Cleolinda Jones (cleolinda) wrote,
Cleolinda Jones

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Dracula 1x01: "The Blood Is the Life"

heart-of-steel asked: Hello Miss Cleo. So. Dracula. (The TV series that is.) Did you like it, or hate it, or kind of both? (I know a recap is forthcoming on your blog, I was just wondering.)

I’m just kind of staring at my computer trying to figure out what just happened. The more I think about it, the more o_O I get about it. I’m sunburnt from half an hour outdoors and I’m not drunk enough and I think I ate recalled cheese. Everything is terrible.

Stay with me here.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I'm an expert on Dracula; I know, as the saying goes, just enough to get myself into trouble. As I've said before, I was obsessed with an illustrated edition of the book when I was about 11 or 12. Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula came out when I was 13--and was the first R-rated movie I ever saw sans parent in a theater, because zero fucks were given at the Wildwood Carmike--but I actually saw the Frank Langella Dracula first, about a month earlier, Halloweenish-time. So, while I have obviously seen other Dracula and/or vampire movies since, those two were the ones that made a mark on my teenage soul. (For those of you keeping up with Wee Cleo's Teenage Psyche, this was concurrent with the age that Silence of the Lambs became and has remained my favorite movie.) Honestly, though, I've gained more interest in the book, and more respect for it (and affection for all its wonky plot holes, most of which have to do with What Dracula Can Do And When He Can Do It), as the years have gone on. I wouldn't say the movies have diminished in my mind, exactly, so much as... you come to appreciate the things they do well and fondly shake your head over the things they... don't. Actually, I haven't watched The Horror of Dracula in years, but as I recall, I felt like Christopher Lee came closest to my idea of Dracula from the book--that animal, dominating quality. And I don't think anyone's done justice to Jonathan Harker, ever. And I'm not sure anyone actually gets why Lucy is such a great character (ask me about this later). And MINA IS MY EVERYTHING. Oh God, I explained this at some point, where did I do it--well, for starters, I explained that the novel I've been writing for ten years was partly inspired by the idea of, what if Mina Harker was a doctor and could research saving her own damn self? So the whole thing means a lot to me.

The reason I'm telling you this is because, barring some terrible catastrophe, this is your recapper's mindset: enthusiastic but flexible, I guess? As much as I love the book, maybe it helps that the first two movies I saw were wildly different adaptations; you practically end up with three different stories. So I've come to view "Dracula" as a collective body of work--a hundred years' worth of pop cultural presence. I don't really know that you can do it "wrong." You can do it badly, in that you don't do what you were trying to do well, but I don't know that you can do it wrong. It's not really like Hannibal, a show that (successfully) got out from under the shadow of one extremely famous performance. There's a whole pantheon of classic Dracula portrayals now. What I'm really trying to tell you is, if you entertain me, I don't really care what you do. At worst, I might see missed opportunities, but it's been done "wrong" so many times--done differently--that I don't really think there's a "right" anymore.

Well, except for one point at the end where I nearly keeled over.

@NBCDracula: We’ve been dying to introduce you to #Dracula. WATCH the premiere:

So here we begin with a couple of tomb raiders raiding some tombs. One of them is a greedy doof and the other is wearing a Van Helsing hat. Because he's Van Helsing. Seriously, he's Van Helsing. Thomas Kretschmann looks into the camera and actually says something out loud and there's a widely-seen publicity photo of Obviously Thomas Kretschmann obviously standing over this tomb and he has really great boots. There was never any doubt in my mind as to who this was. And yet, somehow, I didn't process the implications of what happened next.

(As with Hannibal, we've got the writers/showrunners [Cole Haddon and Daniel Knauf] livetweeting with a cast member [Victoria Smurfit], so once again, I present relevant tweets for your edification.)

@colehaddon: @Daniel_Knauf I ever tell you this teaser was inspired by Mario Bava's BLACK SUNDAY?

@colehaddon: @Daniel_Knauf Little @hammerfilms DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS tossed in, too.

So Van Helsing shanks the greedy gold-taker (I'm sure he went looking for the most expendable doof possible) and cuts his throat all drippy right over the tomb because THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE, etc. (He says this out loud.) I don't know why this seemed like a perfectly cromulent course of action at the time or how I was explaining it to myself, but it did. Like, oh, I guess Van Helsing just wants to bring Dracula back to life so he can kill him extra dead because it's just not sporting otherwise? I don't know, I was drinking. And then there's some kind of rusty-wheely-sprockety machinery that pulls giant fuck-you spikes from Dracula's body (yeah. That's why there was a metal cage over the tomb. MAYBE IT WAS THERE FOR A REASON, VAN HELSING) and we're back in business.

Then we montage through Dracula's candlelit bath, Jonathan Rhys Meyers' abs, etc., and either I was so determined to roll with it that I didn't stop to ask questions, or I just assumed that Van Helsing's life choices had backfired on him and Dracula had gotten away and we would see Van Helsing BACK FOR VENGEANCE later in the show. I tabled that concern for later, apparently.

Meanwhile, here's Renfield (Nonso Anozie). (DID YOU KNOW that Anozie was the original voice of Iorek before the studio demanded a name actor? Which kind of broke my heart, because I loved what he was doing with it just in the few trailers we heard him.) Renfield is now an American lawyer and Dracula's right-hand man, rather than a fly-obsessed patient in an asylum, because why not? There's no reason he can't end up there eventually; the Renfield-Seward-Lucy-Dracula aspect of the book is riddled with massive coincidence, so I'm not terribly fussed that these two characters actually know each other for a reason first. (Ah, looks like that is what they're doing.)

(For reference, Dracula was published in 1897.)

(That was a really long bath.)

"All the guests have arrived," Renfield tells him, and they've all been photographed on entry, "as arranged." He's also giving Dracula elocution lessons, because Dracula's now posing as Tesula Alexander Grayson, American Industrialist, because why not, and he needs to make sure he says "skedule" like a proper Yankee. (Which actually reminds me of the book, where Dracula tells an unwitting Jonathan Harker that he wants to "learn the English intonation; and I would that you tell me when I make error, even of the smallest, in my speaking.") And Alexander Grayson is American. Totally, totally American. "As American as God, guns, and"--heeeeere comes the accent change--"burbun. As skeduled." (I just hope none of his guests are Lieutenants.)

The guests, by the way, have arrived at glamorous Carfax Manor, rather than dusty rat-infested Carfax Abbey. Which tells us something important: there's no need for a solicitor to trek across Europe to the middle of ghostly nowhere, finalize the property sale with Dracula, and then get his ass locked up in a doom castle because People in Dracula Don't Know They're in Dracula. Some of the most famous moments from the book--gone. Unless the show finds a way to repurpose them later. Somehow. So instead of having the ALL BETS ARE OFF episode in the middle of the season--we're having it right now.

‏@VictoriaSmurfit: We shot this in the ethnology museum in Budapest for you @colehaddon long wonderful day. 300 supporting artists...blast!

@colehaddon: Getting a lot of "#Dracula meets Jay Gatsby" on Twitter. Like they're making that connection!

May I present to you (left to right): Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw), Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), Lucy Westenra (Katie McGrath), and Lucy Westenra's amazing dress.

(I gave up on worrying about costume accuracy a looooong time ago. Bathe in the pretty. Baaaathe in iiiiit.)

I'm not even going to deal with Jonathan goobering that this one champagne glass is worth more than he makes in a week (or Lucy snarking on said goobering, because damn, son, act like you been here before). I do find it interesting that Mina gasps that the whole scene is "breathtaking"--but then casts a wistful glance around the room. Mina and Jonathan, as you may remember, are canonically pretty broke before they're married; Lucy is rich and carefree. (For some reason, "rich" often seems to translate to "decadent and hedonistic" with portrayals of Lucy, but I feel like Book Lucy is actually very sweet and innocent, precisely because she's so sheltered and doesn't have to worry about earning a living like Book Mina, who's a schoolteacher.) At any rate, Show Lucy gives a blond dude ("Alistair!") across the room a Significant Look. (Why is he not Arthur? Is it because he's gonna get et?) And then she makes Jonathan repeat that he is "[Lucy's] guest tonight, and not a journalist." Not a. Not a what. He's a what. He's a journalist?

(Jesus, no wonder the stemware is worth more than he is.)

So exit Lucy to kiss-kiss Alistair, "you beast, where have you been hiding?" (is this foreshadowing? is he a werewolf? will werewolves be a thing? who is this dude?); Mina's fussing about #leavingthehouseomg, and Jonathan teases her that "somebody had to pry you out of that laboratory." Ooh, ooh! Will there be gothic la-borr-a-tories (*THUNDERCLAP*)? Whee! And this means Mina will be doing stuff! Because Doing Stuff, you see, is a key character trait of hers. Book Mina was learning to use shorthand and typewriters to help Future Husband Book Jonathan with his work, which then becomes pure awesomeness when she takes charge of the Omg Vampires What Is Going On flailing-around and starts collating all the various letters and articles and diaries into the very book you are reading.

... wait. Mina's studying to be a doctor?


(EVERYTHING HAS BEEN DONE A MILLION TIMES BEFORE AND IT'S NOT WHAT YOU WRITE IT'S HOW YOU WRITE IT oh my God I live under my desk now and I'm never coming out again)

And then Show Mina teases Show Jonathan that she'd rather be with a pickled toad right now because "at least there's a chance my kiss might turn him into a prince," because ~class tensions.~ If this is your idea of sweet nothings, then--look, whatever turns you kids on. Then: public unmarried (not even engaged!) kissings. In 1896. (He does not turn into a prince.) Dancing! Smirking! Ingrate guests snarking on Unseen But Distressingly American Dracula! "How can we properly mock him if we haven't set eyes on the man?" I hope you all get eaten. But now! It is Renfield's pleasure to introduce Alexander Grayson, Vampire Industrialist! Tesula, in turn, greets his guests with a glass of whiskey in hand--sees Mina, stops undead, and goes into I Was Totally Married to Jessica De Gouw 400 Years Ago flashbacks (with a very subtle welling of tears, very nice). Mina also seems struck but, of course, without knowing why. I was going to say that I think the "Mina as reincarnated lost love" plot really solidified (I hesitate to say "originated") with Coppola's adaptation, but then @Gambling4Kitten pointed out that "reincarnated love" was a huge (non-Dracula) thing on Dark Shadows in the '60s, and I'm wondering if that's the real genesis of it--writers who grew up on that show working that aspect into the Coppola movie, and thus, it's now sort of a half-canonical Dracula idea.

But now he recovers, announcing, "Welcome to my house. May you come freely, go safely, and please--leave some of the happiness you bring."

“Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own will!” He made no motion of stepping to meet me, but stood like a statue, as though his gesture of welcome had fixed him into stone. The instant, however, that I had stepped over the threshold, he moved impulsively forward, and holding out his hand grasped mine with a strength which made me wince, an effect which was not lessened by the fact that it seemed as cold as ice—more like the hand of a dead than a living man. Again he said:—“Welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring!”

Nicely done. I just never expected to hear that in a Texas (...?) accent, is all.

@cleolinda: Oh my God. Is he a... Texula?

Y'all, he is killing me softly with his twang (killing me softly) (with hiiis twang), and not because Jonathan Rhys Meyers does--whatever it is---badly, but because he does it pretty well; it's just not what you would ever on God's green earth expect to hear come out of Dracula's mouth, is all. On a second viewing, though, it's just kind of distracting, but also kind of hilarious--possibly an intentional parody of an American accent?


Meanwhile, Mina is so unnerved by the whole thing that even Jonathan's like, uh, what was that all about? "Someone walked over my grave, I suppose," she says quickly. Meanwhile-meanwhile, Dracula whispers to Renfield that he wants to know everything about Blue Satin, Creme Chiffon and the pickled toad what brought her, and he wants to know it NOW. Yeah, you gonna end up in a doom castle yet, Sparky.

And now!

(Oh, WHY NOT.)

"And you would be--?" "Well, I would be in a nice warm bath, but I simply had to come and find out what all the fuss was about," says brand-new character Lady Jayne Wetherby. Who's the dude in the sash--Lord Wetherby? "Oh, good God no. This is my companion for the night, my very dear friend Herr Kruger." *HEEL CLICK* "Gesundheit," says Dracula; sneeze out.

I don't know if there was a weird glitch the night the show aired, but we got a really abrupt title card and that was it. On the iTunes download, however, there's a full opening-credits sequence, and it's actually really cool.

After the credits you didn't get to see, we're back at the Carfax Manor party. We are introduced to snarky ingrate guests Sir Clive Dawes, his wife Lady Hope, Lord Davenport, Lady Laurent (who gives Dracula an interesting--longing?--look), and Lord Laurent; the first one and the last one are the co-chairs of the British Imperial Coolant Company. These are four words you will learn to dread. They are a magical incantation, the effect of which is to render everything you hear afterwards into "WA WAWA WAWA WA." What Dracula then says is, "British Imperial holds patents, patents to high-efficiency coolants which would be most useful in advancing one of my technological projects. I would very much like to acquire those patents." Now, that looks entirely sensible on paper, and yet you say it out loud and my eyes just glaze over. Judging by Twitter at the time, so did everyone else's. Truly, this is deep magic. Either way, Sir Clive cannot be having with this Yankee effrontery: "Mr. Grayson, the British Imperial Company is in the business of selling our products to British industry, not our underlying patents to interloping colonials." GOOD DAY, SIR.

And Dracula wheels away from that little fiasco with a look best interpreted as, You know, we could have made this easy, but nooooo. The question is not whether they all gonna get et. The question is merely in what order.

An eavesdropping Jonathan sidles up and helpfully suggests that Dracula try to get to Sir Clive through his gambling debts, because rich people getting screwed over is, apparently, always relevant to his interests. O hai, Mina! Jonathan introduces himself and his "most lovely friend"; Dracula IMMEDIATELY goes to first-name basis, kissing her hand with a smooth "Of course. Mina," excuse you. But Miss Murray is too dazed to notice: "I'm sorry, it's just--I'd swear--" "We've met? Yes. I was thinking the same thing." And then Renfield is forced to be a total ruiner and has to drag Dracula away for his Damned Yankee Industrialist Demonstration.

(Renfield has already discovered, somehow, that Jonathan is "a reporter for the Inquisitor. Resourceful, tenacious, and very, very ambitious." And Miss Murray: "Medical student. Father, Dr. William Murray, director of Bethlem Royal Hospital." Wait, so her father runs Bedlam? Well, in movie adaptations based on the Hamilton Deane play, Dr. Seward is Mina's father rather than Lucy's suitor, and he runs an asylum behind Carfax Abbey, where Renfield... ends up... and... yeah.)

And then a dude who reminds me vaguely of Christoph Waltz appears in the crowd, and the soundtrack goes all ominous.

Meanwhile, Renfield introduces himself to Jonathan, reminding him that "the invitation explicitly forbade the press"--but adds that "Mr. Grayson" would actually like Jonathan to do a little reportage. "If you're interested, he would like you to come by tomorrow for an interview." Well, this is gonna end well.

ACTUAL DRUM ROLL, PLEASE! "When I was a boy, my father told me stories of the Dark Ages mostly because we were both there, a time when culture and learning were eclipsed by barbaric ritual and war sorry about that," Dracula announces, handing out lightbulbs to all the characters we've met. "Over the years, I have come to believe that the Dark Ages never actually ended. That the fear, hatred, and brutality that once plagued our ancestors" (and on each of those three words, British Imperial Wa Wa Dudes get lightbulbs) "plagues us still. Tonight, it is my sublime pleasure to demonstrate a way out. Out of the darkness," he finishes, handing one to Mina. (Everyone else gets lightbulbs from the hired help.) "What Thomas Edison dismissed as mere fantasy, what Nikola Tesla failed to bring to fruition"--aw hale no, I KNOW you did not just call out Nikola Motherfucking Tesla--"I give to you tonight. Power drawn from the magnetosphere, the same invisible source that compels the needle on this compass to point north. Harnessed and amplified by my scientists and technicians, I give to you: free--safe--wireless--power."

@sithwitch: So... he's a Tony Starkula.

@Daniel_Knauf: "Listen to my story bout a man named Vlad..."

So while everyone waits in the dark, Renfield is quietly telephoning down to a steampunk boiler room full of steam and, I suppose, punk: "Stage one." I have no idea how this geomagnetic business is supposed to work. I'm just gonna have to fall back on A WIZARD DID IT, A VAMPIRE WIZARD DID IT for old times' sake.

I mean basically.

But then, Mina's lights up first! Mina is delighted! Lucy is intrigued! The British Imperialists are all WHAT IS THIS SORCERY. "Is such a thing possible?" "There must be a wire!" "But if it were brought to the market, what effect would it have on our petroleum WA WAWA WA?" "Wa wawa wa, of course." "Nothing we need wa wa about." More power! Stage two! Full brilliance! DRACULA, PRINCE OF LIGHTNESS:

Then the lightbulbs start to flicker and fade, because, according to Renfield, we are "experiencing some technical difficulties, sir." According to the captions,

[all shouting]
- somebody help us!
- i'm burning! i'm burning! [all shouting]

No no, sh, Dracula whispers to Renfield, just a few more minutes of everyone dying horribly. We can't quit now, Blue Satin is really impressed. But finally, "the coolant has evaporated!" shouts the steampunk foreman downstairs, shutting down all the boilers and the lightning storms and the pretty pretty wireless light. And that's why you should've used British Imperial Coolant. But Dracula recovers his poise and thanks everyone for their patience: "I trust our little demonstration was... illuminating." In response, a gentle lol-vation.

And now it's Lucy's turn to meet Mr. Grayson; she offers her hand the way you'd go to a bakery and point at a big chocolate éclair and say I WANT THAT ONE. (I want to say GET IT GIRL but then I think about what usually happens to Lucys and I get sad.) "Ravishing," says Dracula, kissing her hand, but: "Miss Murray, you look a little shaken." Well, actually, she looks a little pissed crestfallen that you're macking on her friend, but sure: "I'm not sure what I've just witnessed." "The future, Miss Murray," he intones. "The beginning of a new era." With that, Dracula confirms tomorrow's interview with Jonathan and makes his exit, turning around to look at Mina again halfway across the room, because he liii~iiikes herrrrr.

(On which Jonathan remarks: "He seems quite taken with you." "Ooh, the green-eyed monster rears his ugly head," snarks Lucy--"Ooh! Cordials!" This concludes another episode of Short Attention Span Theatre.)

Out in the garden, Lady Jayne Featherneck compliments Dracula on the demonstration, while he specifically draws our attention to how stealthy she is. "You know," she says, "there's a touch of the impresario about you, Alexander. Your performance this evening was no less than--operatic." "As I'm an ardent patron of the opera, I'll take that as a compliment. Although I'm certain it was meant as quite the opposite." LOL DRACULA. Lady Jayne takes that opportunity to invite him to the opening of the season. In her box. Not his box. Her box. In conclusion: [Box.] "I feel you'd enjoy the performance so much more in mine." "No doubt."

@cleolinda: So she just told him to get in her box. #victorians

Then Sir Clive takes a moment on his way out to inform Dracula that he is absurd and sadly mistaken and A FRAUD, SIR. I SAID, GOOD DAY.

Later, some night, somewhere in time, here's Jonathan typing away in his tiny room; on his desk is a photograph of Blue Satin--I guess everyone got photographs as party favors? And then his roommate starts in on him. My first reaction was, "Why the fuck does Jonathan Harker have a roommate?" Then I heard his accent, realized that the character's name is Szabo and the actor is Hungarian, and wondered if we've now got someone in place to bust out some traditional Eastern European lore when necessary, since... well, we'll get to Van Helsing later. Right now, however, Szabo is warning Jonathan that Mina's "not going to wait forever. If you don't ask her to marry you soon, someone else is bound to." "Who?"

"Grayson," says Lucy. The girls are in Mina's bedroom (house? flat? rented room?) where she and Lucy are having a sleepover in their Victorian undawears, because apparently Lucy feels like slumming it in the med student's digs and also slumber parties are awesome.

@colehaddon: This bedroom sequence between Mina and Lucy was inspired by the 1931 @UniversalPics DRACULA.

P.S. Tesula is totally into you. "Grayson? Don't be absurd," says Mina. Lucy: "You must've noticed the way he leered at you." "He did not!" "At least he's not boring." (Apparently Show Lucy has an actual straight-up crush on Show Mina, and I am totally here for it.) "As much as I enjoy having you spend the night at my house instead of us chilling at your sweet-ass mansion, could we please, for once, talk about something other than how tedious you find Jonathan? And besides," Mina says warmly, "he's not boring."

Cut back to poor class-conscious not-boring Jonathan: "What I'm saying is that she could do better."

However, both couples (yeah, apparently I just Rule 34'd Jonathan/Szabo slash into being. Sorry about that) look to their windows just then, because some kind of paranormal shit is going down out there in the night. Specifically, dogs barking and "[ambient whooshing]." (Have you heard my new trip-hop trance quartet, Ambient Whoosh?) And there's Sir Clive on his foggy street, fumbling for his keys and dying horribly offscreen with a huge splash of blood. As you do.

"The man was a pig!" fumes Dracula, dropping Sir Clive's photo into the fire. "He insulted me under my own roof!" Honey, allow me to arrange a play-date for you. "So you tear the man to pieces?" replies Renfield--surprisingly calm, actually. Dracula: "I told you, their corruption and their hubris is unbridled. That's always been the way with the Order of the Dragon." (Wait...) And Renfield's like, I knew you were a vampire, but I didn't know you were a vampire, damn. Dracula, meanwhile, is arranging files on the floor, each one topped with a party photograph (ahhhh): "[They are] readily identified by their overtly grotesque sense of entitlement. Like this one... Lord Laurent. Preening little peacock. And the other one. Lord What's-His-Name? Davenport. These two stink of high council," which is the best insult I've heard this week, certainly. He's not sure which of the party guests is the leader, or if any of them are the leader, "but you cross them, Renfield, and they will strike you down like vipers in a pit. Murder, torture, rape" [RECAPPER SIDE-EYE] "wholesale slaughter. That... is the stock-in-trade of the Order of the Dragon. And it has been for over five hundred years."

@colehaddon: The Order of the Dragon was a historical order of knights, of which Vlad Tepes was a member. This inspired @NBCDracula's origin!

Yeah, the Order of the Dragon was a thing. In fact, that's where Vlad's name comes from: "His Romanian patronymic is a diminutive of the epithet Dracul carried by his father Vlad II, who in 1431 was inducted as a member of the Order of the Dragon, a chivalric order founded by Sigismund of Hungary in 1408. Dracul is the Romanian definite form, the -ul being the suffixal definite article (deriving from Latin ille). The noun drac 'dragon' itself continues [from?] Latin draco. Thus, Dracula literally means 'Son of the Dragon.'" You can see, then, why it's ironic, to say the least, that the Order is Show Dracula's antagonist.

@colehaddon: Have you watched @NBCDracula prequel, DRACULA RISING, yet? Find out how Jonathan Rhys Meyers became #Dracula!

Damn, I didn't know there'd be homework. But the ten-minute animated prequel (here, have a few screencaps) does explain how Show Dracula fell out with the Order--and his doomed wife Ilona's insistence that they will meet again. But not... really any explanation of how he got vampired. "My prince--what did they do to you?" YES, WHAT.

"In my past," continues Dracula, "they asserted their will more directly via the cross... and the sword." Appropriate flashbacks are appropriate: "Slaughtering entire villages, branding men and women heretics... burning them alive... and watching them burn, screaming... for a God who never came." Welp, now we know what happened to Ilona. "Now they do their dirty work via private clubs and boardrooms. They employ business, politics... and oil. And that last thing, Renfield, will be their undoing. They believe it will fuel the next century. And if they control it, they control the future. But from the moment we demonstrate the viability of geomagnetic technology... PFFT!" he says (with a really spectacular accompanying "poof" gesture. BRING UNTO ME THE GIFS). "No more money--no more power." "No more Order of the Dragon," concludes Renfield.

And we cut to a break while Dracula stares at the party photo of Mina.

We come back to find Herr Kruger breaking into Sir Clive's house; the latter's coffin is laid out in a parlor, and Kruger's come prepared for some vampire-killin':

Inside the coffin, we see that Sir Clive's head has been sewn back on, so... I guess Dracula just straight-up decapitated him the other night? Wow. Kruger's mission tonight is to hack the head back off again, tote it on over to Thruxtons Military Outfitters, and hand it over to Lady Jayne, who then gets in a secret elevator and hauls it down to the palatial underground Order of the Dragon headquarters, naturally. Also, the mouth's now been stuffed full of garlic, just one of the many services that Kruger and his exuberant mustache provide.

@colehaddon: Meet Lady Jayne Wetherby (@VictoriaSmurfit) the first and only female vampire hunter to serve the Order of the Dragon.

I don't know if that was supposed to be a twist, since she was in Anna Valerious pants in the SDCC promo poster.

@LJmysticowl: Can I request a screencap of Lady Jane's fabulous red day dress? It was my favourite.

I can give you three, in fact. (Yes, that's me. I made a side tumblr for vampire-Victorian-and-Black-Ribbon-research stuff.)

The severed head unveiled! Garlic for everyone! The yet-unnamed man from the party looks down at it like, really. Really?

@colehaddon: Her boss? That's Mr. Browning, an homage to Tod Browning (director of 1931's DRACULA). He's the "Dragon's Head" of London.

Kruger, Lady Jayne tells him, "performed a full examination," but it was impossible to be sure if there'd been any vampiring to the neck, because... well, the head-ripping, and so forth. "So [Kruger] severs the man's head and dresses him up like a roasted French hen," Browning says dryly, musing, "How long has it been since a vampire stalked the streets of this city? Seven years?" "Eight years," corrects Lady Jayne. "Eight years. Yes, the Whitechapel killings. God, when I think of the trouble we went to, mutilating the victims to hide the signs, those absurd letters we wrote to the press. Hm. Jack the Ripper, indeed." (Oh, fuck my life.) (Whatever, Kim Newman got there first anyway.) Also: Jesus, this guy needs to get eaten like whoa. "What do you suggest?" Lady Jayne replies, "Well, unless proven otherwise, I think we must assume that Clive was targeted by our enemies... whether natural... or not. I will put Kruger on patrol. Have him keep an eye on the high council members' houses." Browning is a little uneasy about this, and doesn't want the others to know that anything, you know, screamingly weird just happened to a fellow British Imperialist. "And if anyone asks--" "He was killed by a dog," retorts Lady Jayne, because what?

@colehaddon: "Good girl". That's not chauvinistic at all, @VictoriaSmurfit. I'd file a harassment claim against the Order.

Y'all, if we start taking sexist Victorian assholes to court, we'll be here all day, and it's time for class.

@colehaddon: Mina Murray is one of the first women to study medicine in Victorian England.

Well, one of--Elizabeth Blackwell, born in England, was the first "openly identified woman" in the U.S. to graduate medical school and the first woman on the UK Medical Register, and that was back in the 1840-50s. But that is to say, it's actually plausible that Mina could be a medical student. I don't know whether you find it plausible or not that Van Helsing would just happen to be her professor, but here we are (yaaaaay Van Helsing!). Right now, he's schooling everyone on neurons when he notices that half the room is absorbed in a newspaper article about the Safe Free Power Demonstration. The paper belongs to a fellow student named Campbell, who I think is supposed to be a recurring character? We also discover that Mina is both 1) smart enough to compare neurons to electrical impulses so as to cover for the guys and 2) kind enough to bother. Also, Van Helsing totally knows it. Bless.

Back to Carfax! Please come alone to my castle. I mean manor. Have you seen my dungeons? So Jonathan's wandering around a darkened (but beautifully decorated) room and he goes, hey, why don't I just mess with windows that don't belong to me? So by the time Dracula shows up for their interview, there's a nice big huge giant ~*SUNBEAM*~ waiting for him. Of course, this is where you have to point out that Book Dracula is either a little weak during the day or can't change form and/or get out of his box until sunset, depending on what best suits the plot at that moment, but sunlight doesn't really hurt him; my understanding is that the idea that sunlight kills vampires actually originates with Nosferatu, as late as 1922. So generally, each new take on the vampire has to establish the ground rules, and for a moment it looks like the show's going to be like, "lol, just kidding, he's fine with the sun" as Dracula reaches out to shake Jonathan's hand. But then, according to the captions, "[faint sizzling]." Like there is VISIBLE SMOKE; it is magical. So he does have a little burn on the back of his hand, which he manages to hide while he's getting himself a drink: "Would you like some wine?" Once again, establishing the rules: does Dracula ever drink... wine, or not? "It's, um, a bit early for me, thank you," says Jonathan. "I prefer whiskey," says Texula--and we really will see him drink it when he has no need to put on a show, so I'm guessing he can drink (unless there's something inherently holier about wine?). No word on eating, though. Also, he pushes his chair back out of the sunlight with his foot before he sits down, which is smooth.

(The show does some really great stuff with light and shadow here, I will say.)

Jonathan leads off with, "You should know my editor believes you're after some sort of puffery," then makes a distinction between just "wealthy" and privileged, which is interesting. But see, Dracula's done the background reading: "You stand against the same vested interests that would prefer I return to America. That's precisely why I invited you for this... interview." And he definitely came to England because it's "the country of my great-grandparents' birth." Not because he's a vampire and it's teeming with villains and food. Jonathan, who also did the reading: "And it has nothing to do with Edison running you out of the States?"

@darklorelei: My dream is for Edison to be the ultimate Big Bad.

@NoelCT: I'll believe Edison chased him out of America if Edison did so with a UV glowing tank with stake machine guns and garlic exhaust.

Hey, it makes as much sense as anything. Dracula chuckles good-naturedly: "Europe speaks to me in a way no other place does. You know, we call it 'the old world' for a reason. And yet, her people seek the new wherever they can. I understand this struggle. I, myself, am descended from a very old family" (NO KIDDING) "but my mind--always fixed on the future. I surround myself with things that speak to both." Because he is full of contradictions. Like the world. Which is "precisely why I wanted to talk to you. You see, we're on the precipice of a great change. We have it within ourselves to redefine our... species." And, like a proper Victorian, Jonathan's like WHOA HOLD UP THAT SOUNDS LIKE SOME GODLESS DARWINIAN CHICANERY, WHAT ARE YOU SAYING? Yeah, basically: "Is that not what Mr. Darwin taught us... that man evolves? That is what I've come here to accomplish. To... facilitate in that evolution. Give nature a helping hand... so to speak." (*WINK*) So apparently Dracula's got big plans for free sustainable energy and a Grayson School for Toothy Mutants. Here's Jonathan's transcription of the interview so far:

Shoulda brought Mina and her shorthand, Sparky.

Now, a candlelit library-office after class. It doesn't have a loft, but it is pretty cozy, and it does have a skeleton.

@colehaddon: Thomas Kretschmann, interestingly enough, played Dracula in Dario Argento's DRACULA (2012). This year: he's Dr. Van Helsing!

An anxious Mina wants to talk about the final exam, since, "as you know, the student who scores the highest will be given the opportunity to serve as your research assistant." Yes, I imagine he does know that. But "my surgical technique--" "--leaves much to be desired, yes." Ouch (possibly literally). "Professor, I can't tell you how often I practice, but the moment the scalpel pierces the epidermis, well--my hands begin to tremble and--no matter what I do, they--" Van Helsing stops her with these words of wisdom: "Mina, I have always found that the secret to a steady hand is a steady heart. You must believe in yourself, in your abilities to heal others. It is that simple. If so, then--you will succeed. Until then, know this: the heart never lies."

Note from the future: Either this is a clue to Van Helsing's true nature, or I am going to punch this man in the face.

Afterwards, I'm not sure who Mina's standing around waiting for outside--it turns out to be a female friend we don't know--but it does give Jonathan Rhys Meyers an opportunity to treat us to his creeperface portfolio (it's extensive). Nor do I know what Dracula intended to do if he'd gotten to Mina before said friend showed up. All I know is that he does end up nomming a very enthusiastic stranger-lady behind a pillar.

And now, the opera! Jonathan thinks Dracula has offered them his box seats because "he obviously wants me to write nice things about him, doesn't he?" Bless his heart. I'm not fond of yellow, but I like Mina, so here you go:

Also, Mina laughs at the idea that Alexander Grayson, Filthy-Rich Industrialist, would need to "court favor" with Jonathan: "You'd think he'd be satisfied with his beautiful home and all those brilliant paintings and the thrilling technology, not to mention his good looks and charisma," Mina says to her ambitious, class-conscious boyfriend, because she's a helper. "But then, you have something that he will never have." O rly? "Me!" O dear. If the heart never lies, Jonathan is screwed.

Meanwhile, here's Lady Jayne and her box:

@colehaddon: @VictoriaSmurfit That bustier does not look comfortable.

Well, but they're her formal bosoms. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what Lady Jayne's motives are--is she doubling entendres with "Alexander Grayson" because it's Order business or because she just wants to get with him on her own time? Because the Order doesn't seem to know who he really is, but I guess he's a threat to them because of his Wireless Geomagnetic Steampunkery anyway? So Dracula lurks on up and persuades her to sit further back in the shadows for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Lady Jayne's box directly faces Dracula's own--where Mina and Jonathan are sitting. "I trust you were unobserved?" she says. Well, "your invitation did request my 'discreet company.'" "Yes, it did," retorts Lady Jayne, "though I was concerned, as [you are] an American, that you might not understand the meaning of the word 'discreet.'"

("I looked it up," he says. Heh.)

And I was about to say, lady, keep on rockin' in the free world but I don't think you and that décolletage get to snark on someone for not being "discreet enough," but then--

@cleolinda: Lady, I don't think WHOA THAT JUST HAPPENED


@redheadedgirl: well.

@cleolinda: Like I knew there would be sexing but not like her skirt over her head at the opera ffs

(Okay, it wasn't over her head, but throwing that much fabric around gave me a "magician whipping the tablecloth away" impression. Also, I was drinking.)

@colehaddon: When Dracula eats you, you orgasm. It's just a fact.

Yeah, but a fingerbang always helps. That said, I got really confused right here (again: drinking), because Lady Jayne bites her lip so hard that it bleeds, Dracula decides to treat himself, etc., but he doesn't actually bite her--he doesn't reveal that he's a vampire. But at the time, I thought he did, and Jayne's supposed lack of surprise raised some GIGANTIC QUESTIONS about her motives and loyalties--but no, he doesn't; carry on. Instead, he creeper-stares at Mina and Jonathan over her shoulder the whole time, his hand closing over Jayne's face in a sort of possessiveness-by-proxy. In fact, this is a good time to mention that, no matter how much sympathy you feel for Dracula at this point, Jonathan Rhys Meyers flat-out said, "He’s not the hero. He’s the bad guy." Yeah. I believe you now.

(Other words Dracula had to look up: "insatiable," "incorrigible," "unquenchable." What, no "concupiscent"? Cut to commercials.)

@cleolinda: Although I still don't know what the opera music was. Wagner? I just immediately went to "O Bwunhilda, you'w so wuvwy."

Meanwhile: HOT! SAUCY! STOCKHOLDER ACTION! "And Grayson descends on [Sir Clive's] widow like a bird of prey. Locked up Clive's entire block of Imperial Coolant and WA WAWA WAAAAAA widow sold out wa wawa gambling debts blackmail scandal WAAAAAAAA," rails Lord Laurent, in a carriage on his way home. "Absolutely loathsome, the whole damned business." "But you must admit, well played," says Lord Davenport beside him with a grin. Heh.

Turns out that Dracula is watching Lord Laurent's house from a roof across the street (with... a katana?), intending God knows what, when he takes an arrow to the knee thigh, because here's Herr Kruger and oh my God it's a slo-mo rooftop action scene.

Kruger's armed with a crossbow and knives and yes, even a crucifix ("BURN IN HELL!"), buuuuut that katana takes care of him pretty quick. "Thou died fair and well, brother huntsman killed," poetizes Dracula, standing over Kruger's cut, gurgling throat. "Impaled the hearts of many beasts, before thine own was stilled," which sounds like a quotation of some sort, but Google turns up nothing but subtitles for the show; I don't know. "Before you die, take heart. You will soon be joined in hell... by scores of your brethren. I will destroy your order... and everything it stands for." "You are--Dracula!" gasps Kruger. Dracula confirms this with a fangy grin while blood streams down the roof. Man, I can't wait to find out what Lady Jayne's cover story for this is gonna be.

Speaking of whom, right now she's in a secret dojo/dungeon (dojeon? dunjo?) getting her Buffy on

with, I believe, a pair of Kukri knives, same as the one that Jonathan starts whetting obsessively towards the end of the book. (I think she also has a katana?) Oh, and there is a vampire lady in a cage watching this. Her dress looks Empire/Regency-era, so I'm wondering if she's meant to be representative of Dracula's "brides" in the book? Like, someone he vampired long ago who's still under his thrall? OH MY GOD THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE ON THIS SHOW.

‏@colehaddon: Dracula, a vampire master, is like an unholy beacon drawing his spawn to him. Such is his power.

"Practice all you want," she hisses (not sure what accent), "it won't save you." Lady Jayne wants to know what sire drew her to London, but captive vampire lady denies anyone "drew" her and won't answer any questions. "You know," replies Lady Jayne, "there's fates for your kind a lot worse than death, and I know them all. How long do you think it's going to take for this [cage] to rust at the bottom of a lake, years? Decades?" Damn. Her captive retorts, "Do what you will to me. There will be another who follows, and another, and another, and soon..." "Soon?" "We will be legion." DUN DUN DUNNNNN.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch manor, Dracula goes straight for the bourbon.

@colehaddon: In case you're interested, the katana is a result of #Dracula's journeys east after his transformation. He is a Eurasian vampire!

@colehaddon: Look at those colors in Carfax Manor. #Dracula was raised in the Ottoman court, and so he finds comfort in the colors of that world.

I don't know about katana use per se, but in terms of Vlad Tepes the historical figure, the Ottoman upbringing is actually true. ("During his years as hostage [starting at the age of 11], Vlad was educated in logic, the Quran and the Turkish language and works of literature. He would speak this language fluently in his later years.") Right now, though, it's time to go on down to Whiskeytown.

Ohhhhh, look who it is. Yessss. WE MEET AGAIN, SIR. This is gonna be so good

"I was wondering when you'd make your entrance," says Dracula, drawing his katana again. yesssss, I was wondering when we would have a showdown, yessssss

"The plan was to leverage Sir Clive's gambling debts against his interests, not his WIDOW'S." wait what

"I saw an opportunity," retorts Dracula. "And I seized it."

"It was impetuous, and careless." excuse me this is not good

"It got the job done," says Dracula.

"How many times must I explain the difference between a vendetta and vengeance?"

oh my God, what is happening


"This cannot become a war of attrition. The Order Draco is like the hydra. Cut off a head, they grow two to replace it." ("Funny," says Dracula. "That's not what happened to Sir Clive's head." lololol, I'm so fucking funny) "Don't be a fool. You know the only way to crush them is to wipe out the very source of their power, their vast wealth. For over a decade we've schemed and built this EMPIRE OF LIES."


"I will not have our work undone by your LACK OF DISCIPLINE!"



"Give me one good reason I should not peel you like a grape!" hisses Dracula (man, it's always grape-peeling with you murdersome types). To which Van Helsing growls, "Because without me, YOU'D STILL BE ROTTING IN THAT IRON BOX."

Flashback to the beginning of the show! His hat is doffed, his face revealed! I love how I was like, "Yes, of course that was Van Helsing, it was completely obvious at the time," and yet I AM STILL COMPLETELY SHOCKED AND APPALLED BY THIS DEVELOPMENT. I guess that's what I get for TRUSTING A VAN HELSING WHO ALSO PLAYED DRACULA.

"Do you think I am not immune to RAGE?" chokes out Van Helsing. WELL GOD KNOWS I'M NOT. "The Order of the Dragon slaughtered my ENTIRE FAMILY!" Aw. Okay, maybe I'll cut you some slack on WAIT NO REVIVING DRACULA WAS A TERRIBLE IDEA!! (Side note: Van Helsing also lost his family in the book. Apparently his son looked a lot like Lucy's eventual fiancé Arthur Holmwood, but died of causes unknown to us; his wife, it's implied, was institutionalized, for some also-unknown illness. Basically, kindly old Dr. Van Helsing becomes paternally, emotionally involved with a group of younger people because he's all alone in the world. YOU KNOW, RATHER THAN HELP DRACULA.) "We must not give in to our base instincts. We must practice control. We must follow the plan!"

"True, our hatred was born in the same crucible. You give it form. But I give it strength! We are not bound by what we have lost--but by who took it!" Specifically, they took Ilona, and by "took" I mean "burnt her at the stake while they held Dracula down and made him watch," so. (I wonder if Van Helsing is like, do I need to repeat the part about it being my entire family?) "For these crimes," declares Dracula, "I WILL HAVE MY VENGEANCE."

And then, elsewhere, Mina wakes up with a gasp, and it's implied that she was dreaming about the flashback. And, of course, it's herself she saw burning.


@cleolinda: I should clarify, "I'M NOT HAPPY" was re: a specific plot point, not the whole show. BECAUSE HDU, SIR. HDU.

Honestly, I was willing to roll with just about anything until the Van Helsing twist, at which point I clearly LOST MY SHIT. But by the time I'd spent the better part of four days (!) recapping the episode, I'd actually gotten pretty fond of the show? And, despite a definitive statement like "he's the bad guy," that last scene raises some interesting questions about which side--if any--is "good," so maybe I can keep my head from exploding. It's only ten weeks, so let's see if we can stick with this. May the lolarity continue to flow.

(Continue: 1x02: "A Whiff of Sulfur.")

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  • Ow

    As I just said on Twitter, I keep forgetting that chronic health issues are chronic and that I can't just wait them out. "Oh, I feel like shit…

  • This is simply to say

    that I am having a REALLY hard time concentrating, despite having an Outline of Update Posts to work from. (Refer to previous entry.) So I'm still…

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    HELLO. The thing for me is that time flies really quickly. I look up and three months have passed; I look down and three more are gone. I did sort…