New Show Recap: Penny Dreadful, Episode 1×02, “Seance”

Happy Thursday, all! I don’t know about you, but I thought that the second episode of Penny Dreadful was just as good as the first one. We meet two new characters here, and we are left with more questions at the end of this episode than we were at the end of the last episode.

This episode opens with a young streetwalker standing in an alley late on a foggy night, looking for clients. The streetwalker is quite alone and very nervous, jumping at every sound she hears, given the coverage of the Spitalfields murders in the newspaper. Suddenly the young prostitute senses that she isn’t alone, and she cowers and shrieks in terror as someone — or something —approaches her. She meets a grisly end in the dark streets, torn apart limb from limb.

After the opening credits roll, we see Ethan awakening near a rat-infested wharf alongside the Thames. It’s clear that he has been unconscious for some time and is disoriented…and that he may have no memory of how he got there or how he got the wound on his hand. He makes his way to a pub and orders whiskey.

The scene cuts to Victor and his newly arisen monster. Victor is trying to orientate the creature to what it’s like to be human, and he decides to allow the creature to choose his own name from a book of Shakespeare plays. The creature chooses the name Proteus. When Victor has to leave for the Murray home, the monster is visibly upset to be left alone.

Some time later, Ethan comes downstairs from the room he has taken at the pub. He pours himself some more whiskey. A young red-haired woman seats herself at the bar and, without ceremony, pours herself a glass of whiskey from the bottle Ethan opened. She asks him about what happened to his hand and remarks that she doesn’t see many Americans around there. Here we meet Brona Croft (Billie Piper), a young woman who came from Ireland to England in search of a better life. She worked for some time in the factories, but now she earns a living as a prostitute and is suffering from tuberculosis. After she leaves, Ethan asks the landlord if there are any rooms available.

Brona & Ethan
Billie Piper as Brona. Image via Zap2it. Penny Dreadful belongs to Showtime.

In the next scene, we return to Sir Malcolm’s house, where Vanessa is writing. Sir Malcolm and Vanessa receive Victor in the parlor. The trip go downstairs to a cellar room where the body of the dead vampire is being kept. Victor is surprised to see that the exoskeleton on the monster has been removed; Vanessa and Sir Malcolm procured carrion beetles to eat through the flesh. Victor takes a blood sample from the body and examines it, admitting that Malcolm and Vanessa will need to speak to a hematologist about the blood. When he leaves, Vanessa is certain that Frankenstein has a secret.

We then see Brona alight from a hansom cab and ring the doorbell to a house in a fashionable neighborhood. The door opens, and the house is dark and opera is playing on a phonograph in one of the rooms. The butler leads Brona to a sitting room with walls that are covered with portraits. A young man is shown staring at the portraits, and he turns around to greet Brona when she enters. He introduces himself as Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney).

We next see Inspector Colsworthy, who is investigating the Spitalfields murders, in his office, and Malcolm visits him, offering to help with the investigations. Inspector Colsworthy reveals to Malcolm that there were organs missing from the bodies, but that the bodies weren’t drained of blood. Sir Malcolm requests that Inspector Colsworthy call him the next time a murder like this occurs.

We then cut back to Dorian Gray’s house, where Dorian is posing for a series of photographs. Dorian kisses Brona despite her consumption, and the two have sex, with Dorian’s butler filming the whole while. Dorian asks Brona if she feels pain more deeply because she is dying, and she admits that she doesn’t. When she asks Dorian if he feels pain, he replies that he doesn’t feel anything. When Brona coughs blood on his face after they are done having sex, he seems completely unfazed by it.

We next cut to Ethan at the telegraph office. His father has sent him a telegram ordering him to return home immediately.

Victor and Proteus are alone in Victor’s flat, and Victor tries to teach Proteus more about what it means to be human and tries to see what Proteus remembers about his past life. It’s clear that Proteus is an innocent, benevolent creature who is fascinated by the wonders of the world around him.

Vanessa and Malcom attend Dr. Lyle’s soiree, and it’s here that Vanessa makes the acquaintance of Dorian Gray. Each one is entranced by the other. Dorian observed about Vanessa: “You do not belong here, even less than I. You are not frivolous, your eyes careful and appraising. This is not a careful room, although there is much to appraise. That can divert you for only so long. You do not like it here, you are closed to it. Yet you’re the only woman in this house not wearing gloves. Your hands want to touch. Your head wants to appraise. Your heart is torn between the two. You were skeptical because you thought this was going to be a wasted evening, but now you’re not so sure.” The scene between Dorian and Vanessa is brilliantly filmed; they speak to each other as though they are the only two people in the room, and Vanessa seems to drop some of her cool reserve to listen to what Dorian, who seems to be on the prowl for new experiences, has to say. There is much tension between them, and it shows, as Dorian is the only person who has been in such close physical proximity to Vanessa so far. What is Dorian able to see that others can’t?

Vanessa & Dorian
Vanessa meets Dorian Gray at Dr. Lyle’s party. Image via Hypable. Penny Dreadful belongs to Showtime.

Lyle interrupts the party guests to announce that they will be having a seance presided over the spiritualist Madame Kali (Helen McCrory). The guests sit at the table, and while Madame Kali is invoking the spirits, it’s clear that Vanessa, who is holding onto Dorian’s hand, is trying to keep herself together. But she loses her shit and falls into a trance and is possessed by three spirits: Peter, Sir Malcolm’s dead son; Mina, who begs for help and for her father to find her; and another demonic spirit, Amanet, who speaks an old language. During the course of Vanessa’s possession, we learn that Malcolm had an affair with someone. The force of the spirits within Vanessa is so great that she breaks the table, scaring the guests, and she stalks out into the rainy night. We see Vanessa walking purposefully in the rain, her hair loose and streaming behind her. Vanessa has sex with a random man in the street, and Dorian Gray, who had followed her, sees her in the act of this.

Later, we see that Malcolm has found Vanessa and has brought her home, safely, so that she might sleep off the effects of the possession.

The following morning, Ethan is sitting in the pub drinking whiskey. Brona joins him and tells him that she has found a job. Ethan has found a position as a maritime supervisor, and he asks Brona out to dinner. She accepts his invitation.

Sir Malcolm goes to visit Dr. Lyle. There is a brief discussion of Vanessa’s behavior from last night and Dr. Lyle informs Sir Malcolm that Vanessa is no longer welcome in his house socially. Dr. Lyle translates the hieroglyphics, and identifies one as the goddess Amanet, the Hidden One, underneath whose appearance is a hideous monster. Amanet was the consort of Amun-Ra, the god of rebirth, and she feeds on the souls of the living. Amanet and Amun-Ra must never be allowed to join together, for then the world would end and a reign of evil would begin under the two gods. The hieroglyphics are a spell to being about the union of the two.

Victor takes Proteus outside for the very first time. Proteus is overwhelmed and exhilarated by the sights and sounds of the city. The two run into Ethan and Brona, who are on their way out to dinner. They strike up an acquaintance, despite Proteus’s awkwardness. When Victor and Proteus return home, they discuss the sights and wonders of the city. In the middle of their conversation, Proteus’s skin begins to crack, and another man emerges from his shell. Victor is stunned as the creature regards him contemptuously and says: “The firstborn has returned, Father.”

I am very excited for the next episode. I have a few guesses as to what Brona might be hiding and who she might be, though I won’t divulge them. And I think I know what’s up with Ethan. But what’s going on with Vanessa? And will we get more of an explanation of what happened to Mina? Stay tuned!

 

 

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