NBC hopes to capitalize on your Halloween spirit by launching their new miniseries Dracula tonight, featuring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the literary bloodsucker. Will you get all the blood, sex, and romance you've come to expect from vampire tales of late? Let us explain.
Featuring a convoluted plot involving the energy industry (oil, alternative sources, etc.) of all things, the show is getting mixed reception from critics. Some love it; some hate it. We're ambivalent. It's Dracula by way of Downton Abbey mixed with Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes. And while that weird blend can be fun at times, at others the convoluted plot drags the show down. The show also doesn't wink at itself, like the successful, but equally silly Sleepy Hollow on Fox does. So—in the first three episodes, at least—what elements does it deliver on and what elements does it skimp on?
Well, there's one vampire here, really, and it depends on how you feel about Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Meyers, since his breakout role in Velvet Goldmine, has mastered the art of the smolder. So if you like his trademark snarl and his high cheekbones, you're in for a swell time. But let's talk about his voice for a second. In this Dracula, Dracula is posing as Alexander Grayson, an American entrepreneur. When Dracula speaks with an American accent he sounds sort of like James Franco. (Or maybe we're just fixated on James Franco—Daniel Fienberg at HitFix likens it more to Christian Slater.) In private, however, Dracula has a low, almost Christian Bale-as-Batman growl, with a slight accent. The voices are both pretty funny.
Okay, okay. So it's network television, so this isn't True Blood-level vampiric copulation, but there are a lot of heaving bosoms—turn of the century London loves cleavage, apparently—and at one point during the first episode Dracula slips his hand up the dress of Lady Jayne. For now, Lady Jayne is his principal sex partner—though obviously everything is mostly just alluded to—but there's implied sex/bloodsucking with some lower class gals. Jayne and Dracula are, alas, not meant to be. (She, you know, hunts vampires.) Who is meant to be with Dracula? Well, that brings us to...
Dracula is obsessed with one Mina Murray, a lovely young medical student, who may just be his wife reincarnated. (This string of plot bares resemblance to Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 movie.) Ol' Drac longs after her, hence he dotes on her with creepy, passionate glances. But, she's in love with Jonathan Harker, whom Dracula decides to employ to keep close. So they are all lovey-dovey as well, but it's fairly chaste. Outside of that there's also a gay romance that Grayson/Dracula uses for blackmail purposes, but it's, disappointingly, fairly unexplored. (At least in the first three episodes.)
Blood and Guts
If you wanted a Drac that spends all his time hunting and feeding, this show is not for you. Yes, there is blood sucking—complete with some fairly disgusting noises—but the frights (or at least gross-out moments) aren't consistent. That's probably because the show is spending a lot of time on...
Yes, this is what will either make you hate this show or appreciate it. We're torn. Dracula's Grayson is an entrepreneur who has teamed up with—yes—Professor Van Helsing to take down The Order of the Dragon, which enacted cruelties upon both of their families. One of Dracula's strategies for infiltrating their organization involves ruining their oil business. So there's a lot of talk of British Imperial Coolant. It's not all bad, though. In a way, it casts Dracula as less of a ruthless villain fueled by libido and hunger, and more of a shrewd, calculating anti-hero with a drive for revenge. That said, you may also find this all fairly boring and ridiculous. Bloodless, even.