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Sex, Drugs and Control: Dracula “Goblin Merchant Men” Review

By on November 9, 2013

Pictured: Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Alexander Grayson -- Photo by: Jonathon Hession/NBC

Dracula re-defined the term excessive in this week’s episode,“Goblin Merchant Men,” but managed to invest us more in the man behind the monster.

At the start of the episode we see the transformation from Van Temps to Dracula. The Order seizes Van Temps, beats him, pours blood down his throat, then slices his neck open from ear to ear. He isn’t dead, however, only condemned to a life without daylight. We jump forward and hear the good news: Grayson is now a majority stockholder of the British Imperial Coolant.

At Grayson’s instruction, Jonathan and Reinfeld set out to build relationships with several prominent and pertinent members of business society. He is a bit distracted, however, by his issues with Mina. She with him as well, despite her recent good fortunes and Harker’s offensive scene at the party last week. Instead of throwing herself into work though, Mina ventures out with Lucy to have a good time.

The first time they stumble back home during morning hours. This is much to the disappointment of Grayson, who had been waiting all night to see Mina’s response to the flowers and letter he left her. When Mina wakes she realizes that she has missed her class and goes to Van Helsing to apologize. It works out for her though as she becomes his assistant for her next term at school. During her second instance of drunken debauchery though, Mina wonders in a dream like state into a place with quite a familiar looking tree. When she wakes up she bumps into an unsavory character who is swiftly manhandled by Grayson.

Despite his interest in her, Grayson spends the rest of the episode playing matchmaker for Jonathan and Mina. He has a sit down with Jonathan, enlightening him about the oddness of his mindset regarding Mina. Jonathan than goes to her house, where he apologizes and Mina accepts. Not too long before he has begun to walk off, Mina runs after him and proposes. With no ring in hand, Jonathan gives Mina his cross.

Lady Jane is busy tracking her vampire, but her plans fall through in a major way. After turning to a doctor to acquire assistance for her seekers, the doctor turns around and tells Van Helsing. Van Helsing reaches out to Dracula, but he doesn’t seem too concerned by it. Van Helsing takes matters into his own hands, messing with the serum so that when the seekers do take it, they are poisoned and paralyzed. Van Helsing than “handles” the situation with his bare hands. Those seekers are not the only ones to pass as Laurent also pays – with his life – for his closeted romance and selling of company shares.

Harker spent the episode on a learning curve, beginning to understand his new role as Grayson’s employee, a man of social status and his love for a norms-defying woman. It was the latter scene that worked most well for him, particularly after his fit at the end of “A Whiff Of Sulfur.” There is a sweetness about Mina and Harker, despite his failings, that have you interested in seeing their relationship succeed. Grayson had a few moments of his own, the most heartfelt of which had her standing lengths away. Unlike before, he didn’t long to have or be with her. Merely see her smile. In addition, we watched as he later showed mercy with a vampire Lady Jane locked away. Both scenes did well to remind us of the human side of Dracula.

Pictured: Nonso Anozie as R.M. Renfield -- Photo by: Jonathon Hession/NBC

Pictured: Nonso Anozie as R.M. Renfield — Photo by: Jonathon Hession/NBC

One unforeseen love storyline was between Lucy and Mina. It was nice to see a character whose sexuality is often ignored (and hidden) during this time period not used as an in-the-closet storyline. Another moment worth noting, if only to illustrate a more positive side of the show’s racialized power dynamics, was Reinfeld’s response to a businessman’s blatant disrespect of his presence at a meeting with Harker. He then went on to clear things up with Harker after about savior mentalities. In the same episode, however, we witnessed two very tropey black characters beaten to death during the episode’s final minutes, something that should have made you uncomfortable on several levels.

There was also a scene with Mina during which she is approached by a fellow patron at a drug-induced dance fest. Grayson comes in to save the day, but unnecessarily so as Mina has, until this point, seemed like quite a clever and capable woman. If she could not physically remove herself from the situation, one would have thought she could at least talk her way out of it.

The episode started off strong and interesting enough. We watched as Van Temps went from man to monster, embracing his new form. We also had some short, but tender moments of love. While last week’s episode struggled with character investment, this week struggled to find purpose beyond style. Yes, the world is dark and edgy, but the brutality and sexuality come off as excessive. At some points it even overshadowed the larger and more important storylines, which worked negatively against the characters.

One Comment

  1. starlady227

    November 11, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    I so want to love this show but so far it’s not happening. It’s moving too slow for me. Jonathan Rhys Meyers was so awesome in The Tudors. I had such high hopes.

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