got kind of fun. Dracula, working on just the suspicion and no proof that one of the old guys at his lightbulb party was a member of the Order of the Dragon, straight-up MURDERED the dude for no reason. And it came off as heroic! Meanwhile, even though we're supposed to root for his romance with Mina, Drac had no qualms whatsoever about motorboating Lady Jane, a sexy OotD member, at the opera! And it was great! And later, in an odd change of pace, a rooftop showdown between Drac and a vampire hunter showed off the series' fighting skills with a wire-aided, slow-mo, rotating-camera punch-em-up. Spoiler: Dracula put a beatdown on dude's butt. This is all amazing because it's Dracula, a retro-fitted Batman for today's vampire-obsessed audience. Dracula, the man women want, the man men want to be, and the show NBC is taking way too seriously.
Meyers brings a mild amount of spiciness to the role, and he's able to convincingly pull off seduction scenes because he's the positively enigmatic, undeniably sexy, and questionably attractive Meyers. But as a scientist ushering in the future of clean energy? Not so much. Though Dracula is from Eastern Europe, the Irish actor wobbles between an English accent and a hilariously awful American one that sounds like a battle between his brain and his esophagus that neither can win. It's totally distracting, but by the end of the pilot, it'd become another one of this ham-fest's charms.
Everything about Dracula has overwritten its source material so many times that it exists in its own bizarro universe, leaving fan-fic writers to throw up their arms in exasperation because all the far-fetched ideas have already been taken. And the show smartly made all these changes to appease the modern vampire fan: the type of person who doesn't understand that undead people who murder the living
and force their transmittable diseases on others are terrible monsters.
Vampires aren't bad things anymore because modern media has defanged them
into incredibly attractive and pasty loners. They're the new handsome
strangers who roll into town (and now supply us with green energy).
Dracula rules and in Dracula he's our hero and really, would we want it any other way? No one wants to watch a show on NBC called Van Helsing. Lots of people won't want to watch a show on NBC called Dracula, either. But if you're a vampire fan, you may want to check this one out. Otherwise? It's good for a few laughs, but that's about it.
– If I were Dracula and I asked John Harker to come over for an interview, I would at least have the smarts to close the curtains to keep the sunlight out. This Dracula did not, and he had to sit uncomfortably in the dark, far side of the room and he got a boo-boo burn on his hand.
– I also liked how Harker conducted his interview and just wrote down "Visionary, Delusional, and Egomaniac," as his only notes. That's going to be some story in the paper!
– How about some of those party dresses! Lucy's red-and-white number was a head turner!
– Did Renfield introduce Grayson as Master of Carfax Manor? Isn't the "Show me the Carfax" fox the Master of Carfax Manor?
– Was anyone else overwhelmed when the pilot introduced 20 characters in the first five minutes?
– Jack the Ripper was a vampire, according to this show. Well duh!
– What vampiress was in Lady Jane's cage at the end of the episode? And if Lady Jane slices open all of her training sandbags, how is she going to train tomorrow?
What'd you think of Dracula's series debut? Will you be back for Episode 2?
AIRED ON 1/24/2014
Season 1 : Episode 10