Review

Review

TV Recap: 'Dracula' Episode 101 - 'The Blood is the Life'

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draculaDracula Episode 101
“The Blood is the Life”
Written By: Cole Haddon
Directed By: Steve Shill
Original Airdate: 25 October 2013

In This Episode...

...we are meeting characters and setting up this particular version of Dracula. Ready?

Dracula and his manservant Renfield come to London in 1896. Dracula poses as Alexander Grayson, a wealthy American entrepreneur who has come to London in search of investors for his new power source that uses the power from the magnetosphere. In reality, he is there to destroy the Order of the Dragon, a secretive cult that, ages ago, ran across the countryside, raping and pillaging and burning every village they came across. One of those villages was Dracula’s. His wife was burned at the stake and he was cursed with immortality. Nowadays, the Order rapes and pillages with wealth and power, including a complete monopoly on oil concerns in England. It is a blatant allegory for today’s one percenters.

Dracula holds a formal ball to introduce himself to London society and show off his new mode of power. The old money hates him because he is new money; the society-types hate him because he is an American; and the oil barons hate him because if his new technology works, it will destroy them. At the party he meets Mina Murray and her “friend,” Jonathan Harker. Jonathan and Mina are not yet engaged. Dracula is immediately drawn to Mina - she is the spitting image of his dearly departed wife. Mina, too, is somehow drawn to Dracula, as if they had met before. In this version of Dracula, Mina is a medical student, the only female in her class, and her professor is Abraham Van Helsing.

One of the most disparaging of his partygoers is Sir Clyde Wetherby. He is a majority shareholder in the oil concern. He is also part of the Order, but Dracula doesn’t know that yet - he doesn’t know any of the members yet. Even still, Dracula is offended by his treatment, so after the party, he rips him to shreds. Another member of the Order, and experienced vampire hunter Herr Krueger, sneaks into Sir Clyde’s home to check the corpse for signs of vampirism. Clyde was decapitated and had his head sewn back on, so he can’t check for neck damage. To be sure, he cuts off Clyde’s head, stuffs it full of garlic, and delivers it to Clyde’s widow, Lady Jayne. Jayne is not too concerned with her husband’s death; one gets the feeling that their marriage was purely a matter of convenience. Less than 48 hours after her husband’s death, Jayne is all over Dracula. She invites him to share her box at the opera with her. Dracula has his own box, but gives those tickets to Jonathan and Mina and spends the evening in Jayne’s box - literally and suggestively. They sit in the shadows, unseen by other patrons, and he starts kissing her passionately while his fingers are busy beneath her skirt. The whole time, he is watching Mina across the theater.

After the opera, Dracula is hanging out on a rooftop (as you do) when Herr Krueger attacks. There is a very strange, seemingly out-of-nowhere fight scene that was shot like a fight scene in 300. Krueger ends up dead.

Finally, Dracula returns home and finds he has a guest waiting for him: Van Helsing. Van Helsing is pretty pissed off that he killed Clyde, finding it unnecessary. Dracula found it all too necessary, as Clyde was rude to him. In this version, Van Helsing and Dracula are actually working together. Van Helsing’s entire family was wiped out by the Order of the Dragon, and it was Van Helsing who freed Dracula from his iron tomb.

Dig It or Bury It?

I first saw Dracula about six weeks ago. I was underwhelmed by it then, but told myself it was because I was watching a crummy digital screener and I would reserve judgment until the broadcast. Unfortunately, my opinion hasn’t changed much. I usually grade pilots on a curve, because pilots are almost always flawed (I think one of the best pilots I have ever seen was for The X-Files). The story is a little more convoluted than I like my vampire stories to be. In addition to the traditional tale of Dracula wooing Mina, there is this whole Order of the Dragon business. I find it odd that Dracula plans on taking down this cabal by ruining their business, rather than with swift and blinding violence. There is something so... civilized about taking down the Order by ruining their business. Plus the parallels to modern society’s dependence on oil is a little heavy handed.

I’m a big fan of Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and I think he makes a wonderful Dracula. I am having a very difficult time getting used to his American accent. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is far less memorable. I think I will grow to like Jayne, but there is something odd about her that I can’t quite put my finger on. The Dracula / Van Helsing team up will work out well. It is more of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” situation than it is a true partnership, but those types of partnerships are often the most interesting. 

In this episode, there is mention - in passing - that the Whitechapel murders were committed by a vampire, and Jack the Ripper was created to convince the public that the murders were the doings of a human being. I hope they explore that more. The Jack the Ripper murders are fascinating.

Prophecies?

Dracula is worming his way into everyone’s life: helping Mina with med school; hiring Jonathan so that he can earn enough money to ask Mina to marry him; even Van Helsing is working on a vaccine that will allow Dracula to walk in the daylight.

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