The previous episode of Penny Dreadful concluded with a shocking twist that epitomised the show’s ongoing theme of life and death, and its subsequent close relationship with good and evil. Entitled Resurrection, episode 3 certainly follows suit, so what was surprising was the dreamy and stylistic opening sequence reminiscent of a Terence Malick movie. It felt as if you were watching a different series at first, considering the show’s previous opening scenes and all the dark scenes that have followed. Yet, it also felt completely fitting.
This opening introduces us to Victor as a young boy, dressed in white, reciting a poem from a book he clasps as he strolls through an enchanting daffodil field in the sunlight, only to stumble upon the withering corpse of the family dog. This poignant contrast shows us that Victor’s cursed life has been surrounded by death since childhood. The death of his pet and the slow suffering of his ill mother increase our sympathy and help us understand the symbolism of the shocking end to last week’s episode, Séance.
The episode almost entirely focuses on Victor and his secret past, personified extremely well by Rory Kinnear (another actor from the Bond franchise). Kinnear plays Frankenstein’s original monster, who came back at the end of the last episode to haunt Victor by ripping through his beloved Proteus to take his place.
At first we despise this monster, for unlike Proteus, this one turned out, well, monstrous. But we do eventually learn to sympathise for the hardship he went through in Victor’s shameful abandonment. We see this hardship in a sequence of flashbacks that cleverly draw you more to the monster’s side and less towards Victor as you learn how truly harsh it was of Dr Frankenstein to abandon a life that he had created; a life that since its birth has suffered being alone and afraid. This is why the monster is back – not necessarily to torment Victor for no reason, but to torment him if he doesn’t create a companion with whom he can share the shadows with. Perhaps humans are not as different to the monsters we encounter, as we too are capable of subjecting others to pain and suffering.
This provoking thought is also demonstrated by Malcolm’s story arc, and his search for his missing daughter with the help of Vanessa and Ethan. After a few objections from Mr Chandler, the group finally come to an agreement that at this stage in the search, they must get Malcolm’s daughter back by any means necessary. Vanessa explains to Ethan that they have been brutalised with the loss of loved ones for too long and now they are to retaliate with brutality themselves. This seemed a little unnecessary, however, as it was quite obvious already that the Victorian avengers were prepared to fight back with force.
They make a start on this notion by beating on a defenseless young man who is undoubtedly a creature of the night, but his specific species is one of which we are unclear. He looks vampiric, but earlier in a spooky graveyard scene, werewolves are also hinted at. Malcolm believes that now they have one of these creatures held captive, it will be possible to find out the location of his daughter by beating the answers out of him.
Resurrection is a very focused episode that concentrates almost exclusively on Victor’s complex narrative and his secretive past. It was a welcome change as Dr Frankenstein hasn’t been as pivotal to Penny Dreadful as the other protagonists, but now we’ve discovered his past and seen the depth of his enigmatic character, his story has arguably become the most interesting. It will be fascinating to see how his and Penny Dreadful’s many other story arcs will eventually piece together. It’s becoming apparent that the series is heading in such a direction that the real monsters the character’s face are within themselves rather than the shadows and back alleys of a dark, mysterious London.