Showtime was kind enough o give everyone a preview of the first episode of season three of Penny Dreadful. It doesn’t give much away, it’s mostly a setup of all the characters we’ll be meeting, and what issues we’ll be dealing with, in the first half of the season. We visit each character in turn, find out where they are, what they’ve been doing, and where their next adventure might lead. The only people we don’t get to see are Reeve Carney and Billie Piper as Lily and Dorian, a couple of villains I was thoroughly unimpressed by last season, especially since Lily’s villainy seem to come out of left field. (Not saying her anger and bitterness isn’t understandable, just that I wasn’t impressed by it.)
We start with Vanessa, who has given in to major depression after the events of last season. Everyone has left her. Sir Malcolm is off burying his best friend Sembene in Africa, and Ethan left her to go to America and deal with his father issues. She’s all alone in the house, she’s neglected it’s upkeep, there are no servants that I can tell, although someone is regularly delivering bread and milk to her. She mostly wanders around the cobwebbed, fly swarmed house, like a ghost, until she’s visited by Lyle. I love Lyle. He’s such a gem and just about the only positive person on the show. He dispenses some words of advice, wisdom, and gentle humor to her. At no point does he tell her what to do, but his genuine concern is enough to get her out of the house.
Lyle makes an appointment for her to see his therapist, played by Patti Lupone, who also is the spitting image of The Cut Wife from last season. Vanessa recognizes her immediately and is happy with o see her, even though she realizes it can’t be the same woman. Oddly, the therapist does share the same name, place of origin, and character traits of the Cut Wife, so they’re more than likely related somehow.
Patti plays a genderbent Dr. Seward, who calls herself an Alienist, which is what I guess psychiatrists called themselves back then. She is a blunt, pragmatic woman who has no patience for foolishness or prevarication, and I liked her immediately. She reads Vanessa extremely well, just as the Cut Wife did, when they first met. In fact, tonight’s episode was full of people “reading “ each other, which is something that’s only effective when the person being “read” is unaware, uncertain, or trying to hide themselves. Against someone who knows and acknowledges who they are, this is not a very effective technique. It requires the participation of the one being read, and the specific intentions of the person doing the reading, which must be pure, or all they’ll end up doing is telling you who they are.
There’s a lot of reading in this episode . The creature reads his shipmates before abandoning them. Kaetenay reads Sir Malcolm, and Dr. Seward gives Vanessa a bluntly accurate reading of who she is, when Vanessa tries to derail their conversation about herself. This serves the purpose of telling the audience where these characters are mentally at this point in the season.
We also meet Dr. Seward’s secretary, Renfield. But more on him later.
Anyway, Seward tells Vanessa to go out and do something different. To break the cycle of the behavior she’s been in lately, although I think leaving the house to seek help from a therapist would qualify. While wandering around the city, she becomes aware that the poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson has died, when a pale little boy offers her a black ribbon. He makes some cryptic comments to her about his blood disease. This is a presentiment of Dracula’s introduction in the show. In the first season we got an introduction to Dracula’s presence via his minions and brides, and no mention at all last season. So they’ve upped the ante for this season.
Vanessa visits a kind of Taxidermy Museum, where she meets Dr.Sweet, who seems very taken with her. The two of them have an immediate connection of some kind. I don’t know this character so have no idea where he fits within the show or if he has some dark secrets we find out later (probably yes).
We find Sir Malcolmin Africa, distraught after burying his friend, Sembene, and vowing to give up fighting supernatural creatures. He is challenged in this by a native American man, of Apache origin, named Kaetenay. Kaetenay, says he is like a father to Ethan too, and says Malcolm must travel to America to help save their son. So Ethan has three fathers. The father he disowned and wishes to avoid, (and who probably cursed him with lycanthropy), the father who adopted him and that he later abandoned, Kaetenay, and the father he adopted, Sir Malcolm. I like these little smigdets of backstory we get about Ethan.
In America, Ethan is being transported home, to be executed for whatever crimes he committed there, when his train is attacked by brigands. Or that’s what we’re meant to think, but really they’re there to kidnap him. Hecate, in her innocent, American waif disguise, just barely manages to escape being shot in the face. The sheriff, Detective Rusk and his deputies, don’t. The kidnappers tell Ethan they were sent by his father. He is going to see his father whether he likes it or not. Ethan wishes them good luck with that. I suspect he’s correct. There are a lot of people after Ethan, and depending how far away home is, a full moon is coming soon.
The most interesting person introduced in the show is Dr. Jeckyll, played by Shazad Latif. (Wooo! I’ve got the vapors over this big-eyed hunk of a man! Seriously though, he has the biggest eyes I’ve ever seen on a man, and a very intense stare.) Victor calls Henry to London to help him figure out how to kill Lily, but Henry is canny enough to figure out that Victor wants her back because he’s in love with her. There are some allusions to Henry’s anger issues and how he has treated these issues through his mastery of chemistry. He and Victor have great chemistry together so I expect a lot of ‘shipping of this pair.
We find Victor Frankenstein’s creature, John, trapped on a ship sitting in the Arctic ice, while the crew contemplates eating their fellow shipmates. They are about to attack one of their crew but John stops them. He eventually kills the child by snapping his neck, and walks off into the Arctic snow, leaving the ship’s crew to whatever their fates may be.
Dr. Seward’s secretary, Renfield has a terrifying encounter with Dracula’s minions, when they kidnap him to take him to meet their Master. We get to watch Renfield become RENFIELD, and I already dislike him because he’s such a spineless jellyfish. (No, scratch that. I actually like Jellyfish.) Dracula announces himself but we don’t get to see his face. I’m hoping the show will buck tradition and make him a classically handsome looking fellow, because his voice sounds pretty awful. All he has to do is tell Renfield to bare his neck and Ren just flips over to have his throat torn out without any resistance. I kept yelling at my TV for the man to grow at least one ball. (Vanessa is more man than he’ll ever be.)
I think I must be reading too much modern vampire fiction because I long ago accepted the idea of Renfield as a title passed along to whatever minions are closest to Dracula at any given time. That way one could have multiple Renfields.
Anyway, Vanessa seems rejuvenated after her visit with Dr. Sweet and goes home to clean, clean, and clean some more. She appears to be trying to put her life back in some order, but this probably is not something permanent, as later in the season, we see she’s been institutionalized.
Well, this season looks promising. Except for the Dorian and Lily stuff, I enjoyed last season. Not that I don’t like Reeve Carney but the show-runners sort of pissed me off when they introduced a transgender character, just to kill her of for no purpose. Really, people! Do better than that! You can’t make a character that damned interesting just to kill them off for shits and giggles.( At some point there must be some kind of payoff for what Dorian did to her.)
Well, anyway I hope they keep Lily to a minimum this season because she’s a lot less compelling than the writers think she is. She’s not a bad character, its just that next to the evil of some of the other characters, she’s a non-entity.
This episode is available for free pretty much anywhere on the internet, so check it out. I will be reviewing the entire season, and my reviews/recaps are meant for people who don’t have Showtime, so there are spoilers, as I recap the episodes, (and I don’t separate the two.)