Five Things About The Frankenstein Chronicles

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Way back in 2015, The Frankenstein Chronicles premiered in the U.K., but just last month it showed up on Netflix here in the states. At least now we get both seasons, the second having aired in 2017. As the title implies, this is a riff on Mary Shelley’s story, but rather obliquely so.

Set in 1827 London, the series follows a police inspector, John Marlott (played by Sean Bean), as he investigates some grisly deaths of children sewn together. The story weaves together early 19th-century literature, mysticism, medicine, and politics into a police procedural that is pretty fascinating.

However, the costumes are mostly dark, dull, middling-class 1820s, and not exciting to talk about.

Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)

A lot of the costumes are like this — raggedy and poor, and while, sure, a lot of work went into distressing that outfit, there really isn’t much else to say about it.

Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)

When someone in fancy garb does show up, they tend to be in dark, creepy settings like this, so we don’t see a ton of detail. Again, not much to discuss.

 

Still, I do recommend The Frankenstein Chronicles for the following reasons…

 

It’s got Sean Bean (and no, he doesn’t die)

Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)

He’s a great actor and easy on the eyes, so this should be reason enough to watch The Frankenstein Chronicles. Bean’s Inspector Marlott is a troubled soul, having lost his wife and baby tragically and probably due to his own fault. Strong, sensitive, faulty, broken, that’s how we love our Sean Bean!

Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)

He’s not a flashy dresser, but he does wear a hat when he’s out and about.

 

It has a major black character that fits in a historical fashion

Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)

Sergeant Nightengle (played by Richie Campbell) is Marlott’s sidekick and assistant, and he’s a fairly fully fleshed out character. In the first episode, his backstory is given that he was a foundling and went into a trade guild at first, then got into the constabulary. His boss is a subtly racist jerk to him and foists Nightengle off on Marlott, who treats him like just one of the guys.

Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)

Nightengle shows agency and his own perspective.

 

It’s great for literary nerds like me!

Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)

You may think this is just a murder-mystery, but really, it’s a literary geekfest! Mary Shelley (played by Anna Maxwell Martin) becomes a central character, and the poetry and artwork of William Blake (played briefly by Steven Berkoff) becomes an important clue. I couldn’t find evidence that the two writers met, much the less that she was at his deathbed, but Blake did illustrate some of Shelley’s mother Mary Wollstonecraft’s works, so there was a connection, however tenuous.

Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)

An accurate portrayal of the widowed Mrs. Shelley.

 

The mystery story isn’t super predictable

Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)

I haven’t finished the first season yet, but as each episode ends, I just don’t know where it’s going. And that’s a good thing! It’s not slow and dull, it’s teasing and intriguing due to the high quality of the acting, in particular.

Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)

Proof that even a poor and distraught girl would have put her hair up (with only a few tendrils escaping).

 

The horror story is spooky yet not overly gory or gritty

Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)

While the topic is gruesome murders, there are few lingering shots of the bodies or dwelling upon the scenes of the crimes. Sure, the look is dark and moody everywhere, but there’s more close-ups of fantastical artwork by William Blake than on blood and guts or even dirt and filth. The focus isn’t on ‘look how grimy ye olden times were!’ but instead it’s a more philosophical look at the meaning of life and death, which is honestly what Shelley’s Frankenstein is about.

Frankenstein Chronicles (2015)

 

 

Have you seen The Frankenstein Chronicles?

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. When she’s not dressing up in costumes, she can be found traveling the world with her sweetie and, occasionally, Kendra and Sarah. Her costuming and travel adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also maintains a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

14 Responses

  1. Nzie

    Ooh okay you’ve convinced me to check this out; in general the title would’ve probably dissuaded me so I’m glad you’ve covered it. And Frankenstein has been sitting on my shelf for a while now, too, so maybe it’ll inspire me to pick it up at last.

    Reply
  2. Kaite

    Had this on my watch list, as I greatly enjoy Sean Bean (even when he dies all the time). Now I know to move it up the list! Thanks!!!!

    Reply
  3. Charity

    The first season really hooked me and then the twist happened and… I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, and I have never finished season two yet. It just isn’t holding my attention.

    Reply
  4. mmcquown

    It’s not a period piece, but worth watching Sean Bean in “Far North,” Michelle Yeoh’s creepy masterpiece. He gets naked at the end, and the how and why is creeeeepy!

    Reply
  5. Kelly

    Huh, this makes me want to watch this. I loved the original novel but I feel like Frankenstein and Dracula always get adapted into versions that try to be much flashier than the source material and it takes away from the whole point of the book.

    (Bit of a tangent, but I just finished a smutty historical novel where in between banging the two main characters argued about Frankenstein and what the message was supposed to be, and it was a really well done bit of characterization and it also makes me want to be friends with the author)

    Reply
    • Kim

      Ok Kelly, you have to share the name of that book then! It sounds like a fun read! :)

      Reply
      • Kelly

        A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles.

        Her stuff is the bomb. I usually can’t get into stuff marketed as genre romance because it feels like everything retreads the same couple of settings/plots and archetypes but this is not that. Like, all her books are her take on some semi-obscure aspect of history that she’s decided to nerd out on (Cato plot, victorian taxidermy, spiritualism) and her characters are usually fleshed out with interesting strengths, weaknesses, kinks, hobbies) and then there’s usually an exciting plot too.

        Reply
  6. Lisa

    I got to episode 5, and I was liking it but not loving it. There was a budding relationship with a gigantic age disparity that squicked me out. Then another relationship started up that felt very exploitative with a girl who is not only very young, and half the age of the guy, but is also clearly traumatized and a very recent victim of intense abuse. I had enough at that point.

    Reply
  7. Carrie

    You forgot to mention that Princess Margaret (er, Vanessa Kirby) shows up in a small but crucial role.

    I watched this show while working, so I didn’t have my full attention, but I kept thinking that without Sean Bean it would only be middling, yet with him it is fantastic. Bean has evolved into the archetype of Deeply Flawed Man of Great Integrity. From his IRA terrorist in “Patriot Games,” to Boromir in LoTR, to myopic Ned Stark in GoT- basically all his roles fit this mold. What a way to be typecast!

    I’m at the point where I don’t want to know anything about Sean Bean the actor, because if he is not the same as Onscreen Bean it would be so disappointing!

    Reply
  8. anniebuck

    Watched the whole first season. The last episode had me like, “What the WHAT?!?” It went wayyyyy sideways. But I do love me some Sean Bean.

    Reply
  9. Emma Bull

    Oh, but Lady Jemima’s dress with the nylon lace cold shoulder insets, with her hair down, and the wrong skirt shape… (Sob!)

    Reply

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