Saturday, January 25, 2014

In Which I Review Dracula (1x10)

"I live in the darkness, but yearn for the light" 

So sayeth Dracula in our season (most likely series) finale of one of the most gloriously horrible (or horribly glorious?) shows of the TV season. Honestly, this show was so utterly pointless that I'm not sure what NBC was thinking when they bought the pilot. Were they hoping JRM's brooding stare and gravely accent would be enough to entice viewers? 10 episodes, very little character development, and the most nonsensical plot I have ever attempted to keep up with and it ended with a literal explosion. I could explain LOST better than I could explain Dracula. And for the first 58 minutes of the final episode, "Let There Be Light," the writers of the show seemed to understand that this was their last hurrah. They tied up the story as neatly as one could when one has created such a disaster. The characters either died or got what they ultimately wanted. But then in the last two minutes of the show it was as if the writers thought, "Who knows. Maybe we'll get renewed?" and tacked on a total cliffhanger for giggles. Because this show has never been about plot (I'm convinced there isn't one) but about character, let's do something different. How did this show end the characters we've come to deride and loathe? 

Character: Abraham Van Helsing
Status: Manic and Vengeful
Ended: How exactly did Van Helsing go from competent medical man to raving lunatic? I don't get his character arc (new drinking game: take a shot every time I write "I don't understand"). When we left him last week, he had kidnapped Monty's (Browning?) kids and held them hostage. For reasons? Yes, the Order of the Dragon killed his wife and children but hurting kids shouldn't be your solution. This week, still fed up with Dracula's attempt to take down the Order with magical coolant (I sympathize), Van Helsing decided to do two things. First, he chopped off the finger of one of the kids, then pumped them full of Dracula's blood. Which naturally resulted in the poor kids being turned into little Vamps. Once Browning found Van Helsing it was only a matter of time before Van Helsing got his final piece of revenge--feeding Browning to his kids. His mania only increased, resulting in a bizarre faux artsy sequence in which Van Helsing burned papers, threw jars of bright sparkly sand (I couldn't make this up if I tried), and danced to a waltz by himself. And for some reason, having got his revenge, he isn't satisfied. He decides that he needs to go after Dracula--hurt him where it counts. Which brings us to....

Character: Renfield
Status: Dead
Ended: WHY? Why would you go and kill the one semi-decent person on this show? It's the day of Dracula's big light show (wut?) and Van Helsing is missing, having lost his marbles. Renfield demands to know where Van Helsing has been and what he has done. Van Helsing, officially off the ranch, takes a knife and STABS Renfield in the gut. And the worst part? No one notices! Shouldn't Dracula wonder where his clever manservant is? Shouldn't he notice that his right hand man is no where to be seen, that he never made it to the great light show? But no. Dracula is too busy making eyes at Mina (like always). RIP Renfield.
Character: Lady Jayne "Ninja"
Status: Dead
Ended:  Lady Jayne has assembled an entire retinue of hunters, including the mysterious Sicilian, who shows up with the world's dumbest glasses. Seriously, what were those?? Oh, he also brought the blood of Christ. What? You don't have that on hand? The hunters have one job: kill vampires (duh) using the blood of Christ. Ninja doesn't even go out with them; her job is to sit in a room with the Sicilian and watch him orgasm-out (I'm not kidding. Go watch the scene and YOU tell me how it came across) locations of vampires. And conveniently enough, the Sicilian gasps out that Grayson is a Vampire--in fact he's Dracula. Ninja takes this in stride because "I knew it all along." Of course you did. Ninja's only task is to take down Dracula, whom she finds and fights to no avail. Dracula tells her to walk away, that he doesn't want to kill her or hurt her. He just wants to live in the light with Mina. When Ninja refuses to back down, he throws her against a stake and dies. But not before they can have one final (super) long conversation about death and life. Dracula decides to be merciful and drain Ninja so she doesn't suffer. Am I supposed to be impressed by his compassion? I would be if he had ever been shown to be a real threat. But Dracula only ever fed or killed on people who were cruel or mean to him first. Not saying that makes it right, but where was the cold blooded killer who tortured for the fun of it? His merciful killing of Ninja is just another reminder that we're not really watching Dracula as conceived of by Stoker.

Character: Lucy
Status: Undead
Ended: Of all the balls this show dropped, this is probably the worse one. There was so much they could have done if they had Dracula turn Lucy earlier and had they made Lucy radically different. Lucy should have been a sweet loving girl, a bit of a flirt but not this lesbian sultry vixen. That should have happened AFTER Dracula turned her. And once he did turn Lucy, they did nothing with her. She spent the entire episode in bed, sick, until the final moments when the Vampire in her took hold for real and she killed her mother. I don't mind the idea of Lucy being a closeted lesbian--it's historically plausable and accurate. What I mind is how it did not serve her character or her transformation into a vampire. I would have loved to see sultry vampire vixen Lucy on the prowl in London, making her way brothel to brothel, trying to fill the hole in her heart where Mina was. And of course her relationship with Mina was swept under the rug entirely in this episode.

Character: Harker
Status: Alive and Sad
Ended:  Can Harker and Renfield switch places? Harker, thinking that he is a grown up man who understands the world, made it his mission this week to mess with Dracula's big light show. He brings in members of the Order who reverse the polarity of the neutron flow (nerd joke) which will cause the machine to explode. Now to Harker's credit, he only thought this would make it malfunction and when he realizes that it will kill dozens of people, his concern is for Mina (how gallant.) Thinking that he can still be the white knight, he swoops in and tells Dracula that the machine is rigged to explode just as all the lights go on. Dracula tells Harker to get Mina to safety, which Harker does manage to do but then insists that Dracula is dead. When Mina rejects him because she is just soooooooo in love with Dracula, Harker pays a visit to Van Helsing. Harker and Van Helsing have a nice little chit chat in the final seconds of the show and Van Helsing tell him everything Harker needs "to destroy [Grayson.] His Dracula." Cut to black! What?? Why would you end your show that way? You know this isn't coming back for another season so why make it seem like Harker and Van Helsing are now going to join together to beat the vampire? While it makes sense if you were doing a literal adaptation of the novel, it makes zero sense given that this show has never once been the novel on the small screen.

Character: Mina
Status: Alive and Annoying
Ended: Mina walked in circles this week. That's not a metaphor. I mean she actually moved from one point on the stage to the next and simpered and smiled. The day of the big light show and Mina is there for her man. Dracula, not Harker. Dracula is her man now. Remember? She is now madly in love with him--Dracula, not Harker. She gives me whiplash. Anyway, when the sparks begin to fly (literally) Mina has to be forced away from Dracula, because she was determined to stay by his side. She makes her way back to Dracula's house where she sees the painting of herself as Eiona. She doesn't even question it, just accpets that it is someone Dracula has loved for a long time, in another life. But Dracula assures her that he isn't going anywhere and together they fall into bed, reunited. Ah, love.

Character: Dracula
Status: Walking in the Light
Ended: I basically told you Dracula's story this episode by telling you everyone's story. Dracula's attempt to take down the Order with magical coolant failed (shock), but he got the girl in the end. It would have been better if he died, in my opinion. He was billed the entire series as an actual hero--wouldn't kill or turn Mina, was taking down the order through legal economic means. He wasn't a badass in any sense of the word. So kill him and let everyone move on. But no, he and Mina fall into bed and that's it.

Miscellaneous Notes on Let There Be Light

--Such stellar writing:
"I live in darkness but I yearn for light. Life is precious." "No."
"From a past life? But how?" "I have no idea."

--Lots of people died, not just our characters. All because they wanted to see pretty lights

--So do Mina and Dracula ride off into the sunset now? She doesn't even know that he's a vampire! 

--In the end, this show is just tragic. But I can't help myself. If it comes back, I'll be watching.

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