Having spent centuries in a long-forgotten tomb following the murder of his wife and his transformation into one of the undead, NBC’s “Dracula” opens with the vampire’s (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) celebrated return to London’s social scene. Rather than immediately calling on his legion of followers and raining terror onto the streets, however, he adopts the name of Alexander Grayson, and begins an entrepreneurial campaign to take down the global oil industry. Presenting himself as an American businessman who only seeks to oversee society’s introduction to electricity, it’s soon made apparent that his true interest may actually lie in revenge. Also, that this series didn’t really plan out the whole “Dracula” adaptation thing. Not at all.
“The blood is the life.”
As a series that primarily sells itself on its meshing of lavish visuals and horrific blood baths, I can’t actually say that the show is all that great to look at. From the moment of Dracula’s resurrection, we’re treated to several scenes of throat slitting, brain bashing, and a good deal of neck biting between the sheets. Likewise, shots of courtyards, mansions, and opera houses dutifully fill out the scenes in between. You would hope that the juxtaposition between bloodied, writhing corpses and classy Victorian soirees would at least make the viewing experience feel more worthwhile.
Unfortunately, the effects don’t go very far and all we ever really see during horror scenes are poorly recreated pools of blood and close-ups of Dracula’s incredibly dull fangs. As they accompany locales that don’t manage to stand out in the sea of other historical sets that have been created for this time period, it’s very easy to get pulled out of the action whenever the camera does a sweeping movement over a room or gets in close with the blood gushing out of someone’s neck.
“I will tear your heart out, peasant!”
A good portion of these issues stem from the fact that the series doesn’t seem to really know what type of story it wants to tell. Although what I described above is the main plot, there are also a lot of episodic side plots dealing with the possible reincarnation of Dracula’s wife, her attempts to become a doctor, her marriage to a young, up and coming news reporter, Dracula’s attempts to seduce a vampire hunter, and the meddling of Dracula’s main adversaries, The Order of the Dragon. Each of these plot points end up mixing in a way that feels very disjointed and as though nothing, outside of a couple of small revelations, has happened by the end of an episode. If nothing else, it’s one of those shows that allows your mind to wander away for a good few minutes without fear of getting lost or not understanding what’s going on when you get back (ask me how I know).
Having watched about half the series now, I still find myself questioning why it was ever even tied to the “Dracula” name in the first place. With the focus resting on Dracula’s attempts to overtake the Order’s economic power and eliminate their social influence from the inside, rather than his exploits in London’s supernatural underworld, the vampires actually feel as though they were just shoehorned in as an afterthought. They don’t serve any purpose outside of providing a back story and giving the writers plenty of opportunities to name drop characters from Stoker’s novel. This doesn’t even touch on the fact that referencing Dracula, specifically, was completely pointless. Had they either gone ahead and made a show about a vampire that wasn’t Dracula, or just made a historical drama focusing on the disturbing exploits of an American entrepreneur, this series would have made a lot more sense.
As it stands, NBC’s “Dracula” is a clear attempt to cash in on the “Dracula” name and the vampire-craze as a whole. With very little entertainment value and an obvious lack of direction in development, it may be time to put this one to rest.