Note: This post contains spoilers for the series premiere of NBC's Dracula.
There is so much to love about NBC’s new vampire drama Dracula—it’s dark, it’s sexy, it’s gruesome. And it’s atmospheric, showcasing candlelit English manors, London nightscapes, and luxurious ball gowns. The show is designed to transport viewers to another time and place, and it succeeds.
Tonight’s episode begins in Romania in 1881. A dark figure in a trench coat and wide-brimmed hat resurrects a mummified Dracula from his glass coffin by feeding him the blood of a greedy grave robber.
Fifteen years later, in London in 1896, Dracula has cleaned up and fleshed out. He’s a young, sexy, virile-looking man, played by the handsome actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers. He’s also taken on a new identity—Alexander Grayson, Master of Carfax Manor and an American Industrialist He develops an unpleasant twang and says, “I’m as American as God, guns, and bourbon.”
Grayson hosts a ball in his gorgeous home to introduce himself—and his new business venture—to London society. His guests’ clothes are beautiful, but their attitudes are not. They mutter under their breath about him being an American show-off as they take advantage of his hospitality.
The audience also gets to meet most of the show’s major characters at the ball. There’s the handsome Jonathan Harker, a young reporter who writes for The Inquisitor. He shows up with his girlfriend Mina Murray, a pretty brunette medical student who’s the spitting image of Dracula’s murdered wife. When Mina sees Grayson for the first time, she gets a chill and says, “Someone walked over my grave.” There are also a half dozen other aristocrats whom, we discover, Grayson wants to woo and eventually destroy.
In the ballroom scene, Grayson shows off the new alternative energy source he’s developing by lighting hundreds of light bulbs with no wires—it’s like wifi for electricity. The audience learns later that Grayson wants to harness geomagnetic energy in order to bankrupt the wealthy British industrialists who grew rich off of Petroleum. They are all part of a secret society called the Order of the Dragon that was responsible for crimes against humanity throughout the ages.
The light bulbs eventually fail due to a lack of coolant, and Grayson talks to Sir Clive Dawes about investing in the British Imperial Coolant Company. Clive calls Grayson an “interloping colonial,” so Grayson (i.e. Dracula) ends up sneaking up on him at his house later that night and ripping his throat out.
A sexy blonde aristocrat named Lady Jayne Wetherby also corners Grayson in the beautiful candle-lit gardens at his house, mocks his light display as being “operatic,” and invites him to share her box at the opera. It’s clear she’s coming on to him, but Grayson declines her offer and says he has his own box. Later on in the show, another mystery man in a wide-brimmed hat and a trenchcoat breaks into Lord Clive’s house, opens his coffin, cuts off his head, and puts it in a wooden hatbox. He takes it to a “military outfitters” business, where none other than Lady Jayne picks it up. It turns out she is part of a group that fights vampires, and now they realize another one might be in town. So, whether she knows it or not (and it seems as if she doesn’t), she was actually flirting with a vampire when she made a pass at Grayson at his party. She gives a creepy laugh as she picks Clive’s head up and asks that it be taken away.
Compared to Lady Jayne’s sociopathic tendencies and open sensuality, Mina Murray is a kinder, more reserved character. She’s a talented medical student with top marks, but she has a phobia of cutting into flesh with a scalpel. She turns to her instructor and mentor, a man named Van Helsing, for help. He says, “The secret to a steady hand is a steady heart…The Heart never lies.” So my question is: How is Mina’s heart lying to her? She seems to be in love with her boyfriend Jonathan Harker, but she’s also drawn to Dracula like a moth to the flame and he’s drawn to her.
Dracula stalks Mina one night outside of her school, like he’s a hunter and she’s his prey, but he doesn’t touch her. He does attack another young woman, though. He bites into her throat, and she moans like she’s experiencing sexual pleasure. It’s unclear whether or not he kills her or just wounds her, but there’s something very animalistic—and mildly deranged—about the vampire, even when he’s got his fangs retracted and he’s playing a wealthy American.
Dracula’s romantic rival is Jonathan Harker. He invites the reporter to his house in the late afternoon for an interview. A sun beam burns Dracula’s hand, but it’s shadowy and Dracula can manage to sit and talk. He tells Harker that he’s “descended from a very old family” but his mind is “always fixed on the future.” He says that humans are “on the precipice of a great change” and “we can redefine our species.” He says he wants “to give nature a helping hand.” I have no idea what Dracula’s talking about—unless he wants to turn everybody into vampires—and neither does Harker. On his notepad, Harker writes “visionary,” “delusional,” and “egomaniac.” I really can’t tell if Dracula’s entirely sane, or if he’s still suffering the after-effects of a long period of starvation, or if he’s crazed with grief over his dead wife, or if he’s just being a vampire. At this point, it’s difficult to discern the true nature of his character.
It’s clear to me, however, that Dracula is undeniably sexy. He loans Jonathan and Mina his box at the opera and he shows up at Lady Jayne’s box. He invites her into the shadows where he lifts her beautiful emerald-and-black-lace skirt and ravages her with his hand. She bites her lip with pleasure, and he licks the blood off. While he’s making Lady Jayne moan, he watches Jonathan and Mina across the theater—so I don’t know if he’s getting off on public sexual activity, or if he’s thinking about Mina while he’s kissing Lady Jayne, or if he’s jealous of Mina being with Jonathan, or if he’s knows Jayne’s a vampire hunter and wants to manipulate her. Whatever his true motivation is, it probably deliciously twisted.
Dracula’s also ruthless. After the opera, he’s lurking on a rooftop, watching (or maybe listening) as two male aristocrats discuss how Grayson (i.e. Dracula) forced Clive’s widow to give him a seat on the board of their Petroleum Company by cashing in on Clive’s gambling debt. While Dracula’s eavesdropping, he gets shot in the thigh with an arrow by Kruger—the guy in the trench coat and hat who cut off Clive’s head and took it to Lady Jayne. Dracula slits his throat and says, “Before you die, take heart. You will soon be joined in hell by scores of your brethren. I will destroy your order and everything it stands for.”
Meanwhile, in an empty warehouse, Lady Jayne practices hitting heavy bags with a sword. A female vampire in a nearby cage taunts her and says that all the practice in the world won’t save Jayne because “we will be legion.” So maybe Dracula’s plan is to create an army of vampires then? I don’t really know, but it sounds like somebody in town has a plan to turn vampires.
Back at Dracula’s house, Van Helsing storms in, livid at Dracula for taking advantage of a widow. Dracula attacks him but doesn’t kill him. Van Helsing says there’s a difference between a “vendetta” and “vengeance.” He has a vendetta. The “Order Drago” slaughtered his entire family, and he wants to crush them by wiping out their wealth. He has been plotting with Dracula for over a decade. He was the one who resurrected him in the first place. He says, “We must practice control. We must follow the plan.” On the other hand, Dracula wants vengeance. They burned his wife alive, and he wants to destroy them.
In the final scene of the night, Mina wakes up with a nightmare of being burned to death. So is she the reincarnation of Dracula’s dead wife? Would a reincarnation look exactly the same? Or is she something else?
At this point, I don’t really care if Dracula destroys the Order of the Dragon. I mean, they’re probably evil and everything, but I feel like the show’s using vampire lore to symbolize a modern political agenda—i.e. Dracula wants to harness alternative energy in order to bankrupt the evil industrialists who have grown wealthy on petroleum. If I wanted to watch politics, I’d watch the news. I just want to see more pretty dresses, sexy blood-sucking scenes, and shocking murders. And while I’m not exactly rooting for Dracula and Mina to be together—since Dracula seems a wee bit unstable at the moment and as liable to eat her as he is to ravish her—I can’t want to see how their relationship evolves.
Brittany is a freelance writer, aspiring novelist and small business owner who hopes that heaven will be like a bookstore with an endless supply of free books, free coffee and super comfy chairs.