Is it possible to keep a level head when it comes to plotting an elaborate game of revenge against those who betrayed you? What happens when an unexpected person enters your life and threatened to derail everything you worked so hard to achieve? That’s part of the premise behind NBC’s new show “Dracula,” which showcased the main vampire as someone looking for love and revenge at the same time. The show demonstrated some early potential, even though the story has been told repeatedly in the past by Hollywood.
“Dracula” followed Alexander Grayson (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who appeared to be a mysterious American businessman that came to London to bring a new technology to the forefront, but he had a darker agenda in mind. It turned out that Grayson was actually a vampire known as Dracula who was cursed to a life of immortality by a secret order of powerful society figures many centuries ago. He spent years planning his revenge against those who betrayed him, which led him to Lady Jayne Wetherby (Victoria Smurfit) as a way into the group by using her as a sexual pawn in his plan. Unfortunately, Grayson take into account meeting a mysterious woman with a possible connection to his painful past that led him to becoming a vampire. He crossed paths with a young medical student named Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw), who looked exactly like his murdered wife Ilona, and he was instantly drawn to her. Sadly, Grayson had competition in a young reporter named Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) that wouldn’t marry Mina because he felt that he wasn’t good enough for her. Mina’s best friend Lucy Westenra (Katie McGrath) agreed with Jonathan’s opinion sometimes, but Mina often ignored her friend’s advice when it came to romance. Grayson also managed to get Harker to write an article about him, but he seemed to be more eager to find out about Mina than talk about himself. He started following Mina after she finished a class lecture given by Abraham Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann) after asking for his advice improving her surgical technique. Will Grayson be able to exact his revenge and get a second shot at everlasting love as well? Will he have to choose one over the other?
In terms of questions, “Dracula” posed a few big ones that won’t likely be answered until the season wrapped. On the surface, the idea of another vampire show seemed to be a ridiculous notion because there were already so many on the airwaves that another show would get lost in the shuffle. The only difference with this version of “Dracula” was that it took viewer back to a time when vampires weren’t always so modern, such as on shows like “The Vampire Diaries” and “True Blood.” There were no daylight rings, which made sunlight all the more dangerous for the character as demonstrated at the start of Harker’s interview with Grayson. Viewers cringed at the thought of Grayson getting exposed too soon as a vampire, but the scene managed to stop short of exposing everything with only a minor burn spot. The series premiere also dialed back the initial violence to a few key scenes that set viewers up for what was to come for the rest of the season. Sure, there was some blood spilled and a severed head that was shown to prove a brutal point. The premiere did make one strategic mistake by rushing a little too quickly into Grayson’s present day plan and far too less time setting up what led Grayson on this dark path. Hopefully, future episodes will give viewers a better understanding as to why they should root for Rhys Meyers’ version of Dracula rather than the more heroic individuals, such as Jackson-Cohen’s Jonathan. In terms of casualties, McGrath’s Lucy wasn’t properly developed beyond being a mere party girl in the premiere, even though her fate to be one of Dracula’s victims would be coming sooner than anyone else thought. Let’s hope that later episodes will give McGrath a little more to do aside from meeting her maker. Only time will tell if that’s the case.
As for breakout performances, Rhys Meyers and De Gouw led the pack as they delivered two very different performances of how good and evil tended to work very closely together. Rhys Meyers’ Dracula embodied the right amount of vulnerability and malice as he tried to fix some past wrongs by going after the organization that destroyed his life. Like when he played Henry VIII on “The Tudors,” he brought a level of sex appeal that wasn’t always necessarily there to begin with. Rhys Meyers demonstrated that he had strong chemistry with both Smurfit and De Gouw on different levels. His scenes with Smurfit had a darker tone that mixed sex and the threat of violence in equal measure, which also indicated that things were likely to sour down the line. When De Gouw’s Mina arrived at his party, Rhys Meyers demonstrated how Dracula’s humanity managed to come to the forefront when he remember how brutally his wife Ilona died in front of him. He also showcased how the character was struggling to get Mina to love him without introducing his thirst for blood and the need to given into his thirst every once in a while. De Gouw, on the other hand, had the challenging task of being the ultimate romantic fantasy for two characters; while creating an identity of her own in a profession dominated by men. She provided Mina with the perfect balance of innocence, sarcasm and anxiety about not always meeting up to her own personal expectations. De Gouw’s most memorable scene came when Mina was talking to Van Helsing about her professional shortcomings and asked for his advice about overcoming them. She demonstrated Mina’s fear that she might never make it as a doctor, but De Gouw’s Mina allowed viewers to also see that Mina’s doubts would be short lived for the time being.
“Dracula” premiered on October 25th and airs Fridays at 10:00 pm on NBC.
Verdict: Rhys Meyers delivered a commanding performance that made his version both a hero and a villain at the same time. It’s just a shame that the rest of the show hasn’t caught up to him just yet in terms of stories and other cast member performances.
TV Score: 3 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)