Penny Dreadful Review: “Séance” (Season 1, Episode 2)

Episode 102

For any other show, that would be enough craziness for half a season, but Penny Dreadful just keeps going. In Victor Frankenstein’s corner, things are just as interesting. At the end of last week’s episode, Victor succeeded in creating life, zapping into consciousness an empty-headed man who’s given the name Proteus (Alex Price). The interactions between Victor and his creation in “Séance” are surprisingly tender and emotional. As Proteus slowly remembers words and wanders around London, zeroing in on the docks where he apparently worked before death, Price beautifully communicates the wonder, confusion and tremendous fear in his character’s eyes. And in his scenes with Proteus, Harry Treadaway does a tremendous job of playing Victor as an immediately loving, amazed father of sorts.

However, father-son bonding time isn’t a major component of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, so fans of that literary classic might be thrown for a loop by the loving bond between Victor and Proteus. By episode’s end, however, (SPOILER ALERT), things are right back on track for Victor to turn into the twisted, maniacal mad scientist that Shelley’s readers all learned to love to hate.

One of the episode’s biggest WTF moments comes right at the end, during a scene when Victor is conversing with Proteus in the lab. There they are, making plans for the future when suddenly there’s a sickening squelch and, lo and behold, someone’s put their hand right through the newborn creature. As Proteus literally falls into two pieces around Victor (nooooooo!), the owner of that hand steps out of the darkness. Immediately, we know this is not a good dude (well, obviously). What soon becomes clear, however, is that Victor knows this killer. It’s The Creature (Rory Kinnear), evidently also the killer who has been plaguing London, returned at last to his creator. And boy is he angry. Props to the Penny Dreadful team for taking that kind of a risk with Victor, who had been painted as a kind and blissful young scientist. Turns out, he was hiding a bigger secret than even Vanessa, with her impeccable instincts, could have guessed.

So, where does Penny Dreadful go from here? I have absolutely no idea, and that’s all part of the fun. This is a show that has absolutely no rules, and these characters are still fresh enough that they can develop in fascinating, wholly unexpected ways. I’m hoping that Mina comes back into the fold in episode three, but every plotline so far is promising, none more than the storyline with whatever is inside Vanessa, so I’ll be ready for the show to go wherever creator John Logan sees fit. With only eight episodes in the first season, I don’t see Penny Dreadful slowing down anytime soon, and this episode proves why it shouldn’t.

Scary, sexy, suspenseful and absolutely bonkers, Penny Dreadful fully embraces the promise of its pilot in “Séance,” a superior second episode filled to the brim with delicious, jaw-dropping revelations.