“Dracula” (NBC television series)
Episode 3: “Goblin Merchant Men” (air-date 8/11/2013)
Director: Harley Peyton
Writer: Andy Goddard
Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jessica De Gouw, Thomas Kretschmann, Kathie McGrath, Lucy Smurfit, Nonso Anozie and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
Happy post-humous birthday, Bram Stoker!
Hm. Now what can I say about the third episode of NBC’s vampiric offering?… How about “Go home, Dracula, you’re drunk on absinthe.” This episode was… weird. Not weird as in they way a vampire television series should be but just…weird. There is a story here, but something tells me it got lost in translation. It’s full of strange, non-apparent goings on. Mina after suffering Harker’s drunken humiliation has dumped his butt so she and her BFF Lucy (Kathie McGrath) can go out on the town… without a chaperone! Obviously Mina has every right to be pissed off with Jonathan, but in an era like this, it was dangerous for two high-society ladies to go out and cut loose all by themselves downtown. I think the writers forsoke the fact they are living in Victorian England, not present day Los Angeles. Dracula as a result sees this as the perfect opportunity to move in to charm her, but he just doesn’t have the capacity to do so- it seems that Harley Peyton (the writer) wanted to do his version of Victorian Girls Gone Oscar Wilde by centering the character of Mina letting go of every inhabition she had for one night of partying with Lucy who actually seemed to have the hots for her. Although that particular idea is played subtle, it is made quite apparent that lesbianism wasn’t some pop cultural fad that kicked up in the early naughties.
But even so, this intriguing dymanic never pays off in any way, shape or form, thus it makes all of what happened between these two women completely redundant. Perhaps Peyton intended for the audience to be put off balance by this sudden 360 in story and character, but man, it was kind of a marathon keeping up with this one. I felt like I had been blind-folded, spun around on the spot 10 times before having the blind-fold taken off and being made to walk in a straight line. Perhaps the title of the episode itself is a reference to the mischief and mayhem goblins of legend create when they are given free range over human emotions. I have absolutely no clue. But anyway.
The rest of the episode is rather wonky as well, and although some fascinating developments occur mainly from the Lord Laurent and Davenport storyline that meets a too early and too tragic end. In my previous review I made a prediction involving them and I was a little sad to see it never come into fruition. True, my expectations are soley mine to hold, but to see two such promising characters be prematurely factored out, it’s kind of sad, you know? The only other meaningful moment in this episode is Harker’s atonement for the treatment of Mina- now that he is sober, somber and straight, he works especially hard to win Mina back, which combats in direct opposition to Grayson as he too tries desperately to woo Mina into his arms (that are still being comfortably filled by Lady Jayne by the by). Although Harker ultimately earns Mina’s love back again (over the course of a few days mind you), I have to confess that Grayson’s reaction to this is perhaps Meyer’s best acting in the series so far- the passion that he lacked in pursuit of Mina comes out here in a scene of pure emotion and Meyers is fantastic. I don’t think he’s too bad an actor in general and he has displayed talent in the past, but here, Grayson is displaying a fire that he hadn’t to this point displayed before, not a fire that descends from hate for once but from a form of love.
Cohen’s contrite nature as Harker in this episode contrasts from his decidedly dickish behaviour from the previous and although a part of you is certain that he just wants her to come back to him to save face, you also feel that he DOES care for Mina. Perhaps Harker is a skilled actor when it comes to getting what he wants, but you just don’t know. De Gouw who had previously shown her dramatic chops in the preceeding episode continues on a strong streak here, despite how misguided and choppy the writing is. Although she wants to have fun during her odyssey with Lucy, she also knows that this sort of behaviour just isn’t HER. She wants to cut loose, to let go of whatever setbacks she had, but she cannot due to some sense of loyalty she has to Jonathan. She is only partly receptive to Grayson when he attempts to seduce her, but she is also incredbly distracted by her own thoughts.
I find it unfortunate however that in this episode that Renfield (Nonso Anozie) is regaled to being the purveyour of exposition rather than being pro-active as a character. He mainly acts as a chorus to tell the audience of Grayson’s intentions, but even his opinions don’t high-light what Grayson is doing. He tells Grayson that even though Mina and Jonathan are back together, Grayson still has his invisible iron fist clenched around them… how, exactly? Grayson hasn’t really done anything major to entrap either character, despite a business deal with Harker and helping Mina with her medical examination. He hasn’t blackmailed Jonathan by implicating him in some type of serious conspiracy against the country or the people- all Harker is privy to is Grayson’s business dealings, not his personal life.
Also, in no way has he seriously implanted himself into Mina’s mind- he hasn’t in anyway enforced some type of powerful hold over her, and despite the fact he has said in the past he doesn’t want to make Mina an ‘abomination’ like him, he still wants her. So why hasn’t he done anything? He just didn’t take full advantage of Mina’s temporary vulnerability like he should have. What the heck is he waiting for?! He had ample opportunity to wrangle both Lucy and Mina into a sexual encounter with he and Jayne, I mean, how could they have possibly refused?
Perhaps the most ri-DONK-ulous plot point is when Van Helsing concots a powerful psychic elixir. Yes, you read that right- a psychic elixir. If you read what I write next and laugh, you owe me five dubloons. Apparently this potion poisons any psychics who intend on interfering with Grayson, and let me tell you right now, every seer has an interest in Graysons schtumping of Lady Jayne that they show a heavily voyueristic streak by spying on the two lovers. The elixir then poisons the mind of those who take it, enabling Van Helsing to assassinate them… you just lost five dubloons, you totally did. It’s an interesting concept, but at the same time it is just, so, SILLY. Although I enjoy the notion of a psychic poison potion, the way it was introduced into this particular story is stupid. It also makes me question Van Helsing’s own moral compass. Yes, he still has an alliance with Grayson and had pledged to protect him, but at the same time, doesn’t Van Helsing find himself questioning the dire methods? So far, Van Helsing seems like a personally reasonable, stable and intelligent individual, and how he becomes some kind of killer. Not once do we see him questioning himself, about whether or not what he is being a part of is right. Although it’s a means to an end, it didn’t need to be so final, so extreme.
I honestly didn’t think too highly of this episode, folks. It just wasn’t comprehensive enough to make me care, but at the same time it wasn’t offensive enough to make me turn it off. I could appreciate the occasional sparks of clarify, but they were over-shadowed by the overall absurdity of the plot. I feel this episode should have belonged to the relationship between Lucy and Mina and having that play a part in episodes to come, instead we get this dinosaur’s breakfast. Were the creative team actually chasing the dragon or flying with the Green Fairy when they came up with this? Because that’s how it feels. The only way to appreciate a drug trip is to be on one yourself, and unfortunately, “Gobin Merchant Men” didn’t think to pack the laced S’mores for this camping trip.
Review written by Bea Harper
See Bea’s Review for Episode 2 HERE