Penny Dreadful Episode 3 Review: “Resurrection”
In which there are more literary references than I can possibly handle.
Penny Dreadful continues along a gothically freaky path this week, giving us more of what I love about the show so far, and less of what I don’t (namely, Dorian Gray). “Resurrection” leaves us with almost as many questions as answers, but we do know one thing for sure: Josh Harnett’s butt needs as much air-time as possible.
The episode opens on a young Victor, morbidly fascinated by mortality since the loss of his mother in his youth, contemplating the brutality of death while fittingly quoting lines from Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood. But Victor’s attempts to cheat death haven’t been going super well for him as of late – his first Creature has returned, leaving the body of the adorable Proteus ripped apart at their feet. RIP Proteus. You were a good monster for a quick second there.
But “Resurrection” lives up to its’ title; the episode is very much about Victor’s creation, Caliban, and the way modernity has re-defined (or perhaps corrupted) the Romantic ideal of beauty. Caliban himself puts it best when he equates himself with the rapidly-changing age of industry:
“I am not a creation of the antique pastoral world. I am modernity personified. Did you not know that’s what you were creating? The modern age? Did you really imagine that your modern creation would hold to the values of Keats and Wordsworth? We are men of iron and mechanization now. We are steam engines and turbines. Were you really so naive to imagine that we’d see eternity in a daffodil?”
Now, I’m not going to get in the habit of posting whole chunks of dialogue in the middle of my reviews, but that speech was just so on-point that I just needed to immortalize it on the internet forever. Beyond his elegant speeches, Rory Kinnear’s Caliban is just a wonderful representation of Frankenstein’s Creature in so many ways; he’s got the physicality, right down to the glowing eyes, and his well-spoken, calm demeanor makes him immediately sympathetic.
Caliban finds work at a theatre, thanks to a kindly gentleman (who I am not convinced is Dr. Jekyll, sorry internet); and though he’s named for Sycorax’s malformed son in The Tempest, Caliban ends up much more like the Phantom, skulking behind the scenes, falling in love with an actress from a distance. An actress who could be Dorian Gray‘s Sybil Vane, I’m just sayin’. Eventually, Caliban approaches Victor with his desire for a mate – which seems to suggest that it is not, in fact, Caliban who has been cutting up those women around London.
And the theatre at which Caliban finds himself employed is none other than the Grand Guignol, a famous playhouse known for its scandalous and entirely penny dreadful-esque performances (you know, stranglings, insane asylums, acid disfigurations, all the usual sensational fare). A Parisian theatre that opened in 1897, mind you, but I’m okay with the liberties Penny Dreadful has been taking with historical accuracy for the sake of story. And in line with the episode’s theme, our Kind Gentleman laments the world’s fascination with gore and grotesquery, depressed that we have fallen from Shakespeare to Ibsen (which admittedly pleased the Ibsen-hater in me). The Penny Dreadful season finale is called “Grand Guignol,” so I’m sure the theatre will become quite an important player in itself.
But whatever parts of the episode weren’t focused on Caliban and London’s dark descent into modernity brought us more vampiric goodness from the rest of the cast. Ethan, vag-matized by Brona, is taking on work with the Penny Dreadful Scooby gang again for cash, and finds himself confronted by a pack of definitely werewolves you guys while out hunting vamps. Ethan manages to calm the wolfpack with some serious dog voodoo, but I’m still not entirely sure that he’s a werewolf himself. I actually kind of hope he isn’t.
Also making special appearances during this episode’s vamp hunt are Sembene’s kukri knife (the weapon Jonathan Harker — who himself gets name-dropped — uses to kill Dracula in the novel); and Dracula-worhipper Renfield (here re-named Fenton), a particularly creepy vamp who eats living creatures to gain their life-force. Also, he’s nuts. And here, it seems like they’re going to experiment on him – until his “master” shows up at the end of the episode in another solid cliffhanger. Will we see Dracula next week? Is it happening? Someone hold me.
On a brighter note, we got equal-opportunity nudity this week in the form of Billie Piper and Josh Harnett booty (they got the booty), and a blissful lack of Dorian Gray (hooray!). Also, to address a pervasive internet theory I’ve seen going around, I actually don’t think Vanessa is currently possessed by Amunet. If you go back and re-watch episode two, you’ll notice that during the séance, Vanessa says, “Amunet? No. Much older,” which leads me to believe that Vanessa actually has something way, way worse going on with (or inside of) her, and Amunet is a little late to the party. But we’ll see.
You can (and should) check out Penny Dreadful Sunday nights at 10pm on Showtime!