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Review: ‘Dracula,’ Episode Two, ‘A Whiff of Sulphur’

Ah, it’s that time of the week. The sun has set, rain is pelting the side of the house, I have cracked open a wine bottle…have you figured it out? No, I’m not about to do something great with my life, like read a life changing book or water my flowers in Animal Crossing (if I’m not going to do it, no one will!), I’m going to watch and review Dracula, because the wine tells me to.

Has it already been a week? Time surely does fly. What happened last week?

Last week, we had a lot of backstory and pseudo-character development. Dracula (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) was reawakened by Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann). This might seem like a bizarre twist, and it is, but it’s all in the name of vengeance (which is the best way to exact all plot twists, obviously) against The Order of the Dragon, who killed their love ones once upon a time. In order to make this work, Dracula, now going by Alexander Grayson the American Industrialist, has to make himself known within London’s upper echelons as a pioneer of science. If this seems like a convoluted way to get at the order, it is, but when politics and heavy petting are involved absolutely nothing can ever go wrong. If you’re wondering where the heavy petting came in, the answer is everywhere, because oh oh ohhh baby, there is a lot of raunchy bedroom antics to be had in this show.

Dracula, though he may be bedding a wide variety of women (like the vampire slayer Lady Jayne played by Victoria Smurfit) for a multitude of reasons (getting his rocks off, bloody sustenance, etc), only has eyes for Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw) who he believes to be the reincarnation of his once-lady-love that was burned at the stake by the aforementioned Order. Her gorgeous boyfriend Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) be damned! Dracula plans on stalking his way into her heart whether she realizes it or not! Hopefully, in the meantime, he will have overthrown a secret subversive societal organization in the process. Also: he’s “invented” free wireless power energy, this might be a tidbit pertinent to future viewing.

Huh. Well, alright! That got me reasonably stoked for this show. Let’s get to it!

Yes. Let’s. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Dracula, episode two.

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We start with Dracula skulking in the night, catching the eyes of giggling women who can’t resist of steely blue gaze.

But, before we progress further in the story, we’re transported back to the distant land of Romania, circa 1881. Van Helsing has just risen him from the dead and Dracula is looking like hell barely warmed over. A fight seen commences and Van Helsing stabs a cross into his foot to keep him stationary.

That is not the way to say thank you to the person who just resurrected you from eternal sleep.

Dracula isn’t very good at making friends. Van Helsing introduces himself to Vlad the Impaler, telling him that he’ll let the sunlight pouring from the hole above obliterate him unless he accepts his position as cohort in the plan to destroy the Order of the Dragon. Dracula seems disinterested in Van Helsing’s sob story about losing his wife and three children at the hands of the Order –wah wah wah living people problems – and is more interested in getting revenge for his own beloved’s life. He comes around in the end, because it takes two (no, not to be confused with the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen film) to overthrow evil.

Back in modern day, Van Helsing is drawing out blood from Dracula while chastising him for his not-so-subtle behavioral tic of killing people of power in London whenever they look at him sideways without a sparkle of lust in their eyes. Especially since one of the guys he murdered was a well-respected member of the Order, so his death was duly noted and the Order is already closing ranks. Van Helsing reminds him that death isn’t the ultimate goal, it’s to wipe them out by making the world’s fossil fuel dependence obsolete and therefore destroying their companies and investments. He repeats: not to steal the hearts of young women who remind you of your dead wife and killing people on the streets of London in frustration, it’s all about the business.

Right, like Ol’ Dead Eyes is going to listen. He’s a lovestruck Romeo looking for his Juliet but can’t find her so he keeps boinking girls who remind him of her.

Van Helsing smells the bullshit, too. He knows he’s playing with fire. Still, he talks to him like he’s a son and draws another vial of blood. It’s an integral part of his experiments, he notes, “if you’d ever like to see daylight.” Dracula clicks his tongue and tells him that it isn’t the extracting of blood that annoys him, “but the sublime pleasure in which [Van Helsing] takes” in the process. I’ve never heard of that fetish, but since I’ve now heard of it, I’m sure there’s porn of it on the internet. Our undead friend notes that it is only a matter of time before people realize that he’s never outside during the daytime, their clock is ticking.

Now, we’ve transported ourselves into a fencing hall, where Lucy Westefnra (Katie McGrath) is wishing her mancandy Alistair good luck in his match. There is flirtatious banter, she ties her ribbons onto his arm (all three! Instead of one! How risqué!) but I’m too preoccupied on her pink and orange Chiquita banana dress to really quote anything. Basically, it’s worth his while to win. Let’s just say that.

Let’s pan back over to her table. Mina has just arrived from her classes, her hand bandaged up after she practiced her surgical technique and managed to mangle herself more than anything. Lucy reappears, feeling very confident in her choice – even if he is going up against the reigning champ. “Not for long. He’s very motivated.”

Who knew that naughty times were such a great motivator?

You didn’t?

The table doesn’t seem surprised when he performs above and beyond, but, ultimately, he fails to rise to the occasion, meaning he won’t get another occasion to rise to. The Good Guy table is left pouting slightly, creases further deepened when Mrs. Westenra insists on paying the tab, knowing that the strain on Jonathan’s bank account would be immense. He cringes, insisting that he can get it, but Lucy just smiles at his discomfort at the situation. Meanwhile, the winner of the fencing match, Davenport, makes eye contact with Lord Laurent (Anthony Howell) and the impression left is that they have met before and it wasn’t to play chess.

The Order watch the match from above and Lady Jayne notes that she desires to handle their potential problem herself. Browning (Ben Miles) seems pleased at her enthusiasm. She has unleashed the seers, which he seems less pleased about. “There is more than a whiff of sulfur about those two.”

Title tie in! How convenient!

A cursory glance on Google yielded me no deep origin story for the phrase, but I’m going to call it like I see it: when those two are around, something smells rotten in Denmark (it’s a good thing they’re in London). He relents. The seers are the measures that have to be taken. I’m sure we’ll meet them shortly!

In the halls, Lord Laurent makes a point of meeting Davenport, setting up a rendezvous time for their practicing of parrying and thrusting.

Boooooooooo.

The next day at The Inquisitor, Jonathan has applied for a raise and has been denied. His friend assures him that “one day you’ll be able to afford a wife,” and he accepts the heckling.

Dracula is meeting with Lord Laurent, chaperoned by his assistant Renfield (Nonso Anozie). Lord Laurent, in a hurry to meet with his clandestine lover, desires to cut the formality and get to the nitty-gritty. Amused at the rush, Dracula puts in bluntly: he doesn’t want a partner. Nothing against him, you see, he just doesn’t like the whole partner thing.

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

Precisely. Lord Laurent is stoked at the prospect of buying up Dracula’s shares, but Dracula doesn’t have that order in mind – no no, Laurent, you will be doing the selling. Utterly offended at the insinuation that he’d even be interested in the offer, Laurent storms out. Dracula grins in a way that says “oh, gosh darn. Now we have to do it my way!”

That evening Renfield and Dracula are scooting around London in their old car. Renfield voices a question we’ve all been thinking for at least thirty seconds: why is Dracula even engaging in a relationship with Jonathan when he could use his Jedi Vampire Mind Tricks to simply take her? Ol’ Dead Eyes looks off into the distance, laughing at his own pitiful excuse for morality, and says that to unwittingly turn Mina into a vampire would be an “abomination.” He has standards, people! His assistant, still confused, asks him why he’s even toying around with her puny mortal brain when he doesn’t even intend on changing her at all. Dracula just shrugs. He doesn’t even understand his own motivation.

I think it’s boob-related.

Probably.

Renfield goes in to fetch Jonathan, who seems slightly alarmed at the sudden summons, but doesn’t hesitate for a moment to jump into his car and engage in conversation with the man he doesn’t even like. Jonathan ho-hums about his lack of promotion, Dracula agrees that his initiative and drive should be rewarded instead of ignored, all while leading him into an empty house for “business purposes.” It turns out that Dracula is house hunting! I smell an HGTV feature.

He plans on rewarding Jonathan for the insider information against his competitors in the form of a (totally legal) job. Dracula needs a vice president of public affairs, someone who will lead him through British society, and he’s only looking in Jonathan’s direction. Hell, Dracula will even give him a house for helping him make his way! All he has to do is accept the terms (and not be bothered by the fact that it was formerly the house of the businessman that Dracula killed, not that he knows about the Dracula being Dracula part, but he has to be okay with the whole “hey this house belonged to a guy who died like three days ago” thing). It will sort of be like Pygmalion and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is starring as Eliza Doolittle.

Dracula gives him some time to think and we can see the wheels in Jonathan’s mind turning. This isn’t a house, it’s a mansion. He’s probably wondering whether or not his meager salary at the paper would even be able to afford to keep it lit for one month in winter. But, but, it would make one hell of an impression on Mina and Dracula has assured him that a hefty salary comes with accepting the terms, as well.

So, there are no Spidey senses tingling at this weirdness? If a guy came up to me and said “this mansion is yours if you work for me,” I’d be wondering where the dead prostitutes I had to bury were.

It’s a good thing you’re not in this show, then.

The next morning, Jonathan and Mina are wandering around a plaza. She’s a total stresscase about a test coming up, because she knows that if she can’t keep a steady hand during surgery she won’t pass the exam, nonetheless become Professor Van Helsing’s protégée. Jonathan isn’t listening; he assures her that she’s going to ace the test and – by the way – he’s had an extraordinary new job offer from the sort-of off putting man that can’t stop staring at her. She’s stoked for him and tells him that he needs to take it. It’s a crazy amazing opportunity!

While they’re canoodling and he’s planning out how he is going to spend all of his new found (still unmade) funds, Lady Jayne is on a mission and her stance says that she’s seriously pissed off. She wanders into an opium house, stomps into the back, and angrily snatches a pipe away from two prostrate figures. First Trelawney and now these two? I’m starting to think that the only qualification of being a seer is being permanently high as a kite. They’re far less clever than our beloved Harry Potter Professor and when Jayne opens up the cupboard containing a mirror and orders them to work, they stare at her like they’ve never heard of the word before.

Wait. They travel through mirrors?

No, they do it with mirrors.

Jonathan voices his concerns to Mina about the entire situation feeling a little…well. Iffy. Mina is not understanding his discomfort – after all, he’s a visionary. Everything he touches flourishes. To quote Into the Woods, “opportunity is not a lengthy visitor.” She convinces him to take it, even if he feels like it’s too good to be true. After all, how could he not want to be a part of a technological revolution?

Laurent and Browning are discussing the ripples Dracula is making in London. They need to squash out his wireless energy charade, because the second the idea that it is an actual, formidable resource takes hold in the public mind, their financial interested are screwed. The order is out to get this mysterious Mr. Grayson out of London, damn the consequences.

Speaking of the Order and Grayson, Dracula and Lady Jayne are having dinner and chatting each other up. She is trying to pry into the lightbulb charade, he coyly sidesteps delving into the details of his “debutante ball.” However, he has dabbled in magic from time to time, and parlor tricks are not new to him – he then does a coin trick, making the coin disappear into her…well…Let’s just say, she politely dismisses the butler from the room when he tells her where it is.

They then start having sex, but midway through the foreplay he no longer sees Lady Jayne, but Mina. The vision fades in and out interchangeably.

The next morning, Renfield stops Mina on the street. Startled, she looks at him quizzically. And then, and then, Dracula opens up his carriage door and there is a legitimate fucking lightning flash. To signify that this is an OMEN. OBVIOUSLY.

But, she still goes into the carriage, huh?

Well, it’s raining. She’s wearing suede. Have you ever worn suede in rain? Nightmare. She even jokes about the propriety of the situation, but Renfield tells her that his employer has never thought much of being proper. She shares his sentiment after assuring him that only she can tarnish her reputation, she finds nothing disreputable about sharing a carriage. They talk about Jonathan’s job offer and he inquires into her own interests. When she says she studies medicine, she voices some of the social backlash she has endured after stating her desire to be a physician and not a simple nurse – considering women in the medical profession were seen as shifty as late as 1950, her fears are founded – Dracula, because we need to understand that he’s a progressive, forward thinker, states that he finds no flaws with her plan. He applauds them.

Mina brings up the test that she has that day, her fears that she will fail and her dreams will fall through. Dracula tells her that when it comes to dreams, “one may falter, but the only way to fail is to abandon them.” This seems to be the pep talk she needed pre-test and she exists the carriage with a smile. During the examination, she repeats the advice as she steels herself the cadaver on the table. When she finds that she passes, she smiles with that special kind of relief that only happens after you find out you’ve passed a test you swore you were going to fail. From the window, Dracula approves of her happiness and walks away.

While this is happening, Jonathan is looking a gift horse in the mouth and is reconsidering taking the job, because he doesn’t think that his selection makes any sense. Out of all of the men in London, him? Dracula must have a secret agenda. Well, he isn’t wrong.

Mina’s passed her test and Jonathan is offered the dream of a lifetime. If I wasn’t so sure that Dracula was doing all of this to ultimately get in her pants, I’d find it all very sweet!

Ah, but we know that’s an endgame bonus he’s vying for. Speaking of creepily watching people, the druggy seers are now doing what looks like The Egyptian in front of the mirror, causing a giant spotlight to move around London.

Wait, what? They use a giant spotlight to covertly find their target? A huge, megawatt spotlight? Are people in London really that unaware that they wouldn’t notice a giant circle of light appearing out of nowhere while they’re conducting their day-to-day activities? That makes no damn sense and is one of the most ineffective ways to secretly find someone.

They find Dracula, but…well…yeah. He noticed that he was found and then did this weird vampire trick that made their mirror shatter and bloody.

That’s what you get for being the least stealthy thing since loud speakers.

Jayne reports her findings Browning and concludes that the vampire they are dealing with is very, very old and extremely powerful. At least two or three centuries. The Lady promises to track and destroy him, with or without the seers’ assistance.

They aren’t the only party having a semi-internal melt down. Jonathan is heading home when his landlady issues a notice that says his rent is going up, which seriously puts a damper on his ability to be happy for the beaming Mina, who meets him on the stairway with Lucy to tell him that she finished at the top of her class. Lucy tells him that they are going out to celebrate, but when he says that he can’t go, Lucy quips that he doesn’t need to worry about picking up the tab, because the celebration is her treat.

Geez, they’re layering on his monetary problems thickly.

Needless to say, he accepts the job with Dracula first thing in the morning. First order of business? Dracula needs information on Lord Laurent. Pronto. Jonathan wracks his brain for details:

– He dabbles in business and parliament.

– Everything else you need to know can be found out at the schwimmbad club at 10PM.

One of these things is very pertinent to Dracula’s blackmail interests. Can you guess?

That evening, he goes out on an evening jaunt to the gentlemen’s club, which he soon finds to be a drag burlesque club. Just like that, the sexual tendencies of Lord Laurent and his sporty fencer are revealed and are ripe for the blackmailing. Oh, you won’t sell your shares for any price? Really? Let’s talk about this again.

What an…awful guy. Wow, that is truly horrible.

Eh, I harbored no illusions about the lack of humanity I was expecting from a dead businessman.

Jonathan, however, is being very disappointing. While it’s wonderful that he plans on popping the question to Mina, he desires to make Mina a “proper English wife,” because, when he slips that ring onto Mina’s finger, he’s totally confident that his kisses and sexual prowess will convince her that having dreams related to pursuing a university education and a career in the medical field is silly. Especially when there are other things to be doing. More womanly things! Like birthing those children! Mina overhears that last charming bit of conversation and right about now is when Jonathan wishes he was Prince of Persia and he could redo that entire scenario. She storms off, pissed, heartbroken, and disappointed.

Ugh, I guess Jonathan is one of those fellows who are the best when their mouths are shut. Mina, girl. I’ve been there. It’s rough. Hey – it’s good you found out about this now instead of after the wedding bells!

As if celebrating making headway with his lady love and cementing a shady business deal in a single day, Dracula is on the prowl for another pretty lady to seduce.

It’s really hard to feel like Dracula is the better, encouraging man when he’s talking his way into the coat check woman’s pants. Ripping out her jugular with his teeth was also unappealing.

He’s also interrupted by Lady Jayne, Vampire Hunter. He leaves the poor girl’s body twitching on the ground and takes to the rooftops; he watches as Lady Jayne decapitates the still living woman, in order to make sure that she would not turn into a vampire (I think – or, maybe that’s just how she says hello). Now Dracula knows that Lady Jayne is a vampire hunter. I hope (and don’t hope) that this throws a wrench into their copulation meetings.

With that, we draw to a close.

Not too bad! What did you think?

Five forgotten engagement rings out of seven. Not too bad, on the right track, but the heavy handed tropes and clichés hamper down the really original parts of the show that I wish would receive more attention. That said, this episode was much better paced than last episode, even if it still felt a little slow.

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4 thoughts on “Review: ‘Dracula,’ Episode Two, ‘A Whiff of Sulphur’

  1. Ummm, sounds too complicated for me. Plus there’s something about fossil fuels which seems gratuitously PC. I think I’ll stick with Sleepy Hollow, which is campy paranormal for the masses.

    • effeminate blog, comment and reply which btw validates that Sleepy Hallow is exactly what it’s title implies… Only pitfall, Dracula’s plot is not as robust as it’s dialogue, a bit sophomoric at times, also casting goes both ways, Renfield’s actor is more convincing than Meyer’s Dracula,…I googled “the whiff of sulfur ” line too kudos regarding on your brief analysis of it, Dracula: a lesson on classic Idioms, “Someone is walking over my grave” and “‘better the devil you know’ than the devil you don’t”….

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