Dracula Season 1 Review “Goblin Merchant Men”

Dracula (NBC) Episode 3 Goblin Merchant Men (16)

On the latest episode of “Dracula,” apparently not satisfied with the levels of ridiculousness achieved by last week’s title, they somehow managed to top themselves with this week’s “Goblin Merchant Men.” Honestly, if you’re going to camp it up, just go ahead and camp it up. I mean, all the elements are already there, and I’m not just talking about these wacky episode titles.

Think about it: Lady Jayne is all but bursting at the seams of her bodices, and that hasn’t changed, and isn’t likely to- nor should it. Nothing wrong with a little sex appeal, and between Victoria Smurfit and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers’ shirtlessness, they’ve got that covered. But come on now, you do a scene at a gay nightclub complete with a drag show in one episode and a set-piece in this one in what might as well be a nightclub, where everyone is doing absinthe and listening to Brian Jonestown Massacre while strobe lights flicker on and off and people are dirty dancing…how is this not campy?

And yet, somehow “Dracula” manages to wholly elude the tongue-in-cheek altogether, despite missed opportunities like this happening left and right throughout every show so far. I get that NBC wanted to play it straight and clearly so do the creators and writers and everyone else involved in this show. But if you’re going to play it straight, you can’t just dangle scenes like the ones I mentioned in our faces and not show us a good time, you know what I mean? Leave it to a show called “Dracula” to literally suck the fun out of the room.

Hell, even “Twilight” knew enough to poke fun at itself after a certain point- remember when Edward asked Bella of Jacob: “Does he even own a shirt?” (Stop your snickering, I had to review those movies, too- but trust me when I say you don’t want to be compared unfavorably to them!)

Look, it’s not a terrible show. I’ve certainly seen worse, believe me. The acting is fine, the production values are impressive, the set and costume design is lovely, and the special effects are reasonably cool. The show has a lot going for it on the whole. It just lacks verve, or a sense of forward momentum. More often than not, it just feels like it’s going through the motions. I mean, there are some unique aspects to the show, but I can’t say I care for most of them, i.e. the whole coolant/geomagnetic thing or the Order of the Dragon thing.

There are some interesting ideas here and there, though. I like the Lady Jane character- she’s the best thing on the show, despite my wisecracks. I like that both she and Dracula are playing each other against one another, and enjoying the process. They both know that things aren’t likely to end well, but why not have a little fun before it comes to that? And making her a vampire slayer type was a nice touch.

Meanwhile, Van Helsing is on Team Dracula, which is another unique twist. He actually ended up killing the seers, and is clearly going to relish killing as much of the Order as he can. The guy is out for vengeance, to the point that he resurrected one of the most nefarious villains in history to aid him. That’s a pretty neat approach, having two people that would normally be sworn enemies team up to defeat a common foe. Ditto having Renfield be not only African-American (in a time and place where that still raised eyebrows), but perhaps Dracula’s wisest counsel. I like all of that stuff.

Alas, it’s everything else that stops the show dead in its tracks. From the aforementioned battle of the energy resources to the snooze-worthy love story between Mina and Harker (which Dracula actually encouraged on this episode, which makes no sense, given that she was right within his grasp!), way too much of this isn’t working at all.

I’m going to go ahead and keep my fingers crossed for the show to get better. The things I do like, I like enough to root for “Dracula.” But they definitely need to rethink some things, and decide what they’re going for and soon, or else there might not be anyone watching for much longer.

What do you think? Do you like the show? Think I’m being a bit too hard on it? Don’t be afraid to disagree! I’m certainly open to differing opinions. If you agree, what do you think would make the show better? I can’t decide if they should embrace the inherent campiness of the concept or not. That clearly isn’t what they’re going for thus far, but something has to give, I think. If you have some good ideas to that end, sound off below in the comments section!