Episode 4: Suckers
Vampires are in town this week, bringing with them some much-needed backstory for Mina and a whole lot of literary references. It was revealed back in Episode 1 that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was not the work of fiction the world believes it to be; with Suckers, the show heads deeper into that mythology.
“They’re not dead,” Galvin explains as he and Luke watch a suspicious-looking chap with a giant mohawk and a zip around his neck load two coffins into a hearse. “They’re undead… Night-stalkers. Blood-ghouls. Nosferatu.” “Vampires?”, says Luke. Nothing gets past him.
The vampires in question are Quincey – a smug yuppie-type in a shiny shirt and gold jewellery – and Anika, whose appearance can best be described as ‘feathery pseudo-Victorian Eurotrash cancan fetish monstrosity’. Spike and Drusilla they’re not, and the less said about their henchman Zippy – a character pitched at an audience too young and/or stupid even for this show – the better.
Unless we’re going back to the Max Schreck era, there are two things your average vampiric villain is supposed to be; menacing and sexy. Sadly, Ciarán McMenamin’s Quincey falls short on both counts; thanks to some dodgy writing, he’s a pouty, glowery sleaze with his head up his own undead backside (though, to be fair to him, this reviewer wouldn’t call someone in a shiny shirt and gold jewellery sexy if you bribed her). Oh yes, and he’s rubbish at bowling.
He does, however, have a mysterious connection to Mina. When they meet, it’s all seductive hand-kissing and the old, “Join me, you belong with me” routine, and it would seem that the two were once lovers.
Back in the 19th century, Mina was repeatedly bitten by Dracula and is potentially the most powerful vampire in the world, but controls her urges by cleansing her blood. “She is one of us,” Galvin warns, “but if she starts behaving differently, we grade her and smite her.”
As Luke engages in some more pointless martial arts training, Galvin flings a bucketload of exposition at the viewers. “Only vampires can kill vampires,” he explains. The usual trappings – stakes, garlic – are ineffectual folk traditions. The only way Luke can defeat Quincey is by obtaining a sample of his DNA, then using electrical currents to stimulate the dead sample back to life, then shooting him with it, thus making him revert to his natural age and consequently killing him.
Eh?! Oh, come on, you painted yourselves into this ‘British Buffy’ corner, don’t try to distance yourselves now by coming up with over-elaborate rubbish like that. Having guns as weapons in a show like this was a misguided idea in the first place; a proper fight is far more entertaining, at least in theory.
Meanwhile, Luke gives Ruby the task of ploughing through the text of Dracula to find clues to Mina’s history; given that Luke is ‘the last Van Helsing’, it’s about time someone thought to do that. What she discovers shocks them both; Quincey isn’t Mina’s ex. He’s her son.
Hang on a minute… Demons, did you just pull off a halfway decent plot twist?!
To anyone who isn’t familiar with the story of Dracula, that was actually pretty unexpected. It also makes all the seductive hand-kissing earlier on really quite creepy, but never mind.
Mina – having already lost her husband Jonathan – turned Quincey into a vampire to save him from dying in a military hospital after WWI. A selfish gesture rather than a merciful one, perhaps, and one that left Quincey feeling pretty resentful. Tsk. Kids.
A rare and welcome scene between Glenister and Tapper, in which Galvin convinces a reluctant Mina that her child must die, illustrates who the real stars of the programme are. Can we just pack Luke and Ruby off on an extended camping trip in the Himalayas and make this ‘The Rupert and Mina Show’, please?
Bizarrely, Luke always seems somewhat peripheral to the story; Galvin points him in the direction of the Demon of the Week and he fights it (briefly), but he never seems to make his own decisions or struggle with any real internal conflict. This episode wouldn’t have suffered at all if he had been completely absent. In fact, it might have made for a better showdown.
With Luke and Galvin held hostage by her son, Mina drinks her own blood in order to confront Quincey as an equal. The character finally comes into her own as an all-powerful vamp; she moves ‘faster than a New York minute’, she’s a strong fighter and her sight is temporarily restored.
Then, as if the writer suddenly realised that the main character should probably contribute to this episode in some way, Luke shoots Quincey, rendering vamp-Mina irrelevant. Yet again, the fight ends just as it was becoming interesting.
Suckers; is perhaps the strongest episode of this series to date. Given that it’s still riddled with flaws, unlikeable characters and dodgy accents however, that’s not saying very much.
28 January 2009