Dracula S1 Ep2: A Whiff of Sulfur

No one can accuse NBC’s Dracula of not being progressive. The Victorian period drama is a bit more forward-thinking than the era’s reputation, and that’s not a bad thing. The revamped 19th century vampire is a sexual serial killer, let’s be clear, but he’s also best friends with a black attorney who calls him “sir” just to annoy him, he supports gay rights, he surrounds himself with picture-perfect kick-ass women, and his purpose in life is to take down Big Oil. What’s not to love, right?

The problem is, the show is so self-conscious of its own progressiveness it practically pauses for applause. I like the inclusiveness — it’s the smugness that rubs me the wrong way. And while a forward-thinking Dracula is a cool idea, it will really only work as an allegory about people’s tendency to look the other way about anything, no matter how bad, as long as the talking points are correct. Sadly, I don’t think this is the message they’re going for, leaving us with a great guy who happens to mass murder women and isn’t even bothered by it. Sure, it’s a change from the trend of vampires who agonize over drinking blood (and Dracula really doesn’t — the only thing he agonizes about is his inability to walk in the sun), but the super-glamorous, super-sympathetic vampire is hardly groundbreaking.

“A Whiff of Sulfur” offers some additional backstory on the Dracula/Van Helsing alliance, which basically revolves around the fact that both of them had wives who were executed by The Order. That The Order are evil oilmen is a convenience. As Grayson, Dracula tries to manipulate business deals, resorting to blackmail  (he may be supportive of homosexuality, but won’t hesitate to use other people’s anti-gay bigotry to his advantage). He also tries to manipulate Jonathan Harker in an attempt to get closer to Mina, who is stressing out about a med school test. Naturally, Mina not only aces the test, she’s the first woman to pass at the top of the class. Mina’s smart, but she doesn’t have Jonathan’s instinct about Grayson. Not that it matters — despite being one of the only male characters with a working set of ethics, the show turns him into a bad guy by having him say that Mina will become a “good English wife” and give up her medical career after he proposes to her.

The episode’s highlight is the Order’s liaison, Lady Jane, a vampire hunter who, due to a couple of rolls in the hay with Grayson, may or may not be a vampire herself. Unlike the Order’s men, Lady Jane is portrayed as cool and badass, she dresses like Blade and can decapitate with one hand. She’s a clear antagonist at this point, but if the show has any sense, it will use her to take Grayson down a few pegs, and maybe even show her as right for doing it.

Tags: ,