We all knew PBS Digital Studios and Pemberley Digital’s Frankenstein M.D. was building to this moment.
It’s arguably the series’ greatest challenge: The introduction of the Monster is the part of the story people are most connected to, and the solution to the scientific calculus being done in earlier episodes. The series’ focus on the scientific experiments that would eventually combine to give Victoria the capacity to resurrect Robert meant that every episode was using this event as a marker of progress. It’s a very specific episodic model, different from what Pemberley Digital has used to date, and it puts increased pressure on the “reveal,” as it were.
I’d argue it delivers, although “Birth” doesn’t exactly show us the Monster in its full glory. I have some reservations about how they managed the necessary speeding up of scientific process—I’d have like to have heard a conflicted, reluctant voicemail from Dr. Waldman in the transmedia to hear more about his decision to allow the experiment to move forward, for example—and felt that Victory’s evocation of the gendered nature of the field seemed a bit inorganic in the context of the scene (if not the storyline), but the episode worked in the sense that I was there with them. Even though I knew this was going to work, I got the rush of adrenaline as all of their work came together, and felt their pain when it appeared it hadn’t worked.
Whereas Friday’s episode will be a test of how the Monster (Evan Strand) comes to life, this is more a test of how well they’ve invested us in Victoria and Iggy as characters. And I’d say it passes that test with flying colors: both Lore and Zaragoza have been compelling dramatic presences within a largely comic framework, grounding the characters when necessary but letting them fly when the scene calls for it. The weaving in and out of the supporting characters (Rory and Eli, in particular) has also worked to create the sense of the tension between Victoria’s personal attachments and search for scientific progress, and so “Birth” feels momentous even for the characters who aren’t present when “it” happens, and creates plenty to be excited about for the final nine episodes.