‘Dracula’ 1.02 Recap: “Better the Devil You Know”

Going into it, I honestly assumed that NBC’s ‘Dracula’ would be a one-and-done series for me, that I wouldn’t need to watch beyond the first episode. The network ads all looked campy and ridiculous. Truth be told, the pilot episode was fairly campy and ridiculous – yet not unappealingly so. While it certainly wasn’t a shockingly good surprise on par with ‘Hannibal’ earlier this year, it wasn’t bad either, and may have actually been a little fun. So here I am, watching the second episode, and it has enough to keep me going a little while longer. Could it be that I’m actually liking this show? It’s perhaps too soon to tell yet, but I’m willing to keep an open mind at this point.

In its favor, the series is very expensive-looking. Someone clearly spent a lot of money on its lavish costumes and production design. Its tone of overheated melodrama is also kind of entertaining. The producers seem to know that this material is inherently silly, and are willing to have some fun with it. Unfortunately, star Jonathan Rhys Meyers is perhaps the weakest link. He just isn’t selling the character for me, and his put-on Texan accent is rather terrible.

With that said, second episode ‘A Whiff of Sulfur’ opens on a flashback to Van Helsing resurrecting Dracula from his tomb, and Meyers does much better at playing the Carpathian bloodsucker in his original form. Here we discover how Van Helsing managed to tame the vampire and forge an alliance with him over their shared hatred of the Order of the Dragon. Sadly, the scene is short, and as soon as we cut back to the primary setting in 1896 London, Meyers maintains his guise as American industrialist Alexander Grayson the rest of the time.

In this episode, Dracula/Grayson offers young reporter Jonathan Harker a job as his “Public Affairs” attaché, which will assist with ingratiating him into London society and digging up dirt on his business rivals. Of course, this is really all a ploy to get closer to Harker’s fiancée Mina, the reincarnation of Dracula’s long-dead wife. Harker is suspicious of the offer at first, but being both broke and engaged to a lovely girl that he wants to treat to the finer things in life, he accepts. Almost no sooner than this happens, Harker makes a total ass of himself by acting like a chauvinist dick in front of Mina, which greatly upsets the independently-minded young woman, and may just push her into Grayson’s arms.

In the other major storyline, Dracula seduces the buxom Lady Jayne (the delightfully-named Victoria Smurfit), who also happens to be an ass-kicking vampire hunter working for the Order of the Dragon. Even as they have hot and sweaty sex, she has no idea that he’s the very vampire she’s been tracking through the streets of London. Later, she almost catches him feeding on an innocent coat check girl, but he manages to stay a step ahead.

Meanwhile, Van Helsing works on developing a cure for Dracula’s sun allergy. The vampire worries that someone will eventually catch on that it’s no coincidence that this allegedly powerful businessman never conducts any dealings during the daytime.

The show treads a very fine line between the serious and the silly. So far, at least, it has managed to maintain a good balance of the two. This could be my guilty pleasure series of the season.

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