Episode 3: Resurrection
SUMMARY: Victor (Harry Treadaway) comes face-to-face with his first creation (Rory Kinnear) who's bent on teaching Victor the consequences of playing God.
REVIEW: The third episode of PENNY DREADFUL (the first not directed by J.A Bayona) kicks off with a flashback to Victor Frankenstein's youth, as he's dealt a horrible blow by the death of his mother. It then picks up where we left off as Victor's second creation was ripped apart by his firstborn (Rory Kinnear) before we see his hideous birth with isn't unlike the notorious birthing scene from Kenneth Branagh's FRANKENSTEIN. It's hideous and sets the stage for a killer episode, the best yet in PENNY DREADFUL's short run.
Kinnear makes a huge impression as the monster, with the harshness of 19th century London being an insidious tutor that made him into the murderous creature he is now, albeit the most intelligent Frankenstein's monster we've ever seen depicted in film, fully educated to an almost superhuman degree. Sadly, it looks like creature two will not be making a comeback.
The rest of the episode is largely focused on the creature's life apart from Victor, as he joins the grand guignol (nice) theatre as he's taken under the wing of an impresario (Alun Armstrong) who gives him the Shakespearian name Caliban. His story is extremely compelling, thanks in large part to the inventive grand guignol sequences and Kinnear's incredible acting (for more of what he can do, I highly recommend the British mini SOUTHCLIFFE).
As for the flesh report, still nothing from Eva Green, but Billie Piper, as the tubercular prostitute Bruona, obliges nicely. While I assumed Josh Hartnett would be linking up with Green, so far the romance seems to be between Bruona and Ethan, with her lack of money to pay for treatment the thing that drives him back to Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) and Vanessa (Eva Green). Bram Stoker fans will enjoy a bit of exposition where Vanessa fills Ethan in on Mina's disappearance, suggesting our big baddie might be a vamp who's certainly familiar to us all.
Also familiar is Caliban's request to Victor, that he give him a mate, to share in his immortality and ease his loneliness. This is a familiar part of Shelly's story and it's interesting to see that despite series mastermind John Logan's unconventional take on the material, he's also incorporating a lot of the classic story beats that made the classics they're based so enduring. The creature has always been sympathetic, if monstrous, and PENNY DREADFUL is playing that aspect up nicely although we can assume he'll spill lots of blood by the time this is over. This is a stark contrast to how it originally seemed the show would go with the sweet Proteus now just a couple of chunks on the floor of Victor's lab.
With the focus on Kinnear and Treadaway, Green, Dalton, and Hartnett take a back seat until the final act, which sees them take on a little more “night work” as they investigate the London zoo, where naturally they meet Dracula's assistant Renfield – or some variation on that with him called Renton here, who's soundly beaten by Malcolm, who begins to show a sadistic streak that Ethan is repelled at, with hints revealed that he saw a lot of bloodshed back home. It's interesting that Hartnett so far is the show's most sympathetic character, with Malcolm and Vanessa harder to figure out, even if their motivations seem good. Hartnett is very good so far, but he's clearly just part of the ensemble here, and this is not the star vehicle I assumed it would be. So far though, the cast is impeccable, with Green, Dalton, and now Kinnear being the early standouts, although there's not a weak link in the bunch.
Overall, this is an excellent episode, and PENNY DREADFUL really is coming into it's own. While it's still early in the run, I'm thinking this will prove to be a really solid series, and hopefully it'll get to go beyond it's initial eight episode order, which feels short for the mythology they're crafting. So far, so good.