Dracula Season 1 Review “A Whiff of Sulfur”

Dracula (NBC) Episode 3 A Whiff of Sulfur (3)

On the latest episode of “Dracula,” the plot thickened a bit as we got a better idea of what Van Helsing was up to in the first place when he brought back Dracula. After all, this is a character that’s traditionally Dracula’s arch nemesis, so it was a bit confusing when the last episode ended with the big reveal that they were working together. In “A Whiff of Sulfur,” we found out why. (Earlier this week, in my review for the latest episode of “American Horror Story: Coven,” I mentioned how terrible the title of that ep was: “Fearful Pranks Ensue.” Consider that title bested with this one, which is even worse. Didn’t know it was a competition, but well played, “Dracula.” Or not.)

So, it seems that, like Dracula, Van Helsing’s wife, Adalind, as well as his family was killed by the nefarious Order of the Dragon. Why, we don’t know yet, but he was upset enough to bring back freaking Vlad the Impaler, so I’m guessing the why is secondary to his intention to bring down the whole shebang. Dracula, after some initial skepticism, is all too happy to help, but bringing back the single most notorious vampire in history has its consequences, as evidenced by his being a little too conspicuously kill-happy with the locals.

Now, if I’m being honest, after discussing it with various people who also watch the show, I was a bit on the fence about all this Order of the Dragon nonsense, which sounds like the villain in a kung fu movie or something. Ditto all this business about geomagnetic energy vs. oil or whatever. I get that a dramatic show these days, in the post-“Lost” landscape, needs a mythos to keep people watching, but this is “Dracula,” so I’m not sure we really need things to be so convoluted.

I think having the Van Helsing twist was solid enough, so all we needed was a set of bad guys looking to take out vampires and we’re golden. We just don’t need the other stuff, really. On the plus side, they do have a great character in-the-making with Lady Jayne (Victoria Smurfit), whose part “Buffy,” part “Alias”-style undercover agent. She’s a kick-ass vampire slayer, who also happens to be sleeping with the enemy, all the while working for the Order.

That part I’m completely on board with. I just don’t give two figs about oil and magnets and whatever. And yes, Lady Jayne could stand to find a dress that has been properly fitted and is not four sizes too small or whatever, but I’m a (straight) guy, so I can’t say I have a problem with that, either- but I feel the complaint. I’m just saying, if it wasn’t for the sexy element, the show might be overwhelmed by the other stuff, so I say, leave it alone.

Besides, you’ve got a perfectly fine role model in Mina (Jessica De Gouw), a med student at a time when that wasn’t exactly common or particularly well-respected, so she succeeds as a strong female character that relies more on her brain then her sex appeal, so both sides of the fence are well-represented. I might also add that while Jayne might be overly sexed-up, she also uses it as but another weapon in her arsenal, so it’s not like she’s some dumb blonde bimbo or whatever, either. These are both valid, well-conceived characters. Perhaps even more so than the titular character himself, IMHO.

The other complaint some people have is that the show is lacking in the “fun” department. That is true, as the show is pretty much played entirely straight. Still, given the choice between going with a campier approach and the one this show takes, I think I prefer this approach better. One similar-type of show that came up a lot was “Sleepy Hollow,” another old-school classic tale that’s gotten a recent makeover. As pointed out by others, that show is fun where it counts and serious when it needs to be. Why can’t “Dracula” be this way as well?

Obviously, it’s a stylistic choice, and the show is clearly still trying to find its sea legs. Star Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is a solid actor, but he hasn’t quite decided how he wants to play the character of Dracula yet, and I think that’s because the writers don’t quite know yet, either. Until they do, the show is going to continue to be a work in progress, but at least it’s trying to do something different than what’s already out there.

Lord knows, there’s no shortage of teen vampires, so why shouldn’t there be something a bit more adult, yet that stops short of the over-the-top sex-fest that is “True Blood”? And I say that as a fan of both that show and as someone who reviews both “The Vampire Diaries” and “The Originals.” Ironically, “The Originals” is a much more adult show than the one it’s spun off from, and it’s sexy and funny to boot, without being overtly campy. I think “Dracula” could learn a thing or two from that approach, or even from its NBC Friday night sister show “Grimm,” which also balances adult drama with a good sense of humor.

Until then- assuming there is a then, given a lot of shows’ high-mortality rates these days- it’s not a bad show, just a show that’s not quite sure what it wants to be yet. The pieces are all there, they just have to figure out how to make them fit properly. I almost wish they’d just gone ahead and made it a modern retelling, with a current setting, but still set in high English society.

Too late for that, obviously, but I do think there’s hope for the show, if it can just work out the kinks, and I do think they can be addressed and dealt with in short order. Let’s just hope it happens sooner than later, or “Dracula” may die a more permanent death this time around.

What do you think? Are the complaints voiced above valid ones? Which side of the fence are you on? What do you think could be done to improve the show? Sound off below in the comments section!