Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Penny Dreadful: Season One, Episode 3 (Resurrection)

"You have not known horror unless I show it to you."

So it turns out that Proteus wasn't the first life created by young Mr. Frankenstein, and that Rory Kinnear is in fact joining the likes of Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee in the pantheon of those who have played the monster. He even wants a bride! This time, though, he is called not Adam but Caliban, the name I predicted for his late brother.

It is Frankenstein and his monster who are foregrounded here, but the transplantation of the tale to late Victorian London gives us the wonderful spectre of Caliban working behind stage in the Grand Guignol, an institution which I suspect is intended as a kind of microcosm for the series itself.

Interesting, though, that Frankenstein's love of Romantic poetry, with its rejection of industrial sprawl, is contrasted starkly with Caliban's love of the dark Satanic mills of "an age of steam and turbines". Frankenstein is, of course, motivated by guilt. He is fulfilling the narrative role of a tragic hero; I fully expect him to eventually suffer a death to suit.

It turns out that Brona is a Victorian prostitute; I'm reminded of The Crimson Petal and the White, which I read a couple of years ago. I'm also reminded of Secret Diary of a Call Girl, mainly because of Billie Piper. Sadly, however, this prostitute is dying of consumption, in desperate poverty to boot. It's a reminder of the extremes of wealth and poverty that existed in the Victorian age, extremes that we are slowly sleepwalking back towards as the slow, cruel dismemberment of the NHS and the Welfare State continues apace.

Ethan Chandler finally decides to accept Eva's offer and begin working for her and Sir Malcolm. Again they go hunting for baddies, and capture a werewolf. Ethan is shocked by the cruel treatment it is subjected to by his employers, evil though it is; no one is truly good in Penny Dreadful, just various hues of grey.

Their new prisoner longs for "all life to end and the world to live in darkness." Sadly, for Brona, this seems to be her immediate future...

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