Penny Dreadful Season 3 Premiere Review: “The Day Tennyson Died”

Episode 301

On the season premiere of “Penny Dreadful,” the disparate gang of misfits that worked so well together in the past has gone astray from one another, scattered across various continents, with no sign of getting back together anytime soon, in “The Day Tennyson Died.”

Indeed, even within London, those that remain are completely estranged, at least until Ferdinand Lyle (the ever-likable Simon Russell Beale) takes matters into his own hands and pays Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) a visit, all but demanding to be let in. (Dorian Gray and Lily are nowhere to be found in the premiere, though one assumes they are still together.)

Upon taking a gander at the complete state of disarray of her home- and indeed, Vanessa herself- he recommends that she pay a visit to a new sort of psychiatrist that help him out, Dr. Seward (a returning Patti LuPone, now playing a new character).

Though skeptical, she agrees to do so, and is a bit taken aback by both the woman’s demeanor and overall approach, as well as the fact that she’s a dead ringer for her former mentor Joan Clayton, the witch who died last season, who turns out to be a distant relative of Seward’s. There’s also a clue to what’s to come to be found in that name as well, but more on that later.

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Dubbing herself an “alienist,” which put me in the mind of a novel of relatively the same name by Caleb Carr, Dr. Seward is no-nonsense and straight to the point, basically making Vanessa all but audition to be her patient. She is also able to flat-out diagnose Vanessa practically on the spot after spending a matter of minutes with her, which is pretty impressive, not in the least in that her assessment of her is pretty dead-on.

Meanwhile, in the New Mexico territory of the US, Ethan Chandler, née Talbot (Josh Hartnett), is being transported by train to be arraigned for his crimes, with Scotland Yard inspector Bartholomew Rusk (Douglas Hodge) and his associate (Jack Hickey) in tow to make sure he gets there, with a phalanx of lawmen to assist them.

Unfortunately for Ethan- or fortunately, depending on how one looks at it, I guess- a host of outlaw types that deem themselves “liberators” take out all concerned, save Rusk and his cohort, who are lucky enough to be getting a refreshment when it goes down. Leave it to a Brit to be saved by tea time.

The men have been sent there by Ethan’s mysterious father, who we will finally get to meet later in the season, if the previews for the weeks to come are any indication. I’m not 100% sure how Ethan came to be the way he is, but one hopes that we will finally find out this season. Is it something passed down from his family? Or was it more of a traditional thing, where Ethan was bit by a werewolf at some point? We shall see.

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Off in Zanzibar in Africa, Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) has finished with the unfortunate business of putting the sadly departed Sembene (Danny Sapani) to rest in his homeland and is drowning his sorrows in a bar when he is attacked by an unknown group of assailants.

Murray is, of course, handily able to defend himself, but nonetheless receives an unsolicited assist from a shady stranger, Kaetenay (cast newcomer Wes Studi), who later explains that he’s been following Murray for some time now. The reason being, he wants Murray to accompany him to America to help Ethan, who he claims is like a son to him- just as Murray was to Ethan himself. We don’t get an answer, but it seems safe to say that it will happen.

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Back in London, Victor Frankenstein is still reeling from the events of last season himself, having completely withdrawn every bit as much as Vanessa, only in his case, he’s compounded things by increasing his intake of drugs.

Be that as it may, it doesn’t stop him for sending for old friend, former schoolmate and fellow medical professional Dr. Jekyll (Shazad Latif), who is naturally a chemist, and the latest canonical additional to the show’s list of known literary figures. Frankenstein asks him to join him in his quest to bring down Lily (Billie Piper).

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Jekyll says he thinks he can save her and make her into a new woman in a good way, if they try some of his concoctions, but if they’re anything like the ones he takes himself in the novel, good luck with that. Either way, Frankenstein makes him promise that if his way doesn’t work, they will kill Lily before she can cause any serious damage.

After being tasked by Dr. Seward to try something new, Vanessa pays a visit to the local museum, where she is dazzled by the exhibits of animals on display. Appropriately enough, it is the scorpion display that catches her eye, where curator Dr. Alexander Sweet (Christian Camargo) takes notice and tries to school Vanessa on the creatures.

“The small ones are the most dangerous,” he informs her, as she gives him a look that says: “Tell me something I don’t already know.” Of course, you’ll recall “The Little Scorpion” was what Joan dubbed Vanessa last season, but even beyond that, we know Vanessa to be quite the formidable opponent, as demonstrated in last season’s finale.

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Last but not least, we tag along with Seward’s secretary as he goes in search of some libidinous entertainment and is assaulted by an unknown and unseen force, which kills the hooker he’d procured just before that in the process.

When he wakes up, we see the creepy man and kid we saw tailing Vanessa earlier in the episode, as well as a host of others, creeping and crawling around an abandoned building. A figure approaches and everyone scatters, and we discover the man is named Renfield (Samuel Barnett) and the figure that addresses him is none other than…wait for it…Dracula!

Dracula tasks Renfield with keeping an eye on Vanessa and finding out everything he can about her. Not sure why, but I’m assuming it has to do with her powers exhibited in last season. If I had to guess, I’d say that Dracula is the latest middleman meant to bring Vanessa in to meet with his superior, the Dark Lord himself, Lucifer, after Madame Kali (Helen McCrory) failed. Speaking of whom, her daughter, Hecate (Sarah Greene) is still out and about, currently keeping tabs on Ethan as well, in New Mexico.

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That was about it for this episode, but it was a promising start to what might prove to be the best season yet, if they play their cards right. I was more than a little concerned about everybody being so scattered around the planet this season, at least in the beginning, but it looks as if that will be at least partially resolved soon enough, what with Murray about to join Ethan in the States and everyone else in London.

I really enjoyed the notion of introducing Dr. Jekyll and Dracula into the mix, which could really be interesting. I also thought it was a nice touch making Vanessa’s psychiatrist related to Joan Clayton and having her be a sort of the upper-class variation of Joan. All in all, a solid start to what should prove to an intriguing season.

What did you think of the premiere of “Penny Dreadful”? Were you excited by the prospect of Dr. Jekyll and Dracula joining the fold? What do you make of Dr. Seward? (BTW, in case you missed it, her name is also the name of a recurring character in the Dracula novels, who runs an institution.) What are Lily and Dorian up to, having been isolated from the rest of the group for some time? Any predictions on what’s to come?

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Sound off down below and let me know if you have any wild theories about where this is all headed. I’ll see you on down the line as the show progresses for a check-in. Thanks for reading!