Saturday, November 30, 2013

In Which I Review Dracula (1x5)

In Bram Stoker's Dracula, Renfield is a bug eating crazy bastard. His role, apart from serving his master, is to demonstrate what happens to those who become entangled with the Count. He has no will, no desire, no passion, outside of serving Dracula. So naturally, the TV show Dracula decided to subvert parts of this relationship and make it one of friendship, companionship, while--on some level--maintaining the servant/master relationship. Our Renfield is a lawyer, well spoken, capable, and undeniably loyal. On this weeks episode, "The Devil's Waltz," loyalties are called into question, the hunt for Renfield parallels how the lawyer met the vampire, and Mina begins to fall under Dracula's spell. I'm starting to realize that the appeal of this show isn't the plot, with its magical coolant (giggle), but rather the appeal is wondering who is going to end up in bed with whom. This week I had Mina pegged as going home with both Lucy and Dracula, Lucy going with Blonde Ninja Lady, and Harker standing dumbly around, waiting for Dracula to pull his strings. As usual, this episode was chaotic and messy and whatever Dracula and Harker are doing with the Order was totally irrelevant; it was all about the sexy escapades of our characters. Sail on, you ships. Sail on.

 Poor Mina. No, really. I almost feel sorry for her. In the novel, Mina is to be pitied, slowly being drained of her life by Dracula due to his infatuation. And a lot of that pity is carried over to the television show. Mina is a girl who is supposed to have it all: money, family, reputation, opportunity, love. She is the ideal modern Victorian woman; strong and capable and intelligent, she can stand up to her fiancee and social conventions while at the same time embracing her femininity and the conventional roles her society has dictated are best for her. Mina loves Harker and wants that comfortably controlled life; but at the same time, she can't deny her inner rebel--the one who entered into the medical profession--and her growing attraction to Alexander Grayson. The episode opens with Mina in bed, dreaming of Alexander. Here's a good question: is it really a dream? It seems like it would be a dream; Dracula appears, tells Mina she is making a mistake and that Harker can't make her happy before a heavy make out session occurs. Lucy comes into Mina's room and wakes her, but based on what Dracula's powers are supposed to be, it wouldn't surprise me if he was either really there or had placed himself into her subconscious and is wooing her through dreams. The dream is enough to put Mina on guard, wary of everything Grayson is doing for her and her fiancee. Mina can't help notice that as Dracula elevates Harker in his company that Harker is loosing himself. Harker rejects his old friends, eschewing them for his new shiner, wealthier, better connected friends. Was this Dracula's plan all along? Did he want to drive a wedge between Mina and Harker knowing Harker's ambitions and Mina's desire to be a rebel, but only in so far as she is able to rebel while staying true to her heritage?

The long anticipated engagement party finally arrives and finds Mina worried about her future with Harker. The night before her party and she is dreaming of being in the arms of another man; a man she barely knows but who, upon their first meetings, literally brought light to the dark. (See the light bulbs were a metaphor...) I think Dracula has awakened Mina from her sleepy comfortable life. Mina likes to think of herself as modern and a bit of a rebel, and to an extent she is. It takes courage to enter into a strictly male profession, but it wasn't hard for her to do. She didn't have to claw her way into medical school and thus far we haven't seen her classmates and peers regard as anything less than the best and brightest. If they are uncomfortable or resentful of Mina, it hasn't shown. Her father is a doctor and she is obviously wealthy enough and beloved enough that her father could arrange her entrance into medicine. The real rebellion for Mina is giving into her desires for Grayson. And yes, they danced. Well. Let's be fair. That wasn't a dance. That was sex. That was upright, tension filled, angst driven sex. I honestly expected Dracula to drag Mina off the dance floor, throw her up against a pillar and rip her dress off with his teeth. The two actors don't have that much chemistry, but in this weeks episode, they did their hardest to sell the sexual tension. And it worked, actually. I found myself leaning closer and closer to the screen waiting for the inevitable kiss or declaration of love. And then Harker had to come in and ruin it all. (I did enjoy that in a vision Dracula opened Harker's throat and watched as he bled out for daring to interrupt his sex/dance with Mina). Harker is obtuse but he isn't blind. He saw the chemistry. He saw the heat. And what makes it all the more delicious is that Harker gave Mina to Dracula. He handed her over as "his most precious object" as a gift in thanks. Way to be a tool, Harker. And here you promised Mina that you didn't view her as an object for his disposal.

Lucy noticed the sex/dance too. Lucy, who runs home, tears staining her dress as she realizes that even when Mina wants to rebel and finds herself attracted to someone who isn't Jonathan, it still isn't her. Speaking of Lucy, though, there were some looks passing between her and Ninja. My friend Jo and I decided they are now VixenBoobs. When Ninja and her boobs showed up, she instantly started looking for Dracula. She is utterly in his thrall and he knows it. And he revels in it. I think Dracula might have a sadistic streak (thank God) when it comes to Ninja. He enjoyed breaking her, just for the sheer joy of breaking her. Of course, it can't last forever as even Ninja noticed the heat of the sex/dance. And in the final moments, her cohort (who's name I do not know and only call Monty in my head because of the actor's roll in "The Forsyte Saga") clues Ninja in to the fact that Grayson has never been seen outside in daylight. He only comes out at night. Isn't that peculiar? Deny it all she wants, Ninja might have finally realized that she is sleeping with the enemy (literally). Will she turn on the man she has fallen in love with? What is more important: her heart or her loyalty?

12 years ago, Dracula boarded a train in order to talk to some tycoon of industry wanting to make a deal and buy his company. The deal making went sour, but not before Renfield, working as a bartender on the car train, stepped in with a mouth-full of legalese, assisting Dracula in getting a fair deal. Of course the tycoon and his associates did not like that and proceeded to beat Renfield to a bloody pulp. Dracula, very calmly, took care of them, their blood splashing around Renfield's face. And that is how Renfield came to work for Dracula. Renfield had been a lawyer in America before his race became an issue and he was forced to take work elsewhere. But he is smart and savvy and Dracula takes an instant liking to him. If Renfield will come and work for him, then Dracula will tell him all his secrets and they can be best friends!

Meanwhile in the present day, Renfield was kidnapped by the Gray Lady (no idea what her name is, but it doesn't matter). He is beaten, tortured, poked and prodded for the answer to one question: whom does Alexander Grayson love? Naturally, Renfield refuses to answer, his loyalty to his master is too strong. Dracula does eventually find Renfield by putting his nose to the ground (no, I'm being completely serious. He sniffed him out). Just like he did in the past, Dracula rescues Renfield from his captors and then takes him home and put him to bed, nursing his wounds. Subversion of the master/servant relationship: they actually care for each other, these two. My friend Jo and I decided that they are now DracField. Of all the changes to the Dracula story, this is the one I like. Renfield as a bug eating crazy person was fine in the novel, but getting to explore the friendship between these two is much more satisfying, though I am still bothered that the only person of color on the show thus far is in the servant role. I just said something about this show was satisfying. There must be something in the water.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Devil's Waltz

--The actual PLOT of Harker and Dracula doesn't interest me in the slightest. Some general in the Ottoman Empire who is embezzling money? Meh. Whatever.

--Some seriously odd camera angles in this show. Half the time I thought I was looking up their noses

--Van Helsing continues to try and find a cure to Dracula's sunlight affliction. They got pretty close last night but then their test subject, a young vampire girl, burst into flames. Who wants to bet that Mina is Dracula's cure? They kiss and suddenly he can walk in sunlight.

--During the dance, Dracula began to picture is wife. Pre-Mina was pretty and I would like to know the specifics of how she died. I know it was the order, but how exactly did that come about. 

--For those keeping track of the ships: Mucy (Mina and Lucy), Macula (Mina and Dracula), DracField (Dracula and Renfield), VixenBoobs (Lucy and Ninja), VampireNinja (Dracula and Ninja), VixenPireIna + Coolant (Lucy, Dracula, Mina, and the magical coolant). This is really the best part of the show.

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