‘Dracula’ Series Premiere Review

Published 11 months ago by

Johnathan Rhys Meyers in Dracula Dracula Series Premiere Review

NBC’s internationally co-financed production of Dracula may do more than simply test whether or not the network has room on its schedule for another opulent, extravagant-looking, horror-themed series that exudes sympathy for the devil. It may prove to be a test of whether or not vampires in mainstream media are facing a declining interest, or if their powers include the ability to be eternally rebooted in a myriad of superficially different but thematically familiar ways without losing any of their appeal.

In that regard, Dracula isn’t shy about presenting itself as a conspiracy-laden reboot with steampunk sensibilities and appropriately luxuriant visuals. After a brief introduction in which we witness the resurrection of a long dormant Dracula (played here by Jonathan Rhys MeyersMission: Impossible III, The Tudors), the world’s most famous vampire assumes the guise of American entrepreneur Alexander Grayson, someone altogether unfamiliar to the audience and to the rest of the similarly resurrected/rebooted characters of Bram Stoker’s famous novel.

Along with Dracula, this new series from creator Cole Haddon brings us Renfield (played by Game of ThronesNonso Anozie), as well as Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Jonathan Harker and even Arrows Jessica De Gouw as Mina Murray. Even Van Helsing (Thomas Kretchmann) is here, but as with Dracula, they’re all slightly different. Right away, the series makes the viewer unsure with whom they should align their sympathies, as during Grayson’s admittedly ostentatious party and demonstration of his free and “wireless” energy, the support of the audience seems like it should fall with Dracula and his soon-to-be-revealed cause.

Johnathan Rhys Meyers as Alexander in Dracula Dracula Series Premiere Review

It’s a shift to be sure, but this sense of reversed compassion is not entirely different from versions we have seen before – especially in Francis Ford Coppola‘s 1992 version. In that regard, however, Coppola didn’t tack on a revenge plot against the Order of the Dragon – a not-so-secret society that not only nearly destroyed Dracula and killed his wife centuries earlier, but also has staked its claim on the future by seeking to control oil as the ultimate energy source. And it’s at this oddly modern, socio-political juncture that Dracula makes its wildest departure from other iterations of the character. Dracula isn’t a drastic reboot; he’s still the same bloodsucker he’s always been (there’s plenty of him feeding on the women of the night), but now we’re just seeing him as the hero of a much larger story.

Haddon’s gaslight-illuminated view of this world assumes that those watching are already familiar with the story of Dracula, in one form or another. As such, this version feels no real need to retread familiar territory. Instead, it takes the character and his past and puts him not only in a new plot, but forces him into a new (albeit fake) personality as well. The effect is likely going to be a place where audience opinion on the program differs greatly.

On the one hand, the show is called Dracula, and therefore the assumption is that it would be altogether about the man for whom it was named. On the other hand, this Alexander Grayson is a whole new persona, and through him we are afforded a chance to see a familiar character do things we’ve not necessarily seen before. In order to maintain his charade and his plans for vengeance, Grayson has to act differently than Dracula normally would. In doing so, this opens up a slew of possibilities for not only exploring new things about the character, but it also creates an opportunity for new and exciting storylines. (It’s a stretch, but it could happen.)

Sure, Haddon could have just as easily brought Dracula into Victorian London and set him against the Order of the Dragon without all of this American businessman stuff, but that new American persona is an interesting one for reasons beyond appealing to half the show’s intended audience and Meyers’ rather unique sounding accent (though an argument could be made it still trumps Charlie Hunnam and Gerard Butler in that department).

For one, the idea of bourbon-swilling American exceptionalism not only sets the character apart from everyone else in the story, it also gives them – both the Order of the Dragon and those society types concerned with whether or not money is “old” or “new” a reason to dislike him that goes a little deeper than a simple distrust of an interloper. In this case, Grayson’s an “interloping colonial,” someone to be dealt with in a manner that’s perhaps different or more urgent than your average trespasser.

Jessica DeGouw and Thomas Kretschmann in Dracula Dracula Series Premiere Review

This notion manages to add some depth to a series that’s not particularly deep in its initial outing. In fact, Dracula as a whole seems more concerned with superficial aspects of its production than with telling a truly compelling story. As it stands with the pilot episode, the thinking behind the series seems to have been that vampires are fun, and conspiracies are fun. People seem to readily consume media about them both, so why not combine the two?

In a sense, it’s fan service of the highest order, and Dracula does feel a little heavy early on in that regard. But that just puts the show in an unusual place where it has to deliver on both accounts lest one party feel compelled to check out if their expectations aren’t being met. To a certain degree, the pilot episode, ‘The Blood is the Life,’ works by setting up a precarious balancing act between the outlandish and the sincere; it’s not entirely artificial, but it’s not exactly the genuine article either. The concern is: By stepping out on that particular fan service-y tightrope right from the start, the chances of making a fatal misstep become exponentially greater.

It’s not a mind-blowing start, but it’s not entirely ruinous either. Besides, there are only 10 episodes to contend with, so it will be interesting to see just how long Dracula can maintain its balance without tipping too far in one direction.

_____

Dracula continues next Friday with ‘A Whiff of Sulphur’ @10pm on NBC.

Photos: Nino Munoz & Jonathon Hession/NBC

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  1. it was interesting. i will give it a couple more episodes.

  2. It doesnt have the “fun” factor that sleepy hollow has going for it so I was quite bored

  3. it was decent, nothing special but it was a somewhat interesting take on the original story. I’ll give it a few episodes and see where it goes.

  4. I like the idea of a modern twist on the original story, I’m just happy he doesn’t sparkle in the sunlight. I’ll continue to watch until I find a reason to stop.

  5. Worst take on the story I’ve ever seen! I will not be wasting time watching this nonsense.

    • What take would you have preferred/expected, if I may ask?

  6. Maybe you could watch it as something else ?
    It is not bad at all,and I guess we all have seen the original story again and again !

    Cheers

  7. Given the volume of promotion NBC has done for this series, it seems to be their darling of the new season. The bulk of the cast was fun to watch but Jessica De Gouw has improved her craft only slightly since her wooden performance on Arrow and comes across as the weak link, which is a shame for Mina. The scenes and script borrowed rather heavily from other period works like Count of Monte Cristo, The Prestige and Jack the Ripper–it’s hammiest steal. Thomas Kretschmann and Katie McGrath appear to be the scene stealers but I haven’t made up my mind on Victoria Smurfit’s Lady Jane. Her sparring session was a bit too reminiscent of Jennifer Garner in Daredevil and the slow motion fight scenes were out of place. Even so, I’m curious to see what the next episode or two might become.

    • You missed the obvious parallel between Dracula playing rich industrialist fighing a shadowy organization and Batman, which is double irony.

      • You might say I lost … count. :)

  8. Previews look like just more sex and blood stuff, not worth my time to watch. I’ll give this one a pass, and go watch my original series Dark Shadows collection instead.

  9. Question for anyone on the ScreenRant staff – how do you decie which tv shows to review, and which ones not to? Just curious.

    • Good question.

      I assume the ones most likely to be talked about on the site’s comments section are way up there but then they missed out on reviewing and talking about some great shows (Ray Donovan was only mentioned in one article before it started airing and I don’t think I’ve seen The Borgias mentioned in the year and a half I’ve been reading this site).

  10. sorry, correction – “decide which tv shows”

  11. Looks good. Can’t comment further because it doesn’t start here until next Thursday but from the promotional stuff I’ve seen, it looks like another show that airs on the same channel that tells a unique version of a popular horror monster, Hannibal.

    • I was looking forward to Hannibal for such a long time but I really cant get on with that show and it’s such a shame. I love Hannibal as a character and I’m a big Mads Mikkelsen fan, for me his incarnation as Hannibal is spot on however Hugh Dancy’s portrayal of Will Graham is awful. I watched the first four and every time he’s on screen I wanted to shout at the screen “less is more” I don’t know maybe it’s just me but that guy ruined it for me!

      • I think I preferred this version of Will but that’s probably because I’ve always had a fascination with things that mess with a viewer’s/reader’s head and the whole “what’s real and what isn’t” aspect was pretty well done in my view, especially thanks to Hugh’s portrayal of a man confused towards the end of the season.

        The clock thing was cool, you should youtube it. It’s just a typical psychological test to draw a clock face and the current time and the results were very interesting, especially with Will’s reality differing from everyone else’s.

        I couldn’t get into Hannibal after seeing the first episode but gave it a shot and by the end of episode 2, I was hooked.

        • Don’t get me wrong I like the character of Will Graham and thought William Petersen was great in Manhunter and Edward Norton was ok (by his own admission he took the part for a paycheck) by comparison in Red Dragon, its just Hugh Dancy. It all comes down to personal preference however I had a look at the clock psychology and that was pretty cool.

          • Yeah, sometimes actors can grate on you, completely understand that.

  12. I quite liked that it wasn’t JUST about sex and violence (although these elements seem to be crucial parts of the story, of course). Interestingly, he isn’t just an overpowered supernatural being that can swoop around an opponent with super speed to snap his neck – he needs a sword to defend himself, nice touch! Or was it implied somewhere that the guy on the roof was more than a mere human?

    And … if the originally intended dark conspiracy premise shouldn’t work out, they can always take the Scrubs spin-off route and insert a dot in between the second and third letter of the show’s title and turn it into a supernatural medical comedy.

  13. It was kind of boring and the dude playing Dracula just doesn’t fit to me.

  14. I liked it, though i have the feeling it will have a polarized reaction because people will be expecting the same cliques we’ve seen for nearly 100 odd years in film and tv. I’m glad they are trying something new, and coming at the story in a different way then the usual stuff we’ve seen a million times before. I’m also glad they didn’t do the whole ,”Dracula is back…In 2013!” type stuff we’ve seen before as well.I prefer the 1896 setting.

  15. An interesting concept although it has its problems. ill keep on watching because it has potential to improve.

  16. Aw Jonathan Rhys is so amazing I so missed him being on the tv screen and plus hes so just ugh the feels I thought it was good love a good vampire show.

  17. JR-M is awesome. Loved him in From Paris with Love, and the Tudors.

    It looks like he will pretty much be playing a blood-sucking version of King Henry for this show. I’ll have to check it out.

  18. Good show better then sleepy hollow in my eyes didn’t care for the slow mo fight but good show ima keep watchn

  19. I’m a fan of anything new. Especially reworks of the old. And I love the flashbacks. I’m a sucker for period pieces. This show has me by the lady-balls and I love it. I can’t wait for episode 4!

  20. I think he’s HOT! And the story isn’t too bad either.

  21. I love this series and hope it continues…I have found the evolving “past-life” love story line to be completely captivating. I hope the writer continues to develop and divulge the couple’s history as it interfaces with their present. Interesting the story line of the female best-friend in love…might I dare hope this doesn’t turn trite. Meaning, a scorned lover turns against her love as in ‘Elizabeth’ (obviously set up by the huntress)…but, rather the writer may dare to take a position more based in reality, in which her best friend stirs to question the meaning of unconditional love. Though the premise of the show is unquestionably based on unbridled revenge, it’s strength lies in its sub-lines….unconditional love and the mysterious forces surrounding human connections.

  22. This is one of best, sexiest, down to earth Draculas I have ever seen and there are very few horror flicks in any genre I haven’t seen in my time, Grew up on loved it love it more now. Anything with Dracula or vamps were always my pick. Christopher Lee ??? oooh lawd that man terrified me in my younger years! So tall & thin and evilly handsome & so freakin cool then once Frank Langella played Dracula and oh my word it was so sexy… he toted that big helpher at least 4 or5 miles & didnt break a sweat whewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww also starred Lawrence Olivier. But this new Dracula geeze I wish it was a daily series like the old dark shadows was with Johnathon Fridd as Barnabus Collins. I would never get anything done so please please dont cancel it if you cah I would like for you guys to put it on a dailt shiow, make me one happy old broad! Thank You
    Guess You Know I’m in love with your Dracula! Becky in Alabama

  23. Now that the season finale of Dracula is over I finally see this story really taking off. But my question is: Has it already been cancelled??? I want to see Lucy as a vamp and what happens to Harker & Renfeld. Will Lucy become one of Grayson’s vampire minions or go off to become a vampire femme fatale in her own right? What about Van Helsing? Will Dracula let him slide? I doubt it. Since the show is sort of steam punk anything could happen. There’s a lot of ways the writers could make this even more exciting. Mina could make it possible for Drac to walk in daylight…I want to see it happen. Just think of all of the trouble he could get into as a business man by day and a vamp by night….an what if Lady Jane were turned in the finale??? So many loose ends! Come on NBC. Deliver!

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