For a show about the most famous blood-sucking fiend in pop culture history, NBC’s ‘Dracula’ did something kind of interesting on Friday without going out of the way to draw attention to it. All of the violence and killings (and the episode had plenty of both) were committed by the human characters, and none by vampires. Who are the real monsters here?
The episode, which has the strange and (as far as I noticed) unexplained title of ‘Goblin Merchant Men’, opens with a flashback to centuries earlier, as Vlad the Impaler (Dracula’s original identity, of course) is bloodily executed by the Order of the Dragon. Yet somehow, he lives on shortly afterwards, despite having his throat slashed. For his crimes against it, the Order cursed Vlad to the state of being undead, thus creating the vampire that would plague its members later. This seems rather short-sighted, if you ask me. Is the Order responsible for all vampires?
Back to the main timeline, Dracula (under the guise of Alexander Grayson) has blackmailed Order member Lord Laurent into selling him enough shares to take control of Laurent’s industrial coolant manufacturing company, under threat of exposing that Laurent is gay. Unfortunately for him, the Order is extremely displeased at Laurent’s poor judgment in allowing a foreign interloper to meddle in business affairs that affect its entire membership. They sentence him to death by a very large sword. Laurent accepts his punishment, knowing that if the truth of his being gay were to get out, the scandal would ruin his family. What he doesn’t realize is that his lover, despondent at Laurent’s death, would take his own life as well, leaving an incriminating photograph behind that could out their affair anyway.
As for his own illicit dalliances, Dracula continues to bone Lady Jayne the vampire hunter. She still has no idea that he’s the vampire that she’s searching for. After Lady Jayne’s two psychic “seers” have a vision that could identify Dracula/Grayson, Prof. Van Helsing poisons them and, just to be sure that no trace of their visions can be extracted from their deceased brains, finished them off by smashing their skulls in with a big hammer. Ick. With the two seers dead, the Order worries that London may soon be infested by more vampires no longer afraid of detection.
Meanwhile, upset that her fiancé Jonathan Harker turned out to be such a dick, Mina wallows in heartbreak. To get her mind off things, her ditzy friend Lucy Westenra takes her out for a wild night of partying. Blitzed out of her mind on absinthe, Mina is macked on by a bohemian sleazebag, until rescued by the gallant Mr. Grayson. While it seems like this is the perfect opportunity to seduce her, Grayson restrains himself. In fact, he even counsels Harker into apologizing to her and mending fences so that they can make up. Whatever his plans for this couple, Dracula is willing to sacrifice his own happiness (at least in the short term) to see them through.
Once again, I find myself enjoying this show much more than I expected. Unfortunately, after a solid debut, its ratings appear to be slipping considerably, with a lot of viewer complaints centered around star Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Admittedly, he’s my least favorite part of the series as well, but I can tolerate him. I doubt the show will be renewed for a second season – though low ratings didn’t stop ‘Hannibal’, so who knows…