[This is a review of Penny Dreadful season 1, episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]
‘Night Work’ and ‘Séance’ were enough to get you on board and interested in more, but ‘Resurrection’ marks the first sign of binge-watch tendencies. Late night, work obligations or other pressing commitments? Forget about them. Had there been access to ‘Demimonde’ right now, Penny Dreadful would have been the priority.
The show’s already achieved quite a bit in terms of building characters and this world thus far, and that’s as evident as ever in the success of this episode. Dr. Frankenstein and Caliban’s (Rory Kinnear) situation should have been a difficult storyline to pair with the continued search for Mina (Olivia Llewellyn), but seamless transitions, a strong foundation and a stunningly subtle union at the end of the episode make both highly engaging on their own yet feel like natural components of the same world.
Without a disturbingly convincing mid-séance meltdown to contend with, Harry Treadaway and Dr. Frankenstein’s situation have no trouble stealing this part of the show. In just two episodes, we’ve been afforded an incredible amount of access to the character, but the glimpse into his past and what inspires him to become a doctor adds yet another layer to everything he experiences, and that has a great impact on Caliban’s flashback.
Even though that string of scenes serves as an introduction to Caliban as expressed by Caliban himself, by beginning the episode with a young Victor, we also experience his story through Victor, too. Kinnear does a beautiful job solidifying Caliban as one who must be feared while also using his unfortunate upbringing to conjure empathy. The resulting juxtaposition is extremely captivating, but the pre-established relationship with Victor makes his involvement (even when it’s not direct) something to be considered as well.
Even while you’re feeling for Caliban as he’s forgotten and ridiculed, curiosity regarding Victor’s assessment of the situation is ever-present. Caliban is upset, but also quite violent. How far will that violence go? Victor was wrong, but he’s changed since abandoning his first-born. Will he feel compelled to right his wrong? Having a connection to two characters with such strong convictions in a high stakes conflict makes this one of the most engaging elements of the episode.
And it’s a good thing the situation between Victor and Caliban serves as such a strong anchor because for the rest of the gang, ‘Resurrection’ is more of a stepping-stone. There were no big discoveries, battles or bloodbaths, but rather more minimal events and realizations that seem to be building towards something much larger. Mina is communicating with Vanessa, but her messages aren’t as informative as one might hope. Sir Malcolm clearly knows more than he’s telling anyone. The introduction of Fenton (Olly Alexander) raises more questions regarding what’s really going on. And then there’s Ethan who now confirmed he has a connection to wolves, but has yet to reveal if he’s a werewolf himself.
It’s strange that Ethan would be surprised by anything that happens while with Vanessa and Sir Malcolm if he really is a supernatural creature. However, at this point, Penny Dreadful has offered more than enough hints that there’s much more to him than he lets on. His intense reaction to Fenton’s torture could suggest he’s experienced something similar in the past. If he really is a werewolf, perhaps this father that he speaks of didn’t approve and admonished him for it.
Another big question you’re left with at the end of the episode is, will this pact change the group dynamic? Sir Malcolm, Ethan, and Victor at least are all harboring secrets. Will their sworn loyalty to one another necessitate a change in that? It’s likely Ethan will eventually come clean and that Caliban will have an effect on the mission, but regardless, the promise that the group is coming together at all is the top thrill of the episode. Now that we’ve spent the time coming to know and like the characters, seeing them come together to fight for a common cause is a major reason anticipation for the next episode is higher than ever.
Penny Dreadful continues next Sunday with ‘Demimonde’ @ 10pm on Showtime.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.