Like Dracula’s first episode, Episode 2, entitled Blood Vessel, expands one small section of Bram Stoker’s novel into a full 90 minutes. In this case, Count Dracula’s voyage from Transylvania to England on Russian ship, Demeter, takes centre stage. From a narrative perspective, Gatiss and Moffat have a lot of wiggle-room to expand on the Count’s tale with his voyage on the Demeter.
Blood Vessel Sets Sail for an Almost Perfect Episode
Sit back and relax, because quite a bit happens in this episode. Though Rules of the Beast ended with Dracula confronting Sister Agatha and Mina, Blood Vessel opens with the Count and Van Helsing playing a game of chess. Hoping to discover Dracula’s motives and weaknesses, Sister Agatha encourages him to narrate his trip aboard the Demeter, and the Count happily obliges. Somewhat surprisingly, Dracula openly walks amongst the crew and passengers; he’s a social butterfly as it turns out. It helps that he casts a swirling fog that follows the Demeter and blocks out the sun. Aside from Captain Sokolov and his superstitious crew, several aristocratic passengers join the Count. With each passing night, Dracula drains passenger and crew alike, gaining their knowledge through the blood.
As the Demeter starts to thin out, most of Sokolov’s crew mutiny.
The remaining survivors force the Captain to finally let them into the mysterious ‘Cabin Nine’, where an unknown passenger has stayed unseen. Inside the room, Dracula is waiting with … Sister Agatha. Their chess match just a dream, Dracula has slowly drained Van Helsing. To make matters worse, he fingers Sister Agatha as the killer stalking the Demeter. As the remaining crew prepare to hang her, the resourceful Van Helsing exposes Dracula. As the Demeter’s survivors escape, a dying Sister Agatha blows up the ship, sending Dracula to the ocean floor. But Dracula’s undead so he emerges from the water on England’s coast – 127 years later – where a woman who looks like Sister Agatha, joined by a military team and helicopter, waits for him.
Blood Vessel Shows How to Do a Modern Dracula … Until Its Unnecessary Twist
In Blood Vessel, Gatiss and Moffat continue to re-energize Dracula with some zippy story-telling. Though setting an entire episode on the Demeter didn’t initially sound appealing, it works surprisingly well. Gatiss and Moffat’s non-linear narrative structure keeps you guessing where the episode will next turn. Wisely, they also avoid over-using the technique. Not surprisingly, several new characters turn into ‘blood banks’ just as they’re getting interesting. But Blood Vessel leaves a few of these around…Yes, Dracula’s vampire mythology is a little unnecessarily murky.
… a time-jump throws some of this winning formula out the window.
Where Blood Vessel loses points is for its unnecessary closing twist. Perhaps Gatiss and Moffat are trying too hard to emulate Hammer Films. Older horror fans may recall Hammer Film’s Dracula AD and The Satanic Rites of Dracula. And by recall, I don’t mean ‘recall fondly’. Over its two episodes, Dracula has mostly nailed its mix of nostalgic Gothic with contemporary story-telling. Now a time-lapse throws some of this winning formula out the window.
Dracula Leaves Things Wide Open for Final Episode
If you’ve enjoyed Dracula’s mix of Gothic with its more contemporary gore and humour, guess what – you’re probably not getting more of it in the final episode. After Blood Vessel continued to find new ways to reinvigorate the centuries-old ‘Prince of Darkness’, Gatiss and Moffat threw in a final swerve that can’t help but feel unnecessary. Watching Dracula wreak havoc on old London would have made for an entertaining final episode for its first season. Maybe a time-jump might have felt better as a conclusion to the season – it could have opened things up for a potential future season. As it stands, Dracula feels like its missed out on an opportunity.