Episode 3: “The Dark Compass”
Directed by Paul McGuigan
Written by Mark Gatiss & Steven Moffat
* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
We briefly return to 1897, when Count Dracula (Claes Bang) emerged from the skin of Harker, in front of Mina (Morfydd Clark) and Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells). The nun bartered for Mina’s life, telling the Count to take her instead. “Come, boy— suckle,” she beckoned before he took a great big CHOMP on her neck.
And so, we jump ahead 123 years to the future, after Dracula crawled ashore in the night. He makes his way to a store, breaking in to get a nice suit, then gets into someone’s house. A woman wakes to find him, not her husband, above the bed. She goes downstairs and discovers that there’s a small fridge with a nasty surprise waiting inside: her undead husband.
The night prior, Zoe Helsing met Dracula on the shore. He only saw Agatha. He had trouble reconciling 123 years in the ocean. He found it pretty comical, and he was loving all the technology of the future. The Count could smell Agatha’s bloodline flowing in Zoe’s veins, too. He got his hands on one of the team’s guns with his charm, shooting the woman. Then he grabbed hold of Zoe, eventually disappearing in a swarm of bats.
Seeing Dracula marvel at the “treasure trove” of Kathleen’s middle class home is hilarious and sad, because capitalism. He explains to her he’s a vampire and he’s been around for centuries upon centuries, complimenting her house to her surprise. She asks about his reflection. He tells her much of vampire legend is wrong. He does see a reflection in the mirror: he sees his true, decrepit form. Something interesting about this adaptation of Bram Stoker’s work is seeing the Count absorb people and their thoughts (etc), because it gives him even more of an edge.
When the sun’s coming up, Zoe gets through to Dracula over the phone. There’s a box for him to get inside. She urges him to get in, as part of the roof is knocked in. The Count heads downstairs into the dark, asking Zoe to come in with him. That fridge is left open and undead husband Bob calls out: “Kill me!” Enough time for the vampire to take a nibble on Zoe’s neck. Except it backfires. He vomits the blood up and passes out, allowing Zoe’s people to get Dracula in the box. He’s transported to a place with a painting of none other than Jonathan Harker hanging on the wall. Ancestral revenge? Hmm.
Then there’s Jack Seward (Matthew Beard), hopeful mental health doctor. He keeps getting calls from Jonathan Harker. Curious, no? He’s also desperately in love with Lucy (Lydia West), who’s got herself an American dude. We see Jack go to the Jonathan Harker Foundation, where they have Count Dracula. He meets up with Dr. Helsing and they go see a presentation of when they found the Demeter shipwrecked below the ocean. Dracula was in a “restorative coma” and woke up when one of the divers got her fingers too close to his chompers. They let him wake up and waited for him on shore.
The Count is held in an interesting contraption of a cage, which keeps him subdued with a barrier of sunlight. Zoe comes for a chat and to take some of the vampire’s blood as a sample. He isn’t interested in “women‘s rights,” nor the rights of “man, woman, or monster.” He’s an ancient being in a postmodern world. Right now, he has no choice other than comply with Dr. Helsing. He gives over his blood, requiring him to cut open his veins himself because his skin’s so thick. Meanwhile, he tries to figure out more about the foundation with Harker’s name. Zoe doesn’t give up much, if anything at all. He does suss out that she has cancer, which is why he couldn’t drink her blood.
Then Frank Renfield (Mark Gatiss) drops by, declaring himself the Count’s lawyer. See, Drac has been online Skyping and he got in contact with the firm he’s been using since 1896. A fun, interesting use of the R.M. Renfield character, too. This throws a wrench into Dr. Helsing’s plans for the ancient vampire.
“Democracy is the tyranny of the uninformed”
The only way for Zoe to try and beat Dracula once and for all?
Drink his blood. And she does, indeed.
In the meantime, the Count’s finding out more about the “occult” nature of the Jonathan Harker Foundation. He also ends up with Seward’s phone, answering a call from Lucy. This leads the Count to a night out at the clerb. A potential feeding ground for a hungry boy like him. At the same moment, Zoe’s waking up from her vampire blood drunk.
Skip ahead three months later.
Dracula’s attempting to keep his body fit due to the laziness of technology making everybody complacent. He’s got Renfield there, serving the master. He’s also continuing to chat up Lucy. Yikes! She’s been marked already by his vampiric teeth. She goes out later for a nighttime romp with Big D. They go to a graveyard to hear the undead, sentient below the ground as they rot. “Children of the night— what music they make,” Dracula says while they listen to the choir of voices. Terribly creepy stuff. Also a bit of terribly cheesy dialogue.
Poor Lucy’s left for dead in the graveyard, near sucked dry. She isn’t well afterwards and won’t go to a doctor. She refuses, so Jack goes to see her. He notices a mark on her neck which obviously troubles him. Immediately he phones Dr. Helsing, find out she’s currently in the hospital. He goes to visit Zoe for advice. Elsewhere, a dead grave baby is haunting Lucy in the night, and she’s saved by Dracula. At least for a moment, then she’s locked away in her body. She’s loaded into the casket, then into the furnace, screaming to nobody except herself. She does get out, somehow.
Everything’s gone wild now. Agatha is communicating with Zoe via their shared bloodline, while Lucy’s back from the dead. Dracula gets a visit from Zoe and Seward later. He’s quickly aggressive, hoping to get a snack out of Jack’s veins before the night’s over. Zoe wants to get chatting, revealing that Lucy went into the fire. This doesn’t deter Dracula once he hears someone ringing up to his apartment: Lucy’s arrived. She’s in a horrific state, unlike the beautiful reflection she sees. Zoe offers up a phone to take a selfie, to try showing Lucy her real form. Lucy’s revolted by her burned body.
Jack asks Lucy to kiss him now. And he uses this opportunity to put a stake in her heart. In the aftermath, Zoe believes she’s figured out what truly scares the Count. She orders Jack to leave, so she and Dracula might speak alone. She pulls a Peter Cushing on him and runs straight for the drapes, pulling them down to reveal daylight. However, it doesn’t kill Dracula. So she says it’s “the rules of the beast” which bind the vampire, habits that “become fetishes” that eventually rule them. But why? Zoe believes it’s all from shame, that Dracula wishes he could die, that he could face it like humans.
Thus, Dracula steps into the light without shame, and the light doesn’t kill him.
He chooses to drink Zoe’s poisonous blood, so that they die together.
“Life isn’t forever”
This episode was a mess. Very interesting things happening here with this postmodern adaptation of Dracula. In general, the finale went off the rails slowly, minute by minute. Too bad. A weak ending compared to two really solid episodes. Nice to see an extension of the story into the 21st century, yet Father Gore would’ve preferred just more new adaptation of Stoker’s story set in 1897, or slightly after, because there were already wonderfully compelling things going on here.
Either way, this adaptation was a good deal of fun while the fun lasted.