From the beginning of NBC’s new Dracula series, a question kept creeping up behind me: Hasn’t Jonathan Rhys Meyers already played this role?
As King Henry VIII, Rhys Meyers charmed, seduced, hunted and murdered his way across the lavish but ultimately depressing The Tudors. His Henry was a man who had it all, always wanted more, was never satisfied, and morphed into an engorged serial killer with a crown.
As Alexander Grayson/Dracula, Rhys Meyers charms, seduces, hunts and murders his way across London. Only, this London is a couple of centuries forward from Henry, Gothic and grimy as we think of the 1890s, full of villains and devoid of heroes. Henry VIII would have fit right in, and in the person of Jonathan Rhys Meyers, he does.
NBC’s Dracula is not a re-creation of Bram Stoker’s classic. It shares some character names along with an English setting, but the writers have twisted enough of the story so that no one really can guess where it will go. To give some sense of the twists if you haven’t seen it, Dracula is posing as an American industrial power, Alexander Grayson, engaging in as many hostile corporate takeovers as hostile blood transfusions. He personifies predatory capitalism. Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann) not only is not hunting Dracula here, he revived the vampire 10 years before the story begins and is working in league with him to destroy a common enemy. They have patiently built an industrial empire and moved it to London just to fight that enemy, the Order of the Dragon. That common enemy made Drac a vampire, and framed Vlad the Impaler aka Dracula on the very crime that made him the “impaler,” so they’re evil. But they fight vampires, who are more evil. Dracula may drink blood but he has a moral compass. It’s mostly broken, but it does guide how he treats love interest Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw). This Dracula is a student of Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and to some extent P. T. Barnum and the great magicians. He is interesting to watch, and seems poised to kill any character on screen with him at any moment. Van Helsing is working on a way to help Dracula walk in the sunlight and evidently has a plan to kill off his vampire ally once their common enemy is defeated. But as that common enemy is a secret and very powerful global organization akin to the Templars or the Freemasons, defeating them could take a few seasons. Drac runs on blood, while his enemy runs on oil. When you consider the fact that Dracula and Van Helsing are both evil, and their enemy’s evil is what created and united them, well, you have a revenge story that can go just about anywhere. Nobody likes anybody else and poor Mina is stuck between all of them. She should move to New York and forget them all.