Season 1 of the ITV Encore production of The Frankenstein Chronicles contains science fiction/supernatural horror. It develops very slowly but its final reveal is utterly devastating. Primarily, it is a complicated police procedural drama, and one of the most creative adaptations of Mary Shelley’s novel I’ve seen. Avoiding the dazzle of and focus on a created monster, it gives us no shortage of human ones. Perhaps a long and frustrating journey (you need a bit of patience and attention to get through the season), but one well worth taking.
Set in grimy 1820’s London, Sean Bean gives his all to portraying the haunted Inspector John Marlott, tasked with finding out who or what is behind the grisly patchwork corpse he discovers by the polluted banks of the Thames. This conspiracy seems to involve a historical/metafictional cabal that includes Mary Shelley and poet William Blake, both actual characters in the TV series. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, exists as a novel in this world.
Watch for Anna Maxwell Martin as Shelley; she’s understated and her portrayal comes with a shocking secret about what occurred the party at Villa Diodati (the Swiss retreat where the Shelley actually created Frankenstein and where John Polidori wrote The Vampyre).
The series has things to say about the miseries faced by the underclass, who can be easily exploited by the men in charge. More importantly, it also engages in meta-fiction as the newspapers of the time begin reporting on “The Frankenstein Murders” in a scandalous fashion.
It is, however, the season finale, that will upend what you expect in any Frankenstein-related fiction.
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