“The future’s so bright, I’ve got to wear shades” Zoom in, and there he is, cheeky young (well…relatively) vampire Cutler with his smartphone and constant plotting and scheming. He’s come a long way since the time when he was still a rookie duty solicitor on night shifts. And he’s got ambition. All he wants when the Old Ones write history is that they give him a mention. And a statue. And maybe… Brazil. But is he really destined to become a History Maker? And what’s this obsession he has with werewolves and Hal Yorke?
Toby Whithouse and his crew keep us guessing for quite some time. Cutler (his first name remains a mystery until episode 7 “Making History”) appears out of nowhere, armed with a confidence that makes you wonder whether there might be more to him than meets the eye.
“Have we got enough crossbows and catapults? Only we’re clearly going for a medieval vibe, so I just want to check we’ve got the right props.”
He does have a crafty way with words, this young vampire. His tools are eloquence and sarcasm, combined with a wide range of facial expressions. And then there’s his phone, attached to his hand like he was born cradling it – not your average prop for a vampire. Cutler’s well adapted to the 21st century and its gadgets, making the most of Twitter and YouTube. He also has a liking for flashy suits and crispy clean shirts that in some magical way never once get bloodstained during the kerfuffle of Season 4. Admittedly, his shirt sleeves are usually too short (but then he’s always overreaching), and he’s clearly more comfortable when he’s not wearing a tie.
He’s a vampire – sure, but we seldom see him kill. Is it restraint or is he less of an addict than his fellow bloodsuckers? He’s certainly not squeamish about wasting half a bottle of perfectly uncongealed chilled blood. What we learn from that little scene is that he’s used to having plenty of the red stuff, and has a way of easy access to it without the necessity of getting his hands dirty – therefore he must have risen some steps in the ranks of vampire hierarchy. But on whose merits? Probably not his own. Besides, he’s far too young to be an Old One.
The other vampires don’t think much of him, that much becomes clear. He’s tolerated, but only just. “I don’t care who you are or who your maker was, he’s gone now. This is a distraction. You are a distraction. Now, make my ****ing tea.” Griffin tells him off, and suddenly Cutler’s veneer of confidence is flaking and we see the remnants of a self-conscious young man, the ideal bully’s victim. The maverick who laughs along with the popular kids, but never really gets the jokes (that are usually at his expense anyway). He just doesn’t fit in – and never has.
So is it any wonder Cutler got caught up in Hal Yorke’s web, way back in dreary 1955? “Someone likes you. You’ve been noticed.” “What? Who?” There’s no mistaking the surprise in the young duty solicitor’s voice. Compared to his constant hunger for attention his craving for blood fades into insignificance. It’s Hal Yorke who puts him in the spotlight. “(…) your dreams and ambitions are just too big, too rich for this domestic world” Hal flatters him. However, deification doesn’t come without small print, as Cutler soon discovers. “If you can’t stand the heat, stay inside on bonfire night.” Kane tells him in 2012. A cliché turned prophesy.
“You people are obsessed with history!“ we hear Cutler say during the first meeting in Stoker’s – now isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black? Mind, this is Cutler, whose greatest ambition it is to become a History Maker (note the capital letters – well, at least he does earn one episode title – kind of), and who memorized every word of Hal Yorke’s initial speech, only to use the same words to lure in werewolf Tom McNair, charm his new recruits, disgust his victim Alex and utterly confuse his long-lost-but-found-again maker Hal. His need for recognition is a recurring theme in the series. “I always knew I’d make history. At least no-one will forget me now.” He says when he’s about to kill baby Eve after the Old Ones have humiliated him.
“Softly softly massacre monkey.” Cutler’s a bit of a copycat, absorbing information and making good use of it. Cutler’s choice of weapon is his brain. He’s not a man of remarkable physical power, violence disgusts him and when it comes down to it he’s a bit of a coward. The minute heads start rolling at the end of episode 1 he makes himself scarce. An excellent survival strategy, as it turns out.
Most vampires just hunt and feed to pass their immortal lifetime, but Cutler schemes. He has a Plan (capital letter again) and his dedication to his cause is admirable. No setback puts him off, even though there are quite a few of those. Fergus’s war council eats his focus group, journalist Pete threatens to expose him, Golda confiscates his laptop and attempts to steal his idea, Tom renounces violence in favour of reason, Hal abandons him all over again, and Mr Snow humiliates him, but Cutler, Nick Cutler, perseveres. Up to the point where Annie stakes his barbecued remains, that is.
By that time we know more about his origins through a series of chilling flashbacks. Whether fuelled by revenge, megalomania, or simply the need to impress – the force that drives him is a strong one and has its roots in those post-war years he spent with Hal. They were never equals, Nick Cutler and Hal Yorke, however much Cutler attempts to rewrite their shared history. Their relationship has more similarities to that of hostage and hostage taker. Poor Nick’s got a bad bout of Stockholm Syndrome, and all those years without Hal have only strengthened his distorted views. He desperately yearns for their Roaring Fifties camaraderie that never was. “It’s you!” Hal spits with disgust, the moment they meet again, but Cutler is once again blinded by admiration for the monster who killed his wife.
Did he truly love his wife, his human life? The writers don’t tell us. “Remember what you were.” Hal pleads when Cutler has revealed his plan. “What I was? No, you stole that from me!” Cutler’s painfully aware he’s burned his bridges, and is working hard to make a success of his current life. He won’t break bread with humans anymore, his actions imply. But he already has, once he became chummy with Tom.
At first Tom is no more than a means to an end, but things become pleasantly muddled towards the end, because of Tom’s disarming friendliness. “You betrayed us for a dog?” Golda askes. “For a werewolf. There’s a difference.” He tells her off, and is ever so pleased of Tom and Allison’s support the second Golda is dust. His smile is heartbreaking. But let’s not forget the man’s a dedicated liar. “(…) the best way of telling if Cutler is lying is if his lips are moving” Toby Whithouse warns us. Whatever his true feelings are, Cutler certainly has no qualms about deceiving and using Tom.
So where does that leave us viewers? Is Cutler just plain evil, or does he have some humanity left? Part of him remains a mystery, and opinions about him differ, leaving us plenty of opportunity to speculate and create new Cutler fiction.
“I’m just very, very good at my job.” Cutler tells Tom. And he is.