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Review: ‘Dracula,’ Episode One, ‘The Blood is the Life’

Hello, everyone! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Lately, life has been pretty hectic with other writing endeavors (don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the details), but I’ve been feeling a little…oh, what’s the word? Sulky? Stuck? Unfunny? If you were to form an amalgamation of those feelings, it’d be something like that. This started to freak me out because (a) I think I’m pretty hilarious on my worst of days and (2) if I’m feeling in a rut now, how am I going to present you all with A+ reviews for Vikings come 2014? As you can imagine, it was a worrisome conundrum. Luckily, it struck me: why not just review another show? While it won’t be the exact same as Vikings, it would at least keep me sorta-kinda in my game, amiright?

Not sure, this is a conversation with yourself, you know.

See? Even my weird review-centric alter ego decided to show up again! It was meant to be. I decided to take the plunge and review Dracula, NBC (so you know it’s going to be “good”) attempt to ride the VampTrain before it has fully left the station and another creature of the night has taken its place. Don’t ask me why I chose this show in particular, there won’t be a good enough reason. But! Without further ado, let’s get down to business.

To defeat the Huns?

Sorry bro, wrong show.

32370

Romania. 1881. A rope falls into a catacomb, dangling an exposed metal contraption that holds a shriveled, prune-like stone body with bizarre-o fangs overtop a coffin that (probably) holds our eponymous character.

Wait, why would they put a makeshift stone Dracula corpse to put on top of the coffin that Dracula is sleeping in? Wouldn’t that just say “HEY! PEOPLE! THIS IS WHERE DRACULA’S BODY IS!” You’d think, if they were truly terrified of Dracula, they’d make sure he were in an unmarked grave that wasn’t so ripe for robbing.

Yeah, well, these crypt invaders are also carrying flashlights and flashlights weren’t invented for about 15 years later, we’re going to have to stretch our imaginations a bit. We’ll just go with “it looks so cool!”

Anyway, the guy in the hat who invaded the crypt start analyzing the not-quite-casket contraption, whispering that “finally, after all these years,” they have found him. Then, they start hacking away at the tomb and in a living room somewhere, an art history major starts crying at the needless destruction. He remarks that the corpse looks famished, but his friend is too busy staring at gold to really notice how the head honcho of the crypt excursion is starting to walk around and fondle the casket like a stone cold creeper.

I’m sensing bait!

You aren’t wrong! While Tweedledum’s drooling over gold, he gets shanked. Then has his throat slit. The blood is then poured into the mouth of the stone corpse on top of the crypt, which funnels down into the main compartment and into Dracula’s mouth. Suddenly, the corpse on top of the coffin makes sense!

Wait. No it doesn’t. Assuming people were trying to keep him dead, why would they rig a contraption based on the consumption of blood that would release him?

Shhhhh. Dracula’s waking up!

Before we know it, we are staring at the very hungry face of a reawakened Dracula (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Cut scene to him bathing and redressing, probably feeling pretty dapper considering he was dead not too long ago.

And now, suddenly, it’s 1896 in London and Dracula is talking to his right hand man, R.M. Renfield (Nonso Anozie). Dracula is officially an American industrialist trying to make his way in London and all I can think about is how bad Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ American accent is. Seriously! This is as bad Travis Fimmel as Ragnar pulling his Vaguely-Northern-European-But-Sorta-Australian-Ish accent. Apparently, Dracula is now as American as “God, Guns, and Bourbon.” He is now going to call himself Alexander Grayson, but I’m sticking with Dracula, because I like being in on the joke. We cut over to the grand party he’s throwing (you can tell he’s in the upper echelons of society, as all of his dancers seem to be completely choreographed) and three guests arriving.  They are Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw), Jonathan Harker and Insanely Attractive Neville Longbottom Look-A-Like (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), and Lucy Westenra, and the trio are instantly smitten with the obvious ostentatiousness of the party. “This glass is worth more than I make in a week,” Jonathan Harker mutters. Lucy reminds him that the figures are more along the lines of a month’s wages, and I feel like he and I share a certain kinsmanship. And it isn’t because he’s very attractive. Though that might be part of it. Lucy wanders off to talk to an old acquaintance and the remaining duo look around the gala in wonderment – after all, it seems to be a mishmash of guests. Societal personalities that have a lot of money, little money, used to have money, coming into money, et cetera – it seems to be completely overboard. They wonder when Mr. Grayson-Dracula will make their appearance and then have some sickeningly sweet banter with each other and smooch.

Is that jealousy I hear?

Of course not. It’s envy.

We pan to shots of various rich people complaining about the party for one reason or another. It’s too opulent! Why did we even come? Scoff scoff scoff! Then, R.M. Renfield starts announcing his master’s arriv—

Wait.

Good grief, what is it now?

He’s black. It’s 1896. Not trying to make this about race, but I’m pretty sure at least one staunch upper crest London lady would be fanning herself in worry at him being in a place of power. I’m not totally up on racial tensions at the time, but if he’s supposed to be American, it is worthy of at least one raised eyebrow.

We’ve covered this! It’s television magic! He’s just as magical as the flashlights, but more so, because good for him. Sure, he’s working for a creep, but good for him! And he looks dapper in a suit. Realistically speaking, if Dracula is trying to make a good London impression, having a black guy working for him as an equal will probably do nothing but serve to make him seem more open minded to the eyes of the public.

He introduces Mr. Dracula and he instantly sets his sights on Mina, having flashbacks to a long-haired version of himself (thank god for scissors) and her canoodling on a bed. He quickly comes to his senses and welcomes people to his totally modest domicile. He then tells people to leave some of their happiness behind, which is…uh…

Weird.

Definitely. How would you do that, exactly? He’s also totally not creepy as he stares into Mina’s eyes and she looks like she needs a breath of fresh air – she is either having vivid sexy flashbacks them doing the naughty tango or is easily unnerved by people looking at her. At this point in time, it’s hard to tell. When Jonathan asks what the matter is, she brushes it off and says that someone must have walked over her grave. Dracula isn’t brushing it off, though, and tells Renfield to gather as much information on her and her gorgeous boytoy as possible. After the order, he goes to fraternize with the people he will be rubbing elbows with so long as he keeps his appetite for blood in check and doesn’t pronounce “schedule” as “sheduele.” He schmoozes, he meets Lady Jane (Victoria Smurfit), he starts configuring his political web, and makes sure to introduce himself to the other fossil fuel tycoons in the room, especially those who happen to own patents. Their wives don’t seem to mind. They do, however, and soon Dracula makes a cool exit over to Jonathan, who informs him in good humor that one has a horrible gambling problem and the other isn’t exactly clean, himself.

I sense a friendship!

Of sorts. I doubt Jonathan is going to like future Dracula’s knocking boots with his “most lovely lady friend,” she, on the otherhand, seems quite taken aback by Ol’ Dead Blue Eyes. They are formally introduced, but she notes that – somehow – it feels like they’ve met before. Before things get too weird, Renfield interrupts and drags Dracula away in preparation of the demonstration. Renfield informs Dracula that Jonathan is a tenacious journalist, which, as far as I know, is the only kind of journalist since the dawn of time. He also tells her a bit about Mina, but he doesn’t have much time to mull that over (medical student! Father runs a hospital!), because he has to show everyone how cool he is.

Before the demonstration, Renfield approaches Jonathan and warns him that the invitations said strictly no press, when Jon says “I didn’t plan on writing about it,” Renfield baits him with an interview with Dracu-Not himself the next day. After all, it would be a total shame if there weren’t at least a couple lines about this luxurious shindig in the papers! Of course, he accepts.

Demonstration time?

Demonstration time! It’s the latest technical marvel. Dracula tells everyone about how his father taught him a lot about culture and all that stuff when he was a child, and starts passing around – can you guess? – light bulbs! Yay, light bulbs! I don’t really remember how this relates to culture, but he starts talking about how he’s offering safe, free, and wireless power and they are holding it in their hands. At the cue of “now,” we’re taken beneath the showroom into this intense factory that has a lot of whirlydoos and levers. They scream out “stage one!” and vials of boiling orange liquid (don’t ask) start depleting and some aforementioned levers are pulled down, slowly, more and more are pulled. Above ground, people are wondering if this is really possible, and if it is, how quickly it will ruin all of their businesses. When their lightbulbs start lighting, everyone is agog with this madman’s power. Holy shit! Light bulbs! Wirelessly! Flashlights were only just invented, their minds are probably being blown up.

Speaking of blowing shit up – underground in the workroom, lightning bolts start exploding from the orange liquid and systematically kill people. Woops!

But, hey, at least the demonstration was complete?

Now you’re thinking like Dracula! He was clearly pleased that his illusion was so…illuminating.

Awful.

While I wish I could take credit for that one, that was all him. Lucy introduces herself to the man of the minute and he subsequently calls her ravishing. When Mina looks a little unnerved, he informs her that wireless energy is the future and they have all just born witness to it. Jonathan tries not to get jealous as Dracula has eye-sex with his arm candy, fruitless though it may be, and Lady Jane is looking to get into the now-famous man’s pants. They talk of the opera (“You are quite the impresario, Mr. Grayson.”) and how she would deeply enjoy his company in her box at the upcoming operatic premiere, she assures him that she would enjoy the show much more in her box than his own. He politely declines and though she acts slightly put off, we know better.

As some men are ushered out, one of the businessmen from before warns him against conducting business in the city, because he is clearly nothing but a fraud. Dracula smiles at him.

Are we finally going to see some bloodshed? I am reading this review strictly for sex and bloodshed, not specifically in that order, but preferred.

Maybe.

Cut to Jonathan typing away on his typewriter (what, you mean we have even more things in common? Swoon) as his friend tells him to jump on Mina ASAP, because a fine piece of lovely lady like herself isn’t going to wait forever for him to pop the big question – and! – if he’s not careful, someone might just snatch her up beforehand. Can she do better? Who knows? He doesn’t have to feel left out, though, because Lucy and Mina are also talking about the now complicated men situation in Mina’s life. Boo hoo, it must be so hard to be intelligent, gorgeous, and have two giant hunks of mancake interested in you. I’m crushed for her. Lucy shares the sentiment and can’t seem to stop rolling her eyes.

Both rooms are interrupted by a strange sound outside, which, to me, sounds like dogs barking.

If they had bothered to read up on 101 Dalmatians, they’d know that that is fairly common procedure when there has been a dognapping. While alarming, probably not some creepy crawly thing in the night. Besides, if it really was Dracula –

It is.

– how inconvenient is it for him to make swooshing noises wherever he goes? Worst stealthy night crawler ever.

You know, you and your common sense and whatever can just relax, because you’re about to get at least one of the things you wanted before. Bloodshed! Remember that dude from before?

The one who told him he was going to be debunked as a fraud?

Yup, that one. He’s dead. He was torn to pieces. Dracula, the next morning –

Morning? He’s a vampire. What about that whole daylight rule?

I’m sure everything will be explained, we saw a carriage pull up during daylight hours to his house, so it must be morning. Keep in mind – this is a Dracula who also invented orange liquid that wirelessly powers light bulbs, he is obviously rooted totally in fiction. Like I was saying, the next morning, he talks about the lack of remorse he has because everyone seems to have a “grotesque sense of entitlement,” and therefore are totally fit to be made into midnight snacks. He picks up a couple photos of men we saw the night before (Lord Laurent [Anthony Howell] and Lord Davenport) and note how the “reek of high council” and should be put on the “short list,” which, for all intents and purposes, probably means “death list.” They start talking about this ~mysterious Order of the Dragon~ and whether or not the head man was there at the part. We don’t know much about them (neither does Renfield), but essentially you don’t want to cross them, because torture is basically like eating toast to them.

What? Easy to make?

No. Delicious and a morning necessity.

In the olden days, they burned people alive that they deemed the damned or heretics, but nowadays they are run by money, oil, and don’t operate by sword, yet by boardroom. So, Dracula’s plan is to unnerve them and their place of power by using wireless energy to render their technology obsolete. No more necessity for oil, no more need for high-power boardrooms, no more money, no more Order of the Dragon, no more imminent threat to life for Sun Loving Dracula.

When night falls, we watch as someone (judging from his lock-picking technique and his coat filled with crosses, someone up to no good), breaks into the high-power victim of Dracula’s house, walks into the first room that houses approximately twenty candelabras and his coffin in the middle, pries open the coffin, and cuts off the dude’s head, proceeding to cart it around in a hat box. He takes it to a military outfitters, where a woman takes it to a secret passageway and presents it Lord Laurent. It is then revealed that the woman carting the head around is Lady Jane (what a twist! Sort of!). Ladies and gentlemen, we are probably in the hideaway of the Order of the Dragon.

They discuss the possibility of another vampire roaming about the city. The last one caused them an awful lot of trouble, making them go to lengths to disguise the killings and blame them on a mysterious “Jack the Ripper.” Lady Jane advises against Lord Laurent going off the deep end of paranoia for the moment, telling him that, for the time being, all they can do is assume that he was merely targeted by their enemies (whether they’re alive or undead). Until they have more information, the vampiric suspicion is to be kept strictly between them and people of their order will just bolster their security measures.

Who knew that Jack the Ripper was actually a cover up for vampires?

I know! For a second, I thought we were in an episode of Ancient Aliens.

It’s daylight (again. How many times has it been daylight?) and we’re in an academy’s classroom, where we finally meet Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann), who sort of looks like a knock-off Tom Hardy mixed with Gary Oldman from certain angles, but it’ll do. They talk in brief about Dracula’s wireless energy, however, by then we’re already being shown into Dracula’s house as Jonathan’s shown into the foyer. Impatient and not liking how dark it seems, he starts opening windows, which seems sort of rude considering he’s a guest in his house, sort of like if I went into a house of a person I barely even knew and stared inside of their fridge without asking –  just sort of weird. Anyway, it seems, by Dracula shaking his hand, that while he can tolerate being awake during daylight hours, he can’t be exposed to direct sunlight. Still, he was a good sport and shook Jonathan’s hand.

Though the timelight isn’t totally congruent, Jonathan starts conducting his interview – though it isn’t without some hesitancy on Jonathan’s part – his editor thinks that Dracula’s just trying to improve his image, Dracula states that he only wishes to voice his wholly pure intentions as he knows how many people want him to go back to America.

So, okay, why is “American” Dracula in Europe instead of going somewhere else to strike it rich?

While the real answer probably revolves around the Order of the Dragon, he cites his great grandparents having come from England, “so in that way, it’s a bit of a homecoming.” He also talks of how, while he is rooted in old world, he strives for the future. Jonathan points out how he is full of contradictions, Dracula quips that the whole world is. They talk of evolutionism, of the brightness of the future. Jonathan labels him a “visionary,” “delusional,” and an “egomaniac.” Probably not the direction Dracula wanted it to go.

Huh. He blew that one.

Sure did.

Mina visits Professor Van Helsing after hours and voices her interest in his apprenticeship. He says that her brain and her instincts are great and all, but her surgical techniques are lackluster. As soon as she pierces the skin, she can’t really think straight.

I don’t see how this character can turn into a Mary Sue at all.

Perish the thought, she’s merely sensitive.

Van Helsing tells her to believe in herself and her ability to help others, only then will she become a successful surgeon. Of course, in the meantime, that won’t stop her from being thoroughly stalked by Dracula, who is legitimately staring at her from behind a pillar before her friend comes along and whisks her away. Then he does it with some chick against a wall and bites her neck.

How romantic!

No, the real romantic part comes when Jonathan is complaining to Mina about how Mr. Grayson wants him to write accolades about him in the paper. She notes that there really is a lot to talk about, like his charisma, huge house, amazing aptitude for technology, and looks – but, she assures him, her poor journalist has one thing he doesn’t have – her. And everyone watching nearly gags into their bowls of popcorn.

Lady Jane looks onto the show below with partial interest. Things only really get interesting when Dracula makes contact with her, asking her to join him in the darkened area in the back, but you and I both know that the only reason he’s sexually accosting her is so he can have a clear view of Mina and Jonathan kissing and canoodling across the opera boxes, because that isn’t creepy at all. Things quickly get hot and heavy. The hotness is immediately overridden by his looking into Mina’s eyes as he makes out with Lady Jane. It’s as creepy as it sounds. I’m feeling uncomfortable.

Take a moment to yourself, then come back. We need you.

Well, post-shivers, I feel alright. Dracula is making enemies with the businessmen of London after his operatic endeavor, spying on them from on top of roofs and the like. Just when he thinks he’s free to be a creeper, he’s attacked by some bro named Kruger and then there’s a corny fight scene on top of a London rooftop. Kruger tries to ward Dracula off with a cross, it wasn’t very effective, and Dracula slashes his throat. While the ill-fated Kruger bleeds out on top of the roof, blood spilling into the gutters (not bad, special effects people), Dracula issues a warning to all of his kind, telling the dying man that he intends on slaying everyone within the order methodically. His last word? “You. Are. Dracula.”

It’s war!

While her piece of mancake is killing one of her order bros, Lady Jane is slicing sandbags (she can probably focus now that all of that sexual tension is out of the way). This is apparently her practicing technique while a vampire girl in a cage watches on. The starving vampire girl refuses to give up who turned her, telling Lady Jane that even if she were to die, there are many more where she came from.

Does anyone else find it weird that Lady Jane has a private dungeon full of sandbags, swords, and a massive cage for wayward vampires?

Who am I to judge kinks?

Back in Dracula’s lair, he’s joined by Van Helsing. Where some might think this would be a tense meeting, they actually talk shop on relatively peaceful terms. It seems that Van Helsing isn’t fond of the Order of the Dragon either, and with that slender common ground in mind, they are working towards the same common goal. Van Helsing chides Dracula on his impetuous attitude and inability to exert patience – he knows what it feels like to desire retribution. After all, the Order killed his entire family. Dracula just seems to be happy beheading people. They’re frenemies.

This would make a great sitcom. Like The Odd Couple, but with more blood and boobs.

You get right on writing that.

I will, and when I make tons of dough I’m not going to share. I can see it now: “Van Helsing! I told you to do the dishes!” “Why do you care? You don’t even eat!” (insert laugh track)

We then find out that it was actually Van Helsing who woke Dracula up from his not-so-comfy rest.

So this show is actually going to take the Van Helsing and Dracula relationship into a direction that was unforeseen and totally unexpected?

Looks like it! I’m actually really stoked about this development. Not only is it refreshing, but it will it fuel my future Dracula and Van Helsing sitcom. They bond over their shared anger over losing their lost ones (well, sort of – Dracula clarifies that they do not share who they lost, but who took them), and that is the end of that.

Overall, I suppose I was expecting more blood. But, what’s your rating for this episode?

First impressions are difficult for anyone. However, this show, considering it’s on NBC and all, did pretty well! I give it five out of eight lit black flame candles. Luckily for viewers, it seems as if this season is going to be rife with basic channel nudity and death. The action will only pick up from here. Who cares about this boring backstory stuff anyway?

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2 thoughts on “Review: ‘Dracula,’ Episode One, ‘The Blood is the Life’

  1. Kinda sounds like a cross between Johnny Depp’s Dark Shadows and The Tudors. Not sure about this. I was just thinking of re-watching the gorgeous Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire. Now there’s a vampire! Love the angst!

    • Now that you mention it, that is a perfect comparison. It’s essentially The Tudors with vampires! This show is already rife with cliches, but there is a thin shred of possible surprise that I hope doesn’t get ignored. It could at least be decent! In the meantime, watching Interview with the Vampire is deeefinitely a great life choice.

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