By Merrill Barr
Following the success of their Hannibal adaptation, NBC wants to continue the trend of “basic cable shows on network television,” and their latest attempt, Dracula surely fits into that category – though, I question what the point is supposed to be. I was never sold on the idea of a Dracula series to begin with. The character, regardless of iteration, doesn’t have a place in a medium that requires him to live on for years and years doing nothing for 13 episodes a year. The trailers also made the show feel like it was going to be the thing I hate most in television: misery porn. AMC series are the biggest contributor of this trend, and it has infected other networks. Shows without hope for its characters, and just get darker with every episode until they eat themselves and become boring, that’s what I was afraid Dracula was going to be.
Fortunately for fans of the character, it is not misery porn, but the show definitely needs work. Set in 1800s England, the pilot spares no expense to sell the world it takes place in. It looks like an Oscar-bait period piece and, to its detriment, moves like one. The costumes and set-pieces are fun and all, but the characters are a bore to watch. This isn’t the blood-sucking, stalking creature of the night. No, this Dracula is a man of industry and revenge because, wait for it, his wife was murdered centuries ago by some group that we know nothing about.
The biggest problem with the pilot is Dracula’s intentions are not clear. He wants revenge on some group called “The Order of the Dragon” and is doing it by playing an American named Alexander Grayson that likes pissing off British oil tycoons. And speaking of “The Order of the Dragon,” while they may be the most clearly defined part of the pilot (vampire hunters), they do little to explain the influence they seem to have. If they are so powerful that Dracula needs to go after them financially to bring them down, why does their influence on the world seem so minuscule?
The sad fact is that while it may have a decent premise, a slick look and some A+ actors, Dracula does little to entice the viewer to tune in for episode two. The one action beat it does provide viewers during runtime is poorly executed and green-screened to hell. I didn’t think swords could be boring, but Dracula found a way. The scene, like much of the pilot, was confusing. I didn’t understand the allegiances of the fighting characters, and I didn’t understand what their beef was with each other.
Dracula could be cool, but, right now, it’s not. I understand NBC’s desire to attract the “cable” crowd after the critical success of Hannibal, but this feels like the wrong way to do it.