Review: The Frankenstein Chronicles (S2 E4/6), Wednesday 22nd November, ITV Encore

NB: SPOILERS INSIDE

It’s been a glacial viewing experience so far, but now that we’re well into the second half of the season The Frankenstein Chronicles felt like it was beginning to rapidly tighten up proceedings with an abundance of murder and mayhem bringing a swift end to any number of important – and interesting – plot strands.

After last week’s discovery of the putrefying corpse contaminating the Pye Street water supply, it was down to Spence to spread the word. The Dean of Westminster sought to control the narrative himself by ensuring his priests blamed the source of the plague directly on the slum dwellers themselves. Spence was having none of this, loudly proclaiming tales of dark conspiracies on the altar of the local church. Unfortunately for poor old Spence, his protestations only brought the attention of the Dean’s henchmen Renquist – and in a brutal and bloody scene was stabbed to death for knowing too much. Then to further compound his heinous crime, Renquist removed his heart post-mortem – is this our season’s serial killer?

Down by the docks, John and Billy Oates were trying to locate the inhabitants of the ship their plague-ridden sailor had sailed in on. Billy discovers a ship had come into port three weeks before, with it’s entire crew infected – and after a little light bribery finds the location of their corpses too. John investigates the unquarantined warehouse where they remain – sealed behind a door with an unusually regal crest stamped on it. Disturbed by visions of their ghosts he returns to his Pye Street lodgings, only to find the recently deceased Spence. It’s not long before he’s discovered and chased across the rooftops by the Metropolitan Police and an increasingly wild-eyed and hapless Sergeant Nightingale, who on positively identifying Marlott as fleeing from the scene of the crime, reports his findings to Inspector Treadaway – who promptly suspends him for his troubles, as nobody believes that Marlott survived the gallows.

Meanwhile it’s party time over at the Dipple residence, and apparently, that doesn’t include a light buffet or a bottle of wine. Instead, the high society crowd are treated to a hilariously sinister monologue from the increasingly odd Sir Frederick, before unveiling his latest creation – a life-sized female automaton that performs a creepy clockwork dance to a piano melody performed by Ada. This bizarre sight doesn’t seem to alarm his gathered guests in the slightest, except a thoroughly unimpressed Marlott who has come as Esther’s guest – again, despite being on the run for multiple murders the former detective seems remarkably relaxed about roaming around London in broad daylight without a disguise.

Sloping off to investigate the residence, Marlott chances upon Frederick’s workshop (he really needs to start locking that door), only to see the same family crest hanging above the fireplace that he saw in the warehouse imprisoning the unfortunate sailors. Could Dipple be the man who orchestrated their imprisonment? It would certainly seem he has an interest in Pye Street, announcing that he’s collaborating with the Dean to purchase the land in question. Despite John’s protestations to Esther that Dipple might not be all that he seems, she remains smitten with the man. Later on in an intimate moment between the pair, she confesses to Frederick about the untimely death of her son – the same child John can see haunting her shop. Chillingly, Frederick replies that he has “seen more death than any man”. Esther, get out whilst you can!

Dejected by his suspension, Nightingale visits his childhood friend Queenie (Kerrie Hayes), now in the employ of the Dipples. She tells him about Frederick’s workshop and a locked door that she caught John trying to open the night before. Believing he can find a trace of Marlott’s whereabouts, Nightingale visits the Dipple residence and breaks open the locked door. He uncovers a secret section of the house, leading downwards to a makeshift hospital with an operating table and various anatomy books spattered in blood. Suddenly, he’s attacked from behind by none other than Hervey himself – alive and as fiendishly murderous as ever. Slitting the poor sergeant’s throat, he cradles him in his arms as he bleeds to death and confesses to Flora’s murder. Halfway across London, John sees the ghost of Nightingale appear and beg his forgiveness – immediately understanding his nemesis is behind it all, he growls “He Lives”.

It took three writers to stitch together the corpse of tonight’s episode and you can definitely identify the seams – the creaky leaps of logic and brutally unnecessary deaths of the best supporting characters on the show simply for expediency of the plot are criminal enough, but re-animating the villainous Hervey just as we were beginning to suspect he was purely a figment of John’s imagination – a far more interesting idea than the man himself returning – is a lazy twist that was flatly delivered. Now, with the majority of this season’s most intriguing developments jettisoned in favour of returning to the simplistic blood feud between Marlott and Hervey, and judging from the trailer for next week’s action, we’re on course for the last two episodes to devolve into an elongated chase scene. At this rate, any attempt to revive this show for a third season should come with a do not resuscitate order.

Andy D

For our episode one review go here

For our episode two review go here

For our episode three review go here

 

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