We look at the history of Penny Dreadful’s Ethan Chandler ahead of the show’s third season premiere on Showtime!
On May 1, at 10 PM, the thrilling horror series from Showtime, Penny Dreadful, will return for its third season. And while fans of the series may expect Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives to fall into darkness, perhaps they should also keep their eyes on Ethan Chandler, as portrayed by Josh Hartnett. Every character in Penny Dreadful has been touched by darkness, but Ethan’s inner monster is particularly lethal.
There are spoilers ahead through the first two seasons of Penny Dreadful. You’ve been warned!
At the very beginning of Penny Dreadful, Ethan seemed like a typical American gunslinger who was drawn into the world of the supernatural by Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) and Vanessa, who personally recruited Ethan from a traveling Wild West exhibition. Vanessa saw through Ethan’s tall tales about fighting the Sioux alongside General Custer. However, not all of that was a lie. It was later revealed that Ethan was a U.S. Army Cavalry Soldier who fought in the American Indian Wars, and he may have participated in a massacre. Perhaps that’s where he picked up his curse.
When viewing the first season of Penny Dreadful, it’s interesting to see that the clues about Ethan’s true nature were there all along. There were the times he would wake in the morning on the streets of London without any idea where he had been. On another occasion, Ethan somehow managed to silently convince an Alpha Wolf to withdraw his wolf pack instead of attacking him and his companions. Even Ethan’s real name is a hint about what he really is: Ethan Lawrence Talbot. You see, Larry Talbot was better known as the Wolf Man in those classic Universal horror films.
The first season finale of Penny Dreadful spelled it out for viewers, when Ethan transformed on screen for the first time and attacked the Pinkerton detectives who were attempting to forcibly bring Ethan back to the United States. There are times in the series where Ethan doesn’t seem to be fully aware of what he becomes. And yet Ethan knew enough to refuse Victor Frankenstein’s (Harry Treadaway) request to use Ethan’s blood as a transfusion for the captive, Fenton (Olly Alexander).
Penny Dreadful season 3 will introduce Brian Cox as Ethan’s father, Jared Talbot. However, Jared’s influence has already been felt throughout the series to date. We don’t know what caused Ethan to flee America, but it’s been stated that Jared cleared away Ethan’s legal issues. It’s also known that Jared is extremely rich, and that he paid the Pinkertons to bring his son home by any means necessary. Even during Vanessa’s first meeting with Ethan, she correctly guessed that he had previously been accustomed to wealth.
While Ethan has been drawn to Vanessa, his romantic intentions in the first season were primarily focused on Brona (Billie Piper), a dying prostitute. Ethan has inadvertently played a role in turning Brona into a monster as well. He summoned Victor to help ease Brona’s suffering, and murdered her without Ethan’s knowledge and then used Brona’s body to create his first female creature. Now, the resurrected Brona has a completely new persona as Lily and has found a new lover, Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney).
Dorian was also one of Ethan’s lovers, on at least one occasion. And perhaps that means that Ethan is bisexual. But Ethan keeps coming back to Vanessa, even though their relationship isn’t romantic or conventional. The second season suggested that there may be a higher purpose to Ethan’s bond with Vanessa. Some of the ancient relics refer to “the Hound of God,” who is meant to protect Vanessa from her potentially dark destiny. A later translation of that phrase suggests that the words actually say “the Wolf of God,” which is pretty overt about who it’s talking about.
And yet the wolf within Ethan doesn’t appear to discriminate between good and evil. Late in season 2, Ethan’s transformed self killed his friend and ally, Sembene (Danny Sapani) before turning his fury on the witch who threatened Vanessa’s life. However, Ethan’s wolf side couldn’t bring him to attack Vanessa, and he fled. Shaken by the experience, Ethan abandoned his friends and allowed himself to be taken back to America in a cage.
Ethan’s journey is far from over, but it may take a while before Ethan reunites with Vanessa and Malcolm in the new season of Penny Dreadful. There’s too much blood on Ethan’s hands for him to be called heroic or good, but he may yet be one of the key players in the battle against Lucifer for Vanessa’s soul…assuming she hasn’t already given up the fight.
The destiny of Ethan Chandler will continue to unfold in Penny Dreadful season 3, beginning May 1st at 10 PM on Showtime. Share your predictions below!