Review: The Frankenstein Chronicles episode two
I made a mistake watching the second episode of The Frankenstein Chronicles – I forgot to bring my pillow to hide behind. I should have taken my own advice after reviewing the first episode.
Episode two, a.k.a. “Seeing Things”, plunges us further into the murky waters of 19th century London and the mysterious child murders plaguing our hero, Inspector John Marlott (Sean Bean).
Marlott follows his only hunch to the bedside of William Blake (Steven Berkoff), real-life poet, painter and printmaker. Marlott shows him the poem of “The Little Girl Found” believing it to hold clues to the whereabouts of little lost girl “Alyc” (a.k.a. Alice – she can’t really spell her name like that can she)? In his long rattling breaths, close-to-death Blake tells him to find the girl he must learn, “…the truth of the beast… the beast with the face of a man”. Spooky… if still pretty vague.
Blake’s fans and friends surround his deathbed and the most vocal of them is a young woman (Anna Maxwell Martin) keen to get rid of John Marlott, interrupting the intimate situation. Having read that Maxwell Martin would be portraying Mary Shelley, alarm bells were ringing for me – why aren’t you noticing who she is Sean Bean? Don’t you know the book she’s written? It all fits!
Marlott’s hallucinations continue to haunt him, drip feeding us the backstory of his family life. He appears to see his wife and baby daughter in an idyllic afterlife, cured of what killed them – most likely the syphilis that Marlott currently suffers from.
Nightingale’s (Richie Campbell) task to trail body snatcher “Pritty” (Charlie Creed-Miles) pays off when they manage to catch him in the act, having set him up with a rather morbid scenario. Pritty considers himself a legal businessman and claims to be unaware of the dark goings on that Marlott refers to. He does, however, know of a gang that may sink to such depths – murdering to undercut the body snatchers’ trade.
During the “sting” to catch Pritty we return to The Frankenstein Chronicles’ favourite way of terrifying me. The corpse of a young boy lies on the table in front of Marlott until SUDDENLY he’s not lying down but sitting bolt upright staring ahead with his creepy dead eyes. The editing makes us question whether this is related to the Frankenstein-element of the storyline or if in fact we are privy to Marlott’s mercury-fuelled hallucinations. How far into Marlott’s mind are we?
Mary Shelley drops by again to inform Marlott of the death of William Blake and to pass on an assortment of his creepy looking paintings that, let’s be honest, would be more at home in a GCSE art class. Discovering Shelley’s name is an exciting turning point for John as this leads him to finding her famous text, Frankenstein. Hurry up and read it John – connect the dots, we’re way ahead of you.
This episode sees the return of Lady Hervey (Vanessa Kirby), this time on her own and pleading to save John’s soul. She fears the anatomy act would bring on “a world without God” and she also throws in a bit of flirting with the line, “I don’t feel you to be a stranger”. Are we being introduced to a love interest? This is particularly poignant as we learn Lord Hervey (Ed Stoppard) is her brother, not her husband. He himself is intent on sabotaging the anatomy act, lecturing that it will make, “poverty a crime and the afterlife a privilege of the wealthy”.
An homage to the more traditional Frankenstein adaptations comes in the anatomy lecture as we watch a surgeon slice into the arm of a boy and force his arm to twitch and rise up using a powerful electrical charge. The electrical machinery is suitably crude looking that this appears as a perverse form of torture, even if the boy is stone cold dead.
After a woolly disruption to the lecture, Marlott follows the skulking young man we’ve spied in both episodes one and two so far. Tracking him down to a pub we discover the sly gentleman is a journalist by the name of Boz (Ryan Sampson). After a bit of a testosterone battle, Marlott manages to “persuade” Boz to keep an eye and an ear out for any interesting goings on. History buffs will know the significance of the name Boz, recognising it as the pseudonym of hugely successful author Charles Dickens. Will this have significance I wonder?
Towards the end of the episode Inspector Marlott is sought out by Flora (Eloise Smyth), the young girl in the pink dress we first met last week being offered up to the Inspector. She admits to having kidnapped Alice after spotting her pretty pink dress in the marketplace. What Flora doesn’t know however, is where bad guy Billy (Robbie Gee) has taken her. I feel the shadow of the “monster” approaching. Will we be any closer to finding the murderer next week?
The Frankenstein Chronicles airs on ITV Encore at 10pm.