Well, “Penny Dreadful” sure seemed to ratchet up the weird in this episode. While the series premiere was packed with oddities like vampires, monsters and Dr. Frankenstein’s creature, it also placed a heavy emphasis on building the story.
“Seance” didn’t quite match the latter part of that equation, instead relying on the bizarre to propel it forward. The big news from the episode was the continuation of the relationship between Dr. Frankenstein and his creature.
After coming to life last week, in this episode he took on the name of Proteus and was introduced to the world. He learned things, was taken outside and even seemed to retain some memories of his former life, including a wife.
It was short-lived though as he was killed at the climax of the episode. It was the most gruesome possible death for Proteus as a hand burst through his chest, tearing him in half. Behind him was the doctor’s first creation, reintroducing himself to his “father.”
This was a crushing moment, because the revelation of Proteus was the highlight of the first episode, and the absolute best thing about “Seance.” Now, he’s just gone and there’s an evil version of him instead. Obviously the goal was to make his death feel like a loss and it absolutely worked, even in just the second episode.
The episode also introduced two other new characters into the world. Brona Croft is an Irish immigrant trying to find a way out of her dark past, which isn’t entirely clear just yet. She’s brought into the story through Ethan, whom she intrigues. However, she also quickly meets up with the other new entry in the show, Dorian Gray.
Gray gets a bunch of action in the premiere, he has sex with Brona in front of photographer, while also learning she has tuberculosis after she spits up blood everywhere. It’s a very raw scene that shows just how depraved carnal he can be. Then Gray meets Vanessa Ives and becomes immediately fascinated.
He finds Vanessa at a seance she attends with Sir Malcolm Murray. While most in attendance write it off as parlor tricks, things take a very disturbing turn when Vanessa seems to become possessed by the spirit of Murray’s missing daughter. She talks to him, screams at him, throws out accusations and ends it all with a very inhuman back bend that sends everyone in the room into hysterics.
From there, she ends up tackling some random guy in the streets to sex her possession away. Of course, Dorian followed her out of the seance and stands off to the side, watching and being creepy. Later Murray finds her at home, asleep in bed.
At this point it’s unclear what anyone’s motivation is, besides Malcolm. He wants to figure out the mystery of his missing daughter. Ethan was cut off from Vanessa and Sir Murray during the episode, though he did get a date with Brona in the end. Meanwhile, Dr Frankenstein seems entirely disconnected from everyone, outside of a very short scene with Ethan. What will be the force that binds them together, though?
Going forward, it’s going to be interesting to see the balance “Penny Dreadful” will strike between the creepier elements of the show and story.