“Can there be two monsters like that in our city?” Oh, if only these chumps knew.
The story itself is simple enough: Vanessa and Ethan are attacked by a coven of witches, which sends Vanessa into a tailspin of crazy (as most things do), Mina is buried and Malcolm returns to London, Victor continues his task of bringing Brona back to life as Caliban’s bride so that he can secure the safety of his future, and Caliban gets a job at what appears to be the most badass wax museum of all time, run by a couple that seem reminiscent of either Sweeney Todd/Mrs. Lovett or the Thenardiers.
While “Fresh Hell” relies heavily on the satanic rituals and goings-on in Vanessa and the witches’ lives, make no mistake about it: emotionally, this episode belongs to Caliban. He is the most heartbreaking take on Frankenstein’s Monster I’ve seen in a long time. His self-loathing, shame, violent outbursts, unconditional love, loyalty, and hatred are so true to Mary Shelley’s original Monster it makes me want to weep.
He stole this episode with moments like “mine is not a face for touching,” (how about that scene, eh? That darling girl touching his face with such tenderness and understanding…such a beautiful moment), and his pleading—to whomever—to let Brona live. His raw vulnerability evokes emotions I never knew I had. So again, while “Fresh Hell” intended to introduce a new foe for Vanessa and further her tortuous life story, it was Caliban who owned my attention/love/hurt/and heart.
But this wouldn’t be a proper review without talking about “Penny Dreadful’s” new enemy—the Nightcomers. These are witches in service of Satan, though they are directly in the service of their Madame. You may remember her from last season. Madame Kali, the “psychic” from season one’s “Séance” episode. Turns out she’s not as phony as we may have thought. She’s in bed with Satan and they’re both after Vanessa.
Honestly, I’m disappointed in myself for not seeing witches coming. Witches are all the rage these days in TV, books, and comics. It’s only natural they’d show up in the one show on TV that seeks to combine every supernatural being out there. As with TV’s “Salem,” “Penny Dreadful” does not bother with making its witches sexy maidens of Satan. “PD’s” witches are hideously bald and malnutrition-looking creatures that take on almost a Nosferatu look when transformed into their true form.
As excited as I am to see where this new plot takes us (witches are a blast) I’m mildly bored with Vanessa being tortured. Some hardships are wonderful for character development, but what Vanessa has been through and continues to go through is on the verge of overkill. While Green plays the role to perfection, honestly she plays it beyond perfection—it’s like magic watching her in all her tortured states, but when it happens every episode, it gets old and I’d die to see her happy for just one moment in time.
Overall, “Penny Dreadful” is one of the most stunning shows on television. It’s so atmospheric. It’s dark and broody and sensual. It’s chaotic and sexy, calm and unyielding. While “Fresh Hell” could have been a stronger season two opener, I think they did a fine job reintroducing us to the majority of the cast and their insane hardships. I would have liked to see more of Malcolm after the death of Mina—the girl he spent an entire season looking for (that felt a bit anti-climatic, no?) and as I made clear above, I could have done with less of Vanessa and perhaps more of Ethan and his struggles. But I’m not sweating that, because this season is clearly going to explore his life in great detail.
My one serious complaint…where the hell was Dorian?!
- Victor works at his desk with his back turned to a dead body that is meant to come alive again. You couldn’t pay me enough money to work with my back against a dead body meant to come alive again.
- Victor also caresses said dead body. So there’s that.
- That blood bath scene with Madame Kali was delightful. No witch is complete without a sexy blood bath.
- This reviewer absolutely cannot wait to find out what Brona remembers and what she doesn’t. There is so much potential for some weird love triangle between Brona, Ethan, and Caliban. This also ups the chances of everyone finding out about Victor’s little secret.
- “That face will make our fortune.” Uh oh…
Tell us your thoughts on “Penny Dreadful’s” season two opener! I have some great PD swag sent to me from Showtime and I’m looking for the most profound commenter to share with. *wink* (Must be in the US and no PO boxes)