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Recap / Penny Dreadful S 1 E 1 Night Work

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The episode opens in Victorian England on September 22, 1891 with the brutal abduction of a woman and her daughter who are later found mutilated and dismembered. Meanwhile, the enigmatic Vanessa Ives enlists the skilled marksman/showman Ethan Chandler to do some "night work". She introduces him to Sir Malcolm Murray, father of the recently-abducted Mina Harker. The trio infiltrate a vampire nest in search of Mina. They find and kill a vicious vampire, later enlisting Victor Frankenstein to examine it. The autopsy reveals hieroglyphs etched beneath its skin, which are later found to be from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Ethan, overwhelmed by the new world opening before him, takes his payment and leaves Vanessa and Malcolm's service, but is later tempted to return. In his laboratory, Frankenstein brings life to a dead body.

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Tropes:

  • Bilingual Bonus: Sir Malcolm and the lead vampire mook have an entire untranslated conversation in Arabic.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How Ethan dispatches two of the vampires.
  • Camping a Crapper: The very first death in the series? A woman yanked out a window while using the tenement's commode.
  • Deadpan Snarker : Victor Frankenstein when presented with the body.
    Well, it would appear you have an Egyptian man of no particular age, who, at some point in his indeterminate lifespan decided to sharpen his teeth, cover himself in hieroglyphics, and grow an exoskeleton. Or you have something else altogether.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Josh Hartnett has indicated that he regards the moment when Ethan (who's in a ridiculous costume for a Wild West show) pulls off one mustache to reveal another mustache is this for his character.
    • Vanessa's is her Sherlock Scan of Ethan in the bar, showing her mysteriousness, intelligence, perceptiveness, and blunt nature.
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    • Malcolm is introduced in the opium den as a man on a mission — to save his daughter — who cares very little for anyone and everyone in his way.
  • Opium Den: Vanessa and Ethan pass through one on the way to their confrontation with the vampires.
  • Running Gag: The running theme of the first episode seems to be Not-Asking-For-A-Name: first, Ethan forgets to ask his groupie's name after telling her he'll never forget her, then Vanessa chooses not to tell him hers at their first meeting, and he only learns Malcolm's from his visit card. Finally, Victor is only only ever addressed as "Doctor" until the very last line of the episode, where he reveals his name to the body he has reanimated.
  • Sherlock Scan: Vanessa performs one on Ethan.
  • Staring Down Cthulhu: Vanessa does this to a full-fledged vampire.
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  • Victorian London: The story takes place in various locations in London in 1891.
  • Vomiting Cop: One is seen in the background as the police take stock of the dismembered bodies of the mother and daughter from the opening sequence.
  • Wall Bang Her: Ethan with a groupie.

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