Penny Dreadful 1.03: “Resurrection”

While Proteus received attention and care from Victor, who had begun to educate him and help mold him into a proper man, Caliban instead receives his education from Brand. It seems most likely that he is the one who taught him how to speak as he does, while both he and the dramas that unfold on the stage each night introduced him to poetry and beauty–ironic given how gruesome the content of the plays could be. And yet while the gorgeous actors and actresses he sees on stage make him in awe of them and their art, they also make him all them more aware of his own deficiencies (this scarred figure, skulking in the shadows of the theatre, gazing at the seemingly perfect actors on stage brings up echoes of The Phantom of the Opera, as well), and feel all the more bitterly towards his father, who has moved on with a softer, more handsome son. It’s very likely that his quest for vengeance is inspired by the very plays he beholds each night, as is his desire for Frankenstein to make him a mate–a conceit that comes from the original novel but seems to flow even more naturally from this depiction of the Creature. It also makes Caliban an even more fitting name, due to the otherwise oddly sympathetic character’s near-rape of Miranda. Both Harry Treadway and Kinnear are both absolutely striking in these scenes. Beneath Caliban’s anger, you can hear a submerged longing for acceptance from Frankenstein, while from Frankenstein, you might detect the barest hint of regret at how he treated Caliban, albeit submerged under his anguish over his murder of his chosen “son,” Proteus.

You can see both perspectives, Frankenstein’s devastation at his loss (his multiple losses, really), and the Creature’s belief that Victor is callously playing god with peoples’ lives, without considering the consequences. Having been in Proteus’ footsteps (in fact, his peering at the light shining into the lab in a flashback is identical to Proteus’ experience), he thinks he’s done him a favor, “aborting” him before his existential crisis could set in, and to be fair, Proteus was beginning to regain memories of his past life. It may not have been long before he grew troubled by what had happened to him.

For a while, I almost thought that the entire episode would revolve around Frankenstein and Caliban, and I would have actually been absolutely fine with that. However, the episode did eventually touch on some of the other character threads, as well. Since so much of this portion of the episode remains shrouded in mystery, I have fewer solid things to say about it, but I would like to mention a few things:

–I find it very interesting that Ethan has begun to embark on a physical relationship with Bronna, even knowing her condition. The scene is nearly a direct inversion of her sex scene with Dorian Gray. Unlike with Dorian, neither she nor her disease is being treated fetishistically. She is not a fascinating object to him, a dying creature. There, instead, seems to be genuine emotion between Ethan and Bronna. He seems to actually be falling for her. I’m thinking that, along with his alcoholism, there might be a level of self-destructiveness to his behavior, too, or at least disregard for the dangers of having sex with her (versus Dorian, who, assuming I’m correct about his portrait having already been painted, already has nothing to fear from her). But overall, he seems to have true feelings for her. I never would have expected that the thing that would convince Ethan to return to Sir Malcolm and Vanessa would be hoping to raise money for Bronna’s medicine, and I really like that–both that I didn’t see it coming and that, rather than growing fascination for the occult, it’s for an even more human reason.

–Vanessa’s vision is very interesting. While standing in the hallway in the daytime, she suddenly has a flash to Mina trying to contact her at night, Vanessa wearing a maid’s uniform. What I’m wondering is whether this is an indication that Vanessa used to be a maid, or if it has some other symbolic meaning. I’m very eager to learn more about the connections between Sir Malcolm and Vanessa, and how this all fell into place.

–Another striking moment: the wolf pack appearing at the zoo and nearly attacking the group, until Ethan seems to commune with the alpha, by sticking his hand out, and putting it inside the wolf’s mouth. The question is, are these werewolves? How does Ethan know the right way to communicate with them and how is he able to be so fearless in regards to them? Does he know the ways of either wolves or werewolves? Is he secretly a werewolf? It would be interesting, since he seemed to be unaccustomed to the supernatural world in the first episode, but what if it was actually only vampires he wasn’t aware of, whilst harboring his own secret?

–And now they have a captured seemingly young vampire, Fenton, who they caught eating monkeys in the zoo. A seemingly weak little servant, he certainly seems to be a reference to Dracula’s Renfield. He also again references the whole Egyptian mythology/end of days stuff that so freaked out Lyle in the previous episode. Meanwhile, Frankenstein’s concept of transfusing him with human blood in an attempt to cure him sounds most interesting. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how all of this unfolds in the coming weeks.

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Author: Robert Berg

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