‘Penny Dreadful’ kicked off it’s season two premiere on May 3, 2015. The episode, entitled ‘Fresh Hell’ picks ups exactly where the first season’s finale left off, retaining the series quirky charms…and narrative failings. We see Ethan Chandler (Josh Harnett) witnessing the aftermath of his werewolf attack. Shaken, he takes a carriage ride with series heroine Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), and tells her he most depart for the safety of all involved.
But their conversation is cut short when they’re attacked by a group of witches (aka Nightcomers), who look an awfully lot like the vampires from the last season. One would think they would be given a more drastic look to avoid confusion, even if Ives continually states that they are quite different from the bloodsuckers of season one.
We’re also drawn back into the story of Victor Frankenstein, trying to create an undead mate for his eternally whining Frankenstein monster. When asked if creating a bride will end his subject’s codependent relationship, he’s not let off the hook: “We are bound on a wheel of pain, thee and me. I ask you, what is Dr. Frankenstein without his Creature?”
But the crux of the episode rests on Helen McCrory, who played a bit part as a medium in the first season. But it’s revealed that she’s actually the den mother to the Nightcomers, a priestess serving Satan herself. We’re then treated (subjected to) a long sequence of McCrory and Ives having a psychic wrestling match, each in their own abodes. While Greene gives a convincing performance of a woman under spiritual strain, McCrory is unintentionally comedic, and so far over the top that it’s distracting.
The scene goes on too long, and that is a recurring problem with this show, and one I’d hoped would be remedied by the second season: whether it’s the medium duel, the monster’s protracted job search, or a sluggish finale with reanimating the corpse of Brona (Billie Piper), the lack of urgency for a show based in horror is frustrating. As is the constant threats of the core characters to isolate themselves: between Chandler trying to run away, or Ives saying she can handle her struggle alone, we lose a sense of camaraderie that would add sympathy and chemistry among the characters and cast.
I hope “Penny Dreadful” can pick up the pace and amp up the scares, but it’s a tad troubling when this season has started at a snails pace.
“Penny Dreadful” airs on Showtime, Sundays at 8pm, Central Standard Time.