Our 'Penny Dreadful' Season 1 Recap Will Sharpen Your Fangs For The Season 2 Premiere
Fans of genre shows like Showtime's Penny Dreadful have by now resigned themselves to the fact that awards shows are simply going to ignore their favorite series time and time again. Think of such critically acclaimed sci-fi/fantasy/horror hits as Orphan Black, Hannibal, and Fringe, which have one Golden Globe nomination and two Emmy nods between them. Game Of Thrones is obviously the exception that proves this rule — a rule that continued with Penny Dreadful Season 1, which took home zero trophies despite being one of the most beautifully macabre shows in television history. But you know it's great and I know it's great, and that's all that matters, right? And now we get to enjoy a super-sized Season 2 of Penny Dreadful , so let's count our blessings.
But before we dive head-first back into the supernatural underbelly of Victorian London, let's brush off the cobwebs and remind ourselves of where exactly we left off. Season 1 was fascinating in the way that creator John Logan played with multiple sources, blurring the line between adapted material and original fabrication. There are classic literary figures like Dr. Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) and Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) existing right alongside brand new characters such as Eva Green's Vanessa Ives and Josh Hartnett's Ethan Chandler.
Where exactly did all these disparate story lines leave off? Let's recap:
Played by Casino Royale's femme fatale Eva Green, this woman is literally haunted by the ghosts of her past — namely her childhood best friend Mina Murray, who was turned into a vampire in an effort to lure the supernaturally-minded Vanessa into her undead lord's clutches. Most of Season 1 focused around Vanessa and Sir Malcolm's search for the missing woman... although Vanessa got sidetracked by a bit of possession along the way. After the climactic confrontation in the Grand Guignol (more on that in a sec), Vanessa went to a priest to see about getting that pesky demon out of her for good. "Do you really want to be normal?" was the priest's question to her. Season 2 will likely hinge on Vanessa's answer to that query.
Sir Malcolm Murray
Although Vanessa and Mina's father Sir Malcolm (played by fourth James Bond Timothy Dalton) had an uneasy alliance, given how they both wanted to find his missing daughter, he harbored resentment for Vanessa's role in Mina's predicament — even going so far as telling Vanessa he would be ready and willing to sacrifice her to save his own daughter. But when they (along with Malcolm's mysterious ally Sembene) finally tracked down Mina and her vampire brood to a gothic theatre, it was his own flesh-and-blood that he decided to sacrifice. "I'm your daughter!" Mina exclaimed when Malcolm shot her. "I already have a daughter," was his response as he finished her for good, saving Vanessa's life.
Everyone's early '00s crush Josh Hartnett made his career comeback with this unexpected role: a Wild West sharpshooter who's recruited by Vanessa to help hunt vampires. Although he's alternately intrigued and creeped out by the ghastly events and creatures he witnesses while in her employ, there were numerous hints throughout the season that Ethan was hiding his own dark side. This was confirmed in the finale, when two bounty hunters sent by his father to bring him back to the States corner him under a full moon... and Ethan transforms into the Wolfman. (Add him to the list of literary figures running amok on this show.)
The world's sexiest mad scientist started the season by building a monster — an innocent creation he named Proteus — only for it to be destroyed by the first monster he'd created, Caliban. The sadistic undead creature, tired of being an outcast, demanded that Victor build him a mate. He even killed major literary figure Abraham Van Helsing when Victor took too long! Although he spent all season hating his creation, Dr. Frankenstein took pity on Caliban in the finale after the monster showed up begging for death, thanks to a flirtation with an actress gone horribly wrong. Victor couldn't pull the trigger, and in the end it was Ethan's cockney crush Brona Croft who was earmarked to become Caliban's bride. The poor woman was slowly dying from consumption — a fate that Victor hastened with the help of a well-placed pillow.
Rich, sexy, eternally youthful Dorian struck up a dalliance with Vanessa early on in the season. He took her to a séance held by the enigmatic Madame Kali — a terrifying experience that opened Vanessa up to possession. And she wasn't the only character Dorian slept with, either. Brona had an erotic encounter with the aristocrat, and he even seduced Ethan (with the help of copious amounts of absinthe) after the American was dumped by Brona due to her deteriorating health. Despite his fascination with her, Vanessa rebuffed Dorian in the finale, citing the fact that his influence always seems to bring out her dark side. The man who always gets what he wants was confused. "It's rejection," Vanessa clarified helpfully.
Now get yourself in a spooky mood for Season 2 with this trailer, set to the haunting tune of a 15th century English folk song called "The Unquiet Grave":
Images: Jim Fiscus, Jonathan Hession (5)/SHOWTIME