Penny Dreadful 1.03 Resurrection
Last week’s episode of Penny Dreadful was an inconsistent affair, a fractured and frustrating hour, saved only by its last five minutes in which we witnessed a rather shocking turn of events – the return of Victor Frankenstein’s ‘first born’. Thank goodness then, that Resurrection continues to focus on this revelation and as a result, provides a rather compelling hour of television.
As ever, Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and Sir Malcom Murray (Timothy Dalton) continue their quest to find Mina, unearthing a few more plot details in the process. It turns out her disappearance is linked to a man (although that term is used lightly), as Ives tells the story of a persuasive, magnetic and hypnotic being, whose relationship with Mina resulted in her abduction. Suddenly, the so-far cavernous plot of Penny Dreadful heads in an intriguing direction. Despite previous references to the devil and Egyptian Hieroglyphics, the appearance of blood-thirsty assailants and a frenetic young boy named Fenton, who lovingly calls for his ‘master’, point to something, or should I say someone, that is yet to join our gothic hall of fame – Dracula. Could this infamous vampire be Mina’s captor? A few liberties may be taken with his inevitable appearance, and no doubt to the dislike of many horror pundits, however the show’s drip-feed technique in his introduction to the narrative is indeed a clever trick.
What isn’t clever, however, is the development of Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and Brona Croft (Billie Piper). Other than providing a gratuitous sex scene, their purpose within the narrative so far appears incredibly limited. Chandler remains the most un-interesting character and not even his bizarre wolf-taming abilities unearthed in this episode, seem enough to secure him a place in this ad-hoc gothic a-team. Unfortunately Murray views the situation differently, and in a clear turning point of the series so far, proposes an ultimatum to Chandler, Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), Ives and the gang. They either continue their quest as a certified team, or depart ways and leave this group and its mysteries behind.
Bizarrely this proposition also feels somewhat directed at its viewership. Whilst the characters may want to walk away from life-threatening situations and the unfathomable supernatural, us viewers consider departing from the show’s inconsistency and weak characterisation. Yet despite this, there feels an obligation here, and just as our characters decide to stay together, we too must plough on further into the depths of the demi-monde. What’s the point, you ask? Well, it is not to await Dracula or the recovery of Mina, but to follow the sub-plot of Frankenstein and his ‘first born’, also known as The Creature (played by Rory Kinnear). The emergence of their relationship is this week’s most impressive element, making the aforementioned plot detail pale in comparison.
After ripping through the chest of Proteus, we rejoin The Creature as he details his incredibly dark and emotional journey of birth, rejection, resurrection and retribution. Each segment is served with a fitting montage and wonderfully executed. We glide through a blood-drenched birth, fused with confusion and despair, to resurrection, in which he is metaphorically reborn as ‘Caliban’, finding happiness behind the scenes of the Grand Guignol. Kinnear is fantastic and his wonderful performance seamlessly blends with an emotive score, poetic dialogue and photographic elegance. Given his new found strength, The Creature (or Caliban) seeks retribution from Frankenstein, adding a great level of depth to their relationship. There is a sincere amount of truth in his rhetoric, “who’s the child now?”, as we eagerly await the blackmail, manipulation and violence that lies ahead.
Three episodes in and Penny Dreadful still appears to have a few teething problems. Yet we must persevere, as the central relationship between Frankenstein and The Creature is undeniably captivating, proving that in spite of all its faults, there are elements within the show which remain truly entertaining.