When it was announced that Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat were reuniting to bring the classic story of Dracula to the small screen, fans were excited for a new series from the former “Sherlock” showrunners. Running from 2010-2017, “Sherlock” amassed one of the largest and most devoted fan bases to date. The modern adaptation reintroduced the famous detective Sherlock Holmes and his partner in deduction Dr. John Watson as they solved murders around London while trying to stop the infamous criminal mastermind James Moriarty. Unfortunately, Sherlock’s series finale left the “Sherlock” fandom adrift in a sea of melancholy, so a new series from the same creators was a glimmer of hope. Sadly, that hope was misplaced.
Premiering on Netflix in early January 2020, “Dracula” adapts the story of Bram Stoker’s 1897 gothic horror story of the brilliant and deadly vampire, Dracula. Arriving under the guise of assisting the reclusive Count Dracula to sell his Transylvanian castle before he ventures to the new world of England, he quickly becomes Dracula’s latest victim as his life and blood is slowly drained, reinvigorating Dracula. Finding the case of Jonathan Harker and his experience with Dracula fascinating, Sister Agatha Van Helsing investigates Dracula in Transylvania and his escape to the shores of England. With their fates now intertwined, Van Helsing’s descendant, Dr. Zoe Van Helsing, attempts to continue her work and prepare for Dracula’s return to the modern-day world.
“I thought the use of dreamlike states and important reveals was handled really nicely,” says UNO graduate student Chad Hopkins. “The acting was much better than I thought it’d be, and it managed to portray a homosexual relationship fairly respectfully. Not perfect, but better than most.” While many enjoyed a number of aspects of “Dracula,” to others it felt like slow, dull narrative that leaves its viewers drained of life, much like Dracula’s own victims.
Netflix’s “Dracula” only adds a few new, fresh aspects to the classic Dracula story, overall, it’s the same tale we’ve seen before. It’s one saving grace comes in the character of Sister Agatha Van Helsing played by Dolly Wells. Similar to Anthony Hopkins’ Prof. Abraham Van Helsing in the 1992 film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” Agatha Van Helsing steals the show in every one of her scenes with her quick wit, snarky comebacks to the manipulative vampire, and her ingenious MacGyver-like methods of keeping the creature of the night at bay. The decision to cast a woman as the popular vampire hunter isn’t surprising from Moffat and Gatiss, as they’ve at least attempted to promote women in their casting of past shows like “Sherlock” or “Doctor Who,” but their choices often feel like mansplaining to its viewers, such as in “Sherlock’s” “The Abominable Bride” where Sherlock explained feminism to a group of female feminists.
Outside of the character of Van Helsing, the rest of the series is a drag focusing on the uninteresting title character of Count Dracula. With each episode spanning around 90 minutes, the slow narrative focuses on telling its audience how manipulative, ingenious, and seductive he is, but these characteristics are rarely shown in Claes Bang’s Count Dracula. Where “Sherlock’s” 90-minute episodes on Sherlock and Watson working to solve the crime, seeing their methods and watching them connect the dots, all we see of Dracula’s manipulations are the aftereffects and the unearned fear it instills in his future victims. The few moments and twists that do take place throughout the story are thrown away shortly after their introduction, like the 2020 institute studying Dracula’s blood contagion in preparation for his inevitable return. This was one of the most interesting and new aspects to the story, and is quickly ended when Dracula’s lawyer shows up, played by show creator Mark Gatiss. Once Dracula is free and clear from the institute, it’s back to being told how awesome Dracula is, when he is in fact not.
It may be unfair to compare Netflix’s “Dracula” to “Sherlock.” It’s simply difficult to understand how the creators of a brilliant adaptation of the world’s greatest detective would create a dulled adaptation of the world’s greatest vampire. Thankfully, “Dracula’s” slow pacing is briefly lifted by the brilliance and snark of Sister Van Helsing, but even that isn’t enough to make the 90 minutes of each episode feel like a never-ending vacation slideshow of how cool Dracula is supposed to be.