Penny Dreadful: The Firstborn

Penny-dreadful-episode-3-review-calibanPreviously on Penny Dreadful: Vanessa became possessed at a séance and started (maybe) spilling some dirty Murray family secrets, Ethan met a consumptive Irish prostitute, and Frankenstein got to have a little fun with his adorable new creation before his firstborn showed up and destroyed it.

Rewind to Victor’s childhood. He walks through a field of daffodils and recites some romantic poetry before coming upon the maggot-ridden corpse of a dog. His dog. His mother comes upon him and tells him how sorry she is about the dog’s loss.

Back at their house, Victor wonders if death is as serene as the poets say. I think you’ve just seen proof that it’s not, Victor. She tells him there are some things we’re not meant to know, and cuddles him for a bit. And then blood begins trickling out of the corner of her mouth and she coughs a huge amount of it right in his face. Ok, enough with that. It’s stupid, because who the hell does that? Who coughs right in someone’s face, ever? People with consumption definitely didn’t do it, because the Victorians took consumption seriously. It actively killed people and they knew it was contagious. People spewing blood into other people’s faces is not shocking, it’s just gross.

Victor’s mother, obviously, is in a bad way. Victor watches her from a distance and observes that death is not serene. Not in these circumstances, surely.

His mother dies and thus begins Victor’s obsession with anatomy and bringing back the dead.

Back in the present, Victor cowers as his firstborn (he’ll eventually be named Caliban, so we’re going to just call him that. Better than Firstborn.) informs him that he’s returned and asks Victor if he really thought he could hide away forever. He informs Victor that he’d seek him to the ends of the earth, if he had to. Then, disgusted, he orders Victor to stand and look him in the face and see what he created. He rubs Proteus’s blood over Victor’s face and tells him he’s going to hear how Caliban bled.

Rewind to Caliban’s resurrection. Apparently it was agonizing for him, and he staggered around, screaming in pain as Victor looked on in horror. In voiceover, Caliban figures Victor must have thought him an abomination, certainly nothing beautiful, as the poets wrote. Indeed, even as Caliban reaches for him, needing comfort, Victor flees, so the first human interaction Caliban learns is rejection, leading to a complete loathing for humans. Well done, Victor!

Victor abandons Caliban, which seems like an incredibly poor idea. What if Caliban had turned out to be psychotically violent or something? Once he recovers, Caliban observes the people out in the village from the windows and doesn’t seem to see anything very nice. He began to think of himself as an animal. He taught himself words, using Victor’s volumes of poetry. How did he manage to teach himself to read? Was it some half-remembered thing from his former life? He mockingly observes that Victor thought he was creating some poetic ideal, but what he really created was a creature of the future.

In the present, Caliban informs Victor that the two of them are a Janus mask. Victor weeps and asks how Caliban could destroy Proteus. Caliban says he did Proteus a kindness, since Caliban was born for nothing but pain, and presumably he thinks nothing could possibly change on that front.

At Murray’s, Vanessa goes upstairs with a cup of tea and starts hearing strange noises. Jungle animal noises, by the sound of it. And then she turns around and sees Mina. Mina begs her for help, shaking, saying the beasts that feed at night are all around her. The vision disappears and Vanessa clutches at a wall for support.

She goes to see Murray and says she needs to talk to him.

Back at the Frankenstein lab, Caliban continues his story. He knew exactly where to look for Victor: London. And as soon as he got there, he was mocked and beaten for looking different, thus cementing his belief that humans are horrible, horrible creatures. But then a human comes along to prove that’s not universally true. An actor comes upon him and offers him a drink, which Caliban takes, is not disgusted by him, and offers to buy him dinner. They sit down at a pub and the actor says he, too, has had a rough time of it. Though he was once a Shakespearean actor, now he’s reduced to playing in Penny Dreadfuls. He asks Caliban if he needs work and, upon getting an answer in the affirmative, offers him a job, kindly telling him there’s a place where strangeness is celebrated and hideousness can become beautiful. Poor Caliban, who’s come to believe he’s a worthless horror, looks hopeful.

Actor takes him to the Grand Guignol theatre, where Sweeney Todd is being rehearsed. Caliban looks around in wonder, and then follows Actor downstairs, where he’s assigned the role of Stage Rat, looking over the scenery and rigging. There’s also a place where he can live. Caliban accepts gratefully. Actor asks what his name is, and upon learning he has none, names him Caliban. Caliban likes it, because he doesn’t know that Caliban is actually a hideously deformed monster. But to be honest, I don’t think the actor’s being a jerk here, he does seem genuine when he calls Caliban his friend and welcomes him to the theatre.

And Caliban himself clearly thinks this is the best thing that’s ever happened to him. He has a home and now knows what kindness is. Plus, there’s a pretty girl in the cast he can check out.

He does his work, and does it well, commenting in voiceover that the place was perfect for him, because like him, the actors were creatures of perpetual resurrection, constantly dying and coming back to life. Some of the theatre folk don’t take to him, so he continues to lurk in the shadows.

Back with Victor, Caliban washes off Proteus’s blood and describes how he stalked Victor and watched his progress with his new creation. He wonders if Victor felt him nearby, and Victor snappishly asks what he wants. He apologises for having screwed up with Caliban and says he can’t unmake the past. Caliban is unconcerned with the past; he’s looking to the future. He invites Victor to come with him, so he can help him see what he wants.

Ethan and Brona are having sex, because that’s pretty much what his character does, and while having sex and hunting vampires part time sounds like a pretty awesome job description for some people, it’s making for a slightly dull character. So, I hope they do a bit more with him soon.

Afterwards, she gets up to cough in the corner. He asks if she has medicine. She doesn’t, because it’s too expensive.

Murray and Vanessa are going over a map when Ethan drops by for a visit and to hit them up for work. His timing is perfect, Murray tells him before leaving Vanessa to fill him in on the details. She asks if Ethan’s planning on heading back to America. He is not. Vanessa tells him that Mina came to her in a vision and invites him to sit. He asks her what happened to Mina and she explains that she was working as a governess and became engaged to Jonathan Harker before becoming embroiled with someone else—not quite a man—who made her his slave, hovering between two worlds. They have no idea who he was. I can’t help but wonder why Mina, the daughter of a clearly wealthy man, was working as a governess. It’s not like young Victorian ladies took positions like that for some sort of resume building work experience, they did it because they had to, or risk winding up in a poorhouse somewhere. Anyway, they’re heading for London Zoo.

Victor and Caliban walk the streets and Caliban talks about Proteus and how sweet and lovable he seemed. Though, of course, he actually had someone to show him how to be so. Victor snippily says that Proteus had a name. It clearly hurts Caliban that Victor named Proteus but not him. ‘What do you want from me, demon?’ Victor asks. ‘So now I have a name?’ Caliban observes, bitterly. Victor repeats his question, and Caliban informs him that he wants love. Victor informs his creation that he could never love him, and Caliban angrily says he doesn’t seek Victor’s love, because clearly that’s a nonstarter. He wants a woman, and Victor’s going to make it for him. If he doesn’t, Caliban will strike down everyone Victor loves. Victor smirks at the idea of being threatened with death and advises Caliban to threaten him with life, instead. Caliban tells Frankenstein not to test him, because he doesn’t even know horror yet.

At the zoo, late at night Ethan, Murray, Vanessa, and Sembele walk along the path near the lion cages. Ahh, that explains the roaring and other jungle noises in the visions. Murray briefly pulls Ethan aside to tell him to be on the alert, because Vanessa’s gifts make her desirable to creatures they can’t be handing her over to. On they go, until Vanessa stops and shushes them. Something’s moving around in the shadows, and she informs them there’s something wrong. Turning to Murray, she asks him what he hasn’t told her. Before he can answer, wolves appear and approach them, snarling. Ethan warns everyone not to move or fire any weapons. One wolf, which was behind them, joins the three that were in front and they all line up. Ethan holsters his guns and bends down, putting out one hand, flat, the way you would when approaching a dog. One of the wolves walks over to him, still snarling, and then very gently takes his hand in its mouth for a moment before returning to its companions. Ethan tells the others it’s time to go. Apparently he’s a werewolf whisperer or something.

On their way out, Vanessa stops by one of the monkey houses and finds a large hole in the fencing and a man inside, eating one of the monkeys. Mmmm! He lunges at her, but is knocked unconscious by Ethan.

Victor returns home, looking pale and upset, as you would be. On the way, he runs into Sembele, who summons him to Malcolm’s.

They’ve taken their monkey feaster prisoner. His name is Fenton, and he knows who Vanessa is, though he won’t explain how he came upon that knowledge. Malcolm asks for information on Fenton’s master, but he only gets a snarling lunge in response so Malcolm kicks him and asks again where his master is. Fenton says he’s right behind them, and can’t they feel him reaching out in the dark? He goes on to say that soon enough all light will go out in the world and the dark ones will emerge: Amunet and Amun-Ra. Vanessa looks disturbed but asks Fenton if he knows the name Mina. He doesn’t. He calls Vanessa a whore, though, which is not going to win him points with Murray, who starts beating him, asking again and again where Fenton’s master is. Fenton says he’s everywhere, and finally Ethan puts a stop to the beating, as Victor is ushered in and notes he’s late to the party.

In the sitting room, Ethan harangues Malcolm for his brutal tactics, but Murray says they don’t have time for niceties, and Victor points out that Ethan claims to have been in the Indian wars, which makes him a part of a pretty brutal bit of history himself. Victor says Fenton has some strange disorder that isn’t mental, it’s physical, and Victor wants to experiment on him to try and find a cure, figuring he could apply said cure to Mina, when they find her. Ethan’s disgusted by the idea of experimenting on some kid chained up in the basement, but Vanessa firmly tells him that, if he can’t hack it, he needs to leave immediately. Malcolm seconds it, saying they need to move forward together and remember that not a single one of them is a kind person, which is why they’re all there. Ethan does not leave. Vanessa turns to Malcolm and tells him that Mina was not at the zoo, so why were they there? Malcolm has a theory that the creature they seek doesn’t want Mina, really, he wants Vanessa. So Mina’s just bait? That sucks. We have no idea why Malcolm thinks that.

Later, Ethan tells Vanessa he’s taken a room at the Mariner’s Inn and she guesses he’s got a girlfriend. He tells her about Brona and her illness and Vanessa sadly observes that the girl’s basically toast.

Meanwhile, Malcolm tells Victor he’s engaged the services of a haematologist Victor can consult with. Victor agrees to come back the next day to start the blood transfusions on Fenton, as long as Malcolm has cash for him. Murray promises it’ll be there. Before he leaves, Victor, having learned a lesson or two, tells Malcolm that they need to remember that when you transform a life, it becomes your responsibility. Fenton is now their responsibility and their burden, and everything they do will further chain him to them. Malcolm seems fine with that.

In the basement, Fenton calls out to his master, telling him that he’s there, smiling happily.



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