Sean Bean => Critics' Corner => Topic started by: patch on November 02, 2017, 12:26:37 AM

Title: The Frankenstein Chronicles S2 reviews
Post by: patch on November 02, 2017, 12:26:37 AM
Review: The Frankenstein Chronicles (S2 E1/6), Wednesday 1st November, ITV Encore

The Frankenstein Chronicles was an exceptionally dark re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s infamous tale, starring Sean Bean as Detective John Marlott. What began as a relatively straightforward murder procedural descended into something altogether more grim and twisted, and was well received by fans and critics alike on its debut run. The period crime drama now returns to ITV Encore for its second season, and after the shocking revelations that ended the first season, what fresh madness lies in wait for John Marlott?

We return to London in 1830, three years after the shocking revelations of the murder investigation that led Marlott to the gallows, only to be ‘reborn’ at the hands of Daniel Hervey. Marlott is now incarcerated in Bethlem Asylum, trapped within his own mind searching the vale beyond death for the remnants of his past life that might bring him back to reality. Reverend Ambrose discovers him there and realises who he truly is, only to be cast out by the man driven almost insane and unintelligible by the brutal electric shock treatment he has been receiving as a ‘cure’. But the impact of his presence jolts Marlott back to sanity, wrenching his chains free and brutally killing a guard before making good his escape from imprisonment.

Reeling from his treatment at the asylum, he returns to the place of his rebirth and recalls his treatment by Hervey; there he finds Jemima (Vanessa Kirby) alone, who implores him to seek out Daniel and exact his revenge. Alas, this was all but a dream – Marlott wakes from slumber on the verge of reaching the slums of London. Marlott finds his way back to Ambrose, who provides him with a safe place to rest at his church, where the Reverend beseeches John not to lose faith in God. However, John no longer knows his own place in the world; “I’m not John Marlott. He’s dead,” is his reply. Ambrose sends him out to meet the seamstress Esther Rose, who fits John out in some less distinctive clothes than his recent prison attire. Their sweet interaction suggests this isn’t the last we’ll see of Esther this season.

Elsewhere, Sergeant Nightingale is tasked to investigate the murder of an Archdeacon – a headline slaying that is causing serious political divisions as both the Parish Watch and Metropolitan Police struggle for investigative control. Talk is abroad of a lunatic freshly escaped from the local asylum as a potential suspect, and upon visiting Bethlem it’s not long before Nightingale is connecting the evidence that suggests Marlott survived the gallows. The warden advises the Sergeant that Reverend Ambrose was the last man to see the convict before he escaped – but before he can delve deeper into that mystery, poor John awakes back at the church to find it on fire and the unlucky Reverend horrifically eviscerated on the altar. As he escapes once again, the Parish Watch see him disappear – and so, the hunter will become the hunted. But there’s one final twist of the knife – a figure stalks John’s cell at Bethlem and by the candlelight is revealed to be none other than Hervey himself. The game is afoot…

It’s a suitably sinister return for the series, and with all the key players re-established before the episode ends, it’s looking like this will be another rollercoaster ride through the dark streets of London as both men will face their fates.

The Frankenstein Chronicles is very atmospheric but a long way from its roots - review

The ageing action hero Sean Bean is enjoying a fruitful second chapter of his career, playing craggy-faced anti-heroes whose woes are written all over their care-worn features: from Game of Thrones’ Ned Stark to the troubled priest in Jimmy McGovern’s Broken. Now he’s returned as anguished ex-cop John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles (ITV Encore). 

As the period horror-thriller began its second series, three years had passed and it was 1830. Former river policeman, military veteran and wrongly convicted murderer Marlott was chained up in Bedlam hospital’s wing for the criminally insane, a broken man haunted by disorientating visions of his dead family.

He soon escaped, a little too easily for my liking, to seek revenge on dastardly Lord Daniel Hervey (Ed Stoppard), who he suspected of being a bodysnatcher, human butcher and corpse re-animator – not to mention the man who framed him. Meanwhile, a string of grisly clergy killings were sending shockwaves around Regency-era Westminster.

This episode ticked off many of the period crime tropes familiar from such series as Taboo, Ripper Street and Peaky Blinders: dim lighting, grimy locations, tweedy styling, plentiful hats, bursts of viscerally gory violence.
A classy supporting cast hinted at intrigue to come: German aristocrat Frederick Dipple (Laurence Fox) looked villainous and widowed seamstress Esther Rose (Maeve Dermody) was a potential love interest. It’s shaping up as a battle between church and state, with Marlott somewhere in the middle.

It’s very atmospheric but The Frankenstein Chronicles is wandering a long way from its roots as a re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s novel. Someone needs to stitch some body parts together or put a bolt through a lumbering green monster’s neck soon, or this series could be accused of false advertising.

Title: Re: The Frankenstein Chronicles S2 reviews
Post by: patch on November 09, 2017, 09:15:24 AM
Review: The Frankenstein Chronicles (S2 E2/6), Wednesday 8th November, ITV Encore

The Frankenstein Chronicles returned last week with a fairly meandering revisitation of the original series’ characters and environment. Luckily for viewers this week, the plot of the previous season was mostly left on the shelf in favour of new characters and a new mystery, as the former detective John Marlott became embroiled in a deepening conspiracy of murder as the Church and State battled for control over London.

We caught up with John Marlott, still reeling from the brutal murder of Reverend Ambrose. While he lurked in the shadows of Pye Street avoiding capture, control for the crime scene rapidly degenerated into a pitch battle between the Parish Watch and the Metropolitan Police. The Parish Watch were keen to propagate the story of a demented monster as the assailant – but Sergeant Nightingale was unsure, having found John’s locket on Ambrose’s body before being forcibly ejected from the church.

Last week we were introduced to the seamstress Esther Rose, whose role seems increasingly to provide an intersection between the story of John with a new plot and potential villain – that of the profoundly odd aristocrat Frederick Dipple (Laurence Fox) and his dark desires. Dipple’s sister Ada visits Esther in need of a dress repair, but insists she must complete the task at the Dipple residence. In a very gothic fashion, the house is imbued with a dark and sinister atmosphere, where Frederick is seemingly obsessed with dolls and marionettes – and in one very creepy scene, seemingly at work on a life-sized replica when his maid happens upon the very realistic head of a woman amongst all the doll parts. Will Dipple be this season’s Hervey and present more danger to John and Esther than his old adversary? Only time will tell…

 Meanwhile, John found work as a corpse bearer for Spence, a former priest turned criminal. Director Alex Gabassi did a great job in the resulting scenes, bringing the sheer bleakness of the London slum dwellers succumbing to fever and death with a truly grim flair. In protecting a wandering child from an exploding coffin during his work in the burial pits, poor John took a slab of wood to the stomach and visits Esther, whose skill with a needle comes in handy to stitch up the former detective. Rather conveniently, she offers him lodgings at her shop as he has nowhere else to go – despite there being a madman running around the area killing priests – so it’s clear she sees something in John and his former military background that resonates with her.

Despite being a dead man on the run for multiple murders and now using the pseudonym Jack Martins, elsewhere John was surprisingly ineffective in keeping a low profile this episode. He barrelled into the Evening Chronicle’s office and assaulted the sleazy journalist Boz to gain information on the whereabouts of Hervey – who duly offered up a rumoured synopsis as to the villain’s fate – that he might have survived the fire that killed Jemima and then escaped to the continent.

Boz wasn’t the only one to be spooked by an unexpected visit from a corpse; Sergeant Nightingale had not one but two opportunities to capture the man he saw hang for the murder of his beloved Flora, but was outwitted both times, literally by being told ‘look behind you’ on the second occasion. Surely they teach you better than that in the fledgling Metropolitan Police? The policeman wasn’t having much luck anywhere this episode – whether being denied access to the autopsy report for Ambrose at the hands of the Church doctors, having his authority challenged by the Parish Watch or generally not making much headway in an investigation that nobody wanted solving but him.

The cliffhanger came when John and Spence visited the resting place of the Archdeacon, only to discover the supposed evisceration of the holy man was a lie – his heart being the only organ removed. Not only is there another murderer in their midsts, but there is a conspiracy to hide the truth underway too…

Title: Re: The Frankenstein Chronicles S2 reviews
Post by: patch on November 16, 2017, 02:08:22 AM
Review: The Frankenstein Chronicles (S2 E3/6), Wednesday 15th November, ITV Encore

There wasn’t a whole lot of progression in the story of The Frankenstein Chronicles this week, as John Marlott and Sergeant Nightingale continued to converge in on the grim conspiracy that is haunting Pye Street. But things did get considerably creepier…

We returned once again to the slums of Pye Street, where John Marlott continued to work with the disgraced priest Spence in bearing corpses consumed by plague to the burial pits. Despite John seemingly hiding from the law in plain sight, Spence is clearly a trusting man; after assisting John in a bit of light grave disturbance last week, he doesn’t seem too concerned in what the former detective was looking for or what his intentions are – moreover he is determined to discover the cause of the plague afflicting a curiously small part of London, and the subsequent indifference from both Church and State toward the deadly outbreak.

John is similarly preoccupied, but with the sudden reappearance of the child catcher Billy Oates (Robbie Gee) instead, who has returned from his exile as part of a travelling circus run by the wily Mrs Wild. The old adversaries clash as John demands to know what happened to Hervey, but Billy advises him he spent most of the last three years as a sailor and has no knowledge of the villain’s fate. John’s quest to hunt down the spectre of Hervey seems increasingly redundant as everyone he interrogates reinforces the suggestion that the mad scientist is more a fixture of his dreams than reality.

  third murder victim is found in an alley and the quick-witted Peelers alert Sergeant Nightingale to the scene, who wisely commandeers Spence’s burial cart to ferry the corpse back to Westminster police station before the Parish Watch can get their corrupt hands on it. It’s a better episode for Nightingale after last week’s disappointments, as Sir Robert Peel advises Inspector Treadaway to promote the Sergeant for his sharp thinking on the removal of the body – but even more crucially, the official autopsy determines the body had its heart removed with surgical precision, exactly like the previous victims – thereby negating the Church’s version of events. Nightingale invites the journalist Boz to examine the findings, imploring him to print the truth and prevent any more public panic about demented monsters on the loose.

Elsewhere, things are heating up at the Dipple residence where Esther continues to embroider a dress in the company of Ada, who explains the fascination both her and Frederick have in ‘automatons’ – life-sized clockwork dolls that the pair hope will one day be able to function as humans might. Esther seems remarkably unfazed by these outlandish ideas, despite being shown the various creepy components for the ‘doll’ they hope to unveil to high society soon. Instead, she draws closer to Frederick, confessing she’s “afraid to live”. Be careful what you wish for Esther!

Meanwhile, it takes Spence to be a better detective than John this episode to get the plot moving again. Spence is able to identify the third victim as the Reverend Eastman, and advises Marlott that the three murdered priests all protested the Dean of Westminster’s plans to build more cemeteries, thereby generating more burial fee revenue for the church. Not only this, but he knows that the Dean plans to sell the land around Pye Street to make this happen, but needs to clear out the slums first. Conveniently, the sudden plague has begun that very same process…

In a clumsy expository jump, John dreams of something sinister in the sewers beneath the Pye Street water pump station, then proceeds to visit it at night and wrench the entire contraption loose from it’s moorings. Despite Spence’s protestations, John enters the sewers only to find the festering corpse of a plague victim purposely bound to the wall and infecting the entire water supply. Dragging the body up to the surface, he notices a sailor’s tattoo on it’s arm and tracks down Billy to confirm its origin. The child catcher doesn’t know the pestilent seadog but knows where his friends might be…

It was an unfortunate return to a meandering narrative this week, with a thin layer of plot stretched across the running time and dumped out fairly gracelessly in two exposition-heavy scenes that bookended the episode. It’s a shame the most interesting element of the show around the historical context of the State’s attempts to modernise society against the will of the Church was buried in favour of Sean Bean playing a piano poorly or punching people in the face. With only three episodes left in the series, the pace will need to pick up immeasurably to gloss over some of the show’s more unforgiving failures.
Title: Re: The Frankenstein Chronicles S2 reviews
Post by: patch on November 23, 2017, 12:08:07 AM
Review: The Frankenstein Chronicles (S2 E4/6), Wednesday 22nd November, ITV Encore

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.

Title: Re: The Frankenstein Chronicles S2 reviews
Post by: patch on November 30, 2017, 03:37:42 AM
Review: The Frankenstein Chronicles (S2 E5/6), Wednesday 29th November, ITV Encore
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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.

Title: Re: The Frankenstein Chronicles S2 reviews
Post by: patch on December 07, 2017, 12:00:02 AM
Review: The Frankenstein Chronicles (S2 E6/6), Wednesday 6th December, ITV Encore

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The Frankenstein Chronicles draw to a close this week, as John Marlott must make stark choices in order to save those he loves and end the madness and murder stalking Westminster once and for all.

We left John Marlott in a particularly bad way last week – mortally wounded and at the feet of his arch-nemesis Daniel Hervey, just as he’d finished killing Esther with his ‘life tonic’. Unfortunately for the resurrected detective, things weren’t going much better in this week’s episode, awaking to find himself locked up in chains within Hervey’s lair. Suddenly overcome by an urge to tell Marlott the whole truth, Hervey admits he killed many people in his pursuit of achieving eternal life. Frederick Dipple is actually the son of his mentor Johann, who taught him the art of resurrection – and that the german aristocrat has “lived longer than any man”. John lies helpless as the sinister duo perform surgery on Esther and create the third member of the living dead posse.

Meanwhile, Renquist is spurned by the Dean of Westminster when he asks for his protection as the investigation closes in on the Church’s role in the recent murders. In a desperate bid to extract himself from suspicion, he gives Pye Street journalist Boz the real autopsy reports and lays the blame squarely at the Dean’s door before instructing Winlocke and the Parish Watch that Frederick Dipple is the man responsible for the clergymen murders. Not to be outdone, the Metropolitan Police are also gearing up for a second arrest of the man, after Queenie finds Sergeant Nightingale’s pocket watch in the corridors beyond the locked door at Dipple’s house.

Sergeant Nightingale’s pocket watch in the corridors beyond the locked door at Dipple’s house.

With both forces converging on the Dipple residence, he demands the life tonic Hervey administers so he can make good his escape. But Hervey needs the scientist’s final secret to master his art of resurrection, and so they have an unconvincing fight for a few minutes whilst the police try and kick down the laboratory door. Once through, they are too late to apprehend Dipple – who swiftly escapes with a barely conscious Esther – but instead slap the cuffs on Hervey, caught red-handed (literally) in his creepy operating rooms. Dipple agrees to free John if he can show him a way out from the capital, and the trio go on the run pursued by the Parish Watch.

Esther struggles with her new rebirth as they find sanctuary in Spence’s old rooms, and Dipple explains he needs her to live and “in time you will come to realise you need me too”. Presumably now imbued with some sort of  zombie super strength, Esther finally comes to her senses after six episodes and knocks him out cold with a chamberpot, proclaiming “I am no one’s property!” before escaping into the night with John. That’s that relationship done and dusted then.

The next morning brings the news of the King’s death, and with it the ascension to the throne of his socially progressive brother. Sir Robert Peel suddenly has the upper hand again and with that, the Dean of Westminster realises he must clean house immediately to avoid any leads coming back to him. Renquist is quickly stabbed to death by the Church’s henchmen and dumped into the unmarked grave of a plague victim, whilst poor Boz is sacked from the Pye Street newspaper after trying to print the truth of the Dean’s plans. Crucially, the Dean will not vouch for Hervey anymore, leaving him languishing in prison and facing the gallows when Peel refuses to help as all the evidence points to him being the Pye Street Murderer. With his one source of life tonic about to perish, Dipple forlornly skulks back to his house to die now his sustaining tinctures are gone forever.

And…that’s it. John sees Esther off as she travels out of London with Billy Oates’ circus and ponders his own future as he faces out to sea, finally free of his tormentors. Done. A thoroughly damp ending for a drama that never threatened to ignite. Whilst there was an inkling of something entertaining underneath the leaden direction and lamentable dialogue throughout, the series never really had enough confidence in itself to try something new. Clearly, it had little confidence from it’s broadcasters also, shoved unceremoniously into the schedule back end of a digital-only channel. What could have been a great premise for a horror and crime hybrid instead settled for a cosy and comfortable period drama which underwhelmed every step of the way. Unfortunately, with all the key players still alive at season’s end, the greatest scare it ever produced is the thought they might re-commission it for a third series.