Sunday, January 5, 2020

REVIEW: 'Dracula' - Dracula Maintains a Staggering Amount of Strength Even in a New World in 'The Dark Compass'

Netflix's Dracula - Episode 1.03 "The Dark Compass"

Dracula surfaces in a strange land. Back to his old ways in different surroundings, he meets an alluring new bride - and a fearsome challenge.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season finale of Netflix's Dracula.

"The Dark Compass" was written by Mark Gatiss & Steven Moffat and directed by Paul McGuigan

It's truly staggering to see just how quickly and severely this drama ran out of creative steam. It's incredibly astonishing. This episode completely changes up the core premise. Count Dracula is now living in the present day. He has been dormant at the bottom of the ocean off the coast of London for 123 years. He wasn't greeted onshore by Sister Agatha either. Instead, it was her descendant, Dr. Zoe Van Helsing, who bears a striking resemblance. On one hand, that casting works perfectly fine because Dolly Wells has been tremendous in the story so far. On the other hand though, it's clear the show was intrigued by the idea of Dracula in the present-day but had absolutely no clue how to make that fit with the framework of Dracula and Agatha battling it out. Zoe basically just becomes a vessel for her ancestor as this story goes along too. It's important that she is dying. That gives her a certain freedom to operate around Dracula. She knows that her blood is tainted and poisonous to him. That is presented as a rational explanation and possibly the only thing that could actually kill him. As such, the show goes into the finale with Dracula seeming indestructible only to introduce this fatal option at the last possible minute. Moreover, it's clear that Dracula has no grand ambition that has taken him hundreds of years to achieve. It's literally just some generic form of world domination. He hasn't gotten too far at it either because he gets distracted and doesn't really seem to be engaged by the process. He escapes his captivity because he literally has access to the Internet and can hire a lawyer to argue for his freedom. The show is perfectly fine having this secret organization running with mysterious finances that suggest some form of complexity. It makes the argument that it is much more difficult to be a moral and upstanding citizen of the world in 2020 than it was a century ago. Progress has been made. Zoe stands firm in that power. But again, the story is much more interested in Agatha than anything Zoe may potentially do. Her big action is in consuming Dracula's blood. She collected that sample hoping to run tests in order to better understand the creature that has loomed over her family lineage. Her life's work is coming to fruition in some truly exciting ways. But there is simply no agency to the proceedings. It's not even a big deal that this sample goes missing. The show has no internal sense of logic. That goes flying out the window in this finale. It doesn't take long for Dracula to adjust to modern society. He is quickly back out on the hunt. His pursuit and subjugation of Lucy is incredibly boring and tedious. The show offers all of these musings on death and immortality. It wants to have a frank discussion about these concepts and the ways in which society views them. It just does so as an abstract debate instead of featuring characters the audience can actually care about. Lucy is literally nothing more than a beautiful women for men to constantly objectify. Her awareness of that serves as character motivation too. That's why she is entranced by Dracula in the first place. However, that makes her incredibly one-note and problematic. At the end of the day, the show has such contempt for individuals who say they don't fear death or that their beauty has cost them so much. Lucy is devastated by the reveal that she isn't beautiful after she is cremated. But again, it's so hard to engage with all of these twists because the show hasn't laid out a strong set of rules for what determines a vampire instead of someone who is simply undead. The latter seems incredibly more common. But Lucy and Jack are just conduits wherein the show can make some grand arguments that fall flat on their faces repeatedly. Again, it's staggering to watch. It's as if the show has no clue what it's doing whatsoever. It ends with the idea that Dracula fears death and that's what dictates his entire immortal life. He has built up his fears to the point of actually embracing the rumors of what hurts vampires as the truth. Yes, a stake through the heart by someone else is lethal. The show has proven that on numerous occasions. Sunlight and Catholic visuals are not though. Agatha dies after getting to deliver that message. And in that moment, Dracula suddenly decides to die as well because providing a peaceful end to Agatha is apparently worth it. It's all strange and none of it works. The show goes for tragic irony that intertwines the fates of these characters forever. But by the end, it's hard to care about anything in that main conflict despite the valiant performances from Wells and Claes Bang. Everyone tries to make this work. It's just uninspired as the series limps towards its conclusion.