TV Review: Penny Dreadful (2×01) “Fresh Hell”

When God spoke to Adam after Eve and he had disobeyed his orders and took the fruit given to them by the serpent, Adam and Eve lost the ability to communicate with their father.  The Devil took the language of God and twisted the angelical speech to make his own, Verbis Diablo. This is the language that Satan’s nightcrawlers–witches—use to communicate. They are the new villains in season two of Penny Dreadful.

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 1). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_201_0096

The psycho-horror series returned to Showtime this past Sunday. The show takes inspiration from the works of Mary Shelly, Oscar Wilde, and other creatures of the macabre. Season two begins where the previous season left off, as Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) wakes up from a stupor after transforming into a werewolf at the end of last season. He wakes to find the bodies of all the occupants of the Mariner’s Inn torn apart. Mortified, he tells Vanessa (Eva Green) that he has no recollection of the events that took place, and must leave London immediately before it happens again. Just as the words leave his mouth, the carriage in which they  were riding is attacked. The horse and the coachman are killed, and we are presented with the first introduction to the nightcrawlers. In their primitive form, they are naked mole rat-looking creatures that can transform into proper-looking Victorian ladies to blend in with the London crowd. Vanessa yells at them and they flee.

Meanwhile, Dr. Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) is trying to make good on his promise to The Creature (Rory Kinnear) on giving him a mate. However, they must wait until an electrical storm occurs to resurrect the recently deceased Brona Croft (Billie Piper) to life. The Creature, using his alias John Clare, to get a job and finds one at the Putney Family Waxworks.  The family-owned wax museum is fighting competition from Madame Tussand’s with their new macabre exhibition featuring the murders of Jack the Ripper and the recent “Mariner’s Inn massacre,” that have grabbed the headlines. The Creature is introduced to the Putney family, including their blind daughter Lavinia; a possible love interest. As The Creature returns home to Frankenstein’s lair a storm revels itself to be the perfect opportunity to bring to life Brona. The lighting hits the probe jumpstarting her heart, and Brona 2.0 is born.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature and Harry Treadaway as Dr. Victor Frankenstein in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 1). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_201_0677

The shaken Vanessa reveals to Sir Malcom (Timothy Dalton), who has just returned from his daughter’s funeral that she knows of nightcrawlers. Vanessa does not remember what she said or how she knows Verbis Diablo, but the group agrees that they must stick together to fight the witches. CUT TO: the camera winding up a stone staircase. Madame Kali, the Séance leader from season one is bathing in a tub full of blood. She is revealed to be the leader of the nightcrawlers and they are after Vanessa.

“Fresh Hell” was a strong return to one of the most inventive and cleverly written shows on television or the Internet. The chilling atmosphere of Victorian London pulls you into the world of werewolves and witches, where everything is possible and nowhere is safe. I don’t know why all manner of creatures have a beef with Vanessa, vampires in season one and now witches in the current season. It would be nice to see the narrative shift to Ethan and his past, but I’m sure it’s coming. I missed Dorian Grey. He won’t be gone for long. The lack of screen time for Sembene is odd. On the other hand, I’m looking forward to the looming love triangle between the Creature, Brona, and Lavinia. In fact, I’m looking forward to the whole damn season warts, witches, and werewolves in all.

Paul Gilbert is a 23 year old recent graduate student of the University of Rhode Island from which he received a BA double major in history and film studies. Originally from Philadelphia. Paul now lives in Washington D.C. He first found his passion for film in VHS stores when he was younger and has been studying, examining, and analyzing film and the history of film ever since. Paul has a second interest in the world of comics, video games and books. He is an avid connoisseur and frequent attendee at Comic Con and Wizard World events at sites around the country. His interest in those particular genres stem from the ways in which popular culture utilizes a variety of medium to convey stories, ideas, and messages.
  • Amy Day

    The creatures that, um, bedevil Vanessa in Season 2 are nightCOMERS not nightCRAWLERS. Also, since you don’t know why the vampires and witches “have a beef with Vanessa,” you haven’t even watched Season 1. Or your attention span is astoundingly short.