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As the New Year begins, so too has a familiar door been reopened. Indeed, if you listen closely, already can be heard the cries of restless spirits (or at least Showtime fans) yearning to embrace the other side of the Deminonde once more; Showtime’s Penny Dreadful is returning for season two.
As one of the best shows on television, and definitely one of the most underrated,Penny Dreadful had initially introduced itself as a Victorian curiosity from creator and executive producer John Logan (Gladiator, Skyfall); a decadently dressed pastiche of many of the 19th century’s best British horror novels, including the works of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Oscar Wilde, quickened back to life as a monster mash for the premium cable generation.
But with its startling fidelity to the works of the aforementioned authors—such as themost faithful rendering of the Frankenstein monster to date—as well as its belabored intensity for capturing the gilded hypocrisy of an age, Penny Dreadful rapidly matured into something more than worth your time: it became a layered drama about repression of one’s true self. You may have predicted that season one would reveal Josh Hartnett’s Ethan Chandler had a wolfish secret, or that the bedeviled Vanessa Ives would find Yuletide love from Sir Malcolm Murray, but the execution was seductively ingratiating.
Now Showtime is gearing up the hype for Penny Dreadful season two. Last month, we received our first real trailer for the upcoming second season, and just last week Showtime rolled out its New Year’s Day celebrations by airing all eight hours of the first season back-to-back. With anticipation growing, there is hardly a better time to organize all in one place everything that you need to know and expect from the second season of Penny Dreadful.
Well before we got the first teaser for the new series, Showtime released the above photo, clearly indicating a renewed focus on the Vanessa Ives and Ethan Chandler relationship, as well as our first official synopsis, which you can read below.
This season, Vanessa and Ethan form a deeper bond as the group, including Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton), Dr. Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), and Sembene (Danny Sapani), unite to banish the evil forces that threaten to destroy them. Meanwhile, Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney), the Creature (Rory Kinnear) and Brona (Billie Piper) are all waging battles of their own. Patti LuPone will guest star as a mysterious character of great importance in Vanessa’s past. Helen McCrory returns as Evelyn Poole (a.k.a. Madame Kali), the seductive spiritualist who will pose a unique threat to our protagonists this season, along with Simon Russell Beale, who is back as eccentric Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle. Additional guest stars include Douglas Hodge as a Scotland Yard investigator; Sarah Greene as Poole’s powerful daughter, Hecate; and Johnny Beauchamp as a man with a singular past.
Penny Dreadful season one rather infamously dealt with several supernatural threats that didn’t have a clear visage or scheme. Much like the Bram Stoker’s epistolary novel, Mina Harker’s “Master” vampire is never seen onscreen, nor are his intentions beyond turning Vanessa Ives “into the Mother of Evil” fully known. Yet while Dracula was merely hinted at by Renfield-like characters and hordes of ghoulish cadavers, there was also the more omnipotent demonic force, be it the Devil or ancient Egypt’s Ra (depending on the on the episode), who would often speak through Vanessa in “Possession” or take the shapes of other men in her life.
In contrast, season two appears to have a much more straightforward big bad than the spiritual nihilism previously shown. At San Diego Comic-Con, John Logan confirmed that Madame Kali, who mysteriously appeared for a cryptic scene in the season finale, would return as an antagonistic force in season two.
The presence of the nefarious medium, played by Helen McCrory, is likewise confirmed by the above synopsis for the season. But her true machinations appear more fully hinted at in a deleted scene that screened at San Diego this past July. In it, Kali visits colorful Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle (the also returning Simon Russell Beale) and reveals that she was buttering up Sir Malcolm in an attempt to gain closer access to Vanessa Ives.
“What games we’ll have, Miss Ives and I, when one will live and one will die,” Kali muses to her confederate. The scene is expected to be included in season two. It should also be noted that the Egyptology aspect of season one could be more developed in season two, as indicated by Lyle’s returning presence. In that vein, Bram Stoker also wrote the far more obscure The Jewel of Seven Stars in 1903. In addition to likely serving as an inspiration for Universal Pictures’ The Mummy (1932), that book also featured an Egyptian Queen seeking resurrection in a young, supernaturally-touched woman’s body.
Arguably, the first season of the series did not hit its full stride until “Closer Than Sisters,” the fifth installment that focused entirely on Vanessa Ives’ back story with the Murray family….and the Prince of Darkness. A tour de force hour for Eva Green, it was a beautifully tragic moment that caught everyone’s attention. Including John Logan.
At San Diego Comic-Con, Logan revealed that he wants to eventually do an episode entirely devoted to origins of every major character on the series.
“Next season, we will do something very similar,” Logan said. “I hope to continue doing that for all the characters, because I personally find their back stories, how they became who they are,” as riveting as what they’re doing in the contemporary story.”
But more directly for season two, it appears likely that there will be one episode devoted entirely to Ethan Chandler’s lycanthrope past. Logan teased before the above comment that he has an elaborate background for Josh Hartnett’s Ethan Chandler, and that he is still toying with how the character first became a werewolf. Logan also later divulged his thoughts on the oft-mentioned father of Ethan Chandler while chatting withTV Guide. Says Logan, “His father is a titan of industry named Jared Chandler; he was a monstrous man and treated his son brutally.” That sounds like a retroactive trip across the pond for season two is very, very possible.
One of the most obvious things to expect from season two remains the strange developments in the House of Frankenstein. When last we left Victor and Caliban, the creator and his creature had united for a common purpose: to make the Monster a mate. Curiously, this is a step further than Mary Shelley went, as Victor never got that far in his “debt-paying” to his child in the novel. And while James Whale’s 1935 masterpiece The Bride of Frankenstein did feature the mate’s genesis, it was done under duress after the Monster and another mad scientist had kidnapped Frankenstein’s wife. Yet, in Penny Dreadful a new creation is rising out of Victor’s empathy for Caliban. You can even see a resurrected Brona’s hands in the below teaser trailer for season two.
It is curious to see where this relationship will go further. While the synopsis didn’t give much away, when I spoke with Harry Treadaway at Comic-Con in July, he seemed hesitant at my theory that Victor and Caliban are now “joining forces” and are on the same page.
“Yes, those are two incredibly big characters between them,” Treadaway said. “So, those two in tandem would be a force to be reckoned with. If they start working together, then London might have a problem.” For Treadaway, it seemed the closeness of father and son may still be a way off.
Also during the San Diego panel, John Logan revealed that there would be a new character in season two who will “lead us further into the Dracula origin.” While not much to go on by itself, we have nevertheless seen Mina Murray Harker and Abraham Van Helsing appear on the show. As we detailed here, there are many similarities between the cast and most of Dracula’s protagonists (for example, Ethan Chandler and Victor Frankenstein could pass for Quincy Morris and Jack Seward if you squinted hard enough). However, there is one missing piece…Jonathan Harker (a character mentioned repeatedly in season one but never seen). As a purely speculative guess on our part, it would certainly be neat to see the newly minted widower make a call on his father-in-law.
Probably one of the most memorable scenes in Penny Dreadful was when Dorian Gray locked lips with Ethan Chandler. And while he and Chandler didn’t share much screen time after that, he had a merry dance with Vanessa Ives before it ended in rejection.
When I talked to Reeve Carney at San Diego in September, he said, “I think next season, Dorian’s storyline will be about how he deals with that feeling [of rejection].” Carney added, “The thing with Dorian is he lives for new experiences and constant change. So, I think on one level, there is something that turns him on about even rejection.”
Carney later elaborated to toofab that Dorian Gray will have at least one new love interest in season two. “I know that Dorian has a new love interest in the second season,” Carney said. “And potentially a few.” Carney also teased that he doesn’t know if it will be male, female, or both.
When I was able to speak briefly to John Logan in July, I mentioned how much the first season reminded me of certain chapters from the middle of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. So, I was compelled to ask if we might see Transylvania in season two. While, we can confirm that is not in the immediate horizon, Logan did promise with a smile that the show would be leaving London for at least part of season two.
“We go elsewhere in season two, but not to the Old World Transylvania,” Logan said. However, he also intriguingly talked about his favorite gothic horror fictions not written by Shelley, Stoker, or Wilde. “I thought The Island of Dr. Moreau was a very important work because of the variations it does on Mary Shelley’s work. And Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the classic texts that looks at Victorian society and how it’s manifested in monstrousness.” When questioned if we could see either story appear in some fashion for season two, Logan just smiled and said, “Possibly.”
If Caliban saw what another good doctor got up to on his island of animal-people misfits, perhaps he would not be so miserable?
That’s everything we have on Penny Dreadful season two at the moment, but come back here in the ensuing weeks and months leading to its premiere, as we’ll keep you updated with all the dreadful news.