Penny Dreadful Season 2 Premiere: “Fresh Hell” Review
Penny Dreadful has returned, and features so many badass ladies you might think you’re watching American Horror Story.
After what feels like a whole lotta waiting, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful is finally back; and Sir Malcolm gets a talking to from his estranged wife. There was plenty of violence, prayer, screaming, and gore as we caught up with much of our core cast. Season Two promises two more eps than the first season, so that’ll be cool. Spoilers for “Fresh Hell” to follow.
Season Two begins just where last season left off. Vanessa barely holds herself together as she recovers from the intense trauma she suffered last season. Sure, the main creature appears to be dead—along with Vanessa’s oldest friend and sister, Mina Murray. Her grave calls the girl “Mina Murray Harker”—but since she wasn’t married, I don’t see how this is correct. As Vanessa walks through the snow, Evelyn Poole appears, chanting in a language we do not recognize. Ethan Chandler is pretty sure he needs to get the hell out of dodge, or in this case—London. The Mariner’s Inn has been home to a brutal massacre, which we know Ethan the werewolf committed in last season’s finale. Looks like everyone is dead and the place is completely trashed. Ethan approaches Vanessa to say good bye. Soon they’re attacked by similar creatures to last season—but branded into the service of something evil. Whatever crazy language they’re speaking, Ms Ives speaks it too. Vanessa points out to a shocked and horrified Ethan– they may have fought a battle, but what they’re in is a war.
Victor Frankenstein continues his quest to resurrect Brona so she can be Caliban’s lady friend. But he’s got some squicky feelings for her. Seeing “Rose Tyler” naked is already weird, but watching Victor slowly caress her Y-incision is just gross. Before long, he’s actually feeling her up. What the hell, man? Watch for Victor to confirm that once he gives a “live” Brona to him, Caliban will take her and leave him the hell alone. No dice. Caliban explains that Victor might as well try to send away his own soul. Meanwhile, Caliban seeks employment. Surely there’s no place more suitable for such a man than the Grand Guignol. Yet, he quickly finds a new gig at a wax museum that’s determined to take business away from that French harlot, Madam Tussauds. We’re introduced to a host of wonderfully macabre and brutal displays, as well as Putnam the sculptor, his wife, and their blind daughter—Lavinia. Fifteen schillings a week sounds like very little money, even back then. Oh, and Caliban’s new name is John Clare. Things got a bit ominous when Putnam explained to his wife that Caliban’s face will make their fortune. What on earth could he mean by that? Sounds like more fresh hell to me.
Sir Malcolm is with his wife at the grave of their daughter. Gladys laments that both of her children have died so badly. Malcolm offers to come home and be happy, like they used to be. She’s not having it. She was never happy with him—what with him being a horrible and philandering husband and all. Gladys will remain his wife legally, but she doesn’t want him living with her. For all she cares, he can go to London, or Africa, or hell. Can you blame her? Malcolm still treats Vanessa like a daughter, and we still aren’t sure whether or not that’s because she is. He did carry on with her mother for a good, long time. Meanwhile at Mariner’s Inn, a new investigator looks into the massacre. Can there be two monsters like that in our city? Buddy, you don’t know the half of it.
Sembene has already said more this week than he did most of last season. Looking forward to knowing more about him. Ethan decides to stay at the Murray home until they find out what’s plaguing Vanessa. Frankenstein is summoned to examine the shaken woman, but he can’t find anything except that she’s slightly unnerved. It’s determined that the attackers were in league with Lucifer himself, and were speaking the Verbis Diablo—a bastardization of “God’s language” (no, Tea Partiers—I don’t mean English). Frankenstein finds that all unbelievable. You’d think a guy who keeps raising people from the dead would be more open-minded. Malcolm speaks many languages, but not the Verbis Diablo. He’s determined to learn it though, if it saves Vanessa.
We had to wait 40 whole minutes into “Fresh Hell” to get to the guts of this season’s main conflict. Evelyn Poole is clearly an allusion to Elizabeth Bathory—a blood drenched murderess and occult enthusiast. The bathtub full of blood is kind of a giveaway. We met her last season as Madame Kali—a friend of Ferdinand Lyle and sometime mystic. She was made aware, in S1E2, that Vanessa has mega power. Her daughters, it turns out, were who attacked Vanessa and Ethan earlier. Poole is upset that Vanessa has a werewolf protector, and commands her daughter, Hecate, to “take care of him.” Poole will focus on Malcolm Murray and will also secure Vanessa for her master, Lucifer. It’s worth noting that modern author Jeanne Kalogridis asserts that Bathory is one of Dracula’s three wives. Poole is clearly very rich, her house is also full of Memento Mori, tokens of death. Watch for her to explain the custom of returning victors followed by slaves carrying skulls. Neat! In case we weren’t sure whether Poole is truly evil or just a passionate eccentric, she murders one of her daughters in front of the others. Yikes!
As “Fresh Hell” comes to a close, the battle of souls between Vanessa and Evelyn is clearly seen. My money is on Evelyn as the older, more powerful woman. Evelyn also embraces her task, where Vanessa is forced to defend herself when she’d rather be left alone. Across town, Victor and Caliban work the not-very-well-thought-out network of levers and conductors. Eventually, they succeed in bringing Brona’s body back to life. She seems more comfortable with resurrection than either Caliban or Proteus (damn, I miss Proteus). We’re not really surprised that it works. We’re just dying to see what comes next.
No word from Dorian Grey this week, but his name in the credits implies that we’ll see him soon. Ditto Ferdinand Lyle, which makes me happy because he is just so fun. Nine eps remain in this second season of Penny Dreadful, and I am stoked.
See you’s next week!