In case FOX cancels Sleepy Hollow –which is a real possibility, it only scored 2,6 million viewers, 0.7 last friday– fans could get their weekly dose of supernatural investigations next year thanks to Transylvania on The CW. I’m not sure both are needed at the same time though. Transylvania doesn’t offer anything that we haven’t been served before. One more variation on the same theme. I really dislike Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, but it makes Transylvania look like a walk in the park. It’s the infantalized version, with a cast that seems to be bland, but I haven’t seen any one of them act before. Hopefully, I’m mistaken. I’d say The CW is fine without it and probably has better and more original projects to bet on (with very few slots available next year). But let’s delve into this dark, dark world for a minute.
On paper, the country of Transylvania and more specifically the town of Tatrov are described with a great attention to detail. You really feel like you’re in the middle of it. To the point when you don’t really believe The CW can transcribe it faithfully with a normal budget. And as far as I know, they weren’t given a special treatment. But I remember I felt the same thing when reading The 100 pilot and the resultat was quite convicing. As long as it doesn’ look like Once Upon A Time, they’re fine. If they can’t set up the right dark, dangerous, frightening atmosphere, then the whole thing is doomed to fail. And there are so many different settings… In fact, the whole pilot is about our heroine moving from one place to another. From New York, where she comes from –for an opening scene where she’s established as a know-it-all smart ass… duh– to the Lugosi hotel, the bar appropriately called “The Slaughtered Lamb”, so many streets, fields, the constable’s office, a farmhouse, a windmill, an antiquities shop, the old city filled with extras, the Scholomance school, the cemetery, London through flashbacks, the Castle Dracula… well, it never ends. The whole pilot works as a long addition of places and characters. It’s exhausting. And not very rewarding for the audience.
Oh and there are two parallel investigations we don’t really care about. Victoria is looking for her father –spoiler alert : he’s not dead after all, against all odds. And she also wants to help the townspeople when she realizes they are gruesomely decimated by a Wolf Man. Is it a real monster? Or a cruel human in disguise? At some point, Victoria thinks the wolf man might be her own father. Which doesn’t make any sense, even if it would have been fun. They tell us she’s sooo smart, and suddenly it feels like she’s not at all. Anyway. Along the way, she meets the one who will become her partner: detective Godfrey. They seem to hate each other, but of course there’s a spark. Think Elementary. They are in a believer/non believer dynamics we’re fed up with. Then she meets Jekylll. The famous one. And there’s a spark. A future love triangle? If only. Because aftet that, she meets a Marcus. And he really likes her. She might like him too. Oh and let’s not forget Frankenstein. Okay, he’s a bit crazy. But sexy too. Another spark! And it goes on and on… And they all talk the same! It’s the beauty and the monsters. She’s not even flirtatious for now. She’s just there. She’s like Sookie in True Blood. Everybody wants to fuck her. And you don’t really understand why. By the way, voice-over lovers: there’s one! Victoria reads a letter she’s writing to a certain someone. Someone you know. I won’t tell. That’s one of the two pretty efficient cliffhangers. At least, there’s that.
There’s certainly an audience for Transylvania, on The CW or somewhere else. It’s not a good pilot in my opinion, but it doesn’t mean it can’t become a good show. Too much exposure, not enough twists and surprises. The pilot is all about setting the stage, justifying the heroine’s presence over there and it forgets to entertain in the process. It lacks subtlety, uniqueness, eccentricity. It’s just something we have already seen. The trip is just not worth it.