The Frankenstein Chronicles: Series 1, Episode 5 - "The Frankenstein Murders"

Carl Wilson

As we draw closer to the end, moral beasts and political monsters threaten to overshadow child murder, until confessions of mad-science experiments gone wrong point Inspector Marlott towards the real mastermind of the season.

The Frankenstein Chronicles

Airtime: Wednesdays, 10pm
Cast: Sean Bean, Richie Campbell, Anna Maxwell Martin, Eloise Smyth, Vanessa Kirby, Ed Stoppard, Robbie Gee, Tom Ward, Samuel West, Mark Bazeley
Subtitle: Series 1, Episode 5 - "The Frankenstein Murders"
Network: ITV Encore
Air date: 2015-12-09

Four people are in a candle-lit laboratory; two of them are the Shelleys (Richard Clements and Anna Maxwell Martin), one of them is Sir William Chester (Samuel West), the last one is James Hogg (Hugh O’Connor). Nervously drawing straws, the party toast to "the unflinching eye of the intellectual soul" as they are "about to tale a step that will alter the course of natural philosophy forever". If you watched last week, you will remember that James Hogg had died previously, and that his grieving mother had burnt all papers regarding his nocturnal scientific adventures, so the results are fairly stacking against him in this flashback.

This week, the Flatliners-inspired scenes shows us how willingly Hogg went to his own wine-poisoned death. If he was properly from the 19th century, one might fancy that he would have filled his pockets with stones and walked into the lake, or died from some exotic disease like consumption or gout, but then we wouldn’t have witnessed the spectacular, lightning-filled attempts at defibrillation, sorry, galvanic resurrection -- an attempt that fails, leaving Mary with a permanent personality adjustment, and Sir William fruitlessly flapping through his PhD thesis for answers. "He’s not alive!" somebody should've shouted in this clever twist on the clichéd Frankenstein resurrection myth.

After last week’s action packed adventure into the filthy underground passages and shifty marginalized community dwellings of London, this week the episode strays above the surface and into the comparatively clean world of the upper classes; unless by "clean" we’re talking about morality and politics, in which case we’re still in the same shit heap we’ve always been in. Welcome back!

As we hurtle towards the finale of the mini-series, everybody starts to draw suspicion. In the present day, Sir William responds to Mary’s desire to dredge up the past by grabbing her throat, leaving her staggering out of the doorway when the servant rudely interrupts them. Meanwhile, Sir William’s cousin, Garnet Chester (Mark Bazeley) has injected himself more fully into the narrative and locked himself in a hospital room with the still unconscious Flora (Eloise Smyth), all while hovering over her body and uttering "My little girl lost has now been found" -- a clear sign that he was the date-raping "gentleman" that abused Flora in the first place.

When Flora regains consciousness, she once again provides the key mystical element to the show, finally rearranging Blake’s art works into a sequence on the floor to discover "it's a calendar. 12 pictures, 12 months, and it contains the seasons". It’s handy that Marlott’s (Sean Bean) unconscious mind is still working on the cryptic puzzle with more visions of Alice (Jessie Ross), Blake (Steven Berkoff) in his print room, and another monster-in-the-mirror moment, because his rational-explanation seeking conscious mind can barely manage to make his face seem vaguely interested in Flora’s breakthrough; he just screws up his face like she had just pooped on the floor and pointed at it.

Marlott also fails to consider that Flora is talking about him when she sings "To Be a Pilgrim", which includes in the original John Bunyan version, the lines: "Hobgoblin, nor foul fiend, Can daunt his spirit; He knows at the end Shall life inherit. Then fancies fly away, He’ll fear not what men say, He’ll labour night and day To be a pilgrim". Flora’s now the connection between the reality of the world and a dark otherworld shown through the same creative impulses that led to Mary Shelley writing her own novel and Blake creating his art; so when Nightingale (Richie Campbell) asks for Marlott’s blessing in marrying Flora (how old is she again?) it looks like Marlott’s own ability to think creatively will be somehow diminished. Luckily, he has enough innovation left in the tank to consider aloud if the “recombined” body crawled to the river, which may be a grotesque clue that they had previously not considered.

Parallel and intertwined with the Chesters and their struggles with bodies -- both mobile and otherwise -- are the political machinations of Bentley Warburton (Elliot Cowan) and Robert Peel (Tom Ward), and their opposing stances on the Anatomy Act. Yet, even this battle between the Machiavellian Peel, and Warburton -- whose decided to get engaged to Lady Harvey (Vanessa Kirby) after last week’s saucy elbow-touching-at-the-dinner-table moment -- comes down to matters of the flesh when it is revealed after an entertaining bow-street dawn-raid that Warburton frequents a gay brothel hidden beneath a flamboyantly run pastel-pink sweet-shop, which for all intentions may as well have been called "Man Candy".

Lady Harvey was already aware that Warburton was "money to us, and I am status to him", which gives Marlott his own window of opportunity now that, courtesy of Lord Harvey’s (Ed Stoppard) homeopathic syphilis medicine, he’s no longer having pre-Raphaelite dreams about his deceased wife. Not only does Marlott get to make his move on Lady Harvey, he also becomes her white-knight, proclaiming "I swear to you, whoever it is, I’ll find him. Should he be the highest in the land, I’ll find him". This interaction feels a little forced, given Marlott’s psychological and physical ailments, and that the two haven’t spent a great deal of time with each other, but it might well be a moot subject as Marlott inadvertently assists in destroying her brother’s career in alternative medicine by helping the Anatomy Act come to pass.

After he attacks Mary Shelley, Sir William looks to be the villain that Marlott is after, especially when Shelley confesses to Marlott that “either someone was tracing our steps or William Chester himself has returned to his great obsession”. This feels like a substantial revelation, until after some detective work coming full circle from the floating pig of episode one, the finger is now pointed at his cousin, who currently resides in Greenwich: the place from which the composite child originated.

Consequently, we are then treated to a scene that feels more like an episode of the British TV show Through the Keyhole, in which clues to the identity of a minor celebrity are given through an examination of obviously placed objects in their home. In Garnett’s case, we have a clock that features a copulating couple, thrusting with each chime; we see a scattering of porno-lithographic prints; and Marlott finally finds several copies of "The Little Girl Lost" poem. With the proof of Garnett’s indecency, Marlott is able to elicit a confession of sorts even as Garnett reminds everyone that "it means nothing, there’s no law against what I did to her, do you hear me?" I’ve pointed out before how ass-backward the Georgian legal system was at the time, and it’s one more reminder that here we have a date-rape case being legal, whilst Warburton’s homosexuality is held up as an example of "scandalous business".

Not that it matters how legal Garnett’s other activities are, because taking Flora’s chastity without paying her pimp, Billy the "Child Snatcher" (Robbie Gee), is considered a line-crossed by another moral code, resulting in Billy offering a full confession that he supplied “numerous unwanted children” to Garnett; which, when combined with his connection to the area is taken as proof -- the kind that that absolutely everybody seems to take on face value when they really shouldn’t -- that he also committed the child mutilation crimes.

Peel leverages Warburton, but just as equally, he treats Marlott like a pawn in his game, alternately, destroying Marlott’s career when newspaper stories leak, but also promoting him to special advisor on a committee for the formation of the metropolitan police, when he discovers that the "corpse child [he] found was not an act of political sabotage as [Peel] assumed but the work of a madman, Garnet Chester".

Everybody benefits from Garnett being blamed for everything bar Marlott’s syphilis (last episode twist?); especially the true mastermind, which is why Garnett conveniently winds up committing suicide through slitting his wrists within a very short period of time, which, oddly enough, is exactly how James Hogg’s death was made to look by Sir William Chester. Peel might find the suicide to be "as clear a confession of guilt as any confession", but it’s fair to assume that with the knowledge of Shelley’s confession ,the hunt will be on for Sir William Chester and his cavalcade of galvanism horrors in the final episode (even though Lord Harvey, who has been strangely absent from most of this episode, could still be the culprit!)


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

Next Page
Related Articles Around the Web

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Julian Barratt and Oliver Maltman (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.