Column: Retronomicon: An Offer You Can’t Refuse: Review: Dracula 1.02: A Whiff of Sulfur

Recap: We kick things off with a long, detailed recap of the story so far. Grimm did a lot to burn me out on such sequences, but frankly, when the story has this many moving pieces, you kind of need this sort of scorecard. After all, we’re talking about freaking Dracula here. It’s very much understood that when this character pops up, complex drama is a requirement.

The recap out of the way, we start off with the view of a very brackish puddle, which a pair of trouser-clad legs strides over. The leg belongs to a man in a top hat, nearing a pub somewhere on (I believe) the East End. A pair of “troopers” (that is, prostitutes, for those of you unversed in Victorian slang) walk by him with giggles on their lips, ogling the man. It’s Grayson, of course, out for a little stroll (and maybe looking for his evening meal). They give him a last backward glance before moving on. His eyes track them with the look of a hunting hawk, falling into a reverie, which explains the next scene.

We abruptly cut back to “Romania, 1881,” when Professor Van Helsing is lifting the lid of that very heavy coffin by himself with the help of a winch and rope. Grayson gasps at the shaft of light that hits him, his face still covered with the blood that Van Helsing fed him. He then floats out of his coffin in the manner of the old film Nosferatu, still clasping the sword he was buried with. One quick flip later, he uses it to strike at Van Helsing. Well, that’s gratitude for you ….

Van Helsing uses a cross to keep the old boy at bay, but it’s a bit more effective than the one Kruger would later use. Partly, that’s because this one is a dagger that the Prof buries in Grayson’s foot, making him drop his sword and howl in agony. Van Helsing confirms this by saying, “Surely you recognize the blades of St. (couldn’t make out the name) … exquisite, aren’t they?”

Having gotten Grayson’s attention, Van Helsing goes on, “Now then, let me introduce myself. I am Abraham Van Helsing.”

Grayson still isn’t very grateful for the guy who woke him up and actually sounds pretty pouty as he declares, “I will tear your heart out … peasant!”

Van Helsing takes the petulance in stride as he adds, “And you are Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, second son of the House of Basarab, also known as ‘Vlad Tepes,’ ‘Vlad the Impaler’ … ‘Dracula.'”

Pause button: Given the historical facts reeled off here, I’m amazed that the writers didn’t include his name among the Turks, ‘Kerziglu Bey.’ But, since that translates as “Lord Impaler,” that might have been a bit redundant. Also, the alias of ‘Alexander Grayson’ struck me as being a riff on Alexander the Great, whom Grayson may consider himself the heir to (hence the ‘son’ in the name). In spite of the long list of aliases, I’m going to keep referring to our title vamp as “Grayson” for the length of my reviews, dear readers, for simplicity’s sake. Unpause.

Van Helsing’s intro settles Vlad down enough to hear the Professor out.

“Soon, the sun will take you … and you will be no more,” Van Helsing says, sounding like he’s giving one of his lectures on something boring like the human digestive tract. “But at least in your case, unlike my own, there will be one who deeply mourns your passing.”

This makes Grayson spit in rage. The Professor remains nonchalant as he finishes, “For, with your death, so, too, will pass my last chance to obliterate the Order of the Dragon.”

Grayson finally says the first intelligent thing he’s contributed to the entire conversation: “What is the Ordo Draco to you?”

Van Helsing then mentions a name that sounds very familiar to my regular readers here: “They slaughtered my wife Adalind … and my three children. They stole from me everything in this world that I have loved, everything you have loved.”

Pause button: Brief bit of snark – too bad they didn’t get around to the Adalind in Grimm or I would be less annoyed. Unpause.

The last statement makes Grayson flash back to the death of his wife by burning at the stake while the deposed Prince of Wallachia could do little but scream as he watched her die. The agony of the memory makes him whisper his beloved’s name: “Iona.”

Van Helsing notes that the Order “burned her alive as they did my Adalind.”

The Professor concludes that, if Grayson dies this day, the Order “will never face justice for all the vile crimes they have committed in the Lord’s name.”

Grayson whispers, “No man … can change that.”

“True,” Van Helsing agrees. “But you are far greater than any mortal man.”

This makes Grayson snarl again. Damn, man, he’s giving you a compliment! Act like it, would ya?

Van Helsing then notes that though he does “possess the means,” he’s lacking in the charisma, ruthlessness and power departments. That’s where Grayson comes in. The sun is getting close enough to burn Grayson’s hand at this point. VH concludes that only the two of them together can destroy the Order.

Grayson whispers, “You say you have means?”

After getting the confirmation, Grayson makes a grab at Van Helsing’s lapels and snarls, “Then stop wasting my time! Remove this accursed blade before your confederate is rendered to ash!”

He then rolls away from the encroaching sunlight. Van Helsing obliges, but gets himself to a safe distance after he does it. Grayson crawls to the corpse of the guy who helped wake him up, which still has quite a bit of blood left in him. Grayson pops out his fangs and feasts. Watching from the sidelines, the Professor looks a bit disturbed by this.

Meanwhile, back in the present (well, 1898, but you get the idea), Van Helsing is once again lecturing his confederate, this time on the need for more discretion. He recounts Sir Clive getting slaughtered in that fit of rage and then Kruger getting killed on the rooftops. Grayson protests that he had no choice on the latter, who saw his face. But Van Helsing counters that Krueger was a seasoned huntsman and now the Ordo Draco are going to pull out the big guns.

Grayson is confident that he can handle them. Nevertheless, the Professor reminds him that their sole purpose in London is to drive the Order out of the energy business with geomagnetic power. While this conversation is taking place, he’s drawing Grayson’s blood, which is sludge-like. Van Helsing actually compares it to that of a corpse. Grayson scoffs that the Professor is lucky that he just fed. The one arm having blood pulled from it, Van Helsing wants to see the other arm.

“Must I?” Grayson asks, sounding annoyed.

“Stop being a baby,” the Professor admonishes him before driving the needle in.

Grayson then recounts all the blades that he’s run into over the centuries, including the metal box that Van Helsing found him in. But he loathes the Professor’s needles, declares that they’ll be the death of him. Van Helsing scoffs that it can’t be helped: “Your blood is a necessary component if you are to ever conquer daylight.”

“It’s not the blood you draw that vexes me, Van Helsing,” Grayson tells him. “But the sublime pleasure you draw from its taking. Must your prowess be so painfully slow?”

Van Helsing advises patience. But then the two wind up channeling the recurring conversation between the Pope and Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy:

G: WHEN?!

VH: When it’s done.

G: You’ve been telling me that for a decade. It’s only a matter of time before my aversion to sunlight becomes obvious.

Then Grayson repeats the demand, “WHEN?!”

Van Helsing still doesn’t answer, simply saying with a smile, “You must have patience.”

Grayson’s face shows how little he has left of that particular quality.

Meanwhile, at a fencing club, a young would-be rapier artist named ‘Alistair’ is getting himself ready for a match. Lucy excuses herself from the table where she’s sitting with her mother and Jonathon Harker (who apparently is being ignored, as usual) so that she can walk up to Rapier Boy. A fencing match begins behind the both of them.

She starts by complimenting Alistair on his skill in the previous match. He asks if he can wear her colors. She teases him a bit, saying that she wants to see if he can get beyond the semi-finals first. When he asks what his prize shall be if he succeeds, she whispers something scandalous in his ear. He actually asks aloud, “Seriously?” She then wraps a ribbon around his arm. As I said before about Lucy, ho-bag.

Mrs. Westerna rises to greet Mina as she walks in, wearing her standard blue colors. The dowager notes the wounds on Mina’s hands, which the latter chalks up to a stupid accident at the University. Apparently, she was doing rather badly at surgical incisions. She kisses Jonathon hello right after that and takes her seat. She then plays off the accident as a chance to “brush up on her suturing.” Mrs. Westerna looks very uncomfortable and goes back to the pretend violence onstage. Jonathon takes a deeper look at the wounds on Mina’s thumb. As Mina describes how she did it, Mrs. Westerna begs her to stop – they’ve just finished luncheon. Ninny … it’s almost as though the writers are going out of their way to give me reasons to hate this clan.

Lucy’s latest conquest is puffing out his chest with pride as she walks away, her ribbon twined three times around his arm. The Lady actually castigates her for choosing one champion by putting “all three of your ribbons on one man again.” Jonathon apparently recognizes Alistair, probably calling up every scandal that he’s ever been involved in. Oh, and Alistair is up against Daniel Davenport, “the son of Lord Davenport … and the reigning champion.”

“Not for long,” Lucy demurs. “Alistair is very motivated.”

The disapproval on Mom’s face and the smirk on Jonathon’s tell us that they have a good idea of what kind of “motivation” Lucy is using.

As the match begins, the beard and Lady Jane discuss recent events in a balcony above the main floor. The beard reports no more incidents since Krueger was killed. Lady Jane correctly deduces that the vampire has gone to ground. The beard puts forth the hope that the vampire has “gone altogether.”

It’s at this point that Alistair loses the first round. The beard suggests summoning another huntsman, say, McLaughlin from Glasgow. Lady Jane insists on handling this one herself, adding, “It’s about time I had some fun for a change.”

The beard shakes his head, but says with approval, “That’s my girl.”

Alistair manages to lose the second round at this point. At the Westernas’ table, Jonathon gets in a catty remark to Lucy: “He’s doing very well.”

While the match goes on, Lady Jane asks the beard, “I presume you have no objection to my employment of the Seers?”

“Must you?” the beard asks with distaste. “There’s more than a whiff of sulfur about those two.”

“But better the devil you know,” Lady Jane counters.

The beard relents with, “Very well, if you must ….”

Dracula 2.2-w622-h350

That’s when Daniel Davenport clinches the match, his father getting as enthusiastic for his son winning as your modern day sports fan would be for his favorite team winning the World Series. Daniel acknowledges his father’s compliments with a fencer’s salute. Just behind his face, one of the Ordo Draco’s members is giving the boy a hard-but-appreciative stare.

On the other hand, Lucy looks a little crestfallen. Obviously, she’s not that good at picking winners in this particular arena, a fact that Jonathon rubs in with a snarky “Well done.” That’s when Mrs. Westerna insists on paying for his meal herself as a way to get back at Jonathon. Mina thanks her properly for both her and Jonathon, while Lucy looks on with a pleased smile on her face.

Daniel is saying goodbye to his fellow fencers when the Ordo Draco member approaches him outside. Daniel thought that he’d just missed the man, but the OD OG says that he was just leaving. He makes a promise to see Daniel later.

Now, as I neglected it in my first review, I would like to get in a quick word on the credits sequence, which plays at this point. While the emphasis is very much on horror, as befits any series about Dracula, its focus seems to be on steampunk horrors, the very real nightmares of the Gilded Age-made-manifest. Add in the twist of an ancient monster at its center and you have one of the most unique credit sequences ever made, right up there with that of Carnivale.

We then cut to The Inquisitor‘s offices. Jonathon has just finished up another conversation with his boss about his wages and got the usual answer that the boss will “look into it.” He grumbles about that with his buddy just outside the boss’ door. He really needs that wage raised so that he can actually afford a wife, to his mind. At the rate he’s going, he’ll be a very old man before that happens. His buddy then teases him about his chances of being with Mina by that point. It is not well appreciated by Jonathon.

Meanwhile, a growler rolls up to Carfax Manor. Grayson introduces his faithful, and rather snide, servant Renfield to Lord Laurent, the Ordo Draco member at the fencing match, who is also Grayson’s co-chair at the new cooling company that he now owns. Renfield gets off a very tense “Pleasure” at the intro. One gets the feeling that the only pleasure he would have with this high hat is in possibly cutting his throat or crushing it with his bare hands.

Grayson invites Lord Laurent to have a seat, but Lord Laurent declines, citing a waiting driver and noting that the wire Grayson sent was a matter of some urgency. Grayson gets to it: He’s not comfortable with their current business relationship. “It’s nothing personal, of course,” Grayson says. “I just don’t like partners in general.” I’m willing to bet Van Helsing in particular is a very uncomfortable partner.

Lord Laurent takes it the wrong way, thinking that Grayson is going to sell his shares. Grayson quickly corrects him, telling him it’s the other way around. Lord Laurent looks like he just got slapped. At Grayson’s direction, Renfield hands over Grayson’s offer, sealed in an envelope. Upon taking the envelope, Laurent declares, “Certainly not.”

“You haven’t even looked at the offer,” Grayson notes.

“I do not need to see your offer, sir. My interests are not for sale, at any price.”

Grayson slaps the desk and says, “See, Renfield? Not for sale … at any price.” A bemused smile creeps across his face, probably the same sort of smile that Montresor gave to Fortunato before sealing him up in the basement of his house in Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado.” Laurent bids him good day and strides out in a huff.

We cut to sunset, the only time that Grayson can safely get out of the house. Renfield is driving a motor car (Yes, these existed, albeit in limited quantities, before Henry Ford began his factory in the U.S.) for Grayson up to The Inquisitor‘s offices. As he brings it to a stop, Renfield asks, “If I may ask a question, sir?”

This witty reply does a lot to make me like Grayson here: “I’d rather you didn’t … and yet, I know somehow you will.”

“I still do not understand your circumspection,” Renfield explains. “Why engage Harker to bring the woman into your orbit? Surely, you have the power to simply take her.”

Grayson actually looks a little sad at that and says huskily in his natural accent, “I can’t.”

As Renfield just looks at him, Grayson admits, “I know, it sounds absurd … that someone such as I would hesitate to act on moral grounds. But to simply to take the woman … to turn her into such as I am … it would be an abomination. No, Renfield, I cannot. I will not take her.”

Renfield points out that Grayson is still seeking to draw her in and does not understand the why of it. Grayson admits to being just as unsure, but he does know that “to lose her twice … would be more than I could bear.”

Renfield then goes inside to get Harker while Grayson pulls off his gloves.

Dracula 2.3-w622-h350

Pause button: I actually really like this scene. It shows what’s left of the man still inside the monster that Grayson absolutely is. To me, it’s just more proof that, whatever difficulties there may have been to ensure his cooperation, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers was the perfect choice for this series. Unpause.

Renfield quickly finds Jonathon hard at work. Renfield then hands over a card from Grayson to Jonathon.

We cut to Renfield driving through the foggy streets while Grayson and Jonathon ride as passengers. Grayson says, “I take it our interview was a feather in your cap.”

Jonathon answers, “My editor was quite pleased … I was hoping for something more tangible than a feather.”

“As you should,” Grayson says with approval. “It’s perfectly reasonable to expect a reward when one demonstrates initiative. A man should never be ashamed of ambition, only the lack of it.”

“Well, that may be true in America – ” Jonathon says, as they draw near the front of a house.

As he gets out, Grayson interrupts him. “No, Harker, it’s simply true … everywhere … in every man’s heart … even in yours.”

That’s when we see that we’re in front of the number 19, where Sir Clive got slaughtered by Jonathon’s host. Grayson then adds, “Especially yours.”

Grayson excuses himself for a moment to attend to “a little business matter.” A barrister greets them at the door and Grayson introduces Harker as his “young friend.”

The barrister starts rattling off all the features of the dwelling. After getting the full rundown, Grayson thanks the barrister and compliments Jonathon for his “insights into – how shall I call it? – marked fondness for games of chance” concerning the late Sir Clive. That makes Jonathon grin a bit, even as he says that it was nothing. Grayson begs to differ, since it was very helpful in acquiring all of Clive’s interests in “a company I had my eye on.” Jonathon correctly deduces that the company in question is British Imperial Coolant.

But now, Grayson wants to get a controlling interest in the company and that’s where Jonathon can be helpful yet again. After making sure everything is in order with the agent, Grayson mentions a need for “a vice president of … public affairs … a man with a thorough knowledge of who’s who and what’s what.” The major duties will be navigating the boss through British society “and her business community.”

The barrister asks Grayson to enjoy his new home and says he will see to all the details in his capacity as executor. Jonathon is looking anything but pleased at this point as he realizes that they’re standing in Sir Clive’s old place. “Got it for a song, really,” Grayson says offhandedly. “A little paint, a little polish ….”

Then he tells Harker that the place is his “if you accept my offer.” He adds, “I can’t have my attaché living in a hovel, now can I?”

Jonathon is too stunned for words and is only able to make an “Um” at the generous offer.

“Is that a ‘yes’?” Grayson teases.

Jonathon fumbles a little bit more and then admits that “this is very unexpected.”

Grayson encourages him to think about it as he walks out. He whistles a cheerful little tune as Jonathon looks around the big empty house in amazement.

Outside, Grayson adds that Jonathon will be paid the obligatory “generous salary” in addition to having the house. However, this offer has a time limit: Monday morning. After confirming that’s okay with Jonathon, Grayson says, “Do me a favor, will you, Harker? Turn out the lights and lock up.”

He tosses Jonathon the keys to do just that before Renfield drives the car off. Jonathon is still staring in amazement at the offer he’s just been handed, looking at the keys as though they might vanish from his hand if he doesn’t check to see that they’re there.

The next day, Mina is sweating her exams while walking the stroll with Jonathon, thinking that she’ll be “lucky to pass, let alone be Professor Van Helsing’s protégé.” Jonathon tells her that she’ll do fine while Mina says that her lack of surgical skill, combined with the fact that the exams are going to be on the most complicated anatomical system known to man at this time, means she’ll be anything but fine. If she fails, she won’t get past fourth year.

That’s when she notices that Jonathon’s distracted and accuses him of not hearing a word that she’s spoken. He comes back with how she’s got a test and that she’ll “leave all the other students in the shade.” That bit of teasing/encouragement out of the way, he tells her about Grayson’s offer. Mina is excited at the news and wants to know all the juicy details.

Meanwhile, Lady Jane is navigating her way through what looks like a Chinese opium den (which would geologically fix the area of London that she’s in as Limehouse). She finds what she’s looking for in the back, the Seers, who are enjoying a heavy toke of the local opium. She employs a little intimidation for not answering her call and tells them in no uncertain terms that they will find the vampire in London or “answer to Mr. Browning … and the High Council.” A curio with a mirror inside it makes an appearance at the lady’s exit.

Pause button: I’m thinking that “Mr. Browning” is likely the beard, but I’ll hold off until I get further confirmation. Unpause.

Back at their luncheon, Mina is saying that Jonathon “would be perfect” for Grayson’s job. But Jonathon is still troubled, feeling like the offer is “a bit dodgy.” The problem for him is that all records on Grayson only go back to about eight years ago. Before that, there is literally nothing in the public record. Mina points out that what the available record does indicate is that Grayson made his fortunes “in the American frontiers – hardly a bastion of crack recordkeeping.”

Jonathon concedes the point, but says the whole thing feels just too good to be true. Mina sells it as Grayson “leading the charge in a technical revolution” and knows that Jonathon wants to definitely be a part of that. Jonathon teases her a bit with a playful “Hmmm … let me think ….”

She puts on a bright smile and says, “I will kick you if you don’t.”

“Then I suppose I have to.”

Mina gives him an approving kiss, causing a mother at the next table to cover her children’s eyes from such raw passion (Yes, in the Victorian era, that was considered scandalous. There is a reason that Duke Nukem once called this time period “the wussiest era in history”). Both Mina and Jonathon have a good laugh over that.

The beard is getting a report on Grayson from Laurent. Every drop of coolant available has been acquired and Grayson has put in an additional order of 250,000 gallons. The order was declined by Laurent … and then there came the little offer that we saw at the top of the episode.

The beard declares the decline of the offer a good move. Even though they think Grayson’s claims are absurd, obstruction is something they must do. Laurent derides the idea as little more than “a schoolboy experiment,” but the beard says that it’s more about the idea itself. If the idea gains currency with the populace, their portfolios will suffer, whether Grayson is around to push it or not. Therefore, if any member of the Order knowingly helps Grayson, “they will be dealt with in the harshest of terms.” Lord Laurent definitely gets the hint.

Speaking of Ordo Draco members being with Grayson, Lady Jane is having dinner with the master of Carfax Manor at her own palatial home. She asks about the lightbulb trick at Grayson’s “housewarming party.”

“I prefer to think of it as a debutante ball,” Grayson jokes.

Lady Jane gets wry amusement from that and says, “A cotillion, was it?”

“Yes, ma’am, and I was the belle of it,” Grayson replies before taking a drink.

“And the main entertainment, as well.”

“If you’re referring to my little demonstration, then yes.”

She once again asks how Grayson did it, claiming to “adore magic tricks.” Grayson demurs, saying there was “neither magic nor trickery involved, simply science, physics and technology … although I have been known to dabble in the occult.”

Lady Jane eagerly asks for more info and Grayson pulls out a coin. He puts it on Jane’s plate and spins it like a top. Then he snaps his fingers and the coin disappears. She asked where it went and Grayson whispers that it’s in her undershirt, much to the consternation of the butler on duty. She dismisses the butler, Jenkins by name, so that things can get hot and heavy.

But as Grayson is feeling Jane up in her bed chambers, it’s Mina’s face he puts on her features. I wonder how much of a blow to the lady’s dignity that would be if she knew?

A storm is brewing over London the next day, complete with thunder and lightning. Much to Mina’s surprise, Renfield is waiting for her on the street … and Grayson himself is waiting in the hansom carriage next to him. The curtains are heavy enough to keep out the sunlight. Given the nasty weather, he offers her a ride.

Mina turns to Renfield and asks, “Mr. Renfield, is it considered proper in America for a gentleman to offer a single lady to ride in his carriage?”

Grayson smiles a bit as Renfield answers, “To tell you the truth, ma’am, I don’t think my employer ever gave a damn about what’s proper.”

After a moment, Mina flashes a smile and says, “Nor I.”

She steps in and Grayson helps with her books.

As soon as Renfield shuts the door, Grayson jokes, “Sure you wouldn’t rather swim? I’d hate to compromise your reputation.”

“Oh, I’m afraid that only I can do that, Mr. Grayson,” Mina says.

The rain is getting started as Renfield climbs into the shotgun seat next to the driver. He pulls out an umbrella as the drops begin to fall.

Jonathon is working hard at his typewriter when his buddy whispers a question of whether he did it – AKA accepted Grayson’s offer. Jonathon shakes his head. His buddy thinks that he’s a loon, but the question of why him, specifically, won’t leave Jonathon alone. There are up to thousands of better-qualified folk in London, yet Grayson taps Jonathon. It doesn’t sit right with the reporter in him.

As best Jonathon can figure, Grayson’s got an agenda, but it’s one that he can’t figure out with what he knows. He’s going to tell Mina the truth about this decision and how wrong it feels. His buddy just pats him on the back in pity before walking off.

Back at the carriage, Grayson asks Mina if Jonathon told her about his offer. Mina admits that this is so. When he asks about her reaction to it, she mentions the kick she intends to give Jonathon if he doesn’t, which elicits a chuckle from her host.

Then the subject of Mina’s area of study comes up. When he hears that it’s to be a physician, Grayson declares it extraordinary. Mina guesses aloud that he doesn’t approve from the tone of his voice, which makes him ask, “Now why would you say that?”

That makes Mina bring up her father’s position as Supervisory Physician at Bedlam. This has prompted a lot of annoying questions from people, who always asked her if she was going to be a nurse. She flat-out told them that she was going to be a doctor. Everyone thought it was “so sweet and charming until I was 14 or so.”

“So, what?” Grayson says back.

That remark elicits a giggle from Mina as well as an “Indeed, Mr. Grayson.”

“Two words,” Grayson goes on to say. “Guaranteed to repel any mediocrity masquerading as conventional wisdom.”

Mina giggles even more at that and Grayson graces her with a smile.

Dracula 2.4-w622-h350

Pause button: It is worth noting that the historical Vlad Tepes lived those words to the hilt. Whatever you can say about the man’s methods, the fact is that he beat the odds time and again by never giving up. Unpause.

Then Mina’s expression turns grave as she mentions the “very difficult examination” that she has waiting for her at her destination. Failure is, to her mind, certainly an option and if she does –

“That’ll be the end of your dreams?” Grayson finishes.

“Very much so,” Mina confirms.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years, in all my journeys, Ms. Murray,” Grayson says (and how many centuries does that encompass!). “It’s that when it comes to dreams, one may falter … but the only way to fail is to abandon them.”

The carriage comes to a stop and Grayson hands Mina her umbrella. Renfield opens up the carriage, Grayson carefully staying out of the light as usual, and helps Mina out. Grayson looks at her wistfully as she leaves.

Inside the operating theater, Mina takes up the recognized instrument of her hopefully-future trade: the scalpel. She repeats Grayson’s last bit of sage advice as she does so, which steadies her breathing and her hand. She begins with the incision on the corpse. Time passes and she extracts several of the no-longer-vital organs of the body. The examiners and Professor Van Helsing look on in marked concentration.

As night falls, Mina gives her diagnosis of the condition of the organs she extracted. There is one unseen visitor to this dissertation hiding in the shadows outside the window … Grayson. The examiners confer for a few seconds and the whole room gives her a round of applause. She manages a shy, winsome smile at the praise and Grayson passes her an unseen smile of his own as he departs.

Meanwhile, at the opium den in Limehouse, the Seers are working their powers on finding out what’s going on. They eventually get a scrying image out of the mirror curio, a black-and-white shot of a street sign, which flashes by so fast that it’s hard to make out the name. Then, along the busy streets, they zero in on a figure walking away from them. Even from the back, you can tell it’s Grayson.

That’s when Grayson feels the psychic intrusion of his privacy and turns around to face them. They see his face in the mirror, which is the point that they get the rather unwelcome sight of his fangs and a few handy gusts of wind that threaten to blow out their candles. The mirror then shatters and starts to drip blood through the cracks. The Seers are more than a bit shaken and stirred by this development (Ten points if you can guess the reference).

A little later, the beard comes by to confer with Lady Jane about the progress of the hunt. She reports that the Seers located the vampire in Stepney and, moreover, he detected their intrusion. That surprises the beard and that’s before Jane throws in the kicker of a “counter-measure.” The beard, who apparently learned nothing from Grayson’s little exhibition the other night, grumbles whether this is even possible. Jane admits that it’s rare, but if a vampire is old enough (“two or three centuries, at least”), it’s certainly possible.

The beard asks if any of Jane’s peers has ever run across anything like this. She admits that none has in her lifetime, though she does bring up the creature, Borgia. The beard rudely cuts off this intriguing tidbit by saying, “Yes, yes, spare me the history lesson.”

Pause button: Well, I’d like to know more, thank you very much. While the prime suspects on this could have been Cesare or Lucretia, I suspect that he was actually talking about Rodrigo Borgia AKA Pope Alexander VI. Damn that idiot for keeping us in the dark. Unpause.

The only thing the beard is interested in is the question, “Can we contain this?” Jane promises to track and destroy the vampire, “with or without the Seers’ assistance.”

Those two don’t have the market cornered on disappointing news. Jonathon is just going up to his apartment when his landlady passes him a letter. She’s letting him know that his rent has been raised yet again, never mind that the last time was only a month ago. True of all slumlords in all times, she coldly says at Jonathon’s protests, “If you don’t bloody like it, move out.”

Mina and Lucy are also coming down the stairs. Apparently, they’ve been looking for him. Not only did Mina pass her exam, she was first in her class. Per Lucy, Mina is the first woman to accomplish that in her college ever. She is therefore now going to be mentored Professor Van Helsing. Jonathon puts on his best face before giving Mina a kiss.

Lucy has arranged for a table at the Savoy for a very special dish by somebody Jonathon doesn’t know. Lucy gladly rubs Jonathon’s ignorance in his face before they drag him to the cab that’s waiting for them. Jonathon, being under deadline, tries to beg off. Lucy manages to chastise him that the whole thing is going to be her treat anyway, so why doesn’t he just come along?

This apparently changes his whole outlook on Grayson’s offer. I say this because, the very next day, Grayson is telling Jonathon how happy he is to have the now-ex-reporter with him. From this day forth, Harker is to address his new employer as “Alexander” and he’ll call his new employee “Harker.” Jonathon assents that’s fine, “if it pleases you.”

That prompts this telling remark from Grayson: “There’s something you should know about me right now, Harker. I never do anything – anything – that doesn’t please me.”

Asking for confirmation of this by Renfield, the knowledgeable servant chimes in, “All too true, I’m afraid, sir.”

After inviting Jonathon to take a seat, Grayson notes that Renfield calls him “sir” because of the annoyance factor. He then jokingly (or maybe not-so-jokingly) adds, “But I will brook no such insubordination from the likes of you.”

Jonathon has that uncomfortable smile plastered on his face at this. That out of the way, they turn to business. Grayson wants to know everything there is to know about Lord Laurent. Jonathon mentions the public stats, which Grayson quickly dismisses.

“But every man has a dark side,” Grayson notes. “I need to know his. I want you to tell me everything.”

Jonathon then advises that everything his employer needs to know can be found out at 10pm at the Swinburn Club. Grayson declares, “Good. Very good.”

Pause button: Jonathon knows exactly what kind of a mess he has gotten himself into, I think. He’s too good a reporter not to recognize that what little he does know is troubling enough to make him suspect the worst. He doesn’t know how deep all this goes, but he’ll learn. Unpause.

Later, we see Grayson skulking in a dark alleyway. He walks up to a green front door and uses the brass knocker on it to knock. To the admonition of the bouncer on the small door saying, “Members only,” he holds up a card. It’s enough to get him inside.

A woman is singing a pretty song up on the stage, but the pitch of the voice is more than a bit wrong. As a matter of fact, all the “women” in this private club are actually transvestites, we quickly realize. Yeah, I can see why this is a private club. Lord Laurent is yukking it up with the rest of the male crowd, as far as the stage act goes, while Grayson asks for a drink from one of the waitresses.

It turns out that Daniel Davenport, our fencing champ, is enjoying Laurent’s company, but has to take off a bit early because of a polo match he scheduled with his dad. It’s quite obvious that he and Lord Laurent are illicitly attached. Grayson grins at this. He’s got all the blackmail material he needs.

He then interrupts the couple’s tender kiss with a slight cough. Lord Laurent wants to know how Grayson got in here in the first place while Daniel is bewildered as to who this guy is. Grayson introduces himself properly, which prompts Daniel to disparage him as “the American.” Grayson then correctly identifies Daniel as Lord Davenport’s only son. After giving him a little kiss, he adds, “Hello, Daniel.”

Lord Laurent growls, “Leave … him … alone.”

Calling Lord Laurent by his proper name “Steven,” Grayson asks them to sit. He starts by saying that he couldn’t care less about whom a man chooses to love, as it’s none of his business. But he then mentions the less-enlightened folks, like Lord Laurent’s wife and Daniel’s father, who are not so open-minded.

The transvestite waitress gives him that drink, for which he thanks her. He then concludes that he wonders about the reputations of Laurent, Daniel and their families if their inclinations were publicly known. Lord Laurent gets right to it: “What do you want?” Why, surely, he’s guessed ….

For the moment, Grayson joins in the applause and even says, “Bravo!” at the stage performance’s conclusion, perfectly in control.

Across town at his new digs, Jonathon is showing off the engagement ring that he’s going to give Mina to his soon-to-be-ex-colleagues at The Inquisitor. He’s going to propose that very night to her in front of everybody, even his boss, whom Jonathon drunkenly calls, “You miserable git.”

Pause button: I suspect that Jonathon’s drinking this night is not just about celebrating getting a good chunk of the economic pie but to cover his unease over what his new job entails. Unpause.

While they’re toasting Jonathon on being a proper English gentleman with a proper English wife, the boss brings up Mina’s ambitions about being a physician. Unbeknownst to him, Mina has just slipped in and Jonathon makes a statement that will waste no time in biting him in the ass. He declares that once the ring is on her finger, she’ll promptly chuck her dreams out the window so that she can be part of the more “natural” state of womanhood.

That’s when everyone notices Mina hearing all of that. Do I even need to mention that she flees from the room in tears over that remark? Gods, I was right! Jonathon is such an idiot about love!

Jonathon runs after her and implores her to wait once she gets outside. He tries to tell her that he’s sorry, but she cuts him off with, “Why apologize? That’s how you feel and that’s how you’ve always felt.” He then wastes time trying to tell her that this isn’t true. Right … as believable statements in a relationship go, that’s up there with the cheating husband saying that the little fling he had behind the wife’s back “didn’t mean anything.”

Jonathon tells her that he’s never given her one word of discouragement ever (excluding tonight’s remarks, of course). She counters that he also never gave her a single word of support (excluding the small bit of distracted encouragement he gave her about acing the test). She then walks away, still heartbroken.

At a discreet restaurant, Grayson is sitting as his table, waiting for everyone else to leave for the night. The coat check girl showing everyone out is his chosen vessel that he fed from in the first episode. He finishes his glass of whiskey, turns it over, and gets up.

He then insists on knowing her name and when she balks, he tells her that without the name, there’s no stab this night. She counters that she won’t give him his coat. Grayson just says that he treasures knowledge of her name above “any mere garment.” The slight Irish in her accent shows as she identifies herself as “Sinead.” He declares it lovely.

A little later, Grayson is proving that nothing compares to him as he feeds so heavily from her that it’s starting to look potentially fatal. He looks as if he’s so into it that he doesn’t notice the sound of approaching footsteps. But he hears them, magnified to an inhuman degree, and breaks off his feeding. The figure pulls out a kukri … Jane.

Grayson ducks down an alley before Jane can get too close, leaving Sinead bloodied on the cobblestones. Seeing the poor girl at her feet, Jane doesn’t hesitate to cut Sinead’s head off. Grayson watches from the roof. I wonder if he knows that was Jane?

Dracula 2.5-w622-h350

Review: The series is continuing to grow on me, as it is continuing to be unlike any vampire story I’ve seen in the last twenty years. I think that I’ve figured out why … it’s touching on a theme not normally associated with the genre: class.

We see the greedy rich at the top with their sordid secrets doing whatever they want, while the desperately poor folks like Jonathon and the now-deceased Sinead are doing everything they can to survive. In a real sense, Grayson stands outside of all that by virtue of his cover and outlook on life. Like the best Gothic villains, he does have many admirable qualities that he shows to others, but the fact of the matter is (and JRM confirmed this in an interview during the run-up to this series) he is a monster who is not meant to do the good in the world that he wants to do. Professor Van Helsing also seems to share Grayson’s being apart from the class structure, though subsequent episodes may change my mind on the subject.

Another nice touch is how Jonathon and Mina are more interesting characters than their literary counterparts. Jonathon is a man who is putting himself a position of moral compromise, in spite of his growing doubts about what kind of a situation he has put himself into. Mina is a woman ahead of her time, who just wants some basic emotional support for doing what she does. Makes me wonder how her father feels about her academic career.

After all this, Grayson stands poised to come between them. JRM compared him to Howard Hughes and you really see that in this episode, particularly the sordid bits of the Hughes history, which certainly encompassed blackmail and strong-arm tactics to get what was wanted.

Maybe because this was designed to be a miniseries first and foremost, that’s the reason why the writing is moving along at such an efficient pace. I am excited about reporting on the next episode, dear readers. Hopefully, you are, too!

You can watch Dracula Friday nights at 10pm on NBC or catch up on the official site and at Amazon Instant Video.

About JHaney

J. Keith Haney was born in Misawa, Japan, but has lived most of his life in the state of Tennessee. His favourite all-time film is the original Clash of the Titans, mainly for the Ray Harryhausen monsters. Due to that film, he got a college-level book on World Mythology when he was nine, of which he memorized the Greek section by age 12. His first encounter with Lovecraft (though he didn't know it at the time) was the original Ghostbusters, which he saw in its original theatrical release. In addition to all things Lovecraft, he is an old-school gamer, history buff and fierce advocate for the steampunk genre. He enjoyed his first professional sale and publication in 2010 with his steampunk short story, "Grand Guginol", which can be found at Short Story Me!. His favourite all-time Lovecraft story is "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath", which he considers an important, forgotten forerunner to Tolkein's Lord of the Rings saga.

JHaneyColumn: Retronomicon: An Offer You Can’t Refuse: Review: Dracula 1.02: A Whiff of Sulfur