Who doesn’t love a good Dracula story? Throughout the decades, the famed bloodsucker has been depicted in a multitude of fascinating ways. In some renditions he’s an abomination of nature, while in others he’s an ancient Eastern European warrior who makes his way from his dark, dank castle to sate his love of a woman.
Showtime’s Penny Dreadful takes the vampiric lore a step further by not only making him a by-product of the Christian mythos but making him the relative of one of the greatest foes in Christianity.
Penny Dreadful isn’t the first time we’ve seen a Dracula associated with religion. In my personal favorite Dracula movie, 1992's Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the vampire is a bastardized version of Vlad the Impaler, who after serving the church in a crusade against the Turks, renounces God when the love of his life is denied a burial due to her manipulated suicide.
Nearly a decade later, in the Gerard Butler-led Dracula 2000, we saw a new twist on the fanger. In this film, Dracula is none other than Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 original disciples of Christ and the disciple who betrayed the son of God to those who wanted to arrest him.
But Penny Dreadful takes the cake.
In Season 1, the strong and enigmatic Vanessa Ives (played remarkably by Eva Green) is being pursued by a powerful being. With Bram Stoker’s Dracula as the literary foundation for this plotline, Penny Dreadful's Dracula uses Vanessa’s childhood friend, Mina Harker, as bait to draw her out. The audience is initially unsure as to who is seeking out Vanessa, but we learn the monster in question is vampiric and has sent his vampire minions to do his bidding.
While the vampire is ultimately unsuccessful in snagging her, he lies dormant throughout Season 2 until his major comeback in Season 3. In his absence, however, we learn a little more about him. In the midst of Vanessa being pursued by the Devil himself, it turns out the vampire who is also in pursuit of the clairvoyant heroine is not just any vampire. He is the brother of “The Fallen One,” known by many other names, such as Lucifer, the Antichrist, you name it. As told by the supernatural series, the two brothers were fallen angels. While one was banished to Hell, the other was banished to earth to feed off the blood of the living. Sounds familiar, right?
Though Dracula doesn’t manifest himself into the handsome, charming "Professor Sweet" until Season 3, we learn of the brothers' desire for Vanessa as the Devil sends a coven of Nightcomers (witches) to secure Vanessa for himself in Season 2.
In Season 1, a young Dr. Victor Frankenstein is tasked with an autopsy on the body of a vampire captured following a brawl. Beneath the skin are hieroglyphs from the ancient "Book of the Dead," containing a spell to resurrect the ancient god Amun-Ra and his female counterpart, Amunet. Vanessa, who has always had a connection to the supernatural since her childhood, is able to channel the spirit of the Ancient Egyptian goddess Amunet, making her a desirable entity to the brothers.
A union of either lord of darkness can — and will — bring about the end of days. With both brothers looking to reinvent the world in their image (like their creator), Vanessa’s connection to this older, primordial spirit makes her a rare gem to have in their clutches.
Fortunately for us all, the Devil fails to get his hellish paws on Ms. Ives, but his brother takes a page from his book of seduction and is able to secure Vanessa long enough to bring about darkness across the work.
Posing as a zoologist, Dracula appeals to Vanessa by using his understanding of animals to speak to man's duality, all the complications therein lies with staying true to one's nature, and being loved and worshipped for it. In religion, the Devil has always been depicted as appealing to a person's darker, more sinister sentiments and coaxing them to do what's not "right," for the sake of pleasure. For someone like Vanessa, who has been in an internal struggle with her "otherness," Dracula's similar arguments prove most appealing. And much like his serpentine brother, who convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, he is able to bend Vanessa's will to his by addressing her otherness as beautifully necessary and something to express rather than suppress. With charm and ease, he is able to tear down her restraints and, in so doing, takes her under this dark wing.
This take on the Dracula myth is one for the books, as the vamp is not just your standard nightwalker. In fact, he walks in the daylight and does not adhere to the traditional weaknesses of other stories. As a supreme being molded by the master creator, he’s more than just a standard blood drinker. While he’s charismatic, strong, and a master manipulator, he’s godly in his own right due to his angelic past, and this backstory is a pretty refreshing take on the seductive monster.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.