Dracula (2013)

7.4 / 10
43 min
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" gives "Dracula - Season 1" a 6.5."
Written by on 27 February 2014.
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Dracula - Season 1

Considering the enormous popularity of vampires in recent years, it was only a matter of time until the original vampire would reappear on our screens. NBC’s ‘Dracula’ offers a new interpretation of Bram Stoker’s novel. Just like in the novel, Dracula has just moved to London. Apart from a few familiar names, that’s where the similarities end. The writers put a creative twist on the novel and came up with a story filled with intrigue, action and love affairs. All in all, it sounds like ‘Dracula’ has something for everyone. However, it would have been smarter move for the creators to stay closer to the source material, as they’ve ended up with a series which looks amazing, but doesn’t manage to keep you intrigued.

The story takes place in Victorian London. Dracula has just arrived and pretends to be the American entrepreneur Alexander Grayson. Looking for revenge on the Order of the Dragon for killing his wife, he intends to remove their income from the oil business by introducing wireless energy. Besides that, he also wants to use science to find a way to walk in the sun. The addition of these scientific elements works really well. It’s also refreshing to see that Dracula doesn’t just suck the life out of his enemies, but also fights them on a different level. However, Dracula’s dedication to revenge is tested when he meets Mina Murray, who looks remarkably like his dead wife.

Whilst the plot sounds promising, the pacing of the series is quite slow. There’s something happening every episode to keep you entertained, but it often doesn’t add much to the bigger story. The writers left so much for the final episode, that there isn’t enough story left to divide over the other episodes. It wasn’t until the final scene of the final episode that I felt like the story really started to get going and the pacing would go up. But then the season was already over… The story would have been better had it been shorter and more concise, because then the tension would have been spread more evenly throughout the season.

Because of the low pacing, there’s more emphasis on the characters. However, this doesn’t always work well. There are a few colourful characters in the show. Nonso Anozie (‘Game of Thrones’) as Dracula’s assistant Renfield and especially Victoria Smurfit (‘Trial & Retribution’) as the feisty Lady Jayne Wetherby clearly enjoy playing their characters and are fun to watch. Jessica De Gouw (‘Arrow’) as Mina Murray and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (‘Mr Selfridge’) as her fiancé Jonathan Harker are both cast excellently for their looks and play their parts alright, but they don’t add much to their characters apart from looking pained into the camera. And then there’s Dracula, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyer (‘The Tudors’). Whilst his looks work in his advantage and he knows how to look smolderingly into the camera, he is not 100% convincing as Dracula.

That’s not just due to his acting, but also to how the character is written. The writers have changed the character of Dracula too much from the original. Whilst there are plenty of moments in which Dracula is menacing, malicious and hankering for power, his desire to be human minimizes his evilness and would be better suited to Edward from ‘Twilight’ than Dracula. Other characters also suffer from poor writing. They’ve tried to make something more out of a small part like Lucy Westenra (Katie McGrath, ‘Merlin’), but it doesn’t add anything to the story and the only interesting thing about her character is pushed back until the penultimate episode. The final problem with all the characters is due to how the story is written. Because the writers have stretched the story so much, the characters are stretched out too. This means that they aren’t as fascinating as they could have been.

Something that is very positive about ‘Dracula’ is the way the entire series looks. The costumes, though far from historically correct, look amazing. The series is shot in Budapest and London, which is reflected in the beautiful buildings and streets. The sets look great as much attention has been given to detail. Add some good-looking actors and you’ve got a lovely picture to look at. The way the series looks is a better argument to watch the show than the story itself.

For some reason or another I thought there would only be one season of ‘Dracula’. The end of this season, however, makes it more than clear that that was not the intention of the creators. Personally I think that it would have been better to tell the entire story they wanted to tell in one season. The pacing of the series is too slow and there’s not enough plot to keep it interesting. As said, it wasn’t until the final scene of the final episode that it felt like the story really started to get going. The slow pacing combined with characters which aren’t terribly interesting makes for a series which is all right, but no more than that. Should there be a second season, I would probably watch it, hoping the pacing would be better. Should someone ask me whether this is a show you need to have seen, my answer would probably be no.
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