Spoilers, Most Dreadful
Despite its tongue-twisting title, “Good and Evil Braided Be,” episode 3 of Showtime’s popular Penny Dreadful continues to demonstrate strong writing, by creator John Logan, and acting, by all the principals, as it ramps up the intensity and the blood-spill. Viewers learned more about characters’ secrets, characters learned more about themselves and their pasts, and characters spilled blood galore — and reveled in it.
Ethan & Hecate
The witch Hecate Poole (Sarah Greene) is gravely mistaken if she thinks she will win Wolf-Man Ethan’s (Josh Harnett) heart by committing more atrocities than he does. After all, by the very nature of his curse, Ethan doesn’t consciously choose to be evil and massacre people. In fact, during all of the first season of Penny Dreadful, Ethan didn’t even realize that he was a werewolf, though he did acknowledge that there was a string of dead bodies at his back, and he assumed that he was responsible for them. It wasn’t till season 2, when Ethan asked Sembene (Danny Sapani) to watch over him — as he was chained to the basement wall during the first night of the full moon — that Ethan finally discovered what happens to him during his blackouts. Still, despite being a Were-Wolf or a Wolf-Man, whichever you prefer, Ethan has consistently been one of the few characters in Penny Dreadful who seems to consistently have a conscience.
Though Hecate helped Ethan escape from the men his father hired to kidnap him and bring him home to Talbot Range, Hecate seems to be completely misinterpreting Ethan’s character. In episode 3, after she’d slaughtered a small rancher and his wife, she told Ethan that, essentially, the two of them were the same kind of people. I guess she missed the look on Ethan’s face as he stared up at her over the body of the murdered rancher. Ethan obviously recognizes that his killing people during his wolfman-induced-blackouts is not the same as consciously killing innocent people, as Hecate does. She seems to believe that the two of them are soul-mates, and insisted that she is trying to bring out his true nature.
Ethan seems unconvinced.
And extremely wary.
Sir Malcolm & Kaetenay
Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) and the Apache Kaetenay (Wes Studi) arrived in the American West, where they are hot on the trail of Ethan, whom they now suspect is not traveling alone. Finding the dead bodies, Malcolm remarks that such atrocities could not have been committed by the Ethan Chandler that he knows. Kaetenay remarks that, no matter what kind of person Ethan may have been in the past, Sir Malcolm and Kaetenay are morally bound to destroy the evil creature that he may have become.
That makes viewers, again, question Kaetenay’s role in this search for Ethan.
Kaetenay has already proven himself unreliable by not revealing to Sir Malcolm the animosity that exists between the Apache and Ethan (which viewers know from the vision of Kaetenay and Ethan in the desert). Even after Sir Malcolm confronted Kaetenay on the train, questioning why Kaetenay needs Malcolm’s help, Kaetenay claimed only that Ethan trusted Malcolm more. From Ethan’s vision-behavior, I’m guessing that Ethan doesn’t trust Kaetenay at all. But he’s keeping this secret from Malcolm to get to Ethan. We don’t know what Kaetenay wants from Ethan: the Apache guide claims to be his spiritual or surrogate father, along with Sir Malcolm, but also continually says that he and Malcolm are obligated to destroy Ethan.
Malcolm doesn’t seem to believe Kaetenay. That’s reasonable, given that Sir Malcolm is a man who “murdered and raped” his way across the African continent — according to Vanessa in one of her trance-induced episodes of revealing other characters’ lives to them — so he doesn’t seem the sort to blindly accept everything Kaetenay is telling him. Malcolm already questioned Kaetenay while they were on the train, although Malcolm later defended him from ignorant cowboys who insisted that “Indians ride with the luggage.”
It seems that Sir Malcolm is as wary of his traveling companion as Ethan is of his.
aka John Clare
Frankenstein’s first Creature (Rory Kinnear), who was using the name John Clare last season, is looking to his past this season. Having had a glimpse of his family while on the ship in the premiere, he returned to London in last night episode. Finding the predominantly Chinese neighborhood where he and his family rented lodgings — and briefly glimpsing Vanessa and Dr. Sweet together on the streets — Clare went into the room he shared with his family. Then he set off in search of them. He found his wife and son, who is dying from consumption, in another rented room, spied on them from above (in a homage to the novel, where the Creature spies on a family from an adjoining structure), wept at their condition, then stole a watch from a rich man, and left it for the wife to find.
John Clare, previously called The Creature, has often been more humane and decent than most of the human characters in the series. Last night, his weeping over his wife and son, as he himself remained hidden from them, revealed his suffering. At this point, viewers are still not aware of how John Clare died in the first place: only that Frankenstein re-animated him, then abandoned him in terror.
Will Clare reveal himself to his wife and son?
Or will his monstrously scarred visage prevent him from doing so?
Dorian, Lily, & Justine
The story of this trio started with Lily (Billie Piper, above R) and Justine (Jessica Barden, above L) at an outdoor café while female suffragettes staged a protest, agitating for the right to vote. The police responded with violence. Thinking, I suppose, that Lily wants the same thing as the suffragettes, Jessica commented on them. Viewers know Lily’s feelings about men, as well as her rage toward them. Despite any apparent moral or socio-economic connection with the suffragettes, however, Lilly ironically revealed that she does not, in fact, want mere equality with men: she wants to dominate and conquer them.
Then, in a series of scenes so gruesome and bloody, they could have been part of the grotesque (novel and film) American Psycho, Dorian (Reeve Carney), Lily (Billie Piper), and Justine (Jessica Barden) had an orgy after committing atrocities. Dorian and Lily presented Justine with the bound and gagged man who had taken Justine when she was 12, used her sexually, then hired her out after he tired of her himself. Dorian and Lily taunted Justine, calling her “whore” other things, as if they thought she had no rage.
They were mistaken.
Justine, it seems, has almost as much rage as Lily. Grabbing the knife from Dorian, Justine slashed the throat of the man who used her, then stabbed him so often that she was covered in blood. Dorian kissed her.
Cut to the three of them in bed, covered in blood, having an intense — and apparently quite satisfactory — sexual encounter.
These three amply demonstrate the “excitement” (physiological arousal) from having the power of life and death over another human being that serial killers interpret sexually. The three had sex, covered in the blood of their victim, then laid out the plan to conquer the world.
Or, to start a war, in Lily’s version, and to found a religion of sorts, in Dorian’s.
Either way, Justine, who is neither re-animated, like Lily, nor living an abnormal life, like Dorian, is in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say.
In her case, in for a drop, in for a bucketful, I guess.
Drs. Frankenstein & Jekyll
Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway, above L), having been suitably impressed by Jekyll’s (Shazad Latif, above R) serum on a crazed and violent Bedlam patient, interviewed the patient on his memories during his calm vs violent phases. Right in the middle of the interview, however, to Frankenstein’s surprise — though not to that of viewers familiar with Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — the patient suddenly and dramatically reverted to his violent self (only without the mouth restraint).
That allowed Jekyll to rant and rave, not on his favorite topic of British Imperialism and racism, but, rather, on the short-acting nature of his serum. Instead of blaming himself — because, of course, he’s infallible — Jekyll seems to blame the serum itself, as if he were not the one who formulated it. Bordering on violence himself, Jekyll insisted, in his almost out-of-control, maniacal rant, that man could be separated from his evil self, leaving only the good intact.
By which, I suppose, he means, make man other than what he actually is: a combination of good and evil.
If only that serum would do what it’s supposed to.
Victor jumped on that train to Fantasy Island with Henry Jekyll, asserting that if his own method of electricity were combined with Jekyll’s elixir-serum, they would conquer evil by separating it from the good.
Which is what Victor wants to do with the re-animated Brona-turned-Lily, returning her to an “innocent” state, which viewers know was probably an act, so that he can have her back as his love and his lover.
Neither Frankenstein nor Jekyll seems to question where the evil goes once it’s driven out of the test-subject.
Neither seems to believe that he himself is evil either.
I wonder why.
Vanessa & Dr. Seward
Like John Clare, Vanessa is attempting to recall her previous life, trying to learn how to live her life now, and in the future, by remembering what happened to her in the past. Eva Green, as Vanessa Ives, and Patti LuPone, as Dr. Seward (above), continue to display their on-screen chemistry and their superb talent as actors in this episode of Penny Dreadful. Dr. Seward, whose character originated in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is practicing “Alienism,” a new science that seems to be the precursor to psychiatry-psychology and talk-therapy. Last night, Vanessa, pacing like a caged animal, exploded at Dr. Seward.
Vanessa felt that Seward was being condescending: saying Seward believed that Vanessa believed in vampires, witches, and the Devil, rather than actually believing in them herself. Seward insisted that the distinction wasn’t necessary for them to continue to work together. Vanessa insisted that Dr. Seward is the Cut-Wife Joan Clayton (played by Patti LuPone in season 2, above), resurrected or re-incarnated or somehow returned to life as Dr. Seward.
Then, in a move similar to that which the Cut-Wife forced Vanessa to do, Vanessa grabbed Seward’s wrist and revealed part of her past. Vanessa claimed that Seward killed a man before he was able to kill her. And we know from experience that whatever Vanessa “sees” when she does this, it’s the truth.
Startled by Vanessa’s other-worldly ability, Seward agrees to hypnotize Vanessa so that she can recover her memories from her time in the Psychiatric Clinic of Dr. Banning where, as Vanessa correctly reports, she was “tortured.”
Vanessa & The White Room
After a conversation in the Hall of Mirrors (more on that later in this post) about The White Room, where past and present don’t exist, with one of the Lost Boys (Jack Greenlees, below),
Vanessa decides that she must be hypnotized to recall her confinement in the padded room of Dr. Christopher Banning’s Clinic (from season 1). Despite Dr. Seward’s warnings that repressed memories are repressed for a reason, Vanessa (Eva Green, below) insists on revisiting that horrifying place, if only in her memory.
In a brief image that revealed Dr. Seward’s profile against the wall of the padded room, we were given the impression that Dr. Seward might have the metaphorical or otherworldly ability to be with Vanessa in that White Room (which would explain the image above, circulating on the Internet, with Dr. Seward comforting Vanessa in said “prison”).
Vanessa claims to have had no visitors while in The White Room besides the orderly who brought her meals and the attendants who came to take her to “treatment,” which viewers know included torturous cold water baths and fire-hosing, as well as skull-drilling — in an attempt to release the madness or the demons or whatever Dr. Banning thought he was getting to by drilling holes in the poor girl’s skull.
To the surprise of viewers, Vanessa remembered the face of the orderly who brought her meals while she was locked in the padded cell: it was none other than the former self of the Creature, John Clare (Rory Kinnear).
This leads to startling questions, especially as to the manner of Clare’s death, which enabled Frankenstein to acquire his corpse and re-animate him as the first Creature.
We know he must have died: otherwise, he could not have been brought back to life by Frankenstein. Now we wonder if Vanessa herself, who is known to have been quite violent during her time before, during, and sometimes after, her stay in the sanatorium, is responsible for the death of John Clare.
A man with whom she formed an unlikely but charming friendship in season 2.
We don’t know yet whether Vanessa will associate the living “John Clare” — the shy, scarred man she met while volunteering to feed the poor and homeless — with the orderly in Banning’s clinic, but the viewers have no doubt of it. From the first episode on this third season, we have been treated to images of actor Rory Kinnear without his Creature-makeup, so we know what he looked like in his previous life with his wife and son.
When the orderly announced that he’d brought Miss Ives’ food, and the camera panned up to his face, we saw exactly who that orderly was.
“John Clare,” in his previous life.
Now we wonder if Vanessa was the one who killed him.
Vanessa & Dr. Sweet & Dracula
Last week, it was revealed to viewers, though not to his prey Vanessa Ives, that the pseudo-milquetoast Dr. Sweet (Christian Camargo) is, in reality, the terrifying Master, Dracula. Despite Sweet’s continually feigning to have forgotten Vanessa’s name, we now realize that he knows exactly who she is, since he has been hunting her since season one. In the first season, Dracula was never shown, though his Creatures were.
At the end of the first season, Mina thanked her father, Sir Malcolm Murray, for bringing Vanessa to her at the Grand Guignol Theatre, where Sir Malcolm’s group had just encountered yet another of the red-eyed Creatures and killed him. Mina said that the Master, which viewers assumed to be Dracula, wanted Vanessa as his bride. (In a surprising move, given that he’d been searching for his daughter throughout the first season, Sir Malcolm shot his vampire daughter Mina in order to save Vanessa’s life.)
Now, viewers know that Vanessa is in more danger than she herself realizes. Lulled to inattention by Dr. Sweet’s apparent harmlessness, Vanessa seems to actually be falling in love with the man. Despite her previous sexual encounters, all of which have led to unleashing the darkness within her, when the Dark Master, whoever he is, speaks to her and invites her to love him, Vanessa is pursuing the relationship with Dr. Sweet. In last night’s episode, he met her in London’s Chinatown (where John Clare briefly spotted her, his face alighting with a smile, before he saw Dr. Sweet arrive and take her arm). Sweet then took her to the Hall of Mirrors, or some such place, where the two gamboled and laughed and mocked their distorted appearances in the mirrors (leading a couple of reviewers to remark on seeing Dracula-Dr.-Sweet’s reflection, but this show traditionally takes the fictional sources as well as the traditional legends and turns them into something brand new).
Suddenly, Vanessa found herself alone, in a maze of mirrors, where she was confronted by one of the Lost Boys (Jack Greenlees) who’s been following her all around the town. After speaking in a sort of nursery rhyme-riddle, the Lost Boy revealed that Vanessa had previously met the Master, though she didn’t recall doing so.
Lost Boy, in the mistake of his undead life, told her she’d met the Master in The White Room.
This revelation caused Vanessa so much distress that she “broke off” the blossoming relationship with Dr. Sweet, telling him to consider her leaving him a sign that she feels “something, like love” for him. In a scary move, he shattered the teacup after she left.
Then he confronted the Lost Boy who’d tipped the Master’s hand.
Dracula was not pleased, to say the very least.
Ever since the startling Reveal, in episode 2 of the third season, that Dr. Sweet was Dracula, I’ve wondered how seemingly mild-mannered Christian Camargo was going to pull off the scary threat of the Master of Darkness on Earth, who’s searching for Vanessa as his bride so he can start the Apocalypse.
Let’s just say, Camargo did an outstanding job making us believe that he was, indeed, the evil Master of Darkness.
As punishment for revealing something that Vanessa had forgotten, the Lost Boy was literally thrown across the room of the abandoned warehouse before being offered as “food” to the other Lost Boys.
Yeppers, looks like this Dracula is going to be even scarier than we thought.
Already, though we only have three episodes of the third season of Penny Dreadful available for viewing, we’ve been shown just how intricate the plot of this marvelous series is. Creator-writer John Logan is masterfully weaving together the disparate storylines, not just so that the characters interact with each other, but so that they seem to have been fated to encounter each other.
“Poor characters,” I’d say, if I weren’t so thoroughly enjoying the show, “each of them is in a most dreaful nightmare.”
And there seems to be no mercy anywhere in sight.