“Dracula” Review–“Of Monsters and Men”

Once again, this week’s episode of NBC’s Dracula indicates that the series’ writers have finally found their stride, as the many different plot threads have finally begun to converge in something verging on legibility.  In tonight’s episode, Lucy finally confesses her feelings for Mina, Dracula almost manages to survive in the sun, Jonathan faces off against Lord Davenport, and Mina discovers some unsettling truths about her mentor Dr. Van Helsing.

For starters, I have to announce myself somewhat pleasantly surprised by the sensitivity with which the series dealt with Lucy’s feelings for her friend Mina.  While one may doubt the sincerity of Lady Jayne’s claim that she too has had affairs with multiple women–a comment she makes after having invited Lucy to tea–there is no doubt of the depth of emotion that Lucy feels for Mina.  The scene in which she confesses her love to her friend, and Mina’s subsequent horrified rejection, is more emotionally genuine and heartbreaking than anything we have yet seen in the series.  However, it does make one wonder whether Lucy’s spurned jealousy will manifest itself in some more dangerous form, especially as there is every indication that Mina may soon transfer her attentions to Dracula.

Speaking of Lady Jayne, she continues to delight as someone whose motives remain curiously opaque.  The series suggests that she may be genuinely in love with the dashing and dangerous Grayson/Dracula, but she also has an edge to her made all the more obvious by her manipulation of Lucy into confessing her feelings for Mina.  Does she hope that by doing so she will be able to disrupt the obvious attraction between Mina and Grayson?  If so, that doesn’t appear to be happening, as Mina is nothing short of horrified and terribly disturbed by Mina’s confession.  But who knows?  Perhaps her feelings for her friend are indeed more than merely platonic.  And what of Lady Jayne’s feelings for Grayson?  Is she really in love with him, or is she merely in lust?  The series seems to love playing with and constantly deferring our expectations, which it will probably continue to do right up until the end.

The real showpiece of tonight’s episode, however, was Dracula’s continuing quest to walk in the sunlight.  No matter how many times he fails, he continues to hope that Van Helsing will be able to allow him to gain that which relies tantalizingly out of reach.  After a very viscerally disturbing scene in which he is punctured by needles in an attempt to provide enough pressure to circulate the sun-proof serum throughout his system–one of the moments in which the series comes closest to the disturbing visuals of the horror genre–he attends a noonday meeting of his business.  Although at first the serum protects him from the destruction of the sun, it’s not long before we see the signs of strain.  It would also appear that, despite all of his efforts, members of the Order are not convinced that he is not a vampire.  Witness, for example, Davenport’s attempts to delay his departure.  Needless to say, Dracula suffers more than a little disfigurement, but it’s nothing that a little blood drinking can’t solve.

As always, both Van Helsing and Davenport continue to hold up their own own miniature plot lines fairly well, with van Helsing nearly murdering Mina after she discovers his experiments (though he relents upon discovering that mother’s death has left her with a desire to cure death), and Davenport being as subtly and venomously villainous as always.  Davenport, though not the big bad of this series, nevertheless holds his own as he continues to pursue any means necessary to bring about the end of Grayson.  Though he will probably also meet his end at the hands of everyone’s favorite vampire, it will be a shame to see him go.

All in all, tonight’s episode was a tightly-woven foray into the worlds of politics and science. It managed to deftly balance these two elements with the interpersonal drama that remains its strongest storytelling attribute.  If every subsequent episode could be as smoothly integrated as this one–and if it had been so from the beginning–the series might be more successful than it currently is.  However, there is hope that with this improved storytelling, the series might get a little more breathing-room to explore the full complexity of its universe.

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