TV Review: Penny Dreadful: Season 2, Episode 1

Season 2, Episode 1: Fresh Hell

SUMMARY:  Ethan’s (Josh Hartnett) departure from London is delayed when he witnesses a brutal attack on Vanessa (Eva Green) by the minions of Madame Kali (Helen McCrory). Meanwhile, Frankenstein (Harry Treadway) is forced to transform the now-dead Brona Croft (Billie Piper) into Caliban’s (Rory Kinnear) undead mate.

REVIEW:  I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing season one of Penny Dreadful last year for AITH (the same cannot be said for The Strain). While it had a somewhat uneven start, by the end of the initial eight-episode run the show seemed to have really found its groove and I was puzzled by the fact that the show never picked up more of a following with genre fans. Perhaps this was due to it airing the same night as the always raved-about Game of Thrones. Whatever the case, the show apparently did pretty well in the ratings and as such is back for a ten-episode second season run, demonstrating that Showtime’s obviously got faith in the show’s potential.

Sure enough, Penny Dreadful immediately slips back into the groove it found towards the end of season one. With Mina Harker now dead, Vanessa’s become Sir Malcolm’s (the always great Timothy Dalton) surrogate daughter and as the season picks up she’s still living with him and his manservant Sembene (Danny Sapani) with their war against London’s supernatural underworld still going strong.

While Vanessa’s demonic possession seems to now be safely at bay thanks to Ethan’s surprising flair for exorcisms, peace and quiet does not seem to be in the cards for her. Vanessa is now targeted by Madame Kali, whose initial appearance as a somewhat clumsy medium turns out to have been a ruse. She’s actually the head of a particularly nasty coven, with their walls decorated with the skulls of their victims and Kali indulging in frequent blood baths (I mean that literally – she sits in bathtubs full of blood). McCrory seems like she’s going to be a considerable big bad for season two, which was one of the few failings season one had (that it never had a good central baddie). McCrory’s an excellent fit for the part and scary as hell. Watching her and the always excellent Green (who Penny Dreadful’s always been a great showcase for) going head-to-head should be a lot of fun.

Last season’s finale also revealed Ethan’s a werewolf, but interestingly he seems unaware of this fact, only knowing that he blacks out and wakes up surrounded by dead bodies. Hartnett – who never really impressed me previous to the show – makes for a solid hero and Ethan’s proving to be an excellent part for him. That said, to me Timothy Dalton and Eva Green are the real stars and if the season premiere has a failing it’s that Dalton is sidelined for too long. Hopefully this will be rectified. It’s amazing how cool and Bond-like he still looks despite being in his seventies (he looks decades younger).


One of last season’s most intriguing storylines involved Frankenstein and Caliban, and bringing Brona in as Caliban’s potential mate (unlikely) seems like an inspired choice. Penny Dreadful earns it’s TV-MA rating for a scene where Frankenstein gets a little too friendly with Brona’s corpse, revealing a perverse side to him that would like shock Mary Shelley (or not). Caliban also makes a new friend this week with his new employer’s blind daughter, giving us hope that maybe Caliban will mellow a bit, but again, given how dark season one was, that seems highly unlikely.

Like all of the first season’s episodes, Penny Dreadful is beautifully directed (by Brit-costume drama vet James Hawes) and memorably scored by Abel Korzeniowski. The production quality of John Logan’s (SKYFALL) baby has always been top-notch, and season two maintains that high standard. I’m looking forward to a fun summer of watching Penny Dreadful and season two is an excellent start.

Extra Tidbit: Penny Dreadful S2 premieres Sunday, May 3rd on Showtime.



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