Dracula: Season 1 (Netflix/BBC) — a review

DraculaS1

If you’re a fan of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s take on Sherlock, I guarantee you’ll love their version of Dracula.

What? You’ve never watched Sherlock? How are we even friends? Go watch it now. In four total series (which is what our cousins across the pond call them instead of “seasons”), there are only twelve episodes and one special. If you were sufficiently motivated, you could knock them out over a long weekend. After you watch that most-excellent Benedict Cumberbatch-Martin Freeman program, come back to this mostly spoiler-free review.

Now. Since you loved Sherlock, I’m certain you will love the Netflix/BBC One co-production of Dracula. Both shows take familiar subject matter, examples of classic literature, and then tweak them to turn the result into something uniquely their own. Just as Cumberbatch was recognizably Sherlock Holmes while simultaneously being unlike any version of the world’s greatest detective that came before him, Claes Bang‘s performance gives us an original take on Count Dracula.

Oh, maybe not wholly original. The first of only three episodes is a retelling of the Bram Stoker novel, in large part. The framing device is that lawyer Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan) turns up at a Hungarian convent, clearly not the man he once was. He is interrogated by a nun who turns out to be Agatha Van Helsing (Dolly Wells), who sounds much more liberated and modern than 1897 could have been.

This first episode establishes the dynamic that will form the spine of all three episodes. This is largely a battle of wits between Dracula and Van Helsing (not always Agatha, but always the same actress: long story). As the story travels forward in time, this bit of characterization helps keep the viewer centered.

Bang’s Count Dracula is witty and charming, with a capacity to turn suddenly ruthless and violent. Many of the rules we associate with vampire lore are kept intact, but the creative minds behind this show tinker with those a bit as well, and I didn’t mind. Nor did I mind that the Van Helsing character from the novel was gender-swapped. In fact, that’s a bit of tinkering that makes this series even more interesting, giving Dracula’s relationship with Van Helsing a bit of a Hannibal Lecter/Clarice Starling feel.

That’s really all I can say about this show without giving everything away. I love how Dracula is brought into the modern era.

Now I just need that crossover with Sherlock.

Firewater’s Only-in-Blood-Do-We-Find-Truth Report Card: A

A

Good retro-modern entertainment from the guys who made Benedict Cumberbatch a name easier to pronounce.

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