Tuesday, 27 May 2014

PENNY DREADFUL, 1.3 – 'Resurrection'

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

written by John Logan | directed by Dearbhla Walsh

This episode was more of a showcase for Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) and his first-born Creature, named Caliban (Rory Kinnear) in the extensive flashback that dominated this third instalment of Penny Dreadful. Caliban being a deformed island slave in Shakespeare's The Tempest, which was apt given the creature found a job as a Grand Guignol theatre rigger—which also had a few overtones of The Phantom of the Opera, in how Caliban remained ostracised from the rest of the company and lurked unseen in the shadows.

Considering this is only episode 3, I'm impressed by how quickly and confidently Penny Dreadful has found its feet. Creator-writer John Logan (penning the entire season) is in masterful control of the story he wants to tell, and the narrative feeds each hour with precision. Giving us insight into Frankenstein's recent past made for an entertaining hour (coming at just the right time), and I loved how Caliban is being written as both monstrous and sympathetic—having been born into awful pain, abandoned by his frightened creator, and then left to teach himself how to exist in this alien world. Caliban personifies the sins of the past coming back to bite Frankenstein's ass, and Kinnear's giving a fantastic, intense performance. I'm much less frustrated we spent two hours with sweet "Mr Proteus", believing him to be the iconic creature from Mary Shelley's book, until he was viciously ripped asunder.

The back-story for Caliban was the driving force behind "Resurrection", but that's not to say the show's bigger storyline with Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) and psychic Vanessa (Eva Green) wasn't pushed along nicely towards the end. Ethan (Josh Hartnett) has decided to join these monster hunters full-time, and this episode introduced us to an intriguing new character found eating animals at London Zoo during the night. It seems that young Fenton is this Penny Dreadful's nastier version of bug-eating Renfield from Dracula, as Bram Stoker's famous villain is most definitely involved in Logan's own story—although not yet named, as the nobleman who kidnapped Malcolm's missing daughter Mina.

Given how Ethan pulled a Crocodile Dundee-style mind trick on a pack of wolves that interrupted the search of the zoo, it also crossed my mind that he could be Penny Dreadful's version of the Wolf Man—but I guess we'll find out if that's true when there's a Full Moon. It fits with the fact Ethan is known to have blackouts, so it feels likely he doesn't know he has lycanthropy. His is prostitute lover Brona (Billie Piper) had best watch out, as I sense a tragic end to their hedonistic romance.

What's fun right now is how there are three or four storylines percolating simultaneously, and it feels exciting to see how they'll gradually converge. Frankenstein is already working part-time for Sir Malcolm and his team, but those characters are unaware the unusual doctor's dealing with a revived corpse. Frankenstein's own storyline appears to be moving into classic Bride of Frankenstein film territory, too, with Caliban demanding a female companion of his creator, and that promises to be a lot of fun. I'm just now sure how Dorian Gray (absent this week) is going to factor into things, unless he's only truly involved as relish, but I love how each story's a different angle on the idea of everlasting life. Vampires kill to be immortal, Gray has made (or will make?) a pact with the devil to remain forever young, and Frankenstein's experiments allow him to ensure people can cheat death.

This marks an impressive opening trio for a new drama, so I hope more people start to watch it this summer. A second season might be commissioned for Showtime, knowing how US TV works, but right now it feels like Penny Dreadful's honing in on a week 8 climax.

25 May 2014 | Showtime