If you missed my part 1 review the link is below. Just to remind everyone that I loved it.
Part one ended with a snarling Dracula and everybody screaming. Including me but quietly as my babies were asleep.
So we open part 2 with an Indian Doctor and some men opening a sarcophagus. Inside there are scratches (fresh) on the lid and a ghoul type vampire jumps out and attacks them all. We then cut to Dracula and Sister Agatha talking in a room, with no explanation as to how they got there from the convent. Yet. She is still enquiring and inquisitive, but isn’t perplexed by the fact there has been a massive narrative jump. She and Dracula play a game of chess while he revels in telling her the story of how he came to the ‘new world’ of England. So far, structurally, very similar to part 1. Jump in and flashback.
Dracula begins his tale and warns us not to get attached to any of the players. They are all doomed.
A young sailor called Piotr dying, a very serious Orthadox priest and a weeping mother, while another young man (who we later learn is called Marius) sweeps the room. This young man is ushered out of the room so that the dead boy can be staked through the heart by his mother. Dracula has been here.
We then scan down to the boat, the Demeter, where all the passengers are getting on and we are introduced, briefly, to them. In my opinion, this is a great part of the story to tell. Why? Well, because it’s something new. Very few adaptations of the novel tell this story because in the novel, it is barely a handful of pages, and it is just a means to an end. Dracula eats everyone (not surprising) as he makes his way to England. For Stoker’s story, the Demeter is just a plot point to get his monster to England.
So we meet the people. A newly married couple, the Ruthvens (nice nod to Polidori) with their black male valet, the Indian doctor, Dr Sharma, and his deaf daughter from the start, a Countess, the cook, the crew and captain, and of course, silly Marius. His dead friend Piotr was supposed to be on the boat and Marius takes his place, thinking it’s his ticket out of a dead end town. Oh dear. We, of course, see Dracula and hear of an ill passenger in room 9 (a lovely nod to ‘Inside number 9’ another Gatiss masterpiece) who is not to be disturbed.
Once again, good characterisation is the driving force of the episode, which is difficult to do when there is a range of characters. There is a real sense of claustrophobia on this ship, that is enhanced by the supernatural fog Dracula wreathes the ship in. (So that he can walk around in the day.) We learn that the aging Grand Duchess had already had an encounter with Dracula in her youth, when her mother disappeared. We also see more of how Dracula’s feeding allows him to absorb knowledge.
In his conversation with the Grand Duchess, she slips into German and he struggles to understand, possibly because it’s a newer dialect? There are also no subtitles so I think we are supposed to feel confused along with him. He excuses himself and feeds on the stuttering German crewmate, returning to be fluent. This builds on the ideas of ‘blood is lives’ and the ‘friend of Dracula’ from part 1. Dracula absorbs knowledge from his victims and those he feeds on are able to understand each other. (E.g. Jonathan and the bride who asks for help in ep 1).
Dracula is unable to stop himself and coaxes the aging noblewoman under his spell. She remembers that he was at the party where her mother disappeared and that she danced with him. The scene then immediately cuts to her being bitten by Dracula.
Two people are missing and, understandably, the others are upset. Dracula, smug and hillarious, isn’t really hiding that he’s responsible but he isn’t suspected yet. The scene shifts back to Dracula and Agatha playing chess, where she gently scolds him for his gluttony. She is completely unafraid and unflappable BUT HOW THE HELL DID SHE GET THERE?!?!?
As I said earlier, good characterisation and amazing tiny subplots really make this episode. The next group of people the episode focuses on the newly-wed Ruthvens and the valet. The episode sets its stall out almost immediately: the young, white, husband and the young, black, valet are clearly in a relationship and the marriage is a sham to hide the inter-racial, homosexual realtionship.
And there is so. Much. Rage. Especially, as the husband is dropping lots of ‘we are having so much married sex’ hints.
It is delicious.
The young bride has NO IDEA and is deliriously happy because of course she is. Foolishly, she wanders around the ship at night and is fed on. He is seen by the doctor’s deaf daughter who is visibly afraid of him at the ship meeting about all the disappearances.
Dracula is glutting himself on these passengers and we are on tenterhooks, waiting for the passengers to clock on. At this point most of the crew has taken off with one of the lifeboats, preferring the dangers of the sea, over the dangers of the ship. The ship is searched again and the people decide it must be the person in room 9.
In a moment of delicious realisation, we click who is in that room. Agatha and Dracula are still playing their game of chess, but suddenly, she is losing. And then she also realises.
She is the person in room 9, exhausted and dying, her body beginning to fall apart in the same way that Jonathan’s was. (Think loose finger nails).
Of course, Dracula has planted items from the missing people inside the room, and Agatha is declared as the monster. In reality, he was keeping her trapped in a dream, the place where they were playing chess and chatting. In reality, Sister Agatha sacrificed herself to Dracula in the convent to save Mina.
Having seen what happened to Jonathan, Agatha knows that her time is limited. As the crew prepare to hang her, Agatha ‘admits’ that she is a vampire but she bites her lip, which makes it bleed. Dracula can’t help it and reveals himself for what he is. Panic ensues as he disappears into the fog and the crew have no idea where he is.
Dr Sharma takes his daughter back to his cabin, where he prepares her for the inevitable by giving her a bottle of poison. Of course, Dracula is in his room because the Doctor is a brilliant mind that Dracula wants to absorb. Lord Ruthven is also in the room and we discover that he is now in Dracula’s thrall. It wasn’t that surprising; throughout the episode there were lots of stolen glances and meaningful silences between them, building on the homoeroticism that has always followed the Dracula mythos.
Sharma’s daughter takes her own life and Ruthven shoots the Doctor. Dracula isn’t angry or upset but just kind of goes ‘Well, boo’ before turning on Ruthven. Which I shouted ‘Huzzah!’ at. He deserved it.
The others build a circle from the pages of a Bible to protect themselves but Piotr (Marius) is late getting there and they make him jump out of the circle and cross back over to proove he isn’t Dracula. I was on the edge of my seat, fully and rightfully expecting Drac to pop up and go for the poor boy. Luckily, he gets back in time but Lord Ruthven’s valet and lover, Adisi, realising he is dead, and unable to believe the Dracula is really a vampire, challenges Dracula to a duel and is quickly dispatched. Despite everyone in the circle, and me and hubs at home, screaming for him not to leave the circle.
The remaining people on the boat go for Dracula and set him on fire. He plunges into the water. Agatha, knowing that she is doomed to the same fate as Jonathan says that the boat must never reach England. Piotr and the chef are allowed to leave with a lifeboat, while the Captain and Agatha stay behind to destroy Dracula’s boxes of soil, so that he cannot use them to rest in in England, and blow up the ship.
An odd sense of quiet has descended on the Demeter as Agatha sets up her explosives to sink the ship. It is unnerving, especially as any background music is now gone and all there is is the sound of a ship. We lean in. Surely there is another twist.
Of course there is.
Agatha visits Dracula’s cabin and realises that the bed she is sitting on is filled with soil. And Dracula has already used it to restore himself after the fire. The Captain is leapt upon and wounded, but Dracula is arrogant enough to assume he is dead when he beckons Agatha for one last conversation. The Captain tells her to keep him busy while he blows up the ship.
And she does it beautifully, continuing to psycho-analyse him, distracting him long enough for the Captain to light the fuse. We are plunged into the water with Dracula as the ship shatters into millions of pieces.
There are of course the obligatory going through water shots as Dracula simply walks through the water and onto the beach at Whitby. He laughs as he catches sight of the ruined abbey on the hill before a flood light snaps on and he is surrounded by armed guards and helicopters.
Hubby and I went ‘Huh?’ in Scooby do fashion as Sister Agatha reappeared, with a very English accent, in a very much 21st C England.
And it’s here where it begins to get a bit Moffaty but that’s for the next review.
Until next time