"Resurrection" is the title of this most recent episode and it seems mainly to refer to a resurrection of the past for Doctor Frankenstein. Not only do we get the good doctor’s back story, but that of his first creature as well. The episode is heavy with this story and may seem a bit slow in the action area if you are already familiar with this famous literary work. The first creature is something to behold, extremely well spoken and filled to the brim with venom for his creator. While not much action occurs in this episode, it does serve the purpose of finally bringing all of our characters together, cementing them in their united goal of unraveling the mysteries surrounding Mina Murray and the monster that holds her captive. The pacing once again seems lopsided, due to the heavy back story with not much happening in the present. That being said, the look into Frankenstein’s premiere creature’s back story was not an unpleasant one, though it would seem we will be learning more about him as his past is left partially unexplained for now. One hopes that each of our characters receives this kind of care, that we learn more of what brought Sir Malcolm, Ethan, Vanessa and the rest to their current situations.
The episode opens with a flashback to the life of the young Victor Frankenstein. We see him walking among the daffodils, very Wordsworthian, quoting poetry in a voice over. Speaking of Wordsworth, the poem being quoted is Imitations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, an ode to the fact that the world and nature as one interprets them in adulthood is merely a shadow of the idealistic way one viewed the same things as a child. To say this is fitting to the events of this flashback would be a severe understatement, as young Victor happens upon the rotting corpse of his beloved dog amidst the daffodils. This occurrence strongly reminds me of a similar one in Alan Moore’s From Hell, where the doctor who grows up to become Jack the Ripper happens upon a similarly deceased animal amidst nature and dissects it, fueling the drive and morbid curiosity that would cause him to become a sadistic killer. In Frankenstein’s case, discovering the death of his pet only causes the boy to question the act of death itself, to whether such a natural occurrence is peaceful and serene as it is written in the poetry he holds so dear.
We jump to the present, right where the last episode left off with Doctor Frankenstein being confronted by his first creation, the mangled body of Proteus laying at their feet. The doctor is not in control of this situation; he cowers, refusing to meet his creation’s eye as the creature delivers lyrical insults. I strongly believe this creature to be the figure that we barely saw over Doctor Frankenstein’s shoulder towards the end of the first episode. It is clear that the creature is now in charge, though what is it that Frankenstein fears? Is it the fact that he abandoned this newly-formed man to the mercy of the world or is it something else entirely? The creature proceeds to tell his tale to Frankenstein, his now captive audience.
We take a break from the Visual Autobiography of the Modern Prometheus and head over to Sir Malcolm's place, where Vanessa walks the corridor. She pauses upon hearing a low primal roar, but dismisses the noise as one would the rumbling of one’s stomach. That is, until the spiritualist is assaulted by a cacophony of jungle noises, animals screeching and chattering in panic. This full on auditory hallucination brings Vanessa to a vision, where time seems to stop for a moment and Mina reaches out, calling for help. Vanessa asks the all-important question, “Where are you?”, and Mina rather covertly states that all around her are the beasts that feed in the night and “they are hungry”, before time seems to start again and Vanessa is brought back to reality. The lighting during this vision seems to suggest bars and that, coupled with the wild animal noises, force me to think that Mina is at a zoo. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a wolf, under the vampire’s control does escape from the zoo, only to return later on in the book. It would be a safe bet, as we will see, that something wicked is residing at the London Zoo.
Despite this, Caliban embraces his new role and the community found with being part of the theatrical company, though it is clear he desires more as he watches one of the female actresses from the shadows. In The Tempest, Caliban attempted to rape one of the female characters and I think this may foreshadow problems for the creature. We don’t yet know why the Caliban of Penny Dreadful left a post where he was comfortable and enjoyed the work, but I think that trouble of this kind might have been the reason the creature renewed his search for his father. It is worth mentioning that the actor, when getting Caliban acquainted with his new job and lodgings, mentions that one of his duties will be to oversee the limelight and gas. I already checked, The Grand Guignol did not suffer from a fire in the past, but such an obvious mention of that specific mechanism, coupled with Frankenstein’s monster’s traditional cinematic fear of fire, must have be given screen time for a reason. We shall see if fire plays a role in why Caliban left this theater.
Elsewhere, Ethan Chandler is meeting with Sir Malcolm and Vanessa, both surprised to see the sharpshooter once more. He and Brona are certainly more than friends now, as a brief scene of love-making will show, though it’s obvious Ethan cares deeply for Brona, which is why he showed up on Sir Malcolm’s doorstep, looking for more “night work”. Ethan wishes to earn money so he can buy Brona medicine to treat her tuberculosis. It’s unclear at this point whether the romance is one-sided or not, though I personally am more excited by the fact that our characters are finally coming together under a common flag, something I had hoped would happen sooner rather than later. Vanessa and Sir Malcolm explain that they may have an idea as to where Mina is being held, Vanessa attributing her knowledge and second sight to being “affected by forces beyond our world”. That is putting it mildly to say the least, given last episode’s much-discussed séance scene. Sir Malcolm leaves Vanessa to fill Ethan in on the details and Ethan can’t help but ask what happened to Mina. I’m a bit disappointed that all we get of Mina’s backstory is that which we could find in Bram Stoker’s novel. It’s almost not worth recapping, just the usual business; Mina was a governess engaged to Jonathan Harker, but fell under the thrall of a mysterious foreigner who may be more than just a man. Ethan questions as to where Vanessa and Sir Malcolm believe Mina to be held and the spiritualist cheekily asks is Ethan has ever been to the London Zoo.
Wolves have circles our protagonists, staring them down from the shadows. I am strongly reminded of a quote found both in Bram Stoker’s novel and the 1931 production of Dracula, “Listen to them, children of the night, what music they make”. Clearly this pack of predators has been sent by the unseen vampire foe and the only music they are interested in making is the crunching of bones while they snack on our protagonists’ faces.
Now, with that hairy confrontation past, and an amusing “what the hell was that” glance between Vanessa and Sir Malcolm, our group make to leave. They are distracted, however, by munching and slurping sounds heard within one of the cages. Within they find a young man making a midnight snack of the primates fond in the cage. This ghoul lurches as if to attack, but is swiftly knocked out by Ethan before taken in chains back to Sir Malcolm’s place. Doctor Frankenstein is sent for to examine this recent acquisition in Sir Malcolm’s horror basement. The ghoul’s name is Fenton and the only obvious tie I could find with anyone named “Fenton” and cannibalistic, ghoulish activities is Harvey Fenton, the editor of a non-fiction book about the cult horror classic, Cannibal Holocaust. So clearly, this is a new character, though really I would take Fenton to be an expy of Renfield, Dracula’s loyal servant. Commonly, Renfield is depicted much like Penny Dreadful’s Fenton, a crouching, gibbering mess surviving on blood and “tiny lives” such as birds and small animals, all the while going on about his master. The ghoul claims that his master is there in the shadows, that such darkness will consume them all. He breathes the names “Amun-Ra” and “Amunet”, but knows nothing of Mina, instead taunting that he knows of a past where Vanessa was beaten and starving. Wishing to hear more about this “master”, Sir Malcolm attempts to beat the information out of his captive, but is stopped by Ethan right as Doctor Frankenstein arrives.
Well, readers, what did you think? Sound off in the comments section below!
I wonder if there was an issue getting the rights to both Dracula and Renfield’s names and characters. Clearly, referring to the vampire menace as “Count Dracula” would seem a bit melodramatic and I actually like that he so far has gone unnamed, creating this larger-than-life threat that has been looming in the shadows, quite literally according to Fenton. But a Renfield is a Renfield no matter what you name him. I do look forward to seeing how this ghoul will react to the blood transfusion “cure” though.
“Less is more” is the best policy in regards to horror in my opinion. Scare us by making us use our imaginations, keep us guessing by giving us as little information as possible. That is why characters like Vanessa intrigue me so. We receive snips and snapshots into their lives and pasts, and are allowed to wildly speculate in order to connect the dots. With Caliban, the mystery and horror that accompanied his entrance straight through Proteus’s chest was dissolved the instant his past was over explained. Oh, he worked in a theater, that’s nice.
I hope that the episode airing June 1st, entitled "Demimonde", brings more to the séance table than "Resurrection" did. Be sure to tell us what you thought of this most recent episode in the comments!