So I don’t normally post reviews here, but I’ve been watching the show Dracula recently, and I’ve got some comments I just have to get off my chest. It’s about villains, and I’ll use Dracula as an opportunity to discuss them. (There will be spoilers below.)
So if I had to give the elevator pitch for the TV series, it would be:
It’s the Count of Monte Cristo, but the Count is Dracula, not Edmund Dantes. Also: steampunk.
It’s not a perfect show, but it’s entertaining and Johnathan Rhys Myers sure is pretty, isn’t he? Like the Count of Monte Cristo, the main story revolves around a mysterious stranger who arrives in town with a lot of money, some exotic servants, and a plan to get his revenge on the people who wronged him and his. The people who wronged him are in this case a big illuminati-like organization called the Order of Dracul (which if you’re paying attention to actual history, is the real-life ‘let’s kill all the Turks’ group to which Vlad Tepes’ father belonged.)
But in the TV show? Seriously, these guys are too stupid to be allowed to live. In fact, it’s almost a shock they’ve survived to the Victorian era. (They are still trying to kill all the Turks though, but now it’s because they want to control the Ottoman Empire and all its oil.)
By the third episode, we’ve learned that while the Order burns Dracula’s wife at the stake, they are the ones who turn Dracula into a vampire. As punishment. Because…
Really, I don’t know why. There’s zero good explanation for this. It’s colossally stupid. This is one of the classic blunders, right up there with invading Russia in winter or killing a boy’s parents in front of him while they’re leaving the movies. Vlad Tepes was a mortal man (if historically bad-ass) with all the normal mortal vulnerabilities. He could be killed by any old sword, he could die of disease, he would, given enough time, just grow old. So what does the Order do? They punish him by removing all those vulnerabilities, giving him superpowers, making him immortal, and giving him a single weakness: sunlight. It would like turning a man into Superman JUST so he could be tortured with kryptonite. Good job, dumbasses, you would have had just as much luck using sharp knives, starvation and a rack. Except then your victim probably wouldn’t escape.
Which Dracula does, of course. He escapes immediately and with such effortless ease I have to wonder if the members of the Order who came up with this punishment were actively trying to destroy their cabal from within.
Do they learn from their mistake? No! They do it again! Okay, to be fair, they don’t turn Abraham Van Helsing into a vampire for disobeying them, but they do burn his whole family alive and make him watch. This is basically the equivalent of sending the man a valentine’s day card that says, ‘Won’t you be my nemesis?’ Yeah, they probably planned to kill him next, but that clearly didn’t work out, which leads to Van Helsing resurrecting their greatest enemy, Dracula, which is only possible because of the Order’s poor life choices.
Then there’s the Order’s treatment of its own members. At one point, Dracula deduces that one of the group is gay, and uses the fact to blackmail him into selling Dracula controlling interest in a company Dracula desires. Because the member had been explicitly forbidden to do exactly that, he’s put to the death by Order for ‘putting his own interests above the Order.” As a result of this, his lover (also a member of the Order) commits suicide. So good job: two Order members dead AND a major corporation, just from one teeny piece of blackmail. So I have to ask: what kind of secret society doesn’t know the shit on its own members? This particular member being gay wasn’t really much of a secret. It was SO not a secret that a hack reporter (Harker) working at the local newspaper knew about it off the top of his head, no investigation required. While everyone was going to the mattresses to protect themselves from this upstart American entrepreneur (whom everyone knew was going after the company in question,) did no one stop to think about exploitable skeletons in the closet? Hey, Steve, do us all a favor and stop hanging out at the gay cabaret bars for a few months, okay?
In contrast to this is Dracula himself, who absolutely is a villain (in very much the same vein as the Count of Monte Christ or V, but with slightly more murder) and who it seems has read the entire Rules for the Overlord list and memorized it. Adversarial relationship with Jonathan Harker because Dracula has designs on Mina? No! Instead, Dracula hires Harker and pays him obscene amounts of money to dig up dirt on his enemies. Dracula goes so far as to buy Harker a house. Crazed, insane man-servant who thinks bugs are the ticket to immortality? Nope. Renfield is competent, perceptive, and utterly unafraid to call Dracula on his bullshit (Renfield is quite honestly the trusted lieutenant that every good supervillain wishes they had.) Creepy psuedo-rape of Mina? Why do that when he can be endlessly supportive of her ambitions to be a doctor and make it clear he values her as a person and not just as an object. He even has enough self-control to seduce, rather than kill, the Order’s premier vampire hunter, seeing the wisdom in keeping one’s friend’s close and enemies closer (way, way closer — although how does one have regular hot sex with a vampire without noticing they don’t have a heartbeat anyway?)
In short, he absolutely behaves like someone who’s had 400 years to figure out how this whole evil mastermind thing is done.
I’ll be curious to see what screws it up for him. I suspect it will be Van Helsing, whom Dracula doesn’t quite trust (a mutual feeling) and who is obviously stringing Dracula along on this whole ‘serum to tolerate sunlight’ deal. Mina probably won’t help either, given her snooping into her teacher’s (the same Van Helsing) private interests. There’s also himself: Dracula has quite a temper, and he occasionally behaves rashly. If they continue with the Count of Monte Cristo theme, I expect his own conscience to be his worst enemy, as his relationship and feelings for Mercedes (sorry: Mina) begin to interfere with his quest for revenge.
But that’s okay, because honestly his actual enemies need to step up their game. If Dracula self-destructs, that just puts them on even footing.