Tonight on Showtime Season 1 of PENNY DREADFUL premieres with its first episode called, “Night Work.” On this evening’s episode, Monsters and demons haunt Victorian London. In the opener, police investigate a series of gruesome deaths but renowned explorer Sir Malcolm Murray and the alluring Vanessa Ives know there is something darker at play than mere murder. They recruit an American sharpshooter and Dr. Victor Frankenstein to help them find someone close to them.
Penny Dreadful refers to the penny dreadfuls, a type of 19th century cheap British fiction publication with lurid and sensational subject matter. The series draws upon many public domain characters from 19th century British fiction, including Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mina Harker from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Victor Frankenstein and his monster from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
On tonight’s episode as the police investigate a series of gruesome murders, renowned explorer Sir Malcolm Murray and the strangely beautiful Vanessa Ives know there’s something darker at play. In search of someone close to them who has been lost, they recruit American sharp-shooter Ethan Chandler and Dr. Victor Frankenstein to help them on their journey.
Tonight’s season premiere looks like it is going to be great and you won’t want to miss it, so be sure to tune in for our coverage of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful at 10:00 PM EST! While you wait for our recap hit the comments.
Tonight’s episode begins now – Refresh Page for Updates
A woman and child sleep. A glass shatters and the woman wakes. She strikes a match and lights a lantern. It’s cold and they are both shivering. The woman leaves the room with the lamp and walks down the hall. She goes into another room and closes the door. She’s in the bathroom – she sits down to urinate but then hears scraping noises and the window behind her breaks. She screams as she is yanked out of it.
Her daughter wakes and calls out for her mum. She goes down the hall and calls for her again. She opens the door to the bathroom and screams in terror.
Vanessa Ives prays in Latin fervently. She studies the crucifix on her wall. She closes her eyes tightly and clasps her hands. A spider crawls from the wall, down to her sleeve then up onto her hand. She opens her eyes and rises to her knees. She goes into a trance of some sort. Her eyes roll back in her head and a deep voice says – I’m hungry.
London, 1891. The Wild West Show. A man tells a tale as he shows his shooting prowess. Vanessa is in the audience. The shooter/showman is Ethan Chandler and he wows the crowd with his tale about General Custer as he shoots plates and other objects. He works the crowd as he finishes his show by shooting a feather off a woman’s cap.
Later, we see him giving it to the woman who is screaming in pleasure up against one of the show’s caravans. We are treated to a view of his bare backside as he thrusts vigorously. He flips her around and holds her in his arms for more. She asks if she’ll see him again but Ethan says the show is headed to Paris. He pulls off his fake mustache and gives her a kiss. He says he’ll never forget her and she asks how since he doesn’t know her name.
Ethan looks at a pocket watch engraved from his father as he sits in a tavern. Vanessa approaches him and says she knows he was lying because he wouldn’t have been born when Custer was alive and there were no survivors of the battle. He tells her it’s all about showmanship. He asks what she wants and she says she needs someone who knows a gun and isn’t afraid of danger. She asks if he’s all show and talks about his tells. She says he’s got a tremor in one hand from drinking and a scuff from brawl with a jealous husband of one of his lovers.
She says she sees that he’s been accustomed to wealth but his excesses have cost him. She says he’s more complicated than he appears. He asks her if this “night work” is criminal and she asks if it matters. He says no. He asks if it’s murder and she asks if that matters. She says it’s tonight and won’t run him late for Paris. She leaves a card and says to meet her at 11. He asks if she has a name and she says yes, but leaves without telling him what it is.
Ethan meets Vanessa and she’s surprised that he’s on time. She tells him to follow her. She knocks at door and they are given entry into an opium den. She leads him through the maze of stoned humanity to the back where Sir Malcolm Murray waits for them. He asks Vanessa if he’s the guy then asks Ethan if he brought his weapons. He shows his guns and asks why they are there.
Malcolm says they are looking for someone and that’s all he needs to know. He tells him not to be amazed by anything he sees and not to hesitate. Ethan asks who they’re looking for and Malcolm says someone dear to him that’s been taken. They proceed to an area deeper underground and there’s a gatekeeper that speaks Arabic. He and Malcolm argue in the language.
Men circle them dangerously and Ethan pulls back his jacket to access his guns. They hear a child giggling and then crying. The men attack, more join them and Malcolm and Ethan fight them. Ethan shoots at them. Vanessa goes toward the sound of the child crying. Malcolm jams a meat hook into one and it goes down. Another is bent backwards unnaturally then stands back up and Ethan puts one into his head.
Vanessa finds a room full of people parts, mutilated bodies and entrails. She squishes through the mess and finds a girl alive but with bite marks on her neck. The first man they met approaches and she asks where his master is. He says close and asks if she would like to meet her. Ethan puts a couple into his head as well and he goes down. Malcolm checks the girl and says it’s not her but then hears a rustling among the parts. A rat squeaks and a fanged man opens his eyes and stands.
Ethan shoots at him over and over but the creature flings him backward. Malcolm pulls a sword. Vanessa stares the creature down and Malcolm puts a sword through it killing him. The woman they found opens her eyes. They are red and she too is fanged. Vanessa tells Ethan this is not over. Malcolm stabs her as well.
They bring Ethan to where the resurrection men ply their trade and where doctors and medical students practice on dead bodies. The guy running the place refers them to his assistant. They come to see a young doctor who insists he’s not anyone’s assistant. They tell him they need his help. He says he’s a researcher, not a surgeon and tells them to go away. Ethan says he has a bloody knife in his hands like the others. The doc tells them to quit wasting his time and get out.
Malcolm pulls back the sheet to show the fanged male they killed. Now they have his interest. He checks out his fangs, eyes and the kill wound. He says the age is impossible to determine and that the dermis is unusual. He studies the creature then slices into its chest. He says that it’s not skin, but more like an exoskeleton on a crustacean. He peels the outer dermis off and they see hieroglyphics.
Ethan asks who the f- they are. Malcolm tells him to meet them at noon tomorrow and Vanessa adds – unless you’d rather spend the rest of your life shooting clay targets and telling lies.
A crowd looks at the bloody spatter on the exterior of a house – where the woman on the toilet was yanked out the window. Inside, the inspector says it’s carnage like you’d see on a battlefield. There are chunks of flesh on a skylight and blood spatter everywhere in the bathroom. The photographer asks if he wants shots of it all as the cop – Galsworthy – calls it carnage. There is a body on the floor and he says to get the body too.
The photographer asks where the dignity is as another cops vomits down the hall. He says they’ll get her dignity back when they find the monster that did this. The camera flashes and we see what looks like parts of a one (maybe two) bodies all in pieces and gore everywhere in the little room.
Ethan shows up to meet Malcolm. He is told by the servant Sembene to wait. He walks around instead and comes into a room with a giant map on a wall and instruments of sorts. Vanessa comes in quietly and asks if it’s what he expected. He asks if she’s a miss or ma’am. She tells him miss and asks him to follow her. He’s brought to a library and she offers tea. He refuses.
He asks if she’s a reader and she says she’s a spiritualist. She asks if he’s a skeptic and he says not about what he saw last night. She lays out cards and says there is a world between worlds in the shadows – the demi monde. She asks if he believes this and he says yes. She says that’s where they were last night and some unfortunate souls are cursed to live out their lives there.
She flips cards and asks if he’s wise. She tells him a wise man would walk away and forget everything he saw last night. She says they can use him if he chooses to be unwise. She says he’s a man of great violence and hidden depths. Ethan tells her to tell him what this is about. She says Malcolm’s daughter was taken by a creature like the one they found last night.
Ethan asks what her part is and she says that’s her own business. He says he’s not well suited to being a hired gun and killing for gold. She tells him that Sembene has his gold and will pay him on the way out. She tells him that he seems better suited to being an actor. He prepares to leave and she asks him to pick a card. He reaches for one and she stops him and tells him to do it with thought – to believe.
Vanessa tells him to look in her eyes and believe. He does and flips a card. It’s the lover and shows a scorpion on a woman’s mouth. She smiles at him. She tells him if he changes his mind, he knows where to find them. Vanessa comes to Malcolm and asks if he was tempted. She says he was intrigued and that she thinks he’ll be back. Malcolm says they need him then tells Vanessa they have an appointment in an hour. She asks where they are going and he says – amongst dead things.
Malcolm stares at a photo of a young boy and girl. Felix tells his boss Mr. Lyle that Malcolm is there to see him. He says to send him in. Lyle is thrilled and says he loves Malcolm’s book and asks for an autograph. They are in the Department of Egyptian Antiquities. Vanessa is there and asks what the bugs are. He says they are beetles that eat flesh when they need extra help cleaning them.
Malcolm shows him a photo of the hieroglyphics from the man’s chest. Lyle says they mean blood cure or blood transformation but also could mean a curse. He asks what it was on and Malcolm says it was a tattoo. Lyle asks him if there are more of these pictures and tells Malcolm he should like to see them but not there. He says the British Museum is no place for actual scholarship.
Lyle invites them to come see them at a party at his house a week from Friday. Malcolm tells him it’s urgent but Lyle says nothing about Ancient Egypt has been urgent in eons. He tells them he’ll see them a week from Friday and dismisses them. He tells them to bring the photographs with them and they’ll discuss them then. Lyle asks if they know the source of the writing and Lyle says it’s from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. They leave. Lyle looks pensive.
The body parts pile is brought out of the murder house under a sheet. Ethan is standing there and overhears them talking about the grisly murders and how no one say anything. He looks up at the splash of blood on the outside of the house – by a window too high for anyone to reach from the outside. The neighbors say the woman was pregnant and they think Jack the Ripper killed the gestating woman and her daughter. Ethan looks angry and strides away.
Sembene arrives at a crowded apartment house bearing a ribboned package. He heads up a flight of stairs and knocks on a door. The doctor from the night before shuts a false door and locks it, hides some papers then goes to answer. Sembene tells the guy it’s a delivery from Sir Malcolm Murray. The servant leaves and the young man opens the package – he’s been gifted a suit and a dinner invitation for that night at the Explorer’s Club.
He shows up in his new tux and finds Malcolm. Turns out Malcolm is the Explorer that founded the club. He tells the doctor he’s spent most of his life in Africa. The doc says he was surprised to get the invitation and wasn’t going to come. Malcolm says you must follow a river when you find it. He says he knows that he must know how things work and is seeking to find things out.
The doctor says he would never hike a peak to plant a flag and says he doesn’t seek knowledge for knowledge’s sake. He says knowledge for itself alone is worthless. He says the only worthy goal of scientific exploration is piercing the veil between life and death. He says it’s the flicker that separates one from the other.
He asks why Malcolm wanted to see him. Victor says he knows the body wasn’t human and asks if he killed it. He says yes and that there are more. Malcolm offers him employment to explore things in the area where science and superstition walk hand in hand. Malcolm says an anatomist of his skill would be of use. He offers a lot of money and Victor says he has no use for a minor occult society.
That makes Malcolm angry and he says he has to save his daughter and to do that he would murder the world. Malcolm says if he joins him, he’ll enjoy terrible wonders. Victor asks how many they will have to murder but doesn’t seem to care. He asks why him and Malcolm says because he was unafraid to pull back the skin and look beneath.
Ethan stands outside Malcolm’s place lurking across the street. He sees the Lord get out of his carriage. Vanessa peeks at him from a window. He steps back into the shadows and walks away as a storm sets in. Malcolm comes into the house and heads upstairs. He fastens an open window and takes off his jacket. Lightning and thunder rage outside.
He goes to his bed and sits. The lights flicker. He hears a noise and some footsteps. He adjusts the lights and hears a woman making a noise. There are sobs. He looks up and seems to finally notice the noise. He calls out his daughter’s name – Mina. He walks slowly out of the room and sees his daughter there. The windows burst open and the lights blow as his daughter shows red eyes and fangs then she’s gone.
He tells Vanessa about it and says for a moment Mina seems like she needed him but then something changed and she was monstrous. Vanessa asks if it was an appeal. She says that her true friend would do him no harm. She says our nature doesn’t change, only our circumstance. He says he doesn’t know. Vanessa blames herself but Malcolm says they can’t change the past and they both have to live with the guilt.
Malcolm says after all this time she came to him and declares that he will find her. He says that when Mina was so close to him it reminded him of a lion hunt years ago and says that you prepare your rifle and are ready then the wind changes and the lion turns and looks at you and you realize you are no longer the hunter but the prey. Vanessa looks concerned.
Victor splashes along in the storm, drenched. He pulls out his keys and then stops before unlocking the door. He turns and looks behind him. He sees nothing and opens the door and heads into his apartment building. He goes into his rooms.
Vanessa whispers the Lord’s prayer in her room – in Latin again. She clasps her hands tightly and shakes as she prays. Candles rise up behind her and then fall as her lights flicker. Her crucifix is upside down and bugs are pouring out and around it.
Victor pulls off his wet jacket and unlocks his hidden room. He goes in with a lamp and close the door behind him, pulling the bookcase along that obscures the entry. He turns on electricity and we see he’s got a secret lab there. He takes off his new jacket and hangs it up then unties his tie. He looks at a body he has on a table that shows signs of autopsy. He wipes some liquid on the skull. The body is in a vat of ice in a copper tub and electrical lines attached to it spark.
Victor turns on a machine and we see sparks coming from it. Lightning strikes and the whole room goes dark. He curses. He strikes a match to relight his lamp. When the lights come up we see the body is gone! He looks around the room. He hears a scraping sound and footsteps. He creeps around then looks behind him. The man stands against the wall. He turns to face Victor and shuffles forward. His eyes are wide and blood-rimmed.
A tear rolls down Victor’s face as the reanimated man touches him. They are both teary. He takes a tear from Victor’s eye and then touches his own cheek. Victor asks if he can hear. The man smiles at him. He tells the man that his name is Victor Frankenstein.