The Series Premiere of Penny Dreadful Season 1 Episode 1 “Night Work” begins with a mother and her daughter sleeping in bed. When the mother goes to the bathroom in the middle of the night, an unknown dark force rips her through the bathroom wall. The little girl screams in horror when she witnesses the aftermath, which is her mother dismembered into little pieces.
Cut to the next scene where you see Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) praying in Latin. A spider crawls from behind the crucifix on the wall and onto Vanessa’s body. She then seems to be possessed by this creature, or some mysterious power, before the scene quickly ends.
After Vanessa’s strange prayer session, she attends a Wild West show starring Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett). She seeks Ethan out after the show to offer him some “night work”. Vanessa says she is looking for someone who is not afraid of danger and good with a gun. Ethan accepts the offer.
Later that night Ethan meets Vanessa and Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) in a creepy opium den. Sir Malcolm Murray instructs Ethan not to be amazed by anything he sees and not to hesitate to use his weapons. They move further into the opium den, in search of a girl who we later learn is Sir Malcolm’s daughter.
Monster-like vampires greet Ethan, Vanessa, and Murray. The monsters begin to attack Ethan and Sir Malcolm. Ethan and Murray eventually defeat the monster vampires with their weaponry expertise.
Meanwhile, Vanessa has been following the cries of a girl further into the den. More monsters confront her when she enters a room full of blood and dead bodies. The vampire monsters seem to stop in their tracks as if in a trance when Vanessa looks into their eyes. This raises questions as to who really is Vanessa? Is her weird spiritual spider trance related to the effect she seems to have on these monsters?
Sir Malcolm Murray kills the monster with a blade through the heart. They then take the body to some sort or morgue. But the doctor (Harry Treadaway) who examines the body is more than just a coroner. He is involved in some research that is not at first clear. The researcher becomes especially interested in the case when he pulls away the skin of the monster to find Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The next day Ethan Chandler visits Sir Malcolm’s home, but Vanessa says that she will speak for Murray. Ethan is intrigued about the events that occurred the night before, and is looking for answers. Vanessa tells him very little, other than Murray’s daughter has been captured by one of those monster vampires and they aim to find her. She warns him he should not get involved, although he could be of use to them. Before Ethan leaves, Vanessa asks him to take a tarot card. He chooses The Lover card, and Vanessa smiles for maybe the first time in the whole episode.
Sir Malcolm and Vanessa bring the Egyptian hieroglyphics that were discovered on the monster’s corpse to an expert, Mr. Lyle (Simon Russell Beale). He tells them that the writing resembles a blood curse from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. He refuses to say anything else until he gets to know them more, so he invites them dinner. It is implied that Mr. Lyle knows more than he is willing to say.
Sir Malcolm Murray meets again with the young researcher who did the autopsy on the monster vampire. He offers him a job since the young researcher is so interested in the connection between life and death. And Sir Malcolm is determined to find a cure for his daughter who he suspects has been turned into a vampire.
Later that night, Sir Malcolm Murray has an encounter with his missing daughter, Mina. She visits in his home, causing the lights to flicker eerily. At first she is crying and looks vulnerable. The next her eyes are bright red and she is screeching like a vampire about to attack its prey.
Sir Malcolm Murray tells Vanessa about his encounter with his daughter, Mina. Vanessa says that this is all her fault, but does not elaborate any further. She goes to pray in Latin beneath her crucifix again like in the beginning of the episode. The cross flips upside down and hundreds of spiders come spilling out from the wall. This does not look like the response Vanessa was hoping for.
In the last scene of Penny Dreadful episode 1, the research doctor is in his secret lab where he is trying to resurrect a man from the dead. It is storming outside, and a sudden power surge gives life to this new monster. The doctor introduces himself as Victor Frankenstein.