“Penny Dreadful” Returns for Season Three with a Strong, Stunning Opener

For a limited time, Showtime’s YouTube channel is offering the season opener of “Penny Dreadful.” Ostensibly a lure to draw new viewers to Showtime, it also fulfills fan desires to see their favorite characters again and back in action after the explosive and tragic season two finale.

Fans will not be disappointed; this is one series that is always expanding, always exploring both the light and dark of human (and inhuman) existence. Season two ended with the main characters left to “walk alone.” No one has done this very well at all. Vanessa Ives has fallen into a black despair; Sir Malcolm has returned to the Africa he once loved; Victor is a dissipated addict living in a slum, and Ethan is on a train, homeward bound in the New Mexico territory. But as it ever is with our anti-heroes, nothing is what it seems.

“John Clare” or the Monster was headed for the Arctic; what he finds makes the Donner Party’s demise seem like, well, a party. Vanessa is pulled out of her funk by Mr. Lyle, who sends her to an “alienist” played by Patti LuPone. LuPone appeared in season two in one of the best episodes of the series thus far, and as a nod to audience intelligence, Vanessa seems to “recognize” her, and once again a bond is formed. Vanessa is challenged to do something new, which leads her to the Natural History museum, where she connects with Dr. Sweet, the curator.

Both Ethan and Malcolm both discover that no matter where they go, they have “friends” in very low places, and as unlikely as it seems, their paths are destined to meet again. Victor also has a friend, a fellow student and outsider named Dr. Jekyll. He’s done extensive neurological studies in controlling rage. Fans will be smugly in the know, but with the way the show is done, what we know is irrelevant. It’s in the playing out that the show mesmerizes viewers.

At the end of the episode, we get to know who the Big Bad of the season will be, in two simple but brilliant shots. This is one cable series that has lived up to its hype and delivers after a long tormenting wait. Game of Thrones, step aside. Penny Dreadful will be the ruler of my Sunday nights.

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