Penny Dreadful: 3.01 The Day Tennyson Died
Penny Dreadful returns for its third season: that dark and gothic aesthetic with its elaborate doom and gloom is once upon us once more and each dark, twisted character begins to entice us back to their disturbed world. This first episode does not disappoint, it is a completely operatic stimulation overload!
The first scene finds Vanessa Ives, played compulsively by Eva Green, in a state of severe depression; she has now become a recluse, is unkempt, unwashed. Her Victorian house is practically a stable, she has had no human contact in months. Fans will remember that the end of the Season two found Vanessa exhausted and bruised after her battle with the Demon, and his bald violent witches, as well as in the throes of a somewhat co-dependent relationship with Josh Hartnett’s Ethan Chandler, ended abruptly as Chandler was taken into custody by the British police.
All of this turmoil has clearly taken its toll and in a refreshing moment of TV realism we see our heroine truly tired and despairing, she clearly has no idea that season three is about to begin. Of course, even with uncombed hair, Eva Green is still exquisite and mystical; she effortlessly balances the English Rose with gothic sensibilities, conveying a tortured soul with a, we hope, true heart, you simply can’t get enough of her.
Hope arrives in the form of a surprise visit from Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle, which prompts her to visit the psychiatrist Dr. Seward, played brilliantly by Patti Lu Pone; Lu Pone also played the memorable ‘good’ witch Joan Clayton in the previous season and of course Vanessa is taken aback by Dr. Sewards striking resemblance to Joan, which hints at drama to come. The scene is rather brilliant, LuPone is austere and strict when deciding to take on Vanessa as a patient, which immediately awakens a thirst for life within Vanessa. It has such an impact on her that, fast-forwarding towards the end of the episode, you’ll see Vanessa start to clean up her house, open the windows, as she readies herself for a new chapter to begin.
Parallel and similarly brilliant stories are found in the compelling narratives of Hartnett’s handsome werewolf, Ethan Chandler, who is held captive on train in the wild barren wastes of New Mexico en route to be handed over to the US authorities; and of course the foxy Sir Malcolm Murray, played by the captivating Timothy Dalton, who is now residing in a coastal port in Zanzibar. When Ethan Chandler is violently kidnapped on the way, by his father’s people, it provides a narrative purpose for Murray who encounters the mysterious stalker, the Native American Kaetenay who convinces him to go America and find Chandler, our ‘Lupus Dei’, Vanessa Ives monstrous protector.
Frankenstein’s monster, a.k.a. John Clare, is still very much in season three; stranded on a ship in the middle of a frozen sea accompanied by starving seamen who are contemplating cannibalism, Clare suffers flashbacks to his ‘human’ past. We learn about Clare’s previously unseen family as well as his sick son, and these ancient and buried memories ignite something within him which cause him to immediately rush back to London, presumably to take his part in the impending and dreadful drama.
But while the monster has found a new purpose, Clare’s inventor Frankenstein, played anxiously and compellingly by the talented Harry Treadaway, has sunk far deeper into his heroin addiction however his possible salvation arrives in the form of Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde who might just be his new laboratory buddy and partner in crime. And there is still so much to come as Dracula, with his bloody obsession for Vanessa Ives, and Billy Piper’s murderous Lily and the sexually manipulative Dorian Gray, played by the gaunt and charming Reeve Carney, are, for the moment, nowhere to be seen.
The first episode of this new season carefully sets the tone; Penny Dreadful is pleasingly gothic, mythical and blackly effervescent. Still utilizing a grimy, miserable and deprived Victorian London, writer and director John Logan’s strange and well-penned ensemble cast begin to coalesce for, what promises to be, a hellishly dark and wonderfully distorted third season.