TV Review: NBC’s Dracula 1×09 by Bea Harper

“Dracula” (NBC television series)

Dracula NBC

Episode 9: “Four Roses” (air-date 17/1/2014)
Director: Timothy Fywell
Writer: Jesse Peyronel
Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jessica De Gouw, Thomas Kretschmann, Kathie McGrath, Victoria Smurfit, Alec Newman, Nonso Anozie and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.

I… wow.

“Four Roses” will perhaps be the episode to be known as when NBC’s “Dracula” finally hit its’ stride a the Gothic romantic melodrama it originally set itself up to be and if you ask me, it’s about bloody time! After a season that tip-toed delicately between considerably engaging to not particularly at all, the ninth instalment has finally found its’ tune and I couldn’t be happier. Considering how against this show I was prior to actually sitting down and watching it, I don’t think my October 25th 2013 self could have imagined my January 17th 2014 so tickled by what she had seen.

All out war has broken out between Grayson and the Order with Grayson fully assuming the avatar of Vlad Tepes. He blatantly slaughters several associates of the Order in a billiard lounge leaving behind a scene of carnage. During this time, Harker realises the full gravity of what he has done, Mina comes to discover several overwhelming revelations about herself and those she knows, Lucy understands Jayne has played her for a fool and Browning becomes increasingly desperate to find his children. During this, Jayne begins to call forth the Orders’ banners to hunt down the legendary Lord of Vampires, effectively taking charge of the ultimate hunt for the damned.

Roses are associated with the element of human affection- red roses are inspired by romantic, unyielding passion, white denotes purity, yellow inspires friendship and black means hatred. The one aspect all of these shades have in common is the fact all are surrounded by thorns that can prick and make you bleed if you are not wary. All of these motifs relate throughout the episode and what happens between each and every character. First off, I really must express my joy and admiration for Katie McGrath who has managed to bring Lucy to the forefront as a character to be watched. At the beginning of the season, she seemed little more than an accessory, but now, she has become one of the most compelling and tragic characters over the past few episodes.

After having a forbidden and ultimately meaningless tryst with Harker, she is only too aware of what she has done and feels complete guilt over it. When her mother inquires about what has transpired, she has nothing but shame on her face when she closes the door in dear mum’s face. Later when her mother once again attempts to console her, Lucy blurts the question as to why her mother didn’t tell her about the secret sapphic relationships women are inclined to have. Her mother is revolted by the very mention of such an insinuation and Lucy realises that Jayne has fooled her so grandly. It made me want to gather the poor girl into my arms and hug her. And that is not even the tip of the iceberg about how deep Lucy’s heartache goes. When she visits the convalescing Mina at the hospital, she is unable to keep her terrible sin about Jonathan a secret (though admittedly it was helped by some prodding by a savagely insistent Mina). Any chance of reconciling their friendship:

Drac-09-01Thanks for playing, Luce.

Meanwhile, as she lays in her cot in the very place she works, Mina’s wandering mind ruminates over all she has seen and heard in the past 48 hours, most of them centring around the figure of Alexander Grayson. Her mind is convinced that it was he who saved her from the malcontent’s who tried to kill her, so certain it was he who tore them apart as she lay, languishing in and out of consciousness as she listened to the men’s screams. And yet, she doesn’t find herself afraid of the man that Harker insisted was toxic. Something within her has awakened, something that was there all along, but it has found it prudent to come to the fore now. She finds herself wanting answers about this man, and thus tries her damndest to find them, even if it means getting out of her bed and leaving the hospital long before she is deemed well enough to leave. With knowledge of her former best friend and her fiancé’s filthy clandestine affair, she finds Jonathan and demands from him why he did it. Harker stoically, rather downright cold-heartedly retorts about what Lucy told him that she was no angel when it came to her indiscretions with Grayson, aka the ones that didn’t actually happen. Yet another relationship bites the dust.

Drac-09-01Well this shit just sucks, donnit?

In the dark light of this though, Mina uncovers several fascinating things about herself as she stumbles through the streets of London. In a filthy puddle on a cobblestone street, she hallucinates (or so she may tell herself) the woman in her reflection reaching out to her, a vision in white with a crown of jewels rested upon her brow reaching out for her. It looks like her, but is not. Or is it?

Meanwhile at the Cleaver house, the Order begins preparations for their upcoming duel with the Vampire King, all of it being fronted by Jayne due to Browning’s preoccupation with finding the whereabouts of his children. I think despite the circumstances of her superior, Jayne has been WAITING for this opportunity to prove herself as authoritarian and strong as any man due to her expertise in the field. She is seen organising the underlings of the Order, when she wants a room cleared, all she needs to do is give a drop of acid to her tone in order to make the ants march. Given she is the Huntress Supreme, to hunt Vlad Tepes is the Holy Grail- it means ultimate glory, prestige and respect, something she has been eager to kill for ever since the series began. Victoria Smurfit has such a regal and Junoesque presence even when she is barely dressed, but when she is tricked out in an elegant dress/pantsuit, she has a distinctly masculine presence about her. Despite the fact she is a woman desperate to prove herself in the land of men, she is not afraid to step up to the plate as a means to give the Order glory. She has become so emboldened by this opportunity that she even takes the liberty of telling Browning to nut up or shut up since he is in the corner belly-aching about his in absenstia family.

Drac-09-02She’s having the time of her life, damn it!

Browning’s children, by the way? Well, Van Helsing has wrangled up the munchkins and has them stowed away in a farmhouse somewhere in the middle of Woop Woop (that’s “nowhere” for you non-Australian readers). He has them laid out on a wooden table, in a state of narcoticised slumber like a pair of cherubic corpses. They are untouched, but in a tense sequence, VH comes to look upon them, wielding his trusty mallet. He gazes upon their meagre forms, his face torn between the determination to murder and the whisper to spare their lives. I feel it is safe to say that Van Helsing will be ending his contract with Grayson very soon because he is on the hairline of retribution.

At last, Mina realises that her connection with Grayson goes beyond something akin to simple attraction- it runs considerably deeper in them both, like blood. When Grayson comes to her bedside after being carted back to hospital again, their conversation is deep yet frank laced with a little bit of sweet humour. Grayson makes a gentle joke that in turn causes Mina to laugh. “Stop, it hurts when I do that.” she says with a smile on her face. Finally, Mina states (not questions) that it was Grayson who saved her that day. He denies it at first (unconvincingly), but Mina holds on like a pit bull. Grayson decides the time for any pretension is gone and he comes clean with her about how he feels. He tells her that she strongly reminds him of his wife, Ilona, and she responds by admitting that ever since she was young, she had dreams about this woman who resembles her, who has been beckoning her. She asks where will they go from here, to which Grayson honestly replies that he doesn’t know. She asks if he loves her. He doesn’t respond. Instead, he asks after her relationship with Harker, to which she says that she and him are through. She mentions Lucy’s involvement and something within Grayson snaps. He excuses himself hurriedly, a snap in his stride and a sneer upon his mouth, leaving Mina bewildered and just a little concerned.

She has right to be because Grayson pays Lucy a impromptu visit as she is wallowing in her heartbreak and regret while taking a bath and he teaches her a lesson in humanity… or lack thereof. That final sequence basically had me staring at my television in shock before it became excited delight. It’s fast, it’s brutal and it’s just the lynch pin we need before we dive into episode ten.

Drac-09-03No amount of soap can scrub out so much guilt.

Subsequently, I had only two issues with “Four Roses”, one being Lucy’s mother. I don’t believe we have ever formally been introduced to Mrs. Westenra, and for her to just pop up here doesn’t really endear her much to the audience. Oh, she isn’t a terrible character since we barely know the lady, but her unbridled repulsion at Lucy all but admitting that she has harboured lesbian urges for Mina for so long comes across as less sympathetic. Granted, while Victorian society was as prudish as I am Chinese, to openly state such a thing was not seen as proper, I felt Mrs. Westenra could have been a little more understanding toward her daughter’s confusion.

The other problem I have is regarding Mina’s history of seeing this woman who looks just like her throughout her life. She confesses to seeing her when she was a little girl, and we can only assume she has continued to see flashes of this mysterious and beautiful spectre throughout her life. Why is it in earlier episodes she has not seen her. You would think given Grayson’s proximity this vision would become more frequent, especially given their magnetic attraction to each other. It wasn’t until this episode we actually saw evidence of this. Fair enough she wouldn’t tell anybody out of fear of being considered crazy, but there’s a difference between what she would see for herself and what she would tell others.

Drac-09-04

Had not this episode been called “Four Roses”, I may have dubbed it “Come To Suffer” since last week’s edition was called “Come To Die” because that is what a majority of characters in this episode go through- suffering. Suffering so beautifully for us, seeing everything come undone in this passion play is what drama is made of. What will episode ten bring? We can only wait with baited breath.

Rating:
StarRating-04

Review written by Bea Harper

See Bea’s Review for Episode 8 HERE

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