I’m not kidding. The second installment of NBC’s 10-part Dracula miniseries was mainly about Dracula trying to take controlling interest in a company called British Imperial Coolant, and somehow, against all odds, it was still damned entertaining.
The first part of the episode led me to believe we were in for a sophomore slump, because the first scene was of some random dude fencing with another random dude, and the first random dude making eyes at another old gentleman dude. It is immediately followed by a scene where Lucy’s rich mom buys her daughter, Mina and Jonathan Harker lunch and Harker feels bad because he is poor. Oh no! I thought. The show doesn’t have enough story to tell, so it’s padding it out with meaningless garbage! But I was delightfully wrong.
The older gentleman in love with the young fencer is Clive’s co-owner in British Imperial Coolant, Clive being the dude Dracula drank in the first episode, with Dracula instantly buying up his shares (because the Order of the Dragon controls the world through oil, remember, and Dracula is determined to fuck their oil up). Dracula offers to buy out his new co-owner — his name is Lord Laurent — but Lord Laurent, being a crony of the Order of the Dragon, turns Alexander Grayson down. Then things get busy:
• Van Helsing draws Dracula’s blood, which he experiments on while hoping to find a way to allow Dracula to go out in daylight. Dracula really hates needles.
• The head honcho of the Order of the Dragon (at least the top guy we’ve seen so far) — the one played by Ben “Patrick from Coupling” Miles — tells Lady Jane to hire another huntsman to find the vampire. Lady Jane wants to use the seers to locate him, the seers being two opium addicts with a magic mirror. This show is nuts.
• The seers do find Dracula — and see his face, but of course they don’t recognize him — but Dracula somehow notices he’s being magically watched, and gets really scary and the seers have to break the magic mirror before he somehow gets them. This disturbs Lady Jane and the Head Honcho, and they realize the vampire they’re facing must be very old and very powerful.
• Dracula is determined to hang out with Mina Murray as much as possible. Renfield asks why Dracula just doesn’t take the girl and Dracula says “to make her into such as I am… it would be an abomination.” That’s right, Dracula just refused to suck someone’s blood because it would be morally wrong. Madness.
• Dracula decides to get entangled with Murray through Harker. He offers Harker the position of — and I swear I am not making this up — Vice President of Public Affairs. DRACULA OFFERED JONATHAN HARKER AN EXECUTIVE POSITION. THIS IS MADNESS.
• That’s what the scene where Harker can’t pay for lunch was for, to indicate his poverty and frustration. Grayson even offers Harker Clive’s old mansion — can’t have his veep living in a hovel, obviously — and Mina says she’ll kick him if he doesn’t accept it. While Jonathan feels lucky at first, he gets more and more bothered at the extravagant offer, wondering why he was chosen, and what Grayson’s true motives are. He plans to turn it down.
• Mina is about to take her surgery final, and remember she’s no good at it because she’s too nervous. Grayson picks her up on her way to school (it’s a very cloudy morning, and he stays entirely in his carriage) and offers her not just a useful platitude, but also his support of her attempt to become a doctor instead of a nurse, against the desire of her father and most of society. Dracula’s best line: “So what. Two words guaranteed to repel any manner of mediocrity masquerading as conventional wisdom.” Mina is impressed and charmed, and legitimately so.
• Grayson and Lady Jane have dinner at her house, where Dracula shows her a magic trick where he makes a coin spinning in a dish instantly disappear. Lady Jane asks where it went, and the scene highly suggests it went in her vagina. Then they fuck.
• At home, Harker learns that 1) the rent to his hovel has been raised yet again and 2) Mina passed her test, so Lucy wants them all to go out and celebrate. Harker very uncomfortably says he needs to work instead, and Lucy kind of cruelly says “Don’t worry, I’m paying” (more or less). Harker then immediately accepts Grayson’s offer.
• Of course, what Dracula really wants Harker for is dirt on his enemies, and first on the list is Lord Laurent. Harker tells him which club to go to and when, and Grayson finds Lord Laurent locking lips with his young fencer friend. Grayson announces that while he has no problem “with who a man chooses to love” it sure would be a shame for their reputations people found out their secret… especially people like Laurent’s wife or the fencer’s doting dad. And that’s how Grayson gets his controlling interest in British Imperial Coolant.
• Now flush with money and a sweet new job and home, Jonathan Harker buys an engagement ring for Mina. He also gets kind of drunk. When some of his friends ask about what Mina will do about medical school after getting engaged, Harker immediately announces that she’ll probably give up her “silliness” to concentrate on her “more natural, womanly pursuits”… which of course Mina completely hears. So there is absolutely no question that Dracula is the better, kinder, more liberal and more supportive of the two men in her life. Mina and Harker have a fight where Harker says he’s never given her a word of discouragement, but she counters that he’s never offered a word of support, either.
Guys. I never thought any show about a dude tries to buy a coolant company would be so interesting, let alone a show ostensibly about Dracula where Dracula is more worried about business than drinking blood. And he’s having sex with a vampire slayer. And also he’s trying to destroy the nascent oil industry. But here it is, and it’s just captivating.
I know not everyone can make their peace with how far off the vampiric reservation this adaptation of Dracula is — hell, it’s barely an adaptation, it’s like the writers only occasionally looked at the book cover while making it — but if you can, I think you have to appreciate just how bonkers it is. And it definitely isn’t boring.
• The opening credits are pretty damn awesome.
• The show actually opens with a continuation of the flashback where Van Helsing awakens Dracula. Dracula is cranky upon waking up, and a fight scene ensues, but Van Helsing stabs Dracula in the foot with a cross with a blade hidden in it, which paralyzes the vampire. As ludicrous as this is, Dracula makes it work.
• Speaking of, this show does not skimp on the blood and gore when Dracula is drinking, and I approve.
• In the scene where Lucy gives her colors to the fencer and he asks “And what, fair lady, shall be my prize?” Lucy whispers something to the fencer and he seems quite surprised. I can’t decide if this is supposed to be mysterious and intriguing or she just promised him oral sex.
• This show has some pretty great dialogue. It can be goofy — as any show where Dracula asks someone to be his Vice President of Public Affairs would be — but it’s generally quite good.
• The scene where Dracula and Lady Jane are having sex and Jane transforms briefly into Mina was also very well done, I think.
• I’m really curious if Dracula’s thing with the wireless light bulbs in the first episode was a trick or actual technology. I assume his endgame is to have the tech working, to ensure the destruction of the oil industry. Evil Patrick from Coupling knows the technology is dangerous, but even the idea of it is dangerous, too.
• Lady Jane hunts for Dracula, knowing his location thanks to the seers, and very nearly catches him drinking a coat check girl. Dracula literally slips around a column to evade her. It’s very silly.
• Seriously, Dracula and Van Helsing working together is still blowing my mind. It’s like the sky is green; I can barely process it.