Penny Dreadful Recap S1E1: Night Work

The title refers to the penny dreadfuls, a type of 19th century cheap British fiction publication with lurid and sensational subject matter. The pilot has been airing on Showtime all week, and let’s see just how good it is, personally I cannot wait to see Dorian Gray, his character is a favorite of mine, but its doubtful he'll show up in the first episode.

A child sleeps, and a woman slips out of bed quietly so that she doesn’t wake the child. She lights a lantern, heading down the hall to the loo. Something flutters against the window. It breaks through the window, and takes the woman. The child awakens looking for her mother; she walks to the bathroom, and sees something horrible, screaming.

The first glimpse of the into is full of spiders, monsters, spilled blood and bats. In other words it looks fantastically dark.

Vanessa prays in another language as a spider crawls down Christ’s crucified body. The spider crawls up her arm, onto her hand, and Vanessa rises onto her feet before succumbing to an eerie eye rolling back trance.

London, September 22, 1891. At the Wild West Show Ethan treats the crowd to his marksmanship, Vanessa watches unamused. Ethan looks utterly ridiculous in his western getup. He tells the crowd a tale and they cheer him on. Ethan has many admirers, and he takes pleasure with one against his wagon. She wishes to see him again, but he makes no such promises, hushing her with a kiss.

In a tavern Vanessa confronts Ethan about the inconsistencies of his story. His show is meant for entertainment only. She is looking for someone who is good with firearms for some night work. She asks him if his marksmanship is all a show as well. Vanessa easily picks apart Ethan’s life, she concludes that he use to have money, but no longer does, that his whoring has resulted in a few injuries at the hands of a jealous husband, he’s a little drunk, but he does have skills. Ethan asks more about her proposition. He coaxes a smile out of her for his agreement. She gives him the address, but not her name.

In the misty streets of London, Ethan meets Vanessa and on time. She knocks upon a door and they’re admitted to an opium den. Ethan looks uneasy, but Vanessa strides with confidence. She brings him to sir Malcolm, and Ethan wants to know what they’re doing there. Malcolm tells him that they’re looking for someone, to be ready, and not surprised by anything. Ethan wants more, but he’s given little else, only that the person is dear to Malcolm. The trio stalk downstairs and meet with three men. There’s blood on the main guy’s lips. Two move around to close in on Ethan. A woman’s cries sound from above, and they attack the men. Vanessa listens to the woman, tracking down the source. Ethan and Malcolm hold their own against the vampires. Vanessa finds a mass of corpses, bloodied bodies everywhere.  She finds a mother with vampire bites, and a dead infant. One vampire taunts her, as she asks for his master. He asks if she would like to meet her, but before she can answer Ethan kills him. Malcolm checks the dead mother, it is not the woman they were looking for. A beast rises from the corpses, some sort of super vampire. Ethan shoots it, but it doesn’t fall like the others. It closes in on Malcolm, but Vanessa steps into its path, staring it down. It stays mesmerized, giving Malcolm the time to stab it from behind. The girl they’re looking for isn’t there. They wake the bride, showing her that her mate is dead, before they kill her and the others. It’s gonna be a long night.

Malcolm and Vanessa take Ethan to an unsavory place where the resurrection men get their organs. Malcolm tells the man that he’s in need of his services, and they’re taken around back. They go to talk to Dr. Victor Frankenstein whose far too busy with his research. He doesn’t wish to bore them with his studies that they cannot understand. Vanessa uncovers the body they brought, and his interest peaks. He inspects the body in detail. He slices into the sternum, and finds that the vampire has a sort of exoskeleton. Beneath the skin is hieroglyphics, which leave more questions than answers for Ethan. Malcolm gives Ethan another meeting location with the promise of something more exciting than shooting clay targets.

Dawn. The people look up at the bathroom from below. There’s a blood splatter outside the window, but inside the bathroom its much worse. The little girl did not make it, and there’s blood everywhere. The girl and her mother were eviscerated and left in pieces on the floor. The detective tells the photographer to make sure he takes pictures of it all.

Ethan heads to the meeting spot in the light of day. He is admitted into Sir Malcolm’s home. Ethan is asked to wait in the foyer, but he walks into the office, and Vanessa sneaks up on him. She leads him into the library. He’s curious about her, but doesn’t ask for an explanation about last night. Vanessa speaks of the demimonde, a place in our worlds, but not, in the shadows. She spreads some tarot cards upon the table. They were in the demimonde last night she tells him. She offers him a chance to leave, but also one to stay. They have need of a man of his caliber. Ethan is interested. Sir Malcolm’s daughter was taken by a head vampire, they thought there was only one, but they were wrong. Ethan isn’t interested in being a hired gun, and Vanessa allows him to leave, warning him that if he should find himself in the demimonde again, he knows where to find her. Before he goes she asks him to chose a card, one thoughtfully. Looking into her eyes he chooses the Lovers.

Sir Malcolm asks if Ethan was tempted. He was intrigued Vanessa tells him. Malcolm is sure that he will be back even if he claims to intend to leave. He has Vanessa get ready, they’re going back among the dead things. Sir Malcolm pays Mr. Lyle a visit. Mr. Lyle is a huge fan it seems, gushing over him. He is the head of Egyptian Antiquities. Sir Malcolm brings him the hieroglyphics from the body for translation. He gives them all that he knows, and the tattoo speaks of Blood Cure or Blood transformation, possibly even Blood curse. Mr. Lyle is both intrigued and disturbed. He wishes to see more, but not at his office. He invites them to a social gathering. Sir Malcolm tells him that the matter is urgent, but Mr. Lyle doesn’t believe there has been anything of urgency lately. It seems to be a code of some sort. The pair go easily, and Mr. Lyle tells them that the source of the material is from the Egyptian book of the dead.

The body pieces are carried down from the bathroom. Ethan watches the scene from the crowd of curious onlookers. He overhears that the mother and daughter were mutilated. The women talk that the mother was expecting another, and suggest that the ripper is back.

A package arrives for Victor. Before he opens his door, he makes sure that anything incriminating is covered up. The package is from Sir Malcolm. Inside is a tux and an invitation for dinner. At dinner Sir Malcolm tells him a little about himself. Victor admits that he almost didn’t come, but curiosity got the better of him. Malcolm tells him that he is seeking the same as him, but Victor is seeking the truth. He is not looking for accolades, or knowledge for itself alone, Victor wants more. He wants mastery over the veil between life and death. He asks questions about the creature Malcolm brought to him, and he reveals that there is another. Malcolm offers him a job where science and supersistion work hand in hand, but Victor knows Malcolm is leaving something out. Malcolm admits that he’s looking for his daughter, and for her he would murder the earth. Malcolm asks for him to join, and Victor wishes to know how much of the world they’ll have to murder. The answer to that doesn’t matter as much as the why him. He was the only one brave enough to pull back the skin and look beneath.

Ethan hesitates in front of Sir Malcolm’s home. He can’t bring himself to cross the street. Malcolm returns home, and Ethan makes an escape as Vanessa watches from the window. Malcolm prepares for the evening. The lights flicker ever so slightly, and as he prepares to take off his shoes he hears a woman crying. He thinks its his daughter, he goes to the girl. She screams at him, a bride like the ones they slaughtered, the lights shattering.

Vanessa blames herself for what happened, but Malcolm will not let her shoulder the blame alone. It’s both their fault, but Malcolm takes comfort in the fact that his daughter came to him. He remembers a lion hunt long ago, when the tables turned and he felt that he was no longer the hunted but the prey.

Victor walks the rainy streets alone. He is uneasy, feeling as though he’s being followed. He makes it back to his apartment.

Vanessa preys again in front of her crucifix.  A candle falls behind her, her eyes shoot open and she finds her crucifix upside down with spiders scrambling from behind it.

Victor goes upstairs into his laboratory. He turns on the lights, and prepares to get to work on his monster. The corpse is sitting on a bed of ice, as electricity is being fed into the copper tub. Victor makes some minor adjustments as lightening strikes, knocking out his power. He lights a lantern, and finds his corpse gone. The corpse is up and shuffling about. It looks scared shitless. Victor looks at him as if he’s a treasure, shedding at tear for his creation. The monster is confused by the tears. He wipes one from his “father’s” face and touches his own eye. Victor asks if he can hear, and he can. The monster is a miracle.


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