This excellent series has, so far, taken us deep into the depths of Georgian London – its slums, social mores and how it grapples with a concept we still grapple with today: death. What it means, what form it takes and, in The Frankenstein Chronicles, how to cheat it. Marlott has been hunting a deranged killer, but thinks the disappearance of a young girl called Alice could hold the key to finding him.
We left Marlott at the end of episode three climbing down a small shaft into the bowels of London, along with his unwilling bodysnatcher accomplice Mr Pritty, in order to search out a lead. There, they were accosted by a veiled gang, whose leader hissed as she enquired as to why he had entered the tunnels. Marlott had to think on his feet (well, one of the gang members was holding a knife to his throat) and brokered a deal with them – he was looking for a girl he said, 16 or younger, and was willing to pay handsomely for the pleasure. Despite reservations, the female gang leader took him up on his offer and arranged a meeting with him in a pub.
When Marlott returned home, he found Flora on his doorstep. The pregnant teen had been taken in by Sir Hervey on the understanding that she would not get rid of the baby. But Flora revealed that she had lost the baby, and a note from Hervey confirmed her story. Once again, this developing story arc explores the concept of death from another character’s point of view. Marlott, having already experienced the loss of a child, was disappointed at the news, while Flora was glad to be rid of it.
And so the episode helter-skeltered from there. Marlott and Nightingale searched London’s worst neighbourhoods – full of steaming shit piles and humans making their living from the death and decay.
Flora, meanwhile, had an encounter with Billy the gang leader who had held her captive, while Marlott’s relationship with Lady Harvey began to develop into a Jane Austenesque, Georgian romance, all fluttery eyes, stolen glances and suppressed passion.
Other narrative drivers included Boz breaking the story that Sir Robert Peel had hired Marlott to track down a deranged killer, and Flora being used as bait to find and capture the gang Marlott met in the tunnels. Billy was also captured, eventually, and Marlott was particularly keen to knock some sense him because he was convinced he knew where Alice was. After punching Billy, Marlott noticed the same stain on his hand he got when he dealt with the gang in the tunnels – it was brick dust, and took off quickly to the brick kilns to rescue Flora. When he found her, he also uncovered a child trafficking ring. But no Alice.
So this fourth episode was action-packed and exploded some suspects and lines of enquiry (sometime literally). After further questioning of the brick kiln gang leader and Billy in custody, it was clear that neither of them had anything to do with the original murder. Perhaps one or both of them had been supplying the murderer with fresh corpses to work on, but they had no idea who they were supplying. Alice was still out there.
It was the most procedural-heavy of the series so far, and we left it with Mary Shelley, who had travelled to her late husband’s family home. An emotional conversation with her mother-in-law revealed that William Chester had visited the day before and was somehow implicated in Shelley’s husband’s suicide. She walked the short walked to her deceased husband’s laboratory. There, as voices from the past swirled around her, Mary Shelley unveiled a table – the type used to strap patients down.
This is where the story started.