It Was An Ugly Little Town Anyway
The second episode, "Double Cross," opens with the introduction of the Cross of the Magyars. Nothing like shooting yourself in the foot with a "maybe he's Jewish" remark in the pilot. Although that would've been way more interesting as plot devices go.
The actual person that Stoker used as a template for Van Helsing was Jewish. So making Gustav Helsing a Jew does make some sense. And that could've opened the door to make Sophie Jewish as well, which would've probably made Mia Kirshner more comfortable.
Here's a thought: maybe Sophie is Jewish, and harboring a deep-seated resentment toward Gustav over the religious issue. The writers made him very clearly Catholic, as evidenced by the church sexton and grave digger extraordinaire knowing where he lives. But we're never given more than the barest hints of Sophie's background in the pilot.
Maybe the production team wanted them Jewish, but didn't get any further than hinting this point in the pilot. Maybe some broadcasting bigwigs in 1990 said they wouldn't pick up the show if they made Gustav and/or Sophie Jewish. I simply don't know.
Please don't misinterpret me. I don't believe Sophie needs to be Jewish just because Kirshner is. I just think it would make her more interesting as a character. This is not like the Hollywood interviewer asking Sir Ian McKlellan if he thought Magneto was gay.
They could've brought in an assortment of different religious objects and blessed accoutrement. They could've used the simple convention of Dracula needing an invitation to enter the house. Let's hear it for ecumenism! Instead it's crosses, crosses everywhere.
"You have to bring the pastor to the talisman, and not the other way around, or it's game over and the bad guys win." This remark indicates that Max has no working knowledge of Catholicism. You could take this to mean he's Protestant. Though having seen the character of his mother, Eileen, I take it to mean he's like most Americans: agnostic borderline atheist.
A word on talismans: this would've been a great place to introduce different types of talismans and amulets. Would Cabalist and Voodoun talismans work as well as Christian relics in this fictional universe? There are types of crosses (the solar, the ankh, and the druid to start), pentagrams, hexagrams, prayer beads, eyes of Ra, eyes of Horus, Japanese ofuda, Pow-wow signs, and the list continues. Oh well—at least Bedard and LaLonde explored this business a bit in "Forever Knight."
"It will tell you how to keep evil away." Bells, especially church bells, were originally designed for this purpose—as was drumming all over the world. Still, my favorite way that I've come across to date for averting vampire attack is tossing a handful of seeds on the ground. The vampire—in theory—must stop to count and pick up each seed before doing anything else. This method is probably how they came up with the poppy seed thing.
The massive tome that Gustav sets Max reading is indeed a real book, The Vampire in Lore and Legend by Montague Summers (1880-1948). While I haven't read it, I do have a thrift edition copy of it. There is no entry for talismans in the index and no pictures, but pages and pages of footnotes with every chapter. Joss Whedon probably used the surname "Summers" for his heroine as a direct nod to this noted vampire historian.
To once again pull out The Vampire Book, "Summers's broad mastery of the mythological, folkloric, anthropological, and historical material on the vampire (a mastery rarely equaled) has been obscured by his own Catholic supernaturalism. On several occasions he expressed his opinion of the evil reality of the vampire, an opinion very much out of step with his secular colleagues."
So this Brit was raised in the late Victorian period and formed a sincere belief in vampires. Melton also notes the facts that he read (besides several obscure languages) gothic literature and was charged (and acquitted) of pederasty. Yes, Summers was a Catholic priest accused of molesting a boy—it's nothing new.
Put all of it together: this guy was pretty much crazy, and not in a good way. But seeing as his book exists in D:tS, we can take it that he did too. He would've been 18 at the time the Stoker novel was published. Could he have had a run-in with Dracula? Did he have a later falling out with Abraham Van Helsing, possibly due to his vocal opinions or the molestation lawsuit?
Could this be the reason, even a century later, his descendant Gustav eschews working with other self-proclaimed 'vampire experts?' Already in "Double Cross" Gustav is working on indoctrinating Max into the Helsing way. Max's character and willingness to believe in the supernatural make him a prime candidate to replace Gustav in ways the other kids just don't have.
"I dreamt he was in this room: Dracula!" This sequence of Max having a nightmare is the only scene in the series when he is honestly scared of Lucard. Of the three children, the youngest is the one consistently unafraid of the vampire. He acknowledges that Lucard is evil, but Max also encounters and helps Lucard more than any of his other antagonists. What a good little pawn he becomes, or maybe a rook...
"And although I'm aware the closing the plant in Arvenne will put hundreds out of work, and perhaps kill the town..." Here we have the first glimpse of the tip of the iceberg that is Lucard's cruelty. Malice is also lighter than water, but more commonplace and difficult to spot than a floating hunk of ice.
What would have happened if Lucard succeeded that night? Would he leave the children zombies or vampires? Would Gustav discover the bodies: right before Dracula killed him, but not before taunting him about Anna (and probably about Peter)?
Breakfast at the castle the following morning: "Oh, by the way Klaus, I killed your father last night." "About time, pass the cream."
A Couple of Points / Lucard's Home Page / firstname.lastname@example.org