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Here's a Primer to Penny Dreadful's New Season of Fresh Hell

Vanessa has a devilish admirer!

Hanh Nguyen

Welcome back to the demimonde!

Showtime's tragic, passionate and wholly deranged gothic horror series Penny Dreadfulreturns for its second season on Sunday (10/9c, Showtime) with the episode "Fresh Hell." The title alludes to this year's new demon threat, but is simultaneously a hat tip to satirist Dorothy Parker that reflects the series' ability to laugh at its own overwrought melodrama.

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Here's a look at the hell that awaits:

Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) Poor Vanessa can't seem to catch a break. After surviving demon possession and almost becoming a vampire's bride last season, the clairvoyant is still catnip to evil masters who want to possess her pale, psychic self. This year, she has to contend with the devil himself, who has sent the most unsettling set of minions since Buffy's Gentlemen to take care of Miss Ives.

Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) The American sharpshooter is slowly starting to realize that he's a werewolf and it's scaring the, um, hell out of him. Before he can save his friends from his beastly self, Ethan is sucked right back into fighting evil when Vanessa is attacked. The only way he can be of help is to delve into his lycanthropy, but the law may be catching up to him and the many mangled bodies he's unknowingly left in his wake.

Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) Having made the hard decision to kill his daughter Mina last season -- understandable since she was being controlled by a master vampire -- Sir Malcolm is not too popular with his estranged wife. Before he can get too lonely, however, his old friend, the medium Evelyne Poole (Helen McCrory), starts making moves on him. Too bad she's really after Vanessa.

Evelyn Poole The show's producers have already stated that Ms. Poole (formerly known as Madame Kali) is this season's main antagonist, but we really didn't need that confirmation based upon our own observations from early sneak peeks that show her bathing in a literal bloodbath and chanting such charming rhymes as, "Miss Ives, Miss Ives, speaking to demons and touching lives. What games we'll have, Miss Ives and I, where one will live and one will die." Maybe this is the type of nursery rhyme she was reciting to her now-grown daughter Hecate (Sarah Greene)? And no, it's no coincidence that Hecate is also the name of the main witch from Macbeth.

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Victor Frankenstein and His Creature (Harry Treadaway, Rory Kinnear) The good doctor helped the ailing Brona Croft (Billie Piper) along by smothering her last season, but hey, he had good intentions! The mercy killing gave him a fresh corpse to work his scientific magic upon, the better to create a mate for his lonely Creature. What could possibly go wrong when resuscitated hearts are involved? In the meantime, the Creature has gotten himself a new name and a new job that is so perfectly suited for him that of course something has to be wrong with it.

Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) Our pretty hate machine is back and, after being rebuffed by Vanessa, is seeking other comforting arms. Who he turns to now will make good on the promise by creator John Logan that Dorian's sexual and erotic evolution will become "more fluid" this year.

Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale) The kooky Egyptologist returns to help out Sir Malcolm & Co. in researching a language so ancient that Victor believes it to be mere myth. But of course it's not, and when delving into something that old, ancient evils are bound to be aware.

Penny Dreadful premieres on Sunday at 10/9c on Showtime.

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, which is Showtime's parent company.)

VIDEO: The Penny Dreadful cast tells you what the new season is all about