In a lot of ways, NBC’s ‘Dracula’ is a pretty fascinating reinterpretation of the iconic character. I’ve been enjoying the series more and more with each new episode. However, with that said, I think that the network made one fatal mistake that may explain the show’s faltering ratings.
The decision to have Dracula pretend to be an American unfortunately just doesn’t work. Even though we know that he’s just faking it, the character strays too far from our traditional perception of who Dracula is, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers can’t pull off the accent. It’s distracting. Considering the poor ratings, I think many viewers agree.
That’s too bad, because Friday’s episode was pretty strong. ‘The Devil’s Waltz’ follows through with the prior episode’s storyline in which Renfield was kidnapped by agents of Lord Davenport, who wants revenge for his dead son but has no idea that Grayson/Dracula is a vampire. An interrogator named Janina brutally tortures Renfield in order to make him answer one question: “Who does Alexander Grayson love?” Presumably, Davenport plans to use this information to take away the thing that Grayson holds most dear, just as he believes Grayson took away his. Renfield, however, refuses to break.
Dracula soon realizes that Renfield has been taken, but is powerless to do anything about it until night falls. He pressures Van Helsing to test his solar vaccine on a feral vampire girl they’ve captured. The professor uses electricity to restart the girl’s heart and then injects her with the serum, which her revived circulation will distribute throughout her body. He then exposes her to sunlight. For a few seconds, it seems to work… until she bursts into flames. Back to Square One.
Eventually, the sun sets, and Dracula prowls the London streets until he catches Renfield’s scent. He follows that and gets the drop on the kidnappers, who are ill prepared for his retribution. The icily stoic Janina breaks out into a terrified scream before the vampire tears her apart.
That work completed, Dracula returns home to his manor, where he has agreed to host Jonathan and Mina’s engagement party. Using his super smell, he’s able to sniff out that Lord Davenport was behind the kidnapping. Perhaps feeling a little too cocky, he asks Mina to dance, but the connection they share on the dance floor is so intense that Jonathan, Mina’s best friend Lucy, and Grayson’s girlfriend Lady Jayne all take notice. When Harker attempts to cut in, Dracula is so disturbed that, for a brief moment, he fantasizes about slashing the man’s throat open. Somehow, he restrains himself enough to walk away. Although most of the partygoers in attendance didn’t nothing anything, this slip-up will have consequences – especially from Jayne, who, beguiled by him, had refused until this point to entertain any speculation that Grayson could be anything other than he presents himself as.
The best part of the episode is a flashback storyline in which we see how Dracula met Renfield, and how the two men formed such a strong bond. This pays off in Dracula’s big rescue, which is quite brutal and is very artfully staged and shot from the perspective of Renfield lying on the floor. In scenes like this, the show really lives up to its potential as an overheated Gothic potboiler, and justifies my continuing to watch it.