I watched the premiere and the second episode back to back, and it was a lot to take in. I wasn’t kidding when I said that Penny Dreadful seems to go for the shock. Things got even more crazy in “Séance,” and, in all honesty, I got even more lost. But that’s ok. I’m sufficiently buckled in for the ride.
Note: There are potential spoilers throughout this review, so you may want to stop here and return after watching the show.
The opening is just the right amount of spooky as we kick off with a Jack the Ripper motif. And then we dive back into the characters from episode 1.
The basic premise, Sir Malcolm Murray’s quest for his daughter, is furthered along a bit, and we now know that the mysterious Ms. Ives may know more than she is letting on. We see a bit more of what she can do in this episode, and perhaps we are being led to believe she is a spiritualist… A psychic. Medium. Take your pick!
We find out that perhaps there is more to Ethan Chandler than his prowess with a revolver, though what lurks beneath we still aren’t sure. The only thing I gleaned with certainty is that he had some trouble with the U.S. Marshals at home, and he has a soft spot for young women (for-hire) afflicted with TB.
We are introduced to Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, Proteus – a kind, almost childlike man that the good (I don’t know. Is he?) doctor has blessed with life. There is a lot going on here, a lot of subtleties, and a very interesting relationship is being played out between the doctor and his creation. Father – son? Lovers? God – child? It’s very complex. Alex Price (Proteus) and Harry Treadaway (Dr. Frankenstein) convey a whole lot with a simple smile or measured eye movements. I’m not quite sure what they’re telling me, but I’m enjoying this storyline.
We also meet Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) – the rich playboy blessed with eternal youth. (Is it a blessing? I don’t know.) Carney has the right mix of smarminess and intelligence to pull this off, though I found him more smarmy than intelligent. Either way, Gray’s an interesting character. History tells us that Gray used his looks to his advantage, living a life of sin and debauchery, and if the second episode is any indication, it would appear that Penny Dreadful is going to explore that bit to the fullest. It’s also made clear that Dorian enjoys consumption-infected ladies too.
The most interesting/disturbing scene played out during a – you guessed it – séance. Sir Malcolm Murray and Vanessa Ives accept Mr. Ferdinand Lyle’s invitation to his party. Lyle, the eccentric Egyptologist, has brought the medium Madame Kali out for a bit of entertainment. Seven brave souls are asked to sit at her table, and Lyle, Murray, Ives, and Gray make their way to the table. During the séance, the medium informs us that “another” is here. And this is where things get… weird.
Ms. Ives begins twitching and convulsing. She is then possessed by someone or something that takes the opportunity to taunt Sir Malcolm Murray and scandalize the other guests. The spirit rapid-fires the life and death of what must be Murray’s son. It sifts through a wide range of emotions. And then things take a turn and the spirit jabs at Murray and seems to accuse him of sleeping with his own daughter, Mina.
We aren’t officially introduced to the evil presence, nor do I understand why the spirit-infected Ms. Ives runs out of the party and gets busy with some random man in an alley, but the entire segment is a shock to the system.
The next day, Sir Malcolm Murray meets with Mr. Lyle to review the hieroglyphics as agreed. Mr. Lyle expresses his guests’ displeasure of Ives antics, but he reviews the photos of the markings anyway. Mr. Lyle notes that the goddess Amunet and the god Amun-Ra are shown together, which is a big no-no. He explains that the hieroglyphics are actually a spell that could destroy mankind.
We return to Frankenstein and Proteus, and a sudden and shocking ending unfolds as we meet another of Frankenstein’s creations.
As with the first episode, there is a lot of backstory happening, yet there is a good mix of edge-of-your-seat moments as well. Penny Dreadful is an interesting ride that keeps you wondering. And I guarantee, if you watch it more than once, you’ll pick up on something you missed the first time. It’s exciting to wonder what will happen next. I plan to keep on doing so.