Stephen Moffat has long been a writer capable of creating brilliant individual self-contained episodes, but prone to completely over-indulging in nonsense and meaningless plots when trusted to run a show or series of episodes, with Netflix Dracula , we see a very familiar pattern; in the third episode, we are dragged into the 21st century, we have a weird shady medical facility plot, and the show promptly goes off the rails. Stephen please, stop it…!
The first episode of Netflix Dracula starts very strong, largely because it sits close to Bram Stoker’s fantastic story. Dracula is played very well by Claes Bang and I think he is the one piece of glue that stops the show spiralling completely, along with a strong performance by Dolly Wells as Sister Agatha. However, when Jonathan was ambiguously killed off (only to be fake-teased to be alive 2 episodes later) the show started to lose me.
It seemed like a needlessly sadistic end to what was essentially the main character in the original, not to mention that his invitation of Dracula into the convent went against his characterisation as a brave and empathic person…whether he was undead now or not. The boat episode was better, playing off on Agatha versus Dracula nicely, with good supporting characters and more of that Gothic horror goodness that we had with the old castle setting.
The ending however, where Moffat grabs us by the lapels and stubbornly starts dragging us towards his beloved 21st Century plot lines…that was where I felt the series jumped the shark. Episode 3 dials the campy humour up so high that it features a net-surfing, emailing, Emoji-using Dracula swiping people on Tinder. It’s not scary, it’s just silly. At no point does Dracula seem to be 500 years old, because he talks like an American teenager at this point and is too busy taking Instagram selfies to actually be terrifying.
The characters introduced in Episode 3 are also what jaded aged adults seem to think millenials are like; every young person bar one or two is arrogant, air-headed, sex-obsessed and obnoxious. I cringed as a younger person. Chief among them is the adapted character of Lucy, a shallow party girl who Dracula takes a liking to for her “fearlessness”.
After a whole episode of modern silliness, we are suddenly treated to young Lucy being burned alive (well, semi-alive) in an oven and coming out as a charred corpse. She walks around, disfigured, crying and screaming in horrible agony…moments after scenes where we’re meant to laugh. What is the tone of this series even supposed to be?
Then we get the bizarre twist that Netflix Dracula apparently isn’t really that bad and is an alright guy (despite killing babies, murdering nuns and turning people into zombie slaves). He just didn’t want to die. Or something. CUT TO CREDITS END SHOW. Sigh.
Once you dive below the flashy veneer, there are too many plot holes to count, another Moffat trademark. Lucy was distraught over her burned body, but she’s a vampire…why can’t she just drink some blood and regenerate her beauty?
What was the whole point of the medical facility? Was it just an obligatory Moffat checkmark in his “21st century story” list? Why was the medical building having mercenaries made such a big deal? Dracula even bangs on about them, but they have no purpose. How do you even keep a private army on payroll with no discernible goal?
Why did Dracula need to be invited into places if the whole vampire mythos was just rubbish connected to his psychology?