By Hayley I.
Bram Stoker’s bitey protagonist is back, and he’s all about lurid love affairs, bloody dismemberment, and energy — you know, like really sexy, steampunk energy. This is Dracula, done the NBC way, and it’s a real doozy.
Here’s the lowdown: Van Helsing awakens Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ Dracula in Victorian London, and the two team up to destroy the Order of the Dragon, a Illuminati group responsible for killing the duo’s loved ones. Still with me? Good, because it gets better — if more illogical is better. Dracula’s concocts a plan to crush the Order and their greedy corporation by offering free energy to all. And side note, Dracula’s dead girlfriend’s doppelgänger, a medical student (not a teacher, as in Stoker’s book) named Mina Murray serendipitously shows up to complicate matters.
All dense plotting aside, Jonathan Rhys Meyers may be the show’s most radical reinvention of the Dracula myth. Upon comparing his star turn in The Tudors to this newest gig, it’s not hard to conclude that Meyers is a genetically altered mutant, created to turn on a new generation to fantastical period pieces. I mean, seriously, holy cow. The Irish actor is an undeniable presence, tearing his way through Victorian parties, enemies, and necks in stride. His insuppressible roguish, sinister charm seems tailor-made for the Transylvania bloodsucker.
And yet having said that, Dracula seems unclear about how to use its star. The camera lingers too sensationally on him completing mundane, pointless tasks like taking a bath, buttoning his shirt, etc. Meyers’ American accent, apparently necessary for Dracula’s cover as American industrialist Alexander Grayson, is distracting at best (and excruciating at worst). And his bizarre plans for free energy for all paints him too heroically too fast. Despite engaging in a bit of bloodshed and opera naughtiness, Dracula seems like an okay sort of guy, a disappointing downgrade from the character’s dark literary history.
Not many of Dracula’s assorted friends, frenemies, villains, and love interests get to stand out much in the pilot, but Nonso Anozie (Game of Thrones‘ Xaro Xhoan Daxos) makes a promising righthand man and Jessica De Gouw is a suitably alluring Mina. Perhaps the biggest scene stealer is the actual set design. Some talented folks let their imagination run wild for an opulent London bathed in Victoria splendor and steampunk delights.
All in all, Dracula is a mixed bag of reinvented standbys and splashy, provocative intrigue. It needs better pacing and genuine thrills — possibly even another supernatural fiend or two to add more bumps to the night — but the show deserves a chance. If Twilight can spawn a best-selling book and film series, we can give this Steampunk Vampire Robin Hood his day in the sun.
(Er. Night in the sun.)
Dracula airs on Fridays on NBC at 10PM.