Penny Dreadful Season 1 Episode 2, “Seance,” begins with a woman alone on a foggy evening in the streets of London. She witnesses a man get taken by an unseen creature. The monster then takes the woman for its pray, leaving nothing on screen but a bloody arm holding onto a green apple.
The scene cuts to Ethan Chandler waking up on the rat infested docks. He goes straight to the bar, where he meets Brona Croft for the first time. Brona Croft is an Irish prostitute living with a terrible sickness. She lives above the bar and joins Ethan for a drink.
Ethan takes a liking to her, and when she leaves for “work,” he asks the owner if there are any rooms available for him to stay. We learn a bit more about the character of Ethan Chandler in episode 2, when he receives a letter from his father telling him to come home. That he cannot run away forever and that he will handle all of his legal problems.
Dorian Gray is introduced when Brona Croft meets him in his mansion for her work. She poses for him in a nude photo shoot. During the shoot, she begins to cough up blood because of her illness. Dorian is strangely turned on by this, as if he is drawn to danger. As they begin to have sex Dorian tells Brona that he has, “never fucked a dying creature before.”
He is intrigued by her vulnerability. This scene becomes pretty disturbing and raises many questions as to why Dorian is so willing to engage in activities that he knows will put him at risk. Is he immortal just as in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray?
Meanwhile, Dr. Victor Frankenstein eats at the table with his newly resurrected monster. They turn to Shakespeare to decide the monster’s name, Proteus. Note that Proteus is the Greek mythological god of the sea. It turns out later in the episode that the monster actually does have ties with the sea and may have been a boater, even a whale hunter. The theme of the sea repeats itself in Penny Dreadful Season 1 Episode 2 (remember when Ethan woke up on the dock).
Dr. Victor Frankenstein leaves the helpless Proteus to go meet with Vanessa and Sir Malcolm. They return to the corpse of the vampire monster, which is now completely skinless, exposing the Egyptian hieroglyphics underneath. Dr. Frankenstein takes a blood sample from the monster’s corpse. Sir Malcolm gives him an envelope full of cash to examine the blood sample further.
When Dr. Frankenstein leaves, Vanessa tells Sir Malcolm that she knows the doctor has a secret. It is unclear how Vanessa knows that the doctor is keeping a secret. Maybe it is her clairvoyance? Maybe it had something to do with the Shakespeare poem that they recite together while examining the monster’s corpse.
Sir Malcolm and his guard Sembene go to visit a man who was examining the murder of the mother and daughter who were brutally murdered and dismembered in the beginning of episode 1. Sir Malcolm learns that the bodies were not drained of blood as he had expected. Sir Malcolm tells the detective, “you are hunting for a man. You need to start hunting for a beast.”
Later that evening Vanessa and Sir Malcolm go to a party at Mr. Lyles home. Vanessa meets Dorian Gray in a sexually charged introduction. Renowned medium Madame Kali is the guest of honor at the party. She leads an impromptu seance, but the spirit that emerges possesses Vanessa Ives. This scene confirms any speculation that Vanessa is a powerful medium.
The spirit, or demon, that takes hold of Vanessa at first takes the form of Sir Malcolm’s daughter. She asks Sir Malcolm, “you knew I was dying, didn’t you father?” Suddenly a darker force takes control, screaming vulgar absurdities and making a very indecent scene. Vanessa, still possessed by this demon, storms out of the party then has sex with some random man in the street.
The day after the party, Sir Malcolm brings the hieroglyphics back to Mr. Lyle. He says one of them represents the hidden goddess. She is called the hidden goddess because, “despite her outward divinity she had a monster within her, not unlike Ms Ives”. Mr. Lyle then discovers a new hieroglyphic, one that he says no one has ever seen.
He warns Sir Malcolm to forget about all of this and to stop his quest. Amalette was the consort of Amuloir, one of the great gods and the first hidden one. They held the power of rebirth, perpetual life, sustained by feeding on the soul of others. In this hieroglyphic both are seen together, conjoined. It is a spell for the annihilation of man and the coming of the beast. A spell for the devil.
Returning to Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. Proteus takes his first step outside. He is amazed by everything around him, all the animals and the people and the food. It is a heartwarming scene as Proteus’ memories and words begin to return to him. But when they return to the doctor’s apartment, Proteus gets brutally ripped in half by a vampire demon. He tells Victor, “your first born has returned, father.”