The Day Tennyson Died
At long last the show that is, in my opinion, the best show on television right now, has returned. Season Three looks like it might be the best season yet, and that's saying something.
Showtime released the premier episode early, as they did with season 2, and I've already watched it twice. It's a clever, free, trick by Showtime to get an additional boost of social media exposure, as people went bonkers and shared the news everywhere.
Horror = Art When Done Correctly
Nothing captures my imagination, attention, and love of horror, as much as Penny Dreadful, and this episode fired on all cylinders. So let's talk about it. This will be peppered with spoilers at the end so ya know, don't highlight it unless you wanna know.
Rode Hard & Put Away Wet
When we last left our band of misfit toys they had been scattered across the globe:
- Sir Malcolm was returning Sembene's body to Africa.
- Ethan was being returned to the New Mexico Territory after confessing to the Mariner's Inn massacre.
- Caliban/John Clare/Monster was aboard a ship in the Arctic, trying to find peace in solitude.
- Victor losing himself in drugs, regret, and heartache.
- Vanessa being left all alone in that big old house of memories and pain.
We pick up the story likely a few months later, with Sir Malcolm having returned Sembene to Africa, and Ethan back in America. The biggest change here is Vanessa Ives, who has fallen into a deep depression. She is bereft of hope, faith, family, and love. She neglects her hygiene and her environment reflects her inner state. Empty, elegant, and neglected. She is lost.
Then the always wonderful Mr Lyle, in a scene that conveys great compassion almost completely nonverbally, recommends an alienist (proto-shrink), who had helped him accept his homosexuality (in repressive Victorian England that's something).
Dr Seward, played by the incredible Patti LuPone, returning from her earlier appearance as the cut wife (Vanessa witch guru) is immediately riveting. It is in the doctor that Vanessa meets somebody who can help her and immediately diagnose her issues. Their scenes together are brilliant and the name Seward should ring some rather loud bells to fans of the Victorian horror genre.
Malcolm is looking equally shitty. We catch up with him in Zanzibar looking rather grim, and noting that everything that once drew him to Africa was no more. Time passes, things change. We don't get a lot of Malcolm in this episode. All we really learn is that he buried Sembene in the mountains.
The real purpose of Malcolm's arc in this episode is to introduce Wes Studi's character. Kaetenay, a mysterious Native American who has made his way to Africa to have a conversation with Malcolm about their "son" Ethan Chandler. He also proves himself pretty handy in a back alley scrap. Now Wes Studi is brilliant in just about everything he does but he fits in incredibly well in this world and I can't wait to see more of him.
Cowboys, Indians, And ...Vampires
Let's move on to Ethan. Ethan is back in the New Mexico Territory with inspector Rusk. He was extradited last season and now he's being transported by train to stand trial for his crimes.
Unfortunately there isn't much I can say about this arc without spoiling one of the best action sequences on this show to date. I will say that it is so cool to bring Penny Dreadful into the West. The Wild West is contemporary with Victorian England and it makes the show part horror story, part western. Horror and the West go so well together with the superstition, mysticism and violence that goes along with it.
Which leaves Victor. Victor is having a rough go of it. After creating a lover for his monster, falling in love with said lover, and her going all psycho bitch on them both, Victor has taken to opiates (and who wouldn't when they're freely available and legal?) a la Sherlock Holmes (will he make an appearance in this show?)
Victor Frankenstein has fallen into a drug stupor and is living a life not unlike Vanessa Ives. In fact the overarching theme of this episode in despair and isolation. Victor hates himself at this point for his creations, but he's also horrified at the fact that his dream of conquering death for the betterment of man kind has blown up in his face.
He is left with no other choice but to reach out to his old best friend and school mate, Dr Henry Jekyll. I was a bit on the fence about him being Indian but it worked extremely well here. Victor is arguably the most fascinating character on this show; a man who has destroyed lives by conquering death. He is a man who's trapped inside a cell of horror, the bars of which are his own making, and bringing Dr Jekyll into the mix, another brilliant mind, should create a formidable team. Imagine the horrors they'll commit together.
Alright guys, let's talk about the last few minutes. Holy shit. Ever since season one we've all been waiting for the introduction of Dracula, and wow did they pull it off. It's hard to introduce a character that has been done so many times and in so many different ways. With his goofy Transylvanian accent and general weirdness he can often seem like a silly character, especially since he's been done to death for over a century. The show had it's work cut out for them in not only making Dracula seem serious, but also make him genuinely frightening. This they certainly did.
Everything about his entrance was great, from the way his minion vampires bowed and scampered away from him, to the rats on the ground hiding, the leaves blowing and the fog rolling in around Renfield as Dracula grew near. But Dracula's voice was what really made him frightening, It's hard to make a character scary without actually showing him, but they did it. Well done.
So I didn't touch on the monster's story this time, and we didn't catch up with Dorian or Lily in episode one, but this season is going to benefit greatly from new cast members and new literary characters and it's gearing up to be a fantastic season.
What did YOU think? Let us know in the comments.