Column: Retronomicon: Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself: Dracula 1.01 (Pilot): The Blood Is the Life

[spoilers ahead]

Recap: In the beginning, there was darkness … then some fool with a shovel bashed his way into the earth.

Once the light comes in from above, it turns out that this space wasn’t as solid as the darkness that encased it. In fact, it is one hell of a long way down to the coffin at the bottom of this little cave. Good thing the parties doing this little break-in brought a really long rope. Once our first guy comes on down, we have a handy caption: “Romania 1881” (you know, just in case you thought that Indiana Jones had come out of cryo-sleep to make one last stab at relevance). His buddy at the top then tosses down a bag and comes on down.

The coffin at the bottom is decorative, to say the least. There’s an effigy of a crowned, emaciated figure with fangs carved on the lid. The mural on the side of it depicts some ghastly events: naked women, demons and impalements on large stakes. Then the man in the hat (That’s the second guy down, whose face we can’t see) says, “After all these long years ….”

He takes a pickax to the side of the coffin. A couple of tiles come loose and we get a look at the actual corpse. Between the mummy look and the fangs, I have to say that what’s on top is a surprising likeness.

“How famished you must be …,” our mystery man adds at the sight.

The gap-toothed dimwit who went down first is busy cradling a couple of gold ingots and declaring the two of them rich. That’s when the other guy knifes him in the back and slits his throat. Got to get that blood to our buddy in the coffin somehow, right? He then intones that famous phrase: “The blood is the life.”

He kicks over a lever, which turns some old, old gears. Spikes inside the coffin, similar to that of an iron maiden (the torture device, not the band), retract from the corpse. Our old guy holds the dimwit over the coffin, making sure to keep the blood coming in. It seeps in through the coffin lid effigy’s open mouth and into the corpse’s. The corpse stirs, flesh regenerates, and the blood gradually wakes him up. He comes to with a start, looking a bit like Ozzy Osbourne coming off a really bad acid trip.

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We shift to a scene with a bath for our revived corpse, lit up with all the spare candles from the Police’s video for “Wrapped Around Your Finger.” He cleans up (but there’s no cleaning the scars from the coffin, which are plainly visible), gets dressed, and hears from his manservant that all the guests have arrived. Another caption pops up: “London 1896.”

“Photographed upon entry?” our former corpse asks.

“As arranged,” the manservant confirms.

The former corpse asks about “the prototype” and our manservant’s reply reminds his master that he’s supposed to say it “as scheduled” rather than “sheduled,” if he’s going to impersonate an American. Our living-dead guy observes that, from this day forth, he will be “as American as God, guns … and bourbon … as scheduled.”

The manservant looks bemused and says, “Very good, sir.” His master works on his accent by introducing himself to his mirror as ‘Alexander Grayson.’

The guests roll up to the palatial estate in a number of two-wheeled growlers. Inside, the party is in the process of getting started. The photographers are snapping shots of everyone while they dance.

A guy is escorting two young ladies (Insert the threesome joke of your choice) and the one in the blue dress declares the scene “breathtaking.” The blonde in red-and-white is a bit more cynical, but indicates that she’s intrigued. Picking up a flute of wine, the man says, “This glass is worth more than I earn in a week.”

“Don’t be gauche, John,” the blonde says cattily. “Besides, it’s worth more than you make in a month.”

Ms. Blue lambasts “Lucy” for being such a bitch. But Lucy is just having a bit of fun. The rest of the conversation indicates that John is a journalist and that Lucy is the sole reason he even got in the door. It doesn’t take long for Lucy to find some companionship for the evening.

Meanwhile, John is surveying the room with the brunette in blue and says, “It’s quite an eclectic group … new money, old money, no money left. Which, do you suppose, is Alexander Grayson?”

“I’m sure he’ll announce himself to great fanfare,” Ms. Blue observes. “They always do, at these things.”

Turns out Ms. Blue AKA Mina spends a lot of time in the laboratory and that this is as much her scene as it is John’s, which is to say, not at all. Oh, and they’re an item, as the kiss demonstrates.

The crowd gossips a bit. At the end of the dance comes Grayson’s grand entrance. He is announced as “the master of Carfax Manor.” Interesting … if you know the book, then you’ll remember that Carfax was an abbey.

Grayson makes his entrance and then his eyes lock with Mina’s. That’s when things finally get interesting. He starts remembering 400 years ago, with them together in bed. Then, realizing he still has a speech to give, he welcomes everyone to his house. He adds, “Come freely, leave safely, and please … leave some of the happiness you bring.” He directs that last towards Mina.

John notices that something’s off and the usual “I’m all right” excuse is invoked by Mina.

Grayson tells his manservant that he wants to know everything about the pair in front of him.

Another blonde, Lady Jane Weatherby, decides to introduce herself rather rudely to her host. As it happens, she’s got a German bodyguard with her named ‘Herr Kruger’ (no relation to Freddy … I think), whom Grayson initially mistakes as Lord Weatherby. Upon being properly introduced, Grayson glibly says, “Gezundheidt,” before moving on.

A trio of some rather crooked industrialists are amongst Mr. Grayson’s next visit for personal attention. After the perfunctory hellos are out of the way, our host gets down to the brass tacks of wanting the patent for a high-efficiency coolant that they have in their possession. He needs it for one of his pet projects.

Our lead guy, one Sir Clive, gets a little huffy about the matter, saying his company isn’t in the habit of giving out his stuff to “interloping colonials,” a pretty common slur the Brits had against Americans during the late 19th Century. If this were anywhere else, I have little doubt that our host would have impaled this fat fool like a shishkabob. As it stands, he lets the entourage move on.

Jonathon Harker notices all this from the sidelines and suggests that next time, Grayson could “sway Sir Clive through his bookmakers.” Turns out the snob that just brushed Grayson off is a degenerate gambling freak, something Harker is all too eager to tell his host. Mina catches up with the pair and her breath is instantly caught at the sight of her host. Introductions are exchanged and Mina brings up the weird sense of déjà vu by saying, “I’m sorry, it’s just … I swear – ”

” – we’ve met?” Grayson interrupts. “Yes … I was thinking the same thing.”

Grayson’s manservant interrupts his boss by announcing that “it’s time.” As soon as they’re out of earshot of the couple, Renfield gives the rundown concerning all the vital details on the couple he had his eye on. Jonathon Harker is a reporter for The Inquisitor, with no shortage of tenacity and ambition, while Mina is a medical student, who is of that persuasion thanks to her father being a doctor, Dr. William Murray, who just happens to be the Director of Bethlehem Royal Hospital.

Pause button: Ahh, Bethlehem Royal Hospital AKA Bedlam, one of the most infamous lunatic asylums ever established. That would make William Murray the analog to William Seward in the original novel. Unpause.

Mina can’t stop looking at her host as he walks away. A creepy guy who resembles the equally creepy wrong-headed scientist in the original “Thing from Another World” watches from the sidelines all the goings-on around the ballroom.

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Renfield then asks that everyone gather around the center of the ballroom. Having done that, he introduces himself to Jonathon as ‘Aaron Renfield.’ Jonathon has to bring up the part about how he is not there tonight as a journalist, but Renfield extends an invitation tomorrow for an interview at 4:30pm with his boss. Jonathon is extremely intrigued by the invite and accepts the card that Renfield hands him.

Following a drumroll and the dimming of the lights, Renfield puts the spotlight on his boss and “his latest technical marvel!” Grayson starts by saying his father told him stories of the Dark Ages, “a time when culture was eclipsed by barbaric ritual … and war.” He adds that he has come to believe that the Dark Ages never actually ended, that “the fear … hatred … and brutality that once plagued our ancestors plagues us still.”

Pause button: He’s absolutely right. The Victorian era simply gussied up those ugly tendencies he’s talking about and extended their reach. It would take a couple of world wars to cure this lot of the delusions that let these practices thrive. Unpause.

He therefore is going to “demonstrate a way out.” He’s handing out individual light bulbs as he gives this speech. As he hands one to Mina, he adds, “Out of the darkness.”

The handing out having been accomplished, Grayson goes on to say, “What Thomas Edison dismissed as mere fantasy, what Nikola Tesla failed to bring to fruition, I give to you tonight … power.”

The source of this power is energy drawn from the “magnetosphere”, which is the same force that allows a compass to find True North. Thanks to his army of technicians and scientists, he is now going to give to his guests “free … safe … wireless … power.”

The spotlight is killed after that, with Renfield phoning into a hidden room for “Stage One.” The room is an impressive steampunk setup full of levers, pipes, gears, and, yes, steam. The men crank the handles, apparently all marked ‘1,’ for that.

Sir Clive asks the Beard if this sort of power is even possible. The Beard admits that it is – in theory. If it got to market, all their petroleum interests would have the same value as Florida swampland. But that’s nothing to worry about, according to the Beard.

As nothing’s happened yet, Grayson tells Renfield that they need more power. Stage Two kicks off and pretty soon, all those light bulbs are lighting up like electric stars. The future member of Gamblers Anonymous is sputtering that it’s all a trick when his light bulb starts to light up, but when everyone else’s does, well … Let’s just say Grayson looks positively pleased. He even permits himself a small laugh, one that makes me a bit uneasy.

Pause button: There actually is a connotation with Lucifer here, who, before he decided that he was better off reigning in Hell, was called the “Morning Star” and “Lightbringer.” Given that Dracula’s name is sometimes translated as “Son of the Devil,” it certainly is a fitting analogy. Unpause.

While the whole crowd is chattering about how marvelous this all is, the power room suddenly decides to overload. It’s kind of like what happens when the breakers went off in my old house, only more fatally shocking. Renfield understates the case by reporting, “Experiencing some technical difficulties, sir.”

Grayson coolly orders, “Just a few more seconds.” He then turns his attention to Mina looking between him and the bulb.

However, I’m not sure that the power room has a few more seconds in it. The steam pipes are busting, the men are getting burnt, and, as the modern tune goes, “This place, she’s gonna blow!” The foreman apparently agrees with me and shuts the thing down before the whole place goes up. Ohh, he is SO fired.

Grayson rolls with the punch as the bulbs go off. He thanks his guests for their patience and trusts that his “little demonstration was … illuminating.” That gets a polite laugh from the crowd and a round of applause. Butlers come to take back the bulbs. That’s when Lucy Westerna, inveterate ho-bag that she is, decides to make herself known as Grayson is getting off the stage. I would feel sorry for her, but … well … let’s just say I have two very big turn-offs on any good-looking woman: stupidity and bitchiness. The latter having been established, I daresay that we’re about to see the former.

After declaring Ms. Westerna ravishing, he notes that Mina looks a little shaken. She cops to not being sure what she’s just witnessed.

“The future, Ms. Murray. The beginning of a new era,” he replies.

That out of the way, he tells Jonathon that he hopes to see him tomorrow. As Grayson walks away, Jonathon notes how taken he is with Mina. Lucy, as if we hadn’t already figured out what a bitch she is, pipes up with: “Oh, the green-eyed monster rears its ugly head.” Mina shrugs it off that their host is just being polite.

“More than just polite, I’d say,” Lucy notes. Her point having been made, she gets back to her john for the evening.

In another part of Carfax Manor, Lady Jane comes up to Grayson for a little chat. He remarks that he didn’t hear her approaching.

“You say that as though it were an accomplishment, Mr. Grayson,” Lady Jane says.

“‘Alexander,’ please,” Grayson says.

Lady Jane goes on to say that he has “a touch of the impresario” about him and how this evening’s performance was rather “operatic.” She makes some invitations to the opera season, along with some innuendos about what kind of private performance she’d like to see from him in the future. Lucy could take notes on how to do this right.

Later, Grayson is telling his guests goodbye as Sir Clive AKA the Bad Year Blimp comes up for a little confab. It is not a pleasant conversation: “If you think you fooled anyone with that absurd stunt tonight, you are sadly mistaken. You are a fraud, sir, and I will see to it that you never do business here.”

If only he knew what he was truly up against.

Grayson gives him a little smile as he goes out the door.

Later, in a dingy flat, Jonathon is banging away at his typewriter, a daguerreotype of Mina next to him in a small frame. While he works, his roommate walks around the front of his desk (where his bed is) and notes, “She’s not going to wait forever.”

That stops Jonathon in his tracks. The friend adds, “If you don’t ask her to marry you soon, someone else is bound to.”

Jonathon asks, “Who?”

In another apartment, a bit more richly appointed, Mina answers that question: “Grayson? Don’t be absurd.”

Lucy tells her, “At least he’s not boring.”

This apparently is a longstanding grudge against Jonathon, as far as Lucy is concerned. He is too boring for her tastes. Well, you’re not the one trying to sleep with him, so what’s your problem?! Besides, Mina thinks that he isn’t boring.

Across town, Jonathon is proving that, rather than boring, he’s a complete and total IDIOT in matters of love. He is telling his buddy that Mina can do better than him. The inevitable smartass reply that point deserves is cut off by a strange whistle of the wind that goes past their window … and, apparently, Mina and Lucy’s as well. When the latter pair take a look out, they see nothing. Lucy, rather worriedly, wonders what exactly they just heard.

Well, I’ve a feeling we’re about to find out the answer. A four-wheeled hansom cab pulls up at a residence of our gambling addict. It’s number 19 somewhere, according to the big bold numbers on the pillars while Sir Clive is digging out his key. Too bad for him that he never makes it past the front door … he’s just managed to fit the key into the lock when something yanks him backwards harder than a modern jet turbine would yank in a seagull. That something leaves a rather prominent blood splatter under the number 19 pillar.

The next morning, Grayson is burning the asshole’s photograph and saying, “The man was a pig.”

Renfield nonchalently notes, “So, you tear a man to pieces,” and wonders if they should have hung a warning sign over the front door. Grayson counters that the corruption and hubris of the Order of the Dragon have always been an issue. In the conversation that follows, Grayson goes on to tell how the Order once upon a time used the Inquisitions to do their dirty work, committing every atrocity from rape and torture up to wholesale slaughter and witch burnings. That’s why he wants to demonstrate the technology he demonstrated the night before. That’s the key to taking away the power of their current age, through “private clubs and boardrooms.” No more money, no more Order of the Dragon.

Pause button: Okay, given that I am STILL waiting on that world to come to pass, it’s a fair assumption that this plan is doomed to fail. The question remains how. Unpause.

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Grayson’s eyes fall on a picture of Mina. It stops him dead in his tracks. He stares at it.
Pause button again: Ah, THAT would be how. Unpause.

We cut to what is presumably the next night and a figure is walking through the pea-soup fog of the London streets to an unimpressive-looking building. We get a closeup of his face. The handlebar mustache marks him as Herr Kruger, who is nervously scanning the streets around him – understandable, since he has some kind of lockpick in hand. He gets in the front door in no time.

He enters before a coffin, surrounded by candles. I’m betting that it isn’t Sting who is sleeping inside this sucker. He then pulls out the Vampire Killer’s Tool Kit from under his trench coat: mallet, crucifix (the Catholic kind with Jesus on it in silver), and, of course, the stakes. He pries open the coffin lid with a chisel. Inside, we see Grayson’s victim from last night, lying in repose. He undoes the tie, sees the ripped throat that has been sewn back together. Having figured that out, he retrieves a long silver dagger (one of a set of three) from the other inside trench coat pocket and puts it next to the throat.

Given the basket we’re seeing later rather prominently in his hands, I think that I know what happened to the head. By this point, he’s making his way along a station for the Great Western Railroad in daylight, a crowd obliviously going about its business as he walks. He goes into a store called “Thruxton’s Military Outfitters” (after making sure that no one is following him). He goes to the back, sets down the basket, and somebody else picks it up, a lady in red (or maybe it’s fuchsia). She climbs into an elevator and goes up with it in tow. She steps into a rather spartan hallway and then a drawing room. She opens up the basket on a table to see the head of our deceased jerk, surrounded by garlic cloves and with one stuck in his mouth. What, is he a Thanksgiving turkey?

The beard from the other night takes a look inside and asks, “He performed a full examination?”

To no one’s surprise, it’s Lady Jane who brought in this little prize. She replies, “As instructed.”

B: “Any signs of vampiric feeding?”

LJ: “Too much damage to the neck to make a positive determination.”

B: “So, he severs the man’s head and dresses him up like a roasted French hen.”

LJ: “You know it had to be done. You know why.”

It’s apparently been a full eight years since a vampire came by London for a quick bite to eat. We’ve actually all heard about that particular time, the Whitechapel killings, supposedly the work of Jack the Ripper. Apparently, the Ordo Dracul were the REAL mutilators of the corpses of Mary Kelly and Co., even wrote “those ridiculous letters” to the press.

The Beard wonders what this incident is all about. Lady Jane says, barring any evidence to the contrary, the late, unlamented Clive “was targeted by our enemies … whether natural or not.” Kruger will be put on patrol of the High Council’s residences by Lady Jane, “just until time or events prove us to be overcautious.” Oh, and even better, this is going to be Lady Jane and the Beard’s little secret! The Beard doesn’t want to spook the others, apparently. It says a lot about the trust this organization instills in its membership, doesn’t it?

Just to prove the point, the Beard adds, “And if anyone asks …”

“… he was killed by a dog,” Lady Jane finishes.

After calling her a good girl, the Beard adds, “And take that bloody thing with you.”

Across town, someone in a classroom is looking over the front page of The Inquisitor, where Jonathon has done a write-up of Grayson’s little show. Meanwhile, a professor is giving a dissertation on the structure of the neuron. Mr. Campbell, who looks like Paul Ryan with a mustache, is apparently the holder of the paper and a bit too distracted to concentrate.

Upon being called out by the Professor, Mr. Campbell apologizes for the paper reading. As it turns out, Mina is in the classroom and the lecture is being given by none other than Professor Abraham Van Helsing. She immediately covers for Campbell by pointing out the correspondences between the front page article and certain aspects of the Professor’s lecture.

Helsing asks for the paper from Campbell and agrees with Mina’s cover story. While acknowledging its relevance to the subject at hand, he asks that all future discussions take place outside of his classroom. He confiscates the paper to prove his point.

A two-wheeled growler pulls up in front of Carfax Manor across town. Renfield greets Jonathon by assuring his guest that Mr. Grayson will be right with him. Jonathon looks around the darkened study, a decanter of whiskey and glasses on a table prominently in the foreground. He opens up a shutter to get some light in the dark room.

As he gets out a pen and notebook, Grayson greets him. Jonathon is standing very prominently in the light as he extends his hand for a shake. Grayson hesitates for a moment before shaking it. His own hand smokes for just a moment as it does. He asks that his guest take a seat. He is offered some wine. While Jonathon is saying that it’s a bit early for him, Grayson is doing what he can to deal with the burn. Then he tells his guest that he prefers whiskey, anyway.

Jonathon opens the conversation by letting him know that his editor is of the opinion that Grayson is after some sort of puffery. Grayson asks why that should be so, discreetly kicking his chair out of the direct path of the sunlight before sitting down in it. Jonathon points out how he hasn’t fielded that many interview requests, despite his position.

“You mean the wealth,” Grayson says.

Jonathon corrects by saying that he means the privileged, pointing out, “Usually, it runs the other way.”

Grayson says that the reason he’s fielding this particular interview is because Jonathon is basically on the same side he is: against the entrenched interests that would send him packing to America.

“I didn’t think anyone had noticed,” Jonathon says.

“I did,” Grayson comes back pointedly. “That’s precisely why I invited you to this … interview. Shall we begin?”

“Very well,” Jonathon says, pen at the ready. “Why England?”

G: “This is the country of my great-grandparents’ birth. In that regard, it’s a homecoming.”

J: “And it has nothing to do with Edison running around in the States?”

Grayson gestures with his glass and smiles. Jonathon is apparently living up to his expectations. The reporter gives the smile back less certainly.

“Europe speaks to me in a way no other place does,” Grayson says. “You know, we call it the Old World for a reason. And yet, her people seek the new whenever they can. I understand the struggle. I myself am descended from a very old family. But my mind … always fixed on the future. I surround myself with things that speak to both.”

Pause button: The family bit is the truth. As a matter of fact, I believe that the Draculesti line that our “Mr. Grayson” comes from is still extant to this day in terms of being around. Unpause.

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“You’re full of contradictions, aren’t you?” Jonathon notes.

“So is the world,” Grayson points out.

Jonathon thoughtfully hums as he makes his notes. As he writes, “VISIONARY,” in caps in it, Grayson says, “That is precisely why I wanted to talk to you. You see, we’re on the precipice of a great change. We have it within ourselves to … redefine our species.”

“Wait, you say ‘species’ as though people are animals,” Jonathon notes. “What do you mean by that?”

“Is that not what Mr. Darwin taught us? That man evolves? That is what I have come to accomplish.”

At this point, we get another look inside Jonathon’s notebook. Two less-flattering terms are under the “visionary” tag: “delusional” and, being written, “egomaniac.”

“To facilitate in that evolution … give nature a helping hand … so to speak,” Grayson concludes, ending in a wink. Jonathon looks like he’s not exactly sure what he’s gotten himself into with this subject.

We cut to Professor Van Helsing’s office later that night, where Mina is making a visit. He invites her in to have a seat. The office is elaborately decorated with Old World touches (Grayson would approve) around the fireplace that both sit in front of in wooden chairs. She’s comes to inquire about the final examination. The highest score gets a slot as Van Helsing’s research assistant. In terms of scoring, Mina is consistently top of the class. But her surgery skills are not up to the same standards as her academics, sadly. She can’t stand the procedure itself the minute the scalpel blade cuts through the skin. Her hands shake uncontrollably.

Professor Van Helsing cuts her off with: “I’ve always found that the secret to a steady hand is a steady heart.”

Mina doesn’t get it (the audience is probably with her on that), so the Professor explains, “You must believe in yourself … in your abilities to heal others. It is that simple.”

She protests that she actually does. “If so, then you will succeed,” Van Helsing says. “Until then, know this: the heart never lies.”

We cut to Mina getting together with a girlfriend on campus. As they walk away, Grayson stands under a pillar in the shadows. A girl who is going the opposite way sees Grayson and offers him a wan smile. His eyes track her. He sits still for a moment and then follows after her, rounding the opposite side of the pillar.

Pretty soon, she’s moaning in ecstasy as he feeds against a pillar. Then there’s some pain in her cries and Grayson comes away from her neck with blood all over his mouth.

Meanwhile, the opera is about to get started. Jonathon has been given the use of Grayson’s personal theater box this night, so he’s taking Mina along for the show. Mina calls it generous and Jonathon says it’s likely because Grayson thinks that Jonathon is going to be flattering. Mina mocks this a bit by saying she sees no reason why he’d be so desperate to court Jonathon when he’s got everything else. Jonathon is feeling a little put upon when Mina tells him, “But then you have something he will never have ….”

When Jonathon asks what that is, the answer is obvious: “Me.” They take a moment to share a kiss.

Lady Jane is making her way to her own box through the opposite staircase. She’s drawing attention from everyone in her bottle-green dress that reveals more than it conceals. She takes her seat. Jonathon and Mina are already in their borrowed ones. The lights dim and Lady Jane takes up her opera glasses. Just off-hand, I’m thinking that tonight’s performance is a Wagner piece, possibly from the Ring of the Niebelungen cycle. While Jane is watching the performance, Grayson makes an appearance behind her. His eyes are fixed on Mina across the way, who is sharing a moment with Jonathon.

“The view is much better back here,” he says to Lady Jane.

“Is it? I can’t imagine that’s possible,” Lady Jane says back.

Grayson comes out of the shadows, sits down behind her, and asks, “Why don’t you join me?”

Jane is intrigued enough by the proposition to do just that. She then proclaims in a whisper, “Why, yes, it is. It’s astonishing.” Her eyes are on him. His eyes stay on Mina.

She then adds, “I trust you were unobserved?”

“Your invitation did require my discreet company,” Grayson notes.

But as Grayson looks across to the unsuspecting couple he’s put in his sights, it’s obvious that Jane is the last thing on his mind.

A rather tense conversation is happening in a hansom cab across town. One of Grayson’s guests at the demonstration is fuming that Sir Clive’s widow was being hounded by Grayson “like a bird of prey” and he got the coolant patent that he was after. Thanks to Jonathon’s tip on the gambling debts, it was easy pickings to get the widow to agree. She either sold or she’d have a scandal on her hands. Our grumbler finishes, “Absolutely loathsome … the whole damn business!” Wonder how many times he did it to less-deserving people over the years?

His sounding board counters with a smile, “But, you must admit, well-played.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” the grumbler fumes. “He’s not your business partner.”

The sounding board reminds him that they’re only talking about a seat on the board. The grumbler gets out to greet the wife at home. Grayson is stalking him from a nearby rooftop. As they go in, Grayson gets a crossbow bolt to the leg.

It’s Kruger, who is busy reloading for another shot. He should have known better. Grayson unsheathes a blade and they do an old-fashioned brawl against the facade of a sign for The Inquisitor. Two seconds later, Kruger is getting shoved into the pipes behind him, cracking them. Kruger pulls out a pair of daggers and the fight really gets started. Grayson cuts one of Kruger’s wrists, making him drop the dagger in that hand. Then Kruger pulls out a crucifix and growls, “Burn in Hell.” Doesn’t do him any good. Grayson knocks it aside and slits his throat. Guess the vampire handbook needs updating.

Kruger falls over and keeps gagging on his own blood. Grayson recites, “I died fair and well, brother huntsman killed, impaled the hearts of many priests, before thine own stilled. Before you die, take heart.” He then promises that he’s going to send plenty of company after him.

Kruger gasps out, “You are … Dracula.”

Alexander Grayson AKA Vlad Tepes AKA Dracula gives him a fang-toothed smile in return. We cut to Kruger’s blood running off the roof in rivulets with some rather unpleasant noises accompanying the sound.

We then cut to Lady Jane, who is doing a bit of practice with a pair of kukris on some heavy bags. She switches up to a katana while a female vampire in a cage hisses from the shadows. The vamp tells her that all that exercise won’t save her. Jane answers, “It speaks?” They spend a few moments doing some verbal sparring. Jane wants the sire’s name. When she doesn’t get it, she taunts her prey with the thought of how long it will take this heavy iron cage to rust.

The vampiress is unimpressed, saying that plenty of others will follow her and very soon. Jane is equally unimpressed by the bravado and walks away.

Grayson gets home from his little jaunt on the rooftops, stripping off his coat and gloves. Dropping them in the middle of the room, he immediately pours a hit of whiskey to calm his nerves. Before he can take a sip, Professor Van Helsing emerges from the shadows.

His sword still clasped at his side, Grayson says, “I was wondering when you’d make your entrance.”

He pulls the sword out and takes that gulp of whiskey. That’s when Van Helsing reminds him that the plan was to leverage Sir Clive’s gambling debts to make him give up the patent, not cut him down in the streets and bully the widow.

“I saw an opportunity,” Grayson explains, a shrug in his voice as he sheathes the sword. “And I seized it.”

“It was impetuous … and careless,” Van Helsing counters.

“It got the job done,” Grayson says back.

“How many times must I explain the difference between a vendetta and vengeance?” Van Helsing remonstrates, impatience in his voice. “This cannot become a war of attrition. The Ordo Draco is like the Hydra: Cut off a head; they grow two to replace it.”

“Funny … that’s not what happened to Sir Clive’s head,” Grayson replies with grim amusement.

“Don’t be a fool,” Van Helsing says, his patience finally giving way. “You know the only way to crush is to wipe out the source of their very vast power, their wealth. For over a decade, we’ve schemed and built this empire of lies. I will not have the whole world come down by your lack of discipline.”

That’s too much for Grayson, who shatters the glass on the table and lunges at Van Helsing. Seizing him by the throat, Grayson growls, “Give me one good reason why I should not peel you like a grape.”

Van Helsing gasps out, “Because, if not for me, you would still be rotting in that iron box.”

We cut back to the opening scene and see that it was indeed Van Helsing who did the coffin opening and throat-cutting.

Apparently, that’s good enough for Grayson, who throws Van Helsing to the floor with a shove.

Van Helsing gasps for air once he gets there. He then snarls, “Do you think I am not immune to rage? The Order of the Dragon slaughtered my entire family! We must not give in to our base instincts.” Rising to his feet, he adds, “We must practice control. We must follow the plan.”

“True,” Grayson acknowledges. “Our hatred was born in the same crucible. You give it form, but I … give it STRENGTH!”

Getting closer, Grayson adds, “We are not bound by what we have lost … but by who took it.”

Then we see Vlad screaming at the top of his lungs as the Mina of the past is put to the torch. Over the memory, he growls, “They killed my wife, my love … and for these crimes, I will have my vengeance.”

We get one last look at the pyre that took her life and Mina waking up in a shock as apparently, she dreamed that memory of long ago.

Dracula 1.01e-w622-h350

Review: While some might call this flat, I would argue that this is merely the nature of an opening episode, particularly on a limited series. I personally found enough bits from the original novel, redefined character dynamics, and story seeds to make me want to follow this one to the end.

The Ordo Dracul (an actual historical organization which, if memory serves, was actually founded by Vlad Tepes’ dad, Dracul, hence Tepes’ nickname of ‘Dracula’) is a nice choice of a secret Victorian organization that hasn’t been used a hundred times. Having this Dracula pose as a twitchy Howard Hughes figure to maneuver his way through high society is a nice nod to the original novel rather than making him the typical freak on the sidelines. Having Van Helsing be the one who woke him up sets up all sorts of intriguing possibilities, including the one that involves him doing his usual role of staking the bastard all over again. Haven’t seen enough of Mina to make any judgment calls yet, but she seems pretty good, if based a little much on Bram Stoker’s Dracula from the 1990s. Jonathon Harker, on the other hand, is a better version than the one in the book, a hard-bitten, cynical reporter with a jaded eye and sharp wits. Considering what a dim-witted barrister he was in the book, that ALSO is a nice change.

So far, so good. Let’s see what next week brings.

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: Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself: Dracula 1.01 (Pilot): The Blood Is the Life