“Dracula” (NBC television series)
Episode 5: “The Devil’s Waltz” (air-date 29/11/2013)
Director: Nick Murphy
Writer: Nicole Taylor
Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jessica De Gouw, Thomas Kretschmann, Kathie McGrath, Victoria Smurfit, Alec Newman, Nonso Anozie and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
After a week hiatus to honor the anniversary of JFK’s untimely assassination, “Dracula” returned for a fifth episode that plunges full steam ahead proving that this show is actually gonna become something worthwhile after all. Heck, the first episode delivers a vanilla sex dream sequence where Mina envisions Grayson in her room on the eve of her engagement , entreating her not to marry Harker. She is halfway letting his hand move up her skirts when Lucy comes marching into the room, drawing back the curtains and she bashfully wakes up and struggles to regain her composure. A lot of this episode is devoted to the concept of hope both newborn and smashed, it has the privledge of being the first episode of which Grayson is not exclusively humping Lady Jayne, despite the opening sequence being a fancy of Mina’s own imagination.
While on that subject, although Grayson has his own preternatural abilities, I have the strongest sensation that it was Mina’s own subconcious that made her conjure up such a steamy dream. This vision haunts her throughout the rest of the episode, even though she fulfils her civic duty by attending the engagement party that Lucy has expended all of her energy into.
While Mina and Lucy are dealing with their conflicted hearts, Renfield has been carted off to an abandoned crypt where he is being mercilessly tortured by some well-spoken bitch wearing an apron. Although none of what we see Renfield subjected to is especially envelope-pushing, there is a sequence of which one of the woman’s goons literally rubs salt into one of his wounds and boy did I flinch. Nick Murphy directs this sequence with good taste and tact despite the decidedly dark material and Taylor ensured that we gave a damn because of how the episode makes the bold move of showing several snippets of Renfield and Grayson’s history. Renfield is devoted to Grayson due to the fact Grayson saved his life from a bunch of good for nothing cowboys on a train after Renfield discreetly warned Grayson of the cowboy’s fell intentions. What makes Renfield so compelling here is that he isn’t bound by some spell and made to be Grayson’s whipping boy, it is a relationship built on mutual trust and concern for each other.
I was particularly impressed with the interplay between Meyers and Anozie and… my goodness, could it be that I’m starting to see more acting chops from Meyers himself? I…. by jove, I think I’m starting to understand. He may not be the Prince of Darkness, but his Grayson has a sense of sincerity I can’t scoff at. Grayson takes it upon himself to track Renfield down and rescue his confidante, not ever hesitating to use excessive force upon those who have been subjecting Renfield to unspeakable acts of torture. A small moment after the massacre shows Grayson tenderly tending to an unconcious Renfield’s wounds with a flannel and bowl of water, a look of relief etched upon his features.
The best sequence in the episode however is the penultimate ‘devil’s waltz’. Upon a loving toast to his beloved, Jonathan invites Grayson to have the first dance with Mina, the announcement noticibly shakes Mina, but in good grace and manners, she agrees by allowing Grayson to gently rest his hand against her own and lightly touch the small of her back with his palm. They start to move gracefully to the waltz, all eyes watching them with good humour.. but then, as they turn, his hands rest more securely upon her body and her own touch responds in kind. They come closer to each other, not once breaking eye contact, paying absolutely no heed to their audience, and to their ownselves. Their focus rests upon each other like an infinite conjure, there is no world, there is no Mina or Alexander Grayson- there is Dracula and his loving wife, Ilona. When Harker interrupts, Grayson snarls in rage and DASHES his throat open… and that part was just a hallucination, but the rest of it was completely real.This particular scene was incredibly well done and surprisingly sensual even though Meyers doesn’t do it for me, the method of which this exchange was shot, the performance between both actors made such a moment last forever in a good way.
When Grayson and Mina finally snap back to reality and to a sea of horrified, confused faces, Grayson hurriedly excuses himself when Harker steps up, feeling not a little bit emotionally cuckholded only for Mina to hurry up stairs to ruminate over what has just happened. Two other intriuging aspects that occur in this sequence is that Lucy has been watching this meeting of old souls with a broken heart and Lady Jayne has observed the undeniable magnetism between her lover and Miss Murray. The look of revelation of her face paired with Lucy’s sadness needs no other elaboration through words. When Lucy wrestles herself through the threshold of her residence, she shrugs off the assistance of her servants before she collapses in the stairwell, unable to hold in the tears any longer. Poor, poor Lucy. Despite Jayne realising that she could use what she has seen as ammunition, even she feels a little slighted- Grayson was her paramour, somebody she had thought of as hers. Again, the concept of hope factors heavily into this sequence and it works absolutely gangbusters. The tide has turned in the love tri… *counts fingers* in this web of relationships and I highly doubt anything will be the same ever again.
And it all started out so well…
As for the moments in this episode that may not have worked as well, although I wouldn’t call it a FAILURE or a waste of my time, Grayson is absolutely intent on getting that day walking serum that he all but forces Van Helsing to work around the clock in order to perfect it. As a test subject, Grayson permits Van Helsing to experiment on a lone, weakened vampiress. Grayson isn’t enthusiastic that he must do this, but the process serves a much higher purpose. As a calming gesture, he places his hands on either side of the vampire’s face and the effect is instantaneous. The process of calibrating the serum and the physiology of the vampire is torturous (this could perhaps even be seen as an echo of what is happening to Renfield during this particular moment in time). Upon initial observation, much to Van Helsing’s delight and Grayson’s wonder, the vampiress lives… or rather, is able to stand the sunlight… for all of 20 seconds before burning to a screaming crisp. Welp. Back to the drawing board! I would have preferred if this sequence held a little more credence to Grayson’s own determination- it’s wonderful that his priorities at that point lie with finding Renfield and securing him, but how does he have the time to be in Van Helsing’s lab to witness such a lengthy and risky procedure when there are far more important matters at stake (er, no pun intended).
Everything in the bag, this episode was definitely watchable and surprisingly emotionally resonant in places, due to the themes present. In addition to the solid acting by all players, I really would like to congratulate Taylor and Murphy on driving this episode in a progressive, desirable and highly intriguing direction. Compared to what I thought after viewing the third episode, I was afraid the series had already worn out it’s steam, but “The Devil’s Watlz” is a hit for all intents and purposes. It struck all of the right notes, had many memorable moments and continues to indulge it’s audience with good charity.
Keep it coming, NBC, keep it coming!
Review written by Bea Harper
See Bea’s Review for Episode 4 HERE