Spoilers may lie ahead.
Most TV series start with somewhat of a bang and then slowly find their bearings. In a very welcome exception to the rule, this week’s episode of Penny Dreadful 1×03: Resurrection once more proves this series knows where it’s going and how and when to scare you along the way.
Things start with the idealistic Victor Frankenstein. A glimpse into his childhood reveals why he’s always been fascinated with bringing the dead back into the realm of the living. But it’s his future which is now in dire straits as he faces once more his original creation, his firstborn. Frankenstein’s first creation (Rory Kinnear) had a more violent and painful awakening that the late Proteus.
In a seamless transition we are witness to the creature’s birth, which prompted Victor to run away. With a window for a teacher and poetry books to read, the creature was self-educated. Eventually he tracked his creator to London, only to find out humankind took pleasure in being cruel to those they deemed different. But there are exceptions and a slightly tipsy gentleman is kind enough to take him under his wing and into the cozy arms of the theater. He also gives him a rather fitting name, Caliban. The man now known as Caliban steps into his role as a theater rat, apparently enthralled with the lead actress while being despised by another actor. It’s a little too close to a setup for a Phantom of the Opera storyline.
Coming back to the present, Caliban drags Dr. Frankenstein into the streets of London where he finally reveals to him what he wants. He wants Victor to build him a mate. Or he’ll kill everyone he loves. A world of possibilities opens here because in my head I can imagine somehow the lead actress ending up on Victor’s operating table. Caliban is not a pure rage monster. He’s managed to educate himself well, dropping literally references that I can hardly follow.
As we go back to Sir Murray’s place, Vanessa Ives has a vision of Mina Murray pleading for help but not revealing – at least not explicitly – where she is. As Miss Ives will later explain, it’s often up to her to interpret the vision and figure out the details.
We’ve already seen the relationship of Ethan and Brona progressing to the bed. As Ethan is obviously in need of employment to continue paying for his room and board, he goes back to one thing he knows he can do and knock at Sir Malcolm Murray’s door. As it happens, they need him. Ethan explains to Vanessa Ives he’s in need of cash, to which she knowingly guesses he has a love interest.
The team is off, this time with Sembene along for the ride. Watch for a scene in which he reveals his weapons of choice are blades, including a kukri knife. The team is paying the zoo a midnight visit, where they are cornered by a wolf pack. It’s Ethan who proves himself useful by somehow proving to the alpha wolf he means no harm. Ethan might have a secret or two. As the pack disperses, the exploration continues until Miss Ives finds an open cage and a vampirized man eating up the cage’s previous occupants.
This vampire’s name is Fenton. The hunting party chains him up and calls upon Victor to help them out. It’s Ethan who surprises me here as he is most empathic with Fenton’s plight. He even physically prevents Sir Malcolm from whipping Fenton when he tries to get the vampire to reveal the location of his master. The entire group of Sir Malcolm, Miss Ives, Sembene, Ethan and Victor get together in the study. It’s here where Malcolm extracts a promise from everyone. From here and on, there is no stopping. No fealty is owed to anybody but each other.
Meanwhile, Fenton seems to be calling upon his master in a very Renfield-like manner. Suddenly, he smiles at the darkness. His master has arrived.
Highs: Another big player is revealed as we get to know Frankenstein’s first experiment, Caliban. The fact that this is a most literate and self-educated version of “Frankenstein’s monster” breaks a whole lot of stereotypes and raises the bar. Ethan’s scene with the wolves. Jonathan Harker is mentioned. Does the master vampire’s name start with a D? Just the fact that these questions are on the table is making me anxious for the next episode.
Lows: Wow, I’m kind of stomped. I mean, I could go nitpicking about the whole theater storyline similarities to Phantom… But I really don’t want to do that. Can’t find something I didn’t like enough. Perhaps the fact that we have to wait a whole week.
That will do for now.