Dracula Review Episode (1×09) “Four Roses”

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Declarations and Revelations Abound as Dracula Prepares for Finale

After eight previous episodes dancing around the guts of this story, it seemed everyone got in and got their hands dirty on this week’s episode of NBC’s Dracula. Alexander has been chomping mercilessly at the bit to make a final, clear declaration of war against the Order of The Dragon after their actions during the previous weeks. The two sides stand teetering on the edge of battle and everyone seems to be having either a crisis of conscience or a moment of absolution.

Indeed, this week was a whopper, and here’s a few areas where this particular reviewer feels like they really excelled in their newest installment to the story:

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They Upped Their Characters’ Ante

This week demonstrated significant character growth across the board, and gosh was it refreshing.

Renfield is by far my favourite character on this show. I love how he shows week in, week out that while he might not be a vampire or a vampire hunter or the great love of someone’s life, he is still a major player. He’s the character I wait for every week and this was one of those episodes that I felt like justified that affection completely. He is as much his own man as he is Alexander’s most trusted man, as demonstrated so clearly in his verbal exchanges with Grayson in ‘Four Roses’. Renfield doesn’t just speak to Grayson: he contends with him as an equal in a lot of ways, and seems to be the only person in Alexander’s world that refuses to sugar coat things for him, especially when Alexander is in a fit about something. Sometimes I feel like he’s my voice in speaking to Dracula, especially when he’s basically telling him to pull his head in and be smart.

Harker likewise did a lot of growing this week, even though I wanted to reach into my screen and slap the eejit silly for the raft of stupid decisions he’s made in the recent past. (Also Jonathan? Yeah I’m pretty sure saying “But she threw herself at me for two whole weeks” is not a valid excuse for you not being able to keep your pants on, princess.)

Even though he’s enlisted as a villain now, in light of the bigger picture I can still see the wisdom in the risk they took by making Harker do more than just dally with the dark side. They set him in it up to his neck, which was a great move on the writers’ part because it demonstrated just how desperate Jonathan has become. And a desperate Jonathan is far more useful to the greater scheme of things than a mopey, dopey, lovesick one. A desperate Jonathan will be as susceptible to his vices as his virtues and could fall either side of that moral fence very easily, making him unpredictable and therefore, of far greater worth. For me, I need a Jonathan that’s not useless, and finally in this episode I feel like I got him.

Basically these developments showed that the writers are finally starting to treat Renfield and Harker as the valuable assets they are, and that reinvigorates my faith in their ability to deliver, long-term. The character growth this week for me seemed gutsier, meatier in content and really delivered in adding depth where I felt like for a while, it’s lacked. Sorely.

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Moving, Shaking and A Whole Lot of Risk Taking

Everything about this episode demonstrated that the show was prepared to shed its original skin of self-indulgence and turn up fresh, ready to play hardball. And play it did, because there were some extreme, game-changing moments this episode that I really felt rewarded my patience.

The biggest of those moments was, of course, the shocking twist that was Dracula turning Lucy as punishment for her petulant seduction of Jonathan. Like for my part, as soon as Mina told him what Lucy had done, I straight up thought Alexander would just kill Lucy and make it look like a suicide. They could have gotten away with that. But instead – to my great relief – they played it smarter, in that I really didn’t see it coming that he would punish her by turning her into what he is. It was like Dracula’s ultimate way of saying “I am not going to take your life. I am going to give you an eternity to think about the life you damaged.” I feel like that’s some of the best story-telling they’ve done to date, and I’m really looking forward to the altered dynamic between her and Jonathan in particular given that they are only fresh out of their affair and yet he is now a member of a society sworn to kill her kind. Seriously. As if cheating on your future missus with her best friend who also happens to be in love with your future missus, wasn’t complicated enough. You people need therapy. Dr Phil: Dracula Edition. Get on that.

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An Expected Revelation…With An Unexpected Reaction

By nature of the story, this was all always building towards the climax of Mina discovering the true Alexander and them realising their love for each other. They’ve made me want it, but at the same time almost not want it because it seemed like if that happened, it was all going to play out so unsurprisingly. And seriously: how many good shows have we seen die off because they got predictable? Heaps. It doesn’t take a genius to realise predictability is kryptonite to a show’s health and long-term survival.

On top of that, I’ve spent an entire season watching Dracula satisfy himself with revenge or passion in the moment, regardless of the history that’s passed or the future that awaits and that really started to bug me for a while there. It just made him so one-dimensional! And with an actor as multifaceted as Jonathan Rhys Meyers, it’s a prodigious waste of talent if you’re just going to make him play something as passé as that. For so long in watching I felt a bit duped, like NBC had promised a ‘bang’ but all it was going to deliver was a whimper.

So I like that for once, I didn’t see it coming as far as Alexander’s choice here. I’m genuinely glad that my expectations were tipped on their head. I meanwe know that Alexander can’t be the man Mina needs as long as so much of him is tied up in the fate of that cause, but it was nice as well as unexpected to finally see him acknowledge that. I don’t know…I feel like it’s perhaps the most grown up thing he’s done all season.

When he says no to Mina – someone he absolutely loves in order to stay a course he’d set upon long ago – all I could think was ‘Finally!’ In denying himself, I got the character growth I’d hung out for, and in a way I felt like it was almost a reward for my sticking with the show, and with him: a way of saying ‘You didn’t waste your time in being here.’

So, Is It Worth Me Tuning in Next Week?

If this week’s episode is anything to go by then yes. Absolutely yes. Right where it looked like it could have fallen on its face, the show came back with a roar of strength and restored my faith in it’s ability to deliver. So if you are sitting there trying to decide whether or not this show is worth your time, here’s my two cents for your consideration: if you come into this show now, you will be seeing it at its best. If you haven’t watched it to date, these post hiatus episodes are the ones that will make you go back to the start and stick with it til the end. Actually even though I’ve watched it all the way through, it’s made me want to go back and do that as well, because I want to enjoy it from the start again too, only this time with the assuredness that comes from knowing its best is yet to come.

This week’s episode gave Dracula the high voltage paddles to the chest that it needed to spring back from the edge. It gave me exactly what I wanted right when I’d pretty much given up hope of getting it. That being the case, I reckon I’m not the only one for whom next week can’t come soon enough.

Lingering Questions for Next Week

  • Will Jonathan’s choice to join the Order cost him his life?
  • How will Lucy cope and relate to the world now that she’s a new vampire?
  • Will Browning realise who Van Helsing is and pay the price for slaughtering Abram’s family?
  • Will Lady Jayne finally put all the pieces together about Alexander?
  • Who is going to be left standing at the end of this impending war?