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Penny Dreadful – S2E1- Fresh Hell

In the Season 1 finale, Sir Malcolm Murray killed his daughter Mina Harker, now a vampire, to save Vanessa Ives, acknowledging Vanessa as a surrogate daughter. As former-prostitute Brona neared death of consumption, Victor Frankenstein smothered her, half out of mercy, half to abscond with the body to fulfill his “monster” Caliban’s request for a wife. Ethan drank the pain of her death away, and, when confronted by two bounty hunters paid to return him to America, finally revealed his werewolf nature. Slaughter ensued.

Bride of Frankenstein

Preparing Brona’s body for the resurrection crucible, Caliban wonders if she will remember her life. Victor hopes not because her life sucked. They lower her into the bath to wait for a storm, but since the skies are clear, Caliban leaves to look for work. Before heading out, he reminds Victor that he’ll never leave him alone because they’re “bound on a wheel of pain.” After he leaves, Victor creepily talks to Brona’s body, wondering who she’ll become. He sympathetically pats her hand which turns to disturbingly fondling her breast. Gross! Thankfully, Sembene, Malcolm’s right-hand man, summons him away.

Bride of Frankenstein Penny Dreadful 2x01

Caliban finds a wax museum featuring a chamber of grotesquery and gore. The kindly owner and artist is surprised at his interest in employment as everyone finds it unnerving. He’s attempting to compete with Madame Toussaud’s by recreating infamous grisly crime scenes, including the bar massacre which we know to be Ethan’s doing. He asks Caliban to return later for his bookkeeper wife’s approval.

She’s harsh, declaring the contract to be 1 hour before opening to 2 hours after closing, no days off, no holidays, 15 shillings a week. He signs happily while we cringe at Victorian working conditions. They then introduce their daughter, Lavinia, whom he shrinks from until he realizes that she’s blind. She asks to touch his face, and though he protests that “This is not a face for touching,” he allows it. She makes note of every scar, but greets him sweetly and he’s taken. Trouble.

Caliban wax museum Penny Dreadful 2x01

A storm blows in, throwing Victor and Caliban into a tizzy as they prep the lab. Rain pours in through an open window as Victor throws all the switches. “Let her live now! NOW!” Caliban cries to the storm, and soon Victor joins his pleas, their screams blending in the dramatic light. At last lightning strikes, fraying all of the circuits. Caliban looks hatefully at Victor, believing it failed, but soon Brona’s fingers curl over the edge and she rises shaking, eyes red like Caliban’s.

Brona awakes Penny Dreadful 2x01.bmp

Nightwalkers

Vanessa’s peaceful walk through a snowy park is interrupted when Madame Kali, hiding behind a statue, incants a spell that brings dark visions. Waving well-meaning people away, Vanessa falls to her knees, heaving.

Vanessa Ives in snow Penny Dreadful 2x01

Ethan wakes up in the mariner’s bar, splattered in blood and horrified that he’s killed EVERYONE. (We later find out from the inspector that one survived.) He cleans himself up and grabs Vanessa for a goodbye carriage ride, giving her the “not what you think I am” speech. She believes they must stand and fight these dark forces, both outside and within themselves. He explains that he gets blackouts ending in blood. She asks how she can help, and he replies hopelessly:

“You can’t change who you are, no matter who you save, or who you love.”

The carriage bolts, throwing her into his arms. The horses and rider scream, and thralls attack them through the window. Ethan fights them off, but they overturn the carriage. One attempts to curse Vanessa in a demon language, but Vanessa channels it back, leaving Ethan more stunned than we’ve ever seen him.

Ethan scared Penny Dreadful 2x01.bmp

Vanessa and Ethan climb out onto the overturned carriage and find the horses and driver eviscerated. The thralls watch from the darkness, sprouting cloaks and curly dark hair.

Back at the Murray home, Vanessa, shaky and pale, attempts to calm herself in front of the fire while Ethan asks Sembene to watch over her. She dismisses Ethan, and he does leave but stands guard outside in the snow. One of the women watches him from afar. Vanessa asks Sembene if he believes the past will return. He replies that it never leaves.

“Vanessa, I’ve lost one daughter. I’m not prepared to lose another. Not for anything in this world.” – Malcolm

Mourning at Mina’s new grave, Sir Malcolm’s wife wonders which is sadder—Peter’s empty grave or Mina’s full one. He offers to come back home, saying they were happy once. She replies harshly that they will remain married to avoid embarrassment, but their life together is buried in these graves.

“No, Malcolm, you were happy once…. We have no more children for you to save, or to kill.”

The next day, Ethan and Sembene discuss what Vanessa’s fear means for them all. Sir Malcolm arrives home, and she rushes downstairs to greet him with an embrace, startling and concerning him. Along with Victor, they gather to discuss the attack. Ethan says the women were branded, and Vanessa clarifies: the devil’s mark, raked across them to seal their service. She names the language verbis diablo, the language of the Devil. Victor protests that it’s mythical, but Ethan counters with his own deep religious knowledge: this corruption of angelic speech betrayed Adam’s sin to God. Vanessa, however, claims to have no idea what or how she spoke, but believes the women are nightcomers, or witches. She refuses their help, but Ethan swears he will not leave and Sir Malcolm won’t hear of it either.

An echoing voice sings The Unquiet Grave as the camera enters a gothic mansion, winding through the rounding stairs and hallways, and ends with Madame Kali snuffing a cigarette in her bath of blood, a young woman sprawled dead on the floor.

Madame Kali bloodbath Penny Dreadful 2x01.bmp

She descends the stairs where her four daughters, the nightcomers, await and announces that she’s disappointed. Kali worries about Vanessa’s protector, whom Hecate calls “Lupus dei.” They need a new strategy: Hecate will target Vanessa while Kali seduces Sir Malcolm. The daughter who confronted Vanessa wants another try, blaming her knowledge of the verbis diablo. In response, Kali monologues about the practice of memento mori, the idea of reminding victors that they are still mortal, then cuts the girl’s throat with a razor-blade poison ring.

“Look behind you and remember that you are a man. Remember that you will die.”

Ethan tells Malcolm that Vanessa will open up about what’s happening soon and decides to stay on in the guest room. Later he spots Vanessa in a white nightgown, hair loose; they stare, tension apparent (Yes!), but he glances away and she closes the door. Between two candles, she kneels at her crucifix and cuts her thumb, drawing a scorpion in blood. She desperately begins the Hail Mary, sweat and blood dripping down her arms. Simultaneously, Kali cuts her own thumb, drawing an upside down cross on her forehead, and chants in verbis diablo. The two chants battle, converge, and draw silent. Nightwalkers appear behind Vanessa, flashing closer and closer, then disappear.

Madam Kali Penny  Dreadful 2x01

Overall thoughts

While Season 2 begins with less of Season 1’s moody magic, the game has certainly changed. Previously, it was every man for himself; now, love has grown within this strange group, a relief from their icy Victorian shells. But, with that love comes risk and true fear—Ethan’s expression in the carriage says it all. While he himself is worried about Vanessa’s fear, what does his own mean, given that he once exorcised Vanessa’s ancient demon when no one else could?

Score | 7/10Regarding Ethan, the weird sisters introduce a lesser-known legend, Lupus dei. Historically, Hounds of God were connected to the Benandanti, an agrarian fertility cult known in the fight against witches in the 16th and 17th centuries. In a famous Livonia trial in 1692, a man named Thiess explained that as a supposed Hound of God, one would ascend to Heaven at death, then return to earth with the werewolf “gift,” allowing him to descend into hell and battle witches and demons. This would explain a great deal about Ethan’s religious power within the demimonde and adds an intriguing twist to the familiar lore.

I must admit that I’m less interested in the Frankenstein story; while the acting is spot on, the story still closely follows the text. Perhaps the Bride’s birth will provide the originality I’m craving. As a Rose Tyler fan, I’m curious to see Billie Piper’s interpretation, and, of course, how quickly this situation will sour, as it must.

About Sarah de Poer (199 Articles)
Eminently sensible by day, by night, she can be found watching questionable scifi, pinning all the things, rewriting lists, pantry snacking, and not sleeping. She was once banned over an argument about Starbuck and Apollo, and she has to go right now because someone is wrong on the Internet.

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