Dracula review: The Devil’s Waltz.

Previously on Dracula: From Darkness to Light.

If one were feeling terribly poetic, one might say that last night’s all-new Dracula showed us our star-crossed lovers’ most heartfelt dreams and desires. I’m not feeling terribly poetic today — just terribly bored.

Renfield, Esquire (Nonso Anozie)

Because, honestly, what actually happened this episode? The answer: not much of anything. The one interesting thing was the backstory of Dracula’s lawyer, Renfield — and the manner of his revelation. Working as a bar tender aboard the train that Grayson gets on in order to buy a gold and silver mine off a particularly resistant proprietor, he’s invisible — until he makes himself known. This is a spot-on representation of how minorities are treated in the media the world over: they’re simply not there. The camera doesn’t see them, we don’t see them. And even if they’re there, they’re getting ignored for the benefit of the majority representation. And then, if they have the gall to make a name for themselves, they’re punished for it, as is Renfield when the mine owner and his goons start beating him. That’s some actual commentary in the direction there.

In the present, however, Renfield is getting tortured by Janina Kleiberson (Neve McIntosh) — Davenport has charged her with finding out what the great Alexander Grayson loves, probably so he can then take it from him and make him suffer in return, mwahahahahahahaha. Really? That bit, however, also quickly went pretty much nowhere because Renfield’s loyalty (to the man who saved him and told him all his secrets to secure his services as a lawyer) knows no bounds. So what remains of the lovely contract killer and torturer Kleiberson is a terrified scream. That’s a great supporting actress/character wasted, then.

Meanwhile, we see that Dracula has indeed completely fooled Lady Jayne — she refuses to consider that Grayson might be the vampire the Order is looking for. Browning (Ben Miles) warns her that she wouldn’t be “the first woman to be blinded by desire.” I’ve been over this before, so I won’t waste my breath repeating why I hate this storyline.

Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann) performs another experiment with the serum

The other bit that happens is that Van Helsing continues experimenting with the serum. Using a female vampire, he determines that he must get her heart going and inject the serum, so that it will be distributed through her entire body and cancel out the sun’s effects. And it works — for about ten seconds. Then, she goes up in flames. Of course, Van Helsing will suddenly get all the equipment he needs to build a machine that injects Dracula with such a massive dose that he’ll make it to the banquet next time…

Speaking of dear old Abraham: look there, another flashback we’ve already seen to show us just how much he hates the members of the Order. Who would’ve imagined, I thought he was joking in Goblin Merchant Men. Van Helsing and Grayson acting as though they didn’t know each other when Mina introduced them was amusing, however… they’re terribly flirty, aren’t they?

Lucy and Alistair watch as Mina and Grayson share the first danceThe storyline with Lucy’s unrequited love for Mina seems to be going nowhere as well — sure, she ran from the party crying, but what does that tell us about the future? Is she going to lock it all away, pretend her feelings didn’t exist? I want them to be addressed, I want her to talk to Mina about it, to be honest… and yet, I don’t want her to suffer, either, if the thought of coming out to Mina causes her too much pain. There is a lot of social risks involved, and she can’t really be sure how Mina will react, so I understand, but… isn’t that also what fiction is for, taking a risk? Creating characters ahead of their time? Dracula hired a black man as a lawyer, so why draw the line at lesbians? We’ve already had one same-sex couple laying down their lives because of the social stigma and prejudice, I don’t want to see another character go down that road.

Ultimately, all of this leads to two things: Mina’s dirty, dirty dream of Grayson and Dracula’s little daydream at the end of their dance. Picking up right where Twilight left off, we’re told that it’s alright for icky vampires to lurk and watch the object of their obsession sleep at night, without their knowledge or consent. You’re right, Fangmaster, you shouldn’t be there, not even in Mina’s own self-concocted dreams. It’s juxtaposed with the time when Lucy watched Mina sleep in the morning — I wonder who gets the free pass more readily here. The dream arrives just in time for Mina to doubt whether getting engaged to the “new” Jonathan is a good idea. The new Jonathan is a social upstart desperate to climb the ranks, and ruthless in the making. Believing it’s alright to leave your old friends behind, he needs first stern prompting from Mina, and then just agrees with everything she says. She is, of course, absolutely right, but he still doesn’t look actually happy to see his old colleague, much less his antics. Plus, if that’s the show’s idea of conflict-building and resolution… yawn.

Jonathan Harker and Alexander Grayson at the engagement party

Like that, neither Mina nor Jonathan can grow, they’d just move back and forth. It’s good to see Mina being the smarter one in this — but at the same time, she’s, like Lady Jayne, completely helpless in the face of Dracula’s charms. Also — is it just me, or does Jonathan loaning her out to Dracula for “the right of the first dance” smack dubiously of right of the first night… He didn’t ask her whether she agreed to this (after her repeatedly voicing her doubts about Grayson the episode before — he should have asked anyway, but this just exacerbates the issue), he just handed her over. All together now: a conversation between men, over Mina’s head. How novel.

And now, it’s also flipping obvious to the entire upper tier of London society that Mina and Dracula have some, uh, unresolved tension:

Mina and Grayson dance at the party

Honestly, writers? Showing Mina so utterly witless upon close contact? Showing Dracula being dumb enough to do something like this in public? Yes, ok, we get it, Mina has doubts. But they’re not really just doubts about Jonathan’s character — they’re her subconscious way of expressing her feelings for Dracula and, thus, a by-product of her being written as a woman with no say in her own fate.

The hallucination sequence with Dracula being shown to instinctively cut Jonathan’s throat when he attempts to cut in: seriously? Added purely for shock value and gratuitous blood spillage, and then resolved with a, haha, nah, just kidding! As it stands, the soon-to-be Harkers’ engagement seems pretty much on the rocks now, anyway, so he might as well have just done it…

Next: Of Monsters and Men.

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