This review contains spoilers.
1.8 Come To Die
Now this is a little more like it. After weeks of setup which seemed to go nowhere and even undo itself at times, in Come to Die, Dracula finally seems to have caught fire. Both literally and figuratively.
The show to date has been painfully slow, but this week felt like a full episode with the kind of action, passion (to a smaller extent), and machinations that one might expect of a Jonathan Rhys Meyers-led version of Dracula. And finally, that name has come to mean something within the story. I was starting to doubt whether they were ever really going to invoke the name of the dreaded vampire. Did he even have a reputation in this version of the world?
But it seems he does and the Order, for the first time, looks a little scared at its mention. As Lady Jayne lays out the history of Vlad Tepes to some less knowledgable members of their band (the clumsy exposition again rears its head), however, I have to wonder if they see the irony of the situation—that they might be destroyed by a monster of their own creation.
The look back into the past, however, does provoke the question of how we’re expected to make sense of Ilona’s devotion to the kind of evil that the Order suggests existed in Vlad even before his turning. It’s almost as confusing as Van Helsing’s chiding of his partner for his attacks on various threats to their shared plan. You dug up a vampire in order to wreck havoc on your enemies, and you’re surprised and disappointed when he kills a few of them?
And while Lady Jayne has finally figured out the level of vampire that has been plaguing London and come to her senses about her relationship with Grayson, it’s disappointing that she neither puts the two together (especially after being told outright that Dracula is now a daywalker) nor gives him the send-off he so richly deserves. While she does not yet appear to know that he has all but marked her for death by the Order who employs her, even without that, he has been a right bastard to her. We’re supposed to hate her because she is a baddie, but whatever cynical manipulations she has performed, we know her heart has been at risk almost from the start. It’s not easy to make such a craven character sympathetically, but Smurfit has successfully walked that very fine line.
Less compelling has been the conflict in Mina’s heart. And a lot of this seems to be because her espoused is not exactly the nicest man. Jonathan Harker has been, almost from the beginning, a bit of a worm. Oh, he has some spine, all right, but it rarely makes an appearance at a useful time. For the most part, it only asserts itself after the moment of crisis has passed and takes the form of angry hindsight. As a result, when Mina and her father posit a choice between Harker and Grayson, even the audience, who knows the latter is a blood-sucking monster, can’t understand why she doesn’t see the clear winner: Dracula.
Dracula’s own supposed conflict in reference to Mina, on the other hand, is getting a little stale. I’m all but expecting to see Renfield sporting a tattoo on his forehead next week: “Take her or forget her.” Because it’s now his constant mantra. And until this week, it seemed to make sense. After all, the vampire definitely doesn’t want to let go of her, but if he were to turn her, he would be running the risk that she might hate him for it—at least that seemed to be the reason for his reluctance. This week, however, when Renfield repeats his question, we’re given the answer. If Dracula takes her, he puts her in “mortal danger.” And he cannot leave her because doing so would mean the end of him.
I like the pining romantic as much as the next girl, so I can let that latter part go. But how, exactly, does turning her put her in mortal danger? Because there are vampire hunters out there? Kidnappers who want to pour acid on your face might make you wish for the superhuman strength and deadly bite of the undead. And if anything, Dracula can teach her the cunning she needs to be secure. I mean, the guy has been sleeping with a hunter with Jayne being none the wiser.
But the entire “take her or forget her” thing is revealed, all earlier proof to the contrary (sloppy plotting, really), to be a farce anyway for one simple reason. If Dracula has been, as is suggested in the closing moments of the episode, conspiring to bring about Harker’s downfall, then why does he feel limited to just those two choices when it comes to Mina? If he’s been clever enough to engineer this entire thing since shortly after meeting Mina and Jonathan, then how much harder could it be to simulatanously set himself up as the better man and simply wait for Mina to fall into his arms? Why has so much about the text posited him as capable of bringing down a powerful group like the Order but helpless when it comes to Mina? Most of his best moments with Mina have been accidents, not the result of the kind of keen mind he appears to have. The foolish-in-love bit here is a touch much to swallow.
Still, despite those inconsistencies, this week’s episode was the first where I found myself watching because I wanted to see what happened next, rather than because I knew I had a review due. And I’m almost pathetically grateful that slogging through the first three-quarters of this series might actually pay off a little at the end. Unfortunately, the show’s track record suggests that I might be getting my hopes up prematurely. Still, with two more weeks to go, a decently satisfying resolution might be within the writers’ reach. After slagging off the series for months now, you’ve no idea how much I’m hoping for just that.
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