For every BBC adaptation I cover, I find myself cracking jokes through some of the recaps, commenting on how the BBC can never nail its landings, falling flat on its face during season finales. With the exception of His Dark Materials last year, Bodyguard, Killing Eve and even The Capture slipped up when it really mattered after strong openings and with Dracula riding a wave of good faith, it looked set to follow His Dark Materials and end things on a high.
Alas, it turns out that was a one-off. Resorting back to the usual Moffat hi-jinks and delivering a bizarre modern mash-up of Sherlock and Season 6 of Doctor Who, Dracula spectacularly throws itself in the sunlight and burns, after two episodes of dominating in the shadows. It’s an example of Moffat at his over-indulgently worse and mixed with BBC’s inability to end shows on a high, delivers one of the more frustratingly awful finales I’ve watched in a long time.
We begin in 1897 the night the duo of nuns were cornered in the basement. Agatha sacrifices herself to save Mina and as the Count sinks his teeth into her, we cut back to modern day England to find Dracula stalking a young woman after admitting to drinking her partner.
We then begin on the beach from last episode. It turns out Count Dracula’s been in the water for “only” 123 years and the person we believed to be Agatha is actually one of her descendants called Zoe. Dracula manages to fly away though and this brings us back to the original scene, where Dracula talks to the woman called Kathleen and discusses how a lot of the vampiric legends are wrong or misunderstood.
Zoe Van Helsing tracks him down and with a digger and cunning wits, tries to convince Dracula to get in a box after destroying part of Kathleen’s house. Instead, Count invites her to come in so they can talk and he winds up drinking her blood. Only, something goes wrong in the process and he vomits up thick globs of red before passing out on the floor. Now the group are able to control him and this appear to have been the plan the whole time.
Wherever Dracula has been taken, he’s moved straight into isolation while a portrait of Jonathan Harker is presented up on the wall. Here things start to descend into mundanity as we learn more about Harker’s bloodline, including a junior doctor called Jack with an obsession with a 22 year old girl called Lucy.
Jack arrives at the isolated facility where a woman briefs the team on the Demeter and what’s happened with Dracula over the past 100+ years. As the episode continues, Zoe drinks a vial of blood prompting a hypnotic crescendo of flashbacks, hallucinations and ideas to merge together that sees Zoe witness Agatha being bitten and then waking up in a field with the empty vial next to her.
We then cut forward three months, to find Lucy out on her hen party. Count Dracula has become pretty adept at using the internet and he’s been feeding on Lucy’s blood for a while now and as he continues to stalk her, he eventually drinks her blood more purposefully and kills her. After Lucy’s funeral, Zoe wakes up in the past where we see Agatha monologuing and discussing how to stop Dracula. Blood is lives, as Agatha says, and with this mixing of bloods it means she can transport through time and talk to her descendant.
As the episode reaches its climax, Drac sits down with Jack and Zoe, as Lucy arrives to become one of Dracula’s brides. Only she’s completely burnt and grotesque, prompting Jack to stake her. Commenting how beautiful the day is going to be, he leaves Zoe and the Count alone, as the former pulls down the curtains and watches as Dracula winces in the sunlight. It turns out he’s not actually weak to it though, it’s another vampiric myth. As he embraces the sunlight, he drinks Zoe’s blood, which happens to be his true poison, and dies in her arms where the episode, and mini-series, ends.
In the Dracula novel, the final third of the book is actually my favourite part as the Count makes it back to England and goes on a rampage. After yesterday’s twist I assumed they’d take this concept and make a fun cat-and-mouse bloodbath as Drac goes on the rampage in the night while Van Helsing and the police try to stop him. Here though, it’s less rampage and more nightclub shenanigans, facebook stalking and hallucinatory, mundane shots that do little to progress the story in a logical or entertaining way.
I have no doubt that after this Claes Bang will go on to star in plenty of adaptations and series in the future and if there’s one winner with this adaptation, it’s him. He portrays a wonderful Dracula and without his influence, the episode would be even more disappointing than it already is.
In a way, I’m not surprised the series has devolved in this manner but with His Dark Materials I thought naively that the BBC may have turned a corner and managed to nail the endings for its shows. Unfortunately not. After a solid opening couple of episodes, Dracula makes a case for being the top TV disappointment of the year already – 3 days into 2020. This one will be a toughie to beat on that list if I’m honest and I leave this adaptation disappointed and annoyed how this one has turned out. I’m guessing I won’t be the only one either. What a shame.