Penny Dreadful Premiere Recap: Dracula Stakes a Claim to Vanessa

Early on in Penny Dreadful’s third season premiere, Sir Malcolm, Ethan, the Creature and Vanessa appeared to be locked in a competition to see which of them could be the biggest Debbie Downer. Not that you could blame them, really.

Having just laid Sembene to rest, Sir Malcolm was in Zanzibar and eager to be “quit of the filthy place”; Ethan was being escorted across the New Mexico Territory by Rusk and what seemed like an inordinate number of marshals — even for the extradition of a werewolf; the Creature was stuck on a ship that was frozen in place in the Arctic; and, while the rest of London mourned the passing of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Vanessa was (barely) living in squalor at Sir Malcolm’s. But then, at last, Miss Ives let in a little light — Mr. Lyle, who took one look at what had become of the formerly grand mansion and quipped as only he could, “I love what you’ve done with the place.”

From there, things perked up considerably. So read on, why don’t you? We’ll review the highlights of “The Day Tennyson Died” in all their poetic glory, then you can grade the episode in our poll and hit the comments to discuss whether Dracula’s introduction made your blood run cold.

‘BE WHO YOU ARE’ | After saving Sir Malcolm from a mugging, Kaetenay (Wes Studi) revealed not only that he’d been stalking the explorer since London but that Murray couldn’t die until he’d served his purpose. Which was? “To fight the great demons of earth and sky.” (Which, you had to admit, sounded at least as cool as, “In every generation, there is a chosen one.”) For the moment, however, what the American Indian wanted — no, make that “demanded” — was for Sir Malcolm to accompany him to the States to help “he who is almost my son” — Ethan.

‘GOOD LUCK’ | Certainly, Ethan was in no position to refuse a hand. Besides Rusk and his fellow lawmen, the train carrying the prisoner to his day in court also had aboard it Hecate and a group of gunslingers employed by the wolfman’s father to, er, liberate him. When the inevitable shootout went down, Rusk miraculously emerged unscathed (making the cup of tea for which he’d scampered off the most significant beverage of his life!) as did Hecate (who hilariously presented herself as a “defenseless female”). Afterwards, Ethan — soulful as ever — was troubled by all the blood that his dad had had spilled in order to stage a family reunion.

‘HASTEN THE END’ | Meanwhile, on the S.S. Going Nowhere, the few frostbitten crew members who were still alive debated resorting to cannibalism. When it appeared that they were going to put a dying child out of his misery — for dinner — the Creature intervened. But while singing the youngster a lullaby, the erstwhile Caliban saw flashes of memory (of his own son in a similarly sad state?). Off that, as tenderly as he could, Frankenstein’s “monster” broke the lad’s neck himself, wished his fellow passengers luck and started off for “home.” On foot!

‘IS IT LOVE OR WORK?’ | Back in London, Victor was paid a visit by an old classmate, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Shazad Latif). After filling his friend’s head with “dreadful, gorgeous secrets” about Lily, Frankenstein disclosed the real reason that he’d reached out after five years: He wanted Henry to help him destroy the former Brona Croft. Since Jekyll was no longer driven by murderous rage — in fact, “taming the beast within” was the focus of his work now — he instead offered to “domesticate” Lily so that Victor could do what he truly desired: love her.

‘LIFE, FOR ALL ITS ANGUISH, IS OURS’ | Finally, Mr. Lyle couldn’t stand seeing Vanessa reduced to rooming with spiders and flies. “Shall we not at least try to bring you back to the mammalian community?” he asked. Since the answer could only be yes, he suggested that she pay a visit to the shrink who’d helped him embrace the fabulousness by which he’d once been so troubled. Miss Ives also might want to reacquaint herself with her hairbrush, the imp added, earning a hard-won smile and a hug for his efforts.

Upon meeting Dr. Seward (Patti LuPone), Vanessa was stunned: The woman was a dead ringer for the Cut-Wife and, it turned out, a descendant of the late Joan Clayton. (Or was she somehow actually Joan Clayton?) She even had the Cut-Wife’s brusque manner down pat. When Vanessa said that she kept scratching her hand because of an itch, Seward shot back, “Then perhaps you should invest in some hand cream and save yourself the expense of seeing me.”

Still, Vanessa was ready to commit to therapy — even after Seward challenged her to break her cycle of depression by spending that afternoon doing something entirely new. Vanessa’s choice of an activity? A visit to the London Natural History Museum, where she wound up making the acquaintance of sensitive zoologist Alexander Sweet (Christian Camargo). They bonded first over scorpions, but she — and we — were really won over when he confessed that his favorite exhibits were “mostly the unloved ones… all the broken and shunned creatures.

“Someone’s got to care for them,” he added. “Who shall it be if not us?” (Though Vanessa held it together during their interaction, those lines, delivered with such sincerity, reduced me to a puddle. Anyone else?)

Returning home, Vanessa began opening windows and doing some overdue cleaning (which Eva Green somehow managed to make look classy). She even wrote to Sir Malcolm, copping to the “unhealthy lethargy” that had overtaken her, and then recited a bit of Tennyson to the stars. “Let all be well,” the verse concluded on an optimistic note. “Be well.”

‘GIVE ME YOUR THROAT’ | As the episode drew to a close, we followed — at first inexplicably — as Seward’s male secretary pocketed the doctor’s schillings to hire a prostitute. After he and his lady of the evening were attacked by a shadowy figure, the john awakened to find himself surrounded by extremely pale, menacing types — including a man and a boy who’d earlier tailed Vanessa through London. (After selling her a flower to commemorate Tennyson’s passing, the youngster had creepily said, “Savor this day… my beloved.”)

Though the gang practically drooled at the prospect of a captive who was so “pink with blood,” the arrival of their master kept them from harming him. “Have no fear, child,” intoned the baddie, who only wanted to know about Miss Ives. When the man insisted that he didn’t know anything about Dr. Seward’s new patient, the villain informed him that he would find out and report back. To ensure his obedience, the monster asked for the throat of his guest, whose name turned out to be Renfield. And his unseen “host”? Dracula!

So, what did you think of the Season 3 premiere? How torturous was it not to get to see Dracula during that spectacularly spooky sequence? Vote in the poll below, then hit the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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29 Comments
  1. James says:

    Honestly, why Eva Green hasn’t won all the awards for her work in Penny Dreadful? The scene between her and Patti LuPone in this episode was perfect. Such an underrated show!

  2. juless says:

    best show ever!! Love Eva Green and Patty Lupone scenes, the dialogues are so well written!

  3. Sandra says:

    I missed this show so much. So glad is back. So excited about Patti Lupone being a regular now!

  4. unodos says:

    this guys should teach how to do a season premiere to the GoT brainless staff

  5. James D says:

    such a brilliantly crafted show from the stellar writing to the outstanding acting it never disappoints (and after two seasons of continual excellence it deserves more recognition and praise). and now we get Wes Studi as well, so good. cant wait too see more Dracula and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. BTW the teacher in me has to be a jerk and point out the worst zoologist ever using the improper plural of octopodes :)

  6. Ian says:

    Eva Green and Patti Lupone, I mean, does it get any better? Dream Team.
    I’m already predicting a relationship growing that will be as strong as Vanessa’s with Joan.
    Other than that though, I kinda thought the show crossed over into melodrama with a lot of the dialogue, and some of the music was OTT. Let’s get back to OG Flavor Penny Dreadful, please. And now that Dracula’s been introduced, I’m hoping for a more driven storyline this season.

  7. Walrus says:

    I must have misunderstood season 1. I thought that was Dracula, even though the name wasn’t used.

    • Laura says:

      I just re-watched Season 2 and they mentioned something about the monsters from Season 1 being made “in the image of their master”, rather than being the master himself (hence there were several monsters throughout the first season). I don’t know…it’ll be interesting to see how Dracula differs from those in Season 1 (since they didn’t show him in the premiere, you’d think he will differ somewhat).

      • Diana says:

        In the finale of season 1 Mina said she would deliver Vanessa to the master, even though the white vampire creature was dead; so we never saw this master.

  8. natalia h says:

    Absolutely LOVED the Dracula reveal. When he made Sam Barnett say “my name is Reinfeld” I screamed of delight. It was awesome.

  9. KCC says:

    A very well done season premier. They’re going with the more modern suave notion of vampires instead of vampires as monster from season one. I wonder if they’ll explain why they’re different. Not showing Dracula’s face probably means were going to meet him as a different character then have a reveal that the character is Dracula. So far the only new character that would fit that bill is the zoologist. We’ll see.

  10. Liz985 says:

    Gorgeous show: language, costumes, sets, acting. Sublime.

  11. Protege says:

    Well, i’m glad rusk is still alive, but i wonder how long his luck will hold; also, what nationality is jekyll supposed to be in the novel? I read reviews elsewhere that commented on how this group never gets together for very long, and that’s one of my frustrations with this show; like how this group never seems to be fully formed. Will the creature ever be a part of it? What does vanessa really know about him, or does sir malcolm know about ethan?

    • KCC says:

      That’s what I like about the show. It’s refreshing that it isn’t a comic book Guardians of the Galaxy, Avenger’s, or Legends of Tomorrow superheros fighting evil. Just a lot of different characters with loose associations that sometimes have a common goal. I don’t think they’re meant to be a “Team.”

    • Joey says:

      In the books, I would assume Jekyll is meant to be British, as he is on the show. If you’re referring to the actor, he’s of English, Scottish, and Pakistani ancestry. It would be very easy to say that Jekyll on this show has an ancestor or two from the Indian subcontinent, given Britain’s dominion over India at the time. Many Indian aristocrats lived in Victorian England.

  12. I thought this was the best written episode of the series thus far.
    Anyone want to take bets that the good Dr. Alexander Sweet is actually Dracula?

    • Marc says:

      I thought the same thing too. Something went off in my head when Dr. Sweet forgot Vanessa’s name until when Dracula introduced himself to Renfield, and then it clicked. Ah, Sweet pretending to be disinterest was just a ruse.

      • Molly says:

        But if Sweets is Dracula, why is he having Renfield spy on her? He already has a closer relationship to Vanessa than Renfield

    • Jon says:

      not dracula..jack the ripper..he is a dr..loves broken and unloved creatures (a.k.a. hookers) and all the dusty forgotten cases (referring to Scotland yards’ lack of regard for prostitue murders) plus Christian Carmago played “Biney” a.k.a the ice truck killer on Dexter and honestly there’s no one better to play a serial killer role, especially in that suave debonaire context.

      • Jon says:

        its cool the way he repeats “good day” 3x..each time in a different tone(1st time, saying good day to Vanessa.. by the 3rd time thinking to himself about how its a good day, cause he’s just found his newest “broken creature, Vanessa

  13. Nigel lynch says:

    I great way to introduce Dracula I’ve been waiting for him to show up. Found it really interesting how you guy’s that satan and Dracula are brothers can’t wait the next episode.

  14. Isabel says:

    The mysteries continue and I remain intrigued. I look forward to future episodes. Thank you.

  15. Tristan says:

    This show is incredible. The cinematic scenes between Dr Frankenstein & Dr Jekyll were filmed with great care. What can I say about the parting act whereby we are introduced to both Renfield & evil incarnate itself…Dracula
    PD is fast becoming the show to top Game Of Thrones. I’am gobsmacked at the detail and passion the makers have poured into PD.

  16. Julianna says:

    So the first time I watched episode 1 of the new season I thought ‘oh..I bet Dr. Sweet is Dracula..he’s charming and dark and alluring, and he has caught Vanessa’s eye and has already delve into her soul with his words.’ I watched the episode 4 times now..and am 100% convinced I am right. I say this confidently now because the trailer that plays after the episode for the upcoming episodes has a brief clip where Dr. Sweet us standing alone in a dark room and he slowly breathes in and closes his eyes, as if he is about to do something (transform?) Then I looked CLOSER– the ladder object behind him is in the same scene and building that reynfield is taken to in episode 1, where one of the vampire crawls down as the vampires surround him (right before Dracula appears to him and makes his awesome introduction). It’s the SAME dark, rundown building…and since “Dr. Sweet” is in it in that clip, taking a deep breath in and closing his eyes as the clip changes, he is OBVIOUSLY Dracula.. anybody else agree?

  17. Julianna says:

    There is also a scene in another trailer where there is a figure walking towards Vanessa in a dark lit, fancy room and Vanessa looks angry/fearful/mistrusting/unsure about them with teary eyes..and you can now tell from behind that it is Alexander Sweet. It’s as if she is discovering his secret and is unsure if she should go with or not. ALSO, and my last point, I promise, is that it is Alexander Sweet’s voice over most of the trailers now to “not be fearful my child” and “who’s to love them, if not us” as though he is implying that he and Vanessa should be the ones to love and rule all creatures. This is my vent on the opinion I have because no one in my household is as wrapped on Penny Dreadful as I am. Love it!

    • Carlos says:

      I know the feeling! This show is so poetic in its direction. God bless Abel for the score too!

      This first episode was awesome and I think the best episode yet!

      Patti Lupone was amazing!
      And that last second of the show when Dracula gets introduced!! 😁😁😁

  18. moose1966 says:

    Off and running again with the new season
    & the Master finally arrives
    Love it l!
    Better get some Emmy’s this time!

  19. moose1966 says:

    Sweet Dracula? Hmm I don’t know
    Maybe too obvious
    He’s seen in a later episode walking with Vanessa…in daylight!
    Dracula (at least the traditional one) doesn’t do that!