The first episode of Penny Dreadful starts off like your typical horror movie.
A woman gets up in the middle of the night to pee (which is never ever a good thing) and is abducted by some paranormal creature. Her young daughter gets up to check on her and lets out a huge scream…
Cue fancy credit sequence.
We’re introduced to one of our main series regulars, Vanessa Ives, played by Eva Green (300: Rise of an Empire, Casino Royale). She’s praying very intensely when a spider crawls up her arm. Next thing you know, there’s some demonic possession shit going on. Or she’s having an orgasm. One of the two.
London – September 22, 1891
Vanessa meets with Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) who’s an actor for a Wild West Show. He’s not just an actor, of course. She hires him to do a “job” for her. When he asks if it involved murdering people, she doesn’t give him a straight answer.
Later that night, Vanessa and Ethan meet up at an opium den. There, she introduces him to Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) and then some Arabic-speaking demon-looking men. Fighting ensues while Vanessa follows the trail of a woman’s voice.
Further into the building, Vanessa finds a bunch of dead bodies. None of them is of the woman that Vanessa and Malcolm are looking for, however. Out of nowhere, a demon jumps up but Malcolm manages to stab it to death.
They bring the body to a surly young doctor who cuts it open to find Egyptian hieroglyphics in the exoskeleton.
The next day Ethan goes to meet with Sir Malcolm at his house and is greeted at the door by Sembene (Danny Sapani). Instead, he talks to Vanessa who explains what happened the previous night. Sir Malcolm’s daughter was taken by a creature similar to the one they encountered and they want Ethan to be the muscle man of their supernatural demon-hunting crew. Obviously. The ever enigmatic Vanessa doesn’t give much away about her part in all of this.
Ethan doesn’t seem amused and is about to walk away when Vanessa asks him to pick a card from the stack on her desk. He picks “The Lovers.” The two stare at each other with smolder-y eyes.
Vanessa and Malcolm take pictures of the hieroglyphics to an Egyptologist named Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale). Fun fact: he owns exotic pets like flesh-eating beetles. While studying the hieroglyphics, Lyle gets spooked and immediately stops. He tells them to bring the rest of the photographs before he can fully help them translate them. Before they leave, Lyle informs them that the source of the writing is from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
Sembene brings the doctor from earlier a package from Murray with a note saying, “Would you be so kind as to come to my club for dinner?”
Dinner – The Explorer’s Club
The doctor shows up to dinner. We learned that Malcolm is an African explorer and spent a lot of time in the Belgian Congo. Meanwhile, all the doctor wants to do is ~pierce the veil between life and death. Scientific research for knowledge’s sake is useless to him, so the doctor is not interested in joining Malcolm’s Explorer’s Club.
Instead, Malcolm convinces the doctor to join his supernatural demon-hunting crew so Malcolm can save his daughter.
Elsewhere, Ethan stares up at a woman standing at her apartment window. No explanation is given but Ethan looks visibly shaken. He quickly walks away.
Back at Malcolm’s place, he gets a surprise visit from his daughter Mina! But wait, Mina isn’t quite human. Later that night, Vanessa and Malcolm discuss what happened. Vanessa blames herself for Mina’s situation, saying that if it weren’t for her “transgression” then none of this would have happened.
The young doctor is walking home in the rain when he gets a creepy feeling that someone is watching him.
He goes to his private laboratory where he’s doing experiments on a dead corpse. When the light gives out for a brief moment, the body disappears. The doctor finds the now reanimated corpse huddled in the corner. Overcome with emotion, the doctor tells him, “My name is Dr. Victor Frankenstein.”
Penny Dreadful premieres Sunday, May 11th at 10 PM ET/PT on Showtime.