Dracula: Servant to Two Masters

Previously on Dracula: Of Monsters and Men.

“What could you possible desire that is not already yours for the taking?”

Oh, gee whiz, I don’t know. Good writing and character development that makes sense?

If you’ve read my tweets after the sixth episode aired just before Christmas, you might remember that I was toying with the idea of just leaving Dracula hanging and not reviewing the rest of the season. As you can see, I reconsidered — there’s only three episodes left now, I might as well finish the job and then make up my mind whether the second season will get a blogging slot.

At the moment, I’m leaning firmly towards ‘no.’

Lady Jayne and Grayson, together in daylight at last.
The lead-in to another completely unnecessary sex scene — is this Game of Thrones?

This show is just obnoxious, and not in a good way. It doesn’t celebrate its Gothic roots the way my season favourite, Sleepy Hollow, does, and if you’ve got the direct comparison, the contrast just becomes too stark to ignore. Add to that that the narrative surrounding Dracula and Mina is just so ridiculous and sloppily written… the writers are letting the boy meets girl trope write their story for them, and the audience is supposed to swallow it whole. They’re man and woman, and she’s the reincarnation of his very much dead wife — who cares about character development?

Lady Jayne Weatherby and Lucy Westenra

And now, Lady Jayne is practically priming Lucy like a bomb, getting her to seduce Jonathan. I only have one question: WHY? It can’t be Order business, because I’m pretty damn sure Browning knows absolutely nothing about this. So the only possible reason is: because she’s fucking jealous! She’s jealous that Mina has captured Grayson’s attention, so this is her way of striking back, destroying her life via her best friend who’s in love with her. Are we really supposed to believe that Lucy would turn on Mina like this, so quickly, in the space of THREE LINES OF DIALOGUE? Wow, how conveniently gullible.

This isn’t to say that Mina didn’t react like an absolute idiot — she did, her reaction to Lucy declaring herself was terrible and insensitive and stupid. And then of course, she didn’t tell Jonathan the entire truth about it — where was Mina’s guilt, by the way? She seemed quite alright, with the dance and Grayson and, pft, who cares if she’s just alienated her best friend? Does she try to contact her? Does she talk about her, is she shown to be worried about her? Nah, that plot line just conveniently disappeared because there’s romance in the air.

Grayson and Mina

I wanted to hurl at Mina’s fawning reaction to Dracula suggesting the damn dance — that’s not an idea she could have had herself? And it’s so absolutely fantastic that she nearly trips over herself in praising Grayson… Hurl, I tell you. And because the conveniently timed abduction of Jonathan by the Order makes him miss her dance at the hospital, and because Dracula totally splurged on an orchestra for her and bewitched her during their solitary dance, she’s now totally lifeless in Harker’s embrace, because, yo, how could she love him anymore now? If the writers wanted to credibly portray her struggle while loving two men… they failed. Mina’s a roller coaster of badly constructed reconsiderations and influences, who can apparently totally be snared by empty gestures and dumb decisions. She’s completely passive, she just changes her mind every now on and then based on what either Jonathan or Grayson do.

It’s not the morals of her actions that wind me up so much, goodness knows fiction would be nowhere if no-one ever cheated on their fiancé, it’s the sheer stupidity that gets me. This dance wasn’t quite as bad as the one at the engagement party, which was just mind-numbingly idiotic, but it was close. I refuse to buy into this magnetic, hypnotic hold Dracula has on her. Of course, it’s a trope, the sexual magnetism of the literary vampire, but I would think that, to make Mina more than the multitude of women Dracula has already ravaged in the open streets by using these powers, they’d give her more of a brain, and more power to fight back. She just forgets everything when she’s with Grayson, and it’s getting ridiculous. It’s not romantic, it’s lazy writing and unhealthy and romanticising a completely skewed power dynamic in relationships, where one partner basically puts a spell on you and you just throw all the rest of your morality and common sense over board. I really want Mina to get a reality check and learn of the fact that she’s apparently a dead ringer for Dracula’s dead wife and to get her brains in gear. That’s the worst about it: she’s characterised as crazy smart, as a brilliant student of medicine, and yet then, with Dracula, she’s as brainless as a brown paper bag. Ugh.

Renfield during the auction

Meanwhile, the only thing picking up the slightest bit is the sweltering conflicts with the Order of the Dragon, and the friction between Van Helsing and Dracula. If I recall correctly, Van Helsing never actually promised Dracula to cure him of his vampirism, only of his sensitivity to sunlight… so, on balance, Dracula’s promise to kill him someday seems a little dramatic. Besides this, it seems that Dracula has been letting his romantic yearnings get in the way of actual thinking, and thus he’s shown to have made several very stupid mistakes, all of which are now coming back to bite him in the arse.

The Order now knows that he’s in love with Mina, which will no doubt put her in terrible danger, which only Dracula will be able to get her out of — oh look, the damsel in distress trope, how much I’ve missed seeing that — and which will make her fall for him even worse. The Order has also found ways of sabotaging his electricity company. Apropos the painting: they don’t realise that triptych is 300 years old? At all? It looks ancient, for goodness sakes!

The triptych portraying Dracula's dead wife.

Speaking of mistakes: Dracula deluding himself that, together with the sunlight, he could best his bloodlust… a valiant attempt to portray the literary vampire as someone striving for humanity and normality and a life that he can’t have, almost succeeding, if it weren’t for the sequence where he nearly fangs out and struggles not to bite Mina, which goes on for at least a minute of narrating time and heaven knows for how long in narrated time, and Mina totally doesn’t notice anything wrong with him, even though he’s shaking and nearly suffocating her. This isn’t a love story, it’s a cautionary tale.

Funnily enough, the only conflict in this entire show that does make sense is the one between Van Helsing and Dracula: the puppet master directing an undead man for his revenge, now, that’s got meat. It’s also the part that gets the least screen time — and should, by rights, be one of the less important strings of the story. Pity that the important strings are disappointing left and right.

Next: Come to Die.

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