Thursday, October 16, 2014

Penny Dreadful | "Resurrection" and "Demimonde"

In "Resurrection," the third episode of Penny Dreadful, there's a lot of time dedicated to catching up with Frankenstein's first creature. The beats are all familiar, but tweaked enough to keep it fresh. Frankenstein did abandon his creation in fear and loathing, but the flashback to that night reveals the horror of it, for both creature and creator. The creature screamed and carried on out of its own fright and that's what made Frankenstein freak out and leave. This isn't Mary Shelley's Victor Frankenstein, but a man who wants to do good and has made terrible mistakes.

Instead of a blind hermit, the creature finds acceptance with the actor who runs an English version of Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, but he still wants an immortal mate like himself and that's why he's tracked down Frankenstein. Frankenstein seems to agree, but he'll need money and resources, so that sends him back to Sir Malcolm Murray.

The "previously on Penny Dreadful" segment replays some of Vanessa Ive's outburst during the séance, narrowing it down to a few bits that make it clear that she was channeling Mina at least part of the time. During that episode, I had a hard time following what Ives was saying, but some of it sounded like a different Murray child who had maybe passed on. The fourth episode kind of confirms that, but "Resurrection" is focused on Ives' connection with Mina. In fact, Ives has a dream or vision about Mina that suggests Murray's daughter may be in the zoo. Ives and Murray put together a party to investigate and hopefully rescue Mina. Ethan Chandler even joins, because he needs medicine money for his consumptive friend Brona.

Mina's not at the zoo, but a couple of weird things happen there. First, a pack of wolves surrounds the hunters, but Chandler's able to calm them and send them on their way. I was trying to figure out in the first two episodes if Chandler is a literary character, but the show is now hinting strongly that he's a werewolf. He confirms that he's spent time among the American Indians and while it hasn't come up in the show yet, there's plenty of shapechanger lore in various native tribes. Then of course there's all the talk of Chandler's dark past and inner demons, and he gets really nervous when people talk about a recent spate of Ripper-like murders. But mostly there's him calming those wolves.

The other weird thing to happen at the zoo is that the group does find a vampire, though still not Dracula (who's unnamed in the series so far). They have hopes that he'll lead them to Dracula though, so they capture him and keep him chained at Murray's house in order to run experiments. This is where Frankenstein comes in, though he doesn't work entirely alone. In the fifth episode, "Demimonde," he takes a sample of the vampire's blood to a hematologist named Van Helsing (it's awesome seeing David Warner again) who analyzes it and discovers an anticoagulant property that helps vampires digest blood.

Murray begins to suspect that Dracula only took Mina to get to Ives. It's revealed that Ives and Mina had some history together and that Ives betrayed Mina in some way, which probably explains her dedication to finding the girl. At any rate, Dracula seems to be using Mina to draw out Ives, while Murray uses Ives to get to Dracula and Mina. It's a fun cat-and-mouse game.

"Demimonde" comes to a head when several characters end up at the Grand Guignol. Ives is there, as is Dorian Gray, whom she flirted with earlier in the episode after a chance encounter at a conservatory. I was surprised to see that Frankenstein's creature (nicknamed Caliban by his actor friend) still works there. The flashbacks in "Resurrection" didn't show him leave the Grand Guignol, but there's such a huge difference between his anger when he's around Frankenstein and his joy at working in the theater. I really thought they were depicting different times in his life. That's a strange disconnect that I hope the show is able to fix.

The other characters at the theater are Chandler and Brona, out on a date. The play that night is all about werewolves, so I expected a strong reaction from Chandler over that, but he was cool and collected the whole time; more interested in Brona's enjoyment of the show than of the monster on stage. That could be misdirection though.

During the intermission, Chandler and Brona run into Gray and Ives, which makes things awkward for Brona who knows Gray "professionally." As Gray, Ives, and Chandler chat, Brona becomes increasingly uncomfortable until she has to leave. Chandler follows her into the street, but she breaks up with him, realizing that there's no future in their relationship. Even if she weren't dying of tuberculosis, he's part of another world that she doesn't believe she'll ever be included in. I don't know if it's a major plot point, but it's a nice bit of drama that ends with her huddled in an alcove, coughing up blood, as strangers pass her by. It's a truly touching moment that highlights the need for friends and family in this impossible world, a major theme in Penny Dreadful.

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