Lizard Chew Review -- Double Cross

Lizard Chew Review of Double Cross:

"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

"Double Cross" is a solid if not particularly inspired episode. I confess that the shows in which Gustav's endearing fuddy-duddiness is a focus rather than a sidelight don't much appeal to me, and since "Dracula: the Series" normally gets by on charm and style rather than substance, that means that it's hard for me to find something to like in episodes like "Double Cross." Fortunately, most of the other elements are good.

The subplot of "Double Cross" is Max's quest to get the Cross of the Magyars blessed, and it works reasonably well. This escapade introduces Max to the pleasures and perils of reading. "Dracula" is meant to be "family-oriented" television, and it tries to be so in a way I approve of: while avoiding sex (but not romance!) and excessive violence, it presents a family which is strong and loving but hardly saccharine. It also makes the occasional tip of the hat to the importance of reading--even archival research!--without pretending that such pursuits are always immediately exciting to kids. How many other children's shows emphasize that, if you want to defeat the villain, you have to spend time rummaging through files? Or, in this case, reading old books? The hyper-imaginative Max was bound to turn into an avid reader sooner or later given the chance (in "Bats in the Attic" we see him excited by Lawrence's collection of books on the supernatural), and with Gustav's library of weird old tomes, it's hardly surprising that it happens here. Nor is it surprising that his book inspires him to run off to get the cross blessed on incomplete information; Max's self-reliance is going to stand him in good stead someday, but right now it chiefly serves to get him in trouble. I adore the weird German at the church, who looks like he plays in a goth band Friday evenings down at Fat Eddie's American Rock-N-Roll Shack, and the way that Max anxiously negotiates with him. (His reaction to Dracula at the end is a scream!) That is also one of the loveliest graveyards I've ever seen, with a fine view of the valley. Max's confession of his mistake, when he covers his eyes and points to the place where the cross used to be, is right in character. For once, at least, reacting to this mistake, evaluating the danger and going for the holy water, Sophie gets to be calm, sensible, and resourceful--at least until Dracula shows up and she turns into the Clinging Maiden again.

Lucard is in great form in "Double Cross," except at the very end. Not only does he look marvelous throughout, his smug and gleeful manner is magnificent. He manages to achieve the perfect balance between chill and charm--"For a little...pleasure!"--and avoids outright goofiness, a definite danger. "Dracula: the Series" always amazes me by the way it is able to be silly without being totally ridiculous, and the linchpin of that success is the way that Lucard manages to be stylish, self-aware and melodramatic without either taking himself too seriously or degenerating into some "Batman" or James Bond villain. (I firmly believe that the writers of "Profit" were influenced by this show.) That the character is clearly meant to be able to be serious and respectable helps, but the fact remains that Geordie Johnson is often called on by the script to be humorous yet scary, a difficult task if one is barred from the truly black humor of a show like "Profit," and he pulls it off. "Double Cross" is a fine example of this. When Lucard laughs, he laughs smugly, not maniacally (that's reserved for our dear Klaus); even when he licks his teeth in this episode in anticipation of dining at the Helsings', he does it in a discreet and (dare I say) sensual way, rather than as a broad, hammy gesture. The weakest part of his acting is, as usual, his actual vampire attack. I like his little exchange with Max, where he's clearly amused to have impressed the boy--and then his smile suddenly turns into a baring of fangs; but otherwise he's not terribly convincing. It must be hard, though, to move around looking menacing for some time (once or more per episode, too!) without ever getting actually to bite anyone.

As for the plot: as I said, it didn't interest me very much. I actually feel sorry for Peter Dyson, who is certainly being ungracious (after decades, hasn't he learned to accept his wife's friendship for Gustav?) but is in an uncomfortable position. In fact, he's better-looking, more respectable, and a better dresser than Gustav is; little wonder Anna married him instead of Gustav. Anna is a good-hearted, simple, frank woman and does seem like the sort of woman who would get on well with Gustav (yes, the mystery of Mrs. Helsing raises its head yet again!). Unfortunately, the episode's brief turn into seriousness when Gustav talks to the unconscious Anna, lamenting his responsibility for her having been attacked, for some reason simply fails to work. I didn't mind seeing the Dysons go (Chris's reaction to Peter's farewell was great), although I did appreciate the fact that Anna gets referred to in at least one other episode later ("Mind Over Matter"); "Dracula" has surprisingly good internal continuity for a show of its kind. The tag of Max reading intently in bed ends the episode on just the right note.

Favorite quote: "Although I realize that closing the plant in Arvennes will put hundreds out of work and perhaps kill the town, one must was an ugly little town, anyway."

Worst plot hole: This episode deserves special commendation; there simply are no obvious ones, although some things are imperfectly explained (but what can you expect in a half-hour show?)

Best Lucard image: The shot of him leaning forward on his bike and smiling after he says, "For a little pleasure."

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