Review: The Frankenstein Chronicles (S2 E5/6), Wednesday 29th November, ITV Encore

The supernatural comes to the fore this week in The Frankenstein Chronicles, as John Marlott closes in on his prey and revelations about the nature of his existence put Esther in mortal danger.

Since the untimely demise of Sergeant Nightingale at the hands of Daniel Hervey concluded events last week, it seems the sinister doctor has really been hiding in plain sight all along. In fact, it’s revealed he’s been working with Sir Robert Peel to bring modernity to Westminster with ambitious plans for social change. But his subsequent presentation to Peel’s associates is cut short by the discovery of Nightingale’s body on the shores of the Thames directly outside – planted there by Hervey himself to undermine the Church’s attempts to secure it for autopsy first.

At the inquest into Nightingale’s death, the journalist Boz confides in John that he’s the only man he trusts – confessing that he knows the Church falsified their autopsy results and that they are likely responsible for the deaths that have spread fear throughout Westminster. The pair visit Renquist at the coroner’s mortuary for some answers, and despite John revealing his true identity (along with some light strangulation as a means of interrogation), the Dean’s henchmen refuses to give up any information. However, John sees the ice blocks used to chill human organs in the facility and marches off to investigate the source of the ice, having learned Nightingale’s body was thawed prior to being dumped.

Meanwhile in the latest chapter of the most doomed romance of the year, Esther visits Frederick. The German aristocrat really knows how to spoil the mood – after a tender kiss he immediately proposes then reveals he can see her dead son. Despite her horrified reaction, it’s clear he can – just like John. Is he also another of Hervey’s ‘experiments’? Let’s consult our checklist: overtly creepy, always wears a scarf, prone to making portentous statements about death. Seems about right. Whilst Esther wrestles with the implications of his words, he knocks back a vial of liquid that is dated from 1749. Esther, your fiancee may be a bit older than he’s letting on…

Back at the mortuary, Renquist and Hervey conspire to make Dipple their scapegoat if the protection of the monarch should dissolve with his death and reveal their nefarious plans. As luck would have it, elsewhere Queenie visits Treadaway to explain her misgivings about Dipple’s workshop – the last place she knows Nightingale was seen alive. At Peel’s behest, the Metropolitan Police swarm on his residence and march him back to the station for questioning. Whilst he runs legal rings around the poor policemen, Esther returns to the house only to find Hervey loitering there instead.

Then, in the tradition of all classic villains, he tells her everything about his evil machinations. Frederick is ‘The First’ – his initial successful experiment in resurrecting a man after death. The man she knows as Jack is in fact John Marlott, the second man he revived. Not only this, but he promises her that if she consents to the same experiment, he can “transform” her so she can be with her son again. Consumed by grief, Esther seems deranged enough to believe his wild promises.

Elsewhere, John bribes Spence’s corpse bearer to reveal the location of where Nightingale’s body was kept on ice. This leads him to Dipple’s ice importation warehouse, where he finds multiple victims organs being chilled. Unfortunately he also finds an icepick directly to the stomach courtesy of one of Dipple’s henchmen, whom he overpowers and kills. Racked with pain, he staggers through the premises to a lit doorway, only to break it down and conveniently discover Hervey in the process of administering his “life tonic” to Esther as Dipple watches on. Despite his protestations, it’s too late – Esther begins to convulse in a spasm of death. Hervey consoles John as he collapses from his wounds, whilst Dipple restrains Esther before John ultimately blacks out. Can he save her from the clutches of this real Dr.Frankenstein and his monster?

Having floated along through the glacial pace of the first half of the season, the last two episodes have arguably got us to where we wanted to be at the end of season one – a Victorian ghost story in the shell of a police procedural. With all other plot lines (and most of the supporting characters) now removed, this was an entertaining and refreshingly straightforward piece of storytelling for a change. Unfortunately, The Frankenstein Chronicles wants the best of both worlds in it’s hybridisation of crime and horror, but hasn’t got the conviction to achieve it.

Andy D

For our episode one review go here

For our episode two review go here

For our episode three review go here

For our episode four review go here

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