The second episode of Dracula took Claes Bang’s vampire to sea, where a crew of unlucky passengers on the sailing ship The Demeter became his new larder en route to England while Dolly Wells’ Sister Agatha learned a lot more about her new foe.
And by the end of the 90-minute adventure, just like after the first episode, we were left with an awful lot of questions about what could come next in writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ new horror adaptation.
1. Did any of this happen in the book?
Well, sort of. In Bram Stoker’s original novel Dracula the Count does board the Demeter to travel to England, and he does pick off the crew one-by-one, but it’s a much shorter segment of the book – just four pages in fact – and happens in quite a different way.
In the book, the Demeter is only carrying cargo, not passengers, and the crew are unaware that Dracula is aboard. Instead, he lurks below in his boxes of earth, or mould (a description of the cargo used in the TV show as well), only emerging to feed on select members of the crew.
This change is referenced by Bang’s bloodsucker during the episode – he notes that he would be too bored to just sleep in the boxes for four weeks – and you can read more about the differences here and why Gatiss and Moffat introduced them here.
But speaking of one particularly big difference…
2. How did the Count end up in the present day?
Now here’s a question! In a big twist at the end of the episode, Count Dracula sinks to the bottom of the sea in one of his boxes, then breaks out and walks ashore at Whitby – but suddenly he’s assailed by helicopters and modern police officers. Somehow, 123 years have passed since his voyage of the Demeter, and he’s now in 2020. But how?
Well, what seems most likely to us is that the Count’s slumber in the sea was a little longer than it appeared onscreen, with Bang’s vampire actually stuck, unconscious, for well over a century. As an immortal, he could presumably emerge from such an exile the exact same age and with little knowledge of the time that had passed.
That, or he discovered a time-travelling wooden box. Stranger things have happened…
3. How is Agatha still alive?
More perplexing than the Count’s survival, though, is that of Sister Agatha, who appears on the beach to greet her old sparring partner to England.
“Welcome to England, Count Dracula,” she says. “What kept you?”
Speaking without her Dutch accent, wearing modern clothes and apparently in command of the police arriving, Agatha’s clearly been busy since we last saw her – but how is she still alive?
Well, as far as we can tell there are two options. The most obvious is that Agatha, despite her best efforts, still succumbed to the Count’s infection, became an undead vampire and has survived the past 120 years or so as a fellow immortal.
Something about this doesn’t quite ring true, however. It’s hard to imagine Agatha, a woman willing to kill herself to prevent the contagion spreading to England, instead happily setting up shop, feasting on the blood of intelligent people (to keep her mind sharp) and generally existing as a vampire for all this time. What would make her different from Count Dracula in that regard?
Sure, she could have found some less destructive way to keep herself alive as a vampire, but it’s hard to see how – the series has been quite clear that the Count has only retained so much of his humanity from choosing victims carefully – or why she’d take the risk anyway.
On the other hand, it could be that Agatha became some other form of undead who doesn’t require blood to live – the Count noted it was an inexact science – and has dedicated her newly lengthened life to protecting the world from the Count, if and when he should return.
On the other other hand, it could be that this isn’t the Agatha we know at all. Perhaps this version of Dolly Wells’ character is a descendant of the original (yes, she was a nun, but we all have a past), tasked with carrying on her vampire-battling ways over a hundred years on. She has a different accent, after all.
3. How did they know when and where the Count would emerge?
This is a little perplexing – given that the Count apparently came out of the water a very long time later than he had planned, how were the authorities so ready for him? How were they able to time their intercept so perfectly, and how did they know where he’d even turn up?
If Agatha is a vampire, maybe her enhanced senses or connection to Dracula allowed her a certain warning of his approach – if she’s not, perhaps she just surveilled the likely areas in Whitby (near where the Demeter sank) where he might conceivably pop up, and an alarm was set off when he did.
And maybe, just maybe we’re overthinking this whole thing. He’s in the present day! Let’s just roll with it.
4. What happened to Mina?
Of course, Agatha’s not the only character with a question mark hanging over her. During the episode, in an offhand moment it’s revealed that Morfydd’s Clark’s Mina Murray (the unlucky fiancé of John Heffernan’s Harker from the first episode) actually survived the Count’s attack on the convent in Hungary, fleeing when the Count let her go.
Considering how easily he could have killed her (and that we the audience might have assumed he had anyway based on episode one’s cliffhanger), the fact that he’s specifically shown not doing so seems significant. Does Mina still have a part to play?
Yes, sure, she’d be long dead by the time Dracula emerges from the sea, but perhaps she put measures in place to defend England against him when the time came – or perhaps one of her descendants will take her place in his sights. Either way, we somehow doubt we’ve seen the last of Clark…
5. Was that another Sherlock reference?
The first episode of Dracula had a fun little reference to Moffat and Gatiss’ other literary adaptation Sherlock – and if we’re not mistaken, there was a bit of a nod to Benedict Cumberbatch’s sleuth (and Dracula’s differences from him) in this edition as well.
“I made a good detective, don’t you think?” Dracula asks Agatha after his “investigation” into who could be murdering the crew is revealed to be a cover for his own activities.
“I have a particular gift for eliminating suspects…”
6. Why does Dracula fear the cross?
The mystery of why the Count alone fears the crucifix when other vampires don’t continues in this episode.
After dismissing Agatha’s theory in episode one that he fears the cross because of its fundamental goodness, tonight Dracula posited another theory – that actually, after centuries of drinking the blood of Transylvanian peasants who feared the power and violence of the church, he has absorbed their terror.
“It’s not a symbol of virtue and kindness, it’s a mark of horror and oppression,” he tells Agatha.
“My God, I can’t wait to eat some atheists.”
But Agatha is still unconvinced, telling the Count he’s lying to himself and that the true reason is something else entirely – so will we finally know the true reason in the final episode? We can but hope.
7. How will the story continue in the 21st Century?
The BBC has remained tight-lipped about Dracula’s third episode from the off, and now we can see why – as we predicted, the story has been brought to the present day despite regular denials from the creators.
But how will this twist work? Currently, all we know about episode three comes from the official synopsis, which seems fairly close to Stoker’s original book storyline.
Count Dracula has made it to England – a new world pulsing with fresh blood – and lays his plans to spread his foul vampire contagion.
But why does he set his sights on the seemingly ordinary Lucy Westenra? And who on earth is left to stop him?
Presumably, Lucy Westenra (a key character in the novel who’s friends with Mina and becomes a victim of Dracula) is a present-day woman in this retelling, and it seems likely she’s being played by Lydia Wilson given that she’s one of the few announced cast members yet to appear thus far.
Other cast members we could expect in The Dark Compass include Being Human’s Lyndsey Marshal and Vienna Blood’s Matthew Beard (and yes, both those past examples of work were chosen carefully).
If Dracula is arrested by Agatha, how does he escape to attack Lucy? Will his plans change now that he’s been so long delayed? And how can the whole series end in just one more episode?
Happily, we don’t have long to find out…
Dracula concludes on BBC One on Friday 3rd January at 9pm