More Pimping For Frankenstein on Penny Dreadful

Vanessa sees Mina in a vision, and helps Malcolm explain her situation—under the influence of an unnamed Dracula, who might be connected to the Hidden Ones; food for vampires somewhere gross—before the crew takes a midnight excursion to the London Zoo. After Ethan has quite a strange dog-whispering moment with some of Dracula's wolf familiars, they lead us to our story's Renfield—a mesmerizing young floor-licking madman named Fenton—and Malcolm brings him home for torture... All of which seems to be part of Dracula's plans.

While Ethan and Malcolm have quite a row about the ethics of enhanced interrogation, in the end Vanessa's cool counsel brings Ethan and Victor back into the fold, and the group ends the episode more entangled with each other than ever. The closer they get to the end of days, and to finally tracking down poor Mina, the more their weird backstories begin to twist around each other, informing and distorting them the way the show started out by promising.

Outside Monster Club, though, things remain complex. Vanessa will be running back into Dorian Gray next week, but spends this one mostly backing up the others as they work through their private issues: She asks Ethan whether his love affair with Brona will end in Gaelic sadness after all, and her poetic bond with Victor remains strong. Ethan, on the other hand, shows bizarre powers in his run-in with the Children of the Night, which somehow brings us finally to a place where all his secrets and ellipses seem to be taking on actual weight.

Of everyone, maybe even Sir Malcolm, Victor's got the heaviest weight. After his beloved Proteus was murdered last week, we start this episode with a series of flashbacks explaining how we got to that point: First, his dog died and mother took horrifically ill on the same day, giving him an obsession with overcoming death that could be central to the apocalypse prophecy the mummies warned us about. Back in Paris, his first creation—a screaming, scarred, blood-covered lunatic—frightened him so much that he locked the monster up and ran away forever.

More Pimping For Frankenstein on Penny Dreadful

It's this "firstborn" who narrates the slow first half of the episode, in a gross and florid way of speaking we see he learned at the hands of an obnoxious actor at the infamous Theatre du Grand Guignol, who gives him a place to live and work, and exposits a huge bolus of Wikipediana about the gaslight days in the process. Now, the corpse—now called "Caliban," because theatre people don't know from subtletly—is back, and has taken his revenge by killing his brother right in front of their creator and then talking a load of shit for about one hundred years.

Victor's in no mood for this business, finding nothing to love in his flawed creation, but Caliban assures him he's not there to take Proteus's place: He's chased Victor to London to demand a Bride, on pain of death, making of him basically a second (third?) Ripper in the process. Turning the gorgeous romance of Victor and Proteus into merely a prelude to Bride Of Frankenstein does wonders for our empathy—we miss Proteus almost as much as Victor does—but between the bombastic monologues, the self-aware "Modern Prometheus"/Industrial Revolution/Nietzschean Übermensch commentary on Shelley's classic novel, and his smug leer, it's almost too bitter a trade to bear.

More Pimping For Frankenstein on Penny Dreadful

On the other hand, Dracula's man Fenton is a highly welcome addition, beautiful and ghastly in equal measure, a sort of shadow-mirror to Ethan and Victor as Malcolm's aides-de-camp. While the very American Ethan disagrees with his boss's methods, he remains sympathetic to his fatherly plight—even in the midst of his own tragic (if still mysterious) daddy issues. Put alongside Vanessa's own stake in Malcolm-as-parent, given her recent ravings—and Victor's stake as both a negligent and, now, a bereaved father—one wonders if perhaps this Fenton won't eventually find a use in pushing them all out again into the light.

More Pimping For Frankenstein on Penny Dreadful

"We here have been brutalized with loss," Vanessa spits at the pious Ethan: "It has made us brutal in return!" And then, calling everyone in for one last huddle, Malcolm admits: "It's not for the weak, or the kind. No one in this room is kind." (And knowing is half the battle.) While Victor has implied before that he wronged people in the past, watching his guilt over what's been done to and by Caliban in his abandonment proves Malcolm is right about him, too:

For a story about creators repenting for what they've wrought, from the large-scale to the small, it's Victor who's actually been through it, to a degree not even these compatriots could understand. But as he prepares to "cure" Fenton, as a test case for Mina, he's the one that explains how remaking a life makes one doubly responsible for it, proving that even Frankenstein can learn his lesson—although the dying Brona would make a good immortal, one imagines, and perhaps Caliban is annoyingly right when he calls himself "modernity personified": "We are men of iron and mechanization now."

Whatever connection Dracula has to the Egyptian Hidden Ones, it's worth noting his powers are greater than anything we've seen, and Fenton seems more strongly connected to the demimonde than even Vanessa (whom he seems to know on sight) herself. And of course Malcolm's disgust with the boy has to do with what it says about Mina's fate than any world-saving big talk: Will she prove a Jonathan Harker, caught in a web she can't escape, or a Lucy Westenra, undead and loving it?

Based on the madness in Fenton's eyes, I don't think either answer is going to be very satisfactory—and in fact, this entire quest to save her might be exactly what the End of Days requires, to assemble itself. (Malcolm suspects, rightly, that the entire Zoo trip was useful only as a way of drawing Fenton out, using Vanessa as bait—meaning that both the Mina visions and Malcolm's own agenda are two sides of an ongoing game that don't mind using any of these kids as pawns.) But until we know the real deal with Ethan and Vanessa, who remain two very compelling cyphers—Werewolf? Another Mina (or Lucy) analogue?—there's no way to know for sure.

[Images via Showtime]

Morning After is a new home for television discussion online, brought to you by Gawker. Follow @GawkerMA and read more here.