Not content to take the long weekend off, Penny Dreadful capitalizes on the Memorial Day weekend to tell us an origin story.
Let’s bitch it out…
Last week’s episode ended on a cliffhanger, or as close to a cliffhanger as a show that routinely features shocking moments as part of its standard operating procedure can offer: Dr. Frankenstein’s (Harry Treadaway) first-born Creature (Rory Kinnear) killed Proteus while announcing his return to his father. ‘Resurrection’ is basically the story of the Creature’s life, told mostly in flashbacks that offer us the origin of both Frankenstein’s obsession with reanimation (dead mom syndrome, naturally), as well as insight on why the Creature hates his father so much.
As far as tales go, it’s not exceedingly original. Anyone who has read (or even heard) of the Frankenstein/Creature mythos will glean a lot of the details before they’re made explicit. In fact ‘Resurrection’ might have been a bit of a bore – a gorgeous bore – were it not for Rory Kinnear’s commanding presence as the Creature. His appearance essentially drops every other actor down to secondary status, and in some cases, off the playbill completely (Reeve Carney’s Dorian Gray, introduced last week to much sexytimes fanfare, doesn’t even appear, while Billie Piper’s Brona shows up for some mandatory cable T&A and a bit of coughing). Thankfully Kinnear is more than capable of cutting an imposing figure: his eloquent delivery is melodic and theatrical, his presence forceful and his desire for a mate just enough to make him empathetic.
With so much prominence dedicated to introducing a new character, most everyone else is given a short shrift. That doesn’t mean that nothing else happens, though; simply that it doesn’t get quite as much attention as it probably needed. Ethan (Josh Harnett) returns to work with Vanessa (Eva Green) and Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) to help cover the costs of Brona’s consumption medicine and a brief spiritualist encounter with Mina (Olivia Llewellyn) leads the group to the London Zoo. This rationale for this sequence isn’t particularly well constructed as it’s uncertain what they’re looking for, or how Sir Malcolm plans to use Vanessa as bait.
The time at the zoo does produce two significant moments. The first is another hint that Ethan is a werewolf. His close encounter with the alpha of a poorly done CGI pack of wolves is a pretty tell tale hint, though one hopes there’s more to this than meets the eye (because it feels rather obvious). The other is the introduction of the villain’s* manservant – a Rensfield-like (or is it “light”?) teen named Fenton. The resolution of an episode that peddles an extended cautionary tale about playing God is, amusingly, a pact by the group that they will do whatever they need to in order to thwart the forthcoming evil, including torturing and experimenting on the prisoner in the basement. Th is makes for an interesting contrast in an episode that introduces a “horrific” monster who yearns only for love. This may not have been the strongest episode of the series, but Penny Dreadful is proving to be anything but a “simple” horror series.
* Let’s just admit it’s Dracula now and get it over with, shall we?
- Creature (when Frankenstein encourages him to threaten him with life, not death): “You have not known horror, until I show it to you.”
- Malcolm (after Ethan protests experimenting on Fenton): “No one in this room is kind. That’s why you’re here.”
- Vanessa (when Ethan talks of Brona’s consumption): “Who doesn’t love a lost cause?”
Your turn: what do you make of the Creature? Did you miss Dorian? Did you enjoy the zoo sequence more than me? What does the main monster want with Vanessa? And would you have sex with a prostitute who has consumption? Sound off below.
Penny Dreadful airs Sundays at 10pm EST on Showtime