After months of waiting, Dracula has premiered on NBC (the UK will have to wait until Halloween to watch) and already we’ve had a taste of the storyline preparing to unfold. Still set in Victorian London, the series has deviated from the original novel in some significant ways, but it’s clearly been done to make a better drama. Dracula is still a vampire, other characters are still there, but their roles have changed including Van Helsing’s relationship with Dracula/Grayson. From there the plot diverged.
Dracula, posing as Alexander Grayson, an American industrialist, has relocated to London after spending time in America after being freed from his crypt. The first episode even opens on Dracula rising, with the years in America skipped entirely. On the outside it appears Grayson has come to London as a business man and attempted to insert himself into London high society, much to the disgust of the locals. However we soon discover that Dracula has two aims, to bring his magnetic electricity (wireless power) to the world and to destroy an ancient society, the Order of the Dragon, that not only controls the world but knows his true nature.
The Order of the Dragon is an interesting flip on the Dracula story as dragon imagery is often associated with the vampire himself. They have secret headquarters hidden deep beneath a shop front which seems too sophisticated for the Victorian age. At the end of the pilot we get a better picture of why Dracula was released and the lengths he and the man who woke him have gone to destroy the Dragon. Dracula being a vampire has almost less to do with the plot; it makes him immortal but the reason he seeks revenge is more for love.
So it seems the series is more about the British class system, and by inserting the American Grayson into their society, the show attempts to disrupt the natural order. Of course having an actual secret cabal that really controls business and society, there’s an identifiable enemy. The British are still hung up on class, with the higher classes still holding great control, however just as in contemporary Britain, the new wealth as typified by Grayson, has been able to rise up the ranks. There’s no upstairs-downstairs dynamic as we see in Downton Abbey, this is a more dark and dystopian view on Victorian Britain.
Jonathan Harker is now a journalist interested in Grayson, but he’s still on a path to marry Mia. At the time a journalist would have been lower in society than the solicitor he’s portrayed in the novel, yet the handsome Harker has aspirations for high society. Mia of course has been captured by Grayson’s attention, though for now he seems to be taking his approach slowly, instead becoming involved with a member of this secret society. Thomas Kretschmann, who’s previously played Dracula, has taken the role as Van Helsing, but here lies the twist in the story.
We also had a taste of the vampire Dracula will be, but only towards the end of the show did we see his fangs. He’d already dispatched one man and fed on a young women but these two incidences; the first happened off camera and the second his face was already buried in the victim’s neck.
There are few American actors for this network series, with a mostly British cast aided by the odd Australian. Jonathan Rhys Meyers of course helms the cast as Dracula, a smart choice given his ability to be both dark and sexy. Oliver Jackson-Cohen plays Jonathan Harker, with various females filling the roles of Mia and Lucy, Jessica De Gouw and Katie McGrath. With the casting of Meyers and Jackson-Cohen I’m not entirely sure why the producers didn’t drop the Mia and Lucy characters entirely and let the two men get on. In all likelihood we’re not going to see much gay action in this series, not that it did not exist at the time, instead it will be nice to see a return to the dark and dangerous vampire of the past.
The initial order for this first season is reported to be 10 episodes so it will be interesting to see if NBC decides to expand the season or what they plan for the second.