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Loving the Darkness: Penny Dreadful, season 3 episodes 5 & 6, Review & Recap

Spoilers,
Dark & Dreadful

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Despite a weak episode in “This World is Our Hell” (3:5), where there was too much telling and not enough showing, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful returned with a powerfully strong episode last night, “No Beast So Fierce” (3:6). Whenever creator-writer John Logan reverts to telling, with the characters talking too much, in a medium that is visual and should always be showing what’s happening, even if characters are narrating in a VoiceOver, I wonder what Logan thinks he’s doing: it’s not as if he’s writing fiction. Even if he were, he should be having flashbacks that show the events rather than having straight narration.

Episode 5, “This World is Our Hell,” had so much narration, without the accompanying flashback action that the visual medium can afford, that it slowed the tension down. Episode 6, “No Beast So Fierce,” packed in the visual action that only television and cinema can provide, however, which made it one of the most exciting episodes so far this season.

♦ ♦ ♦

Episode 5
This World is Our Hell

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The slowest, and thus, dullest, episode this season, “This World is Our Hell,” left Vanessa behind and returned mostly to the story of Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett, above L) who was traveling in the American West, specifically in the New Mexico Territory (which does not remotely resemble the Spanish desert landscape where the show the filmed, by the way, not even in the architecture). Ethan is going to his father’s home, ostensibly to kill him, or as Ethan likes to say, to “send his father to Hell.” Ethan, looking a lot like Zorro in his flat-topped, wide-brimmed hat and black duds, is traveling with the witch Hecate (Sarah Greene) who wants to unleash Ethan’s inner darkness so she can mate with him and “unleash” the apocalypse, where she plans to rule the Eternal Darkness at his side.

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Ethan resisted Hecate’s sexual and love advances pretty well until after she saved him by releasing rattlesnakes on Inspector Rusk the Intrepid (Douglas Hodge) and all the other lawmen following him. After Ethan and Hecate got to a cave with ancient Apache paintings which supposedly represented their Creation Story (and which were, by themselves, pretty Coolio and the Beans), Ethan suddenly dropped all his resistance to Hecate — and to his inner darkness. To Hecate’s unbridled joy, he announced that he was rejecting God and embracing his own inner demons. They had sexual relations in the cave, and were super-bonded afterward, even if Hecate is obviously one-sided infatuated with Ethan, who, though attracted enough to Hecate, may still be pining after Vanessa.

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The pair lost their horses and eventually collapsed in the desert. Their collapse was from a lack of canteen-water, from a lack of liquid-rich cactus (which Spain apparently does not have and which New Mexico has by the butt-ful, and which can sometimes pierce clothes, gloves, and those pretty designer boots Hecate’s wearing), and from traveling in the day when the desert is at its hottest, rather than in the night when it’s at its coolest, despite Ethan’s supposed desert experience (okay, maybe I’m being too picky here, but how much work would it have taken Logan to research the New Mexican desert?)

Ethan and Hecate were discovered by Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton), who gave Ethan water but was going to shoot Hecate, and by a snake-bit Kaetaney (Wes Studi), before being taken captive by Ethan’s father’s men (they’re everywhere; they’re everywhere). When questioned about what to do with Kaetenay, Ethan said, “Let him die slow,” but we all had the feeling that the tough old guy would survive.

When I leave out all the talkity-talk, it looks like a lot happened in that episode with Ethan and those surrounding him, but it didn’t. I mean, you just read everything that happened in about… what… a minute? Though I admit that once the show finally got going, it improved.

And once Ethan was back on the ol’ homestead, reunited with his father (Brian Cox, below), we found out that lots of Ethan’s anger is not solely from his being a wolf-man/were-wolf but genetic: inherited from his racist and very full of rage Daddy, Jared, who, after talking Ethan’s ear off by telling him the long, drawn-out story of how everyone else in the family got killed in the Chapel by the Apaches due to Ethan’s (remorseful) treachery, threatened to blow him to Hell unless he repented.

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The episode concentrated on Ethan’s storyline, leaving the other characters only minor moments. At Bedlam, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Shazad Latif) is letting more of his rage out, especially since his pal and colleague Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) has made it clear that he thinks Jekyll has totally missed the scientific boat on his character-altering serum by not using electricity. In a tummy-turning scene, Victor injected the new and improved version of the serum into the eye (okay, he’s aiming for the cerebral cortex or the frontal lobe or somewhere in the brain that he gets to through the eye-socket) of poor Mr. Balfour. (I admit I was really freaked out by this scene, — by the idea of the scene, which was not, in itself, graphic: when Frankenstein got that needle close to Balfour’s eyeball or eye-socket, the camera was then trained on Victor, not on the needle or on Balfour.)

Whether or not the new and improved serum works on Balfour, we know that it won’t work forever, and it won’t work on Lily, Victor’s unrequited love-interest, which is Victor’s ultimate goal. Why Jekyll is participating in this Things-I-wanna-do-to-Lily experiment is unclear, unless he actually does not think he can succeed on his own. Though he realizes that his serum has limitations — impermanence being the main one — Jekyll apparently does not believe he can perfect it himself. Thus, despite his growing annoyance with Victor’s “smarter than thou” attitude, Henry not only puts up with Victor, but is allowing Victor to do all the distilling of the final serum in Henry Jekyll’s lab at Bedlam, not in Victor Frankenstein’s own lab.

Will Jekyll let Victor inject him in the cerebral cortex or frontal lobe or wherever in order to test the serum, as happens in the Robert Louis Stevenson novel when Jekyll experiments on himself (becoming the unmitigatedly evil Mr. Hyde)? That’s unclear. But Jekyll is clearly encouraging Frankenstein to think he can get Lily back by injecting her with Jekyll’s serum.

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Meanwhile, back at ye olde Gray manse, Lily (Billie Piper, above L) is starting her Whore University where Anger Management 101 will most assuredly not be included in the curriculum, and Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney, above R) thinks he’s going to continue to be an integral part of all Lily’s plans. I guess Dorian forgot that Lily has much more rage against men than Dorian seems to have ever had for anyone, that Dorian himself is one of the guys that Lily really hates. Generally, because he’s a male, and, less generally, because he’s a male who hired prostitutes, and, even less generally and much more specifically, because he’s a guy who hired a prostitute named Brona, who was Lily in her former, pre-Frankenstein-Monster life, and forced her to do sexual things for money in  order to survive. Yeah, that Dorian, he’s seeming pretty oblivious to the fact that when somebody else has that much rage and is planning to fire off heat-seeking missiles against men, any male in the vicinity is a potential target. In short, Dorian forgot that one of the reasons he’s so attracted to Lily is because she’s just like him.

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The characters of Penny Dreadful might have believed that their histories and their pasts made “This World [Their] Hell,” but the extended narration-only scenes of episode 5 made it hell for the viewers: the talkity-talk-talk scenes slowed the tension and the plot down significantly. On the other hand, the action-packed and more character-and-conflict-driven scenes of “No Beast So Fierce” made it one of the most exciting episodes this season.

♦ ♦ ♦

Episode 6
No Beast So Fierce

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Lily (Billie Piper, above R) continued her Whore University with a packed class on Killing a Man 101. After she demonstrated on Dorian (Reeve Carney, above L), she asked someone in the class to volunteer to practice. Super-ambitious student-acolyte Justine (Jessica Barden) volunteered but then actually pricked Dorian with the blade, not stopping until Lily herself told her to stop because the other students would have no one to practice on without Dorian.

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Then Victor, super-cool undercover dude that he is, broke into Dorian’s mansion, while everybody, including the whore classmates, was currently in the place. That Victor, he just doesn’t know what he’s about since Lily dumped him and broke his heart. Laughing in his face, Lily said his act had to be “the worst kidnapping ever.” She got that right.

Then Justine wanted to kill Victor. Both Lily and Dorian objected to that, but in a preview of surely coming attractions, Justine told Dorian she doesn’t take orders from a man and waited for Lily’s instructions. Lily told Justine that they might need Victor’s services, and I assume she meant his services as a re-animator of the dead rather than as a medical doctor. On his way out of the mansion, Victor asked Dorian if he expected Victor’s gratitude, or something very similar, and Dorian told Victor he was in Dorian’s debt.

Of course, with the way creator-writer John Logan re-invents the literary characters on which some of the show is based, I don’t know if Dorian is truly immortal: in the book, he’s immortal as long as the portrait is not destroyed; in the show, he’s made remarks to Lily that he and she are alike in that way, though he used different words. His remark to Frankenstein that Victor is in Dorian’s debt made me wonder if Dorian thinks he’ll need Victor’s re-animation services himself.

If that’s the case, does Dorian think he’ll need them for himself or for Lily?

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Briefly, Frankenstein’s first Creature (Rory Kinnear) visited his consumptive, mostly unconscious son, attempting to ease his suffering. With his eyes closed, the boy recognized his father’s voice, asked him if he were an angel, said that one of his mother’s friends said the angels would be coming for [the boy] soon, and that he’d hoped his father would be the angel who came. The Creature, who was going by the name John Clare last season, and who has been revealed as the (unnamed) Orderly in the Banning Clinic who took care of Vanessa (from season 1), but who has had no name this third season, took his son in his arms and held him. When he laid the boy back on the pillow, the boy opened his eyes, saw his father — re-animated by Frankenstein as The Creature — and began screaming. The Creature ran, collapsing into the alley, where he wept in grief.

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Anyone who watches the show regularly knows that he is one of writer Logan’s favorite characters. Despite his occasional acts of violence, The Creature is also one of the most consistently sympathetic and empathetic characters in Penny Dreadful. Along with Ethan Chandler, the Creature is one of the few characters who is almost always decent. He behaves humanely and (relatively) morally; he almost always acts according to his own conscience. I didn’t think he’d ever reveal himself to his son and wife, who obviously know he’s dead. Further, I don’t believe he meant to reveal himself to his boy: the child was suffering and The Creature was attempting to comfort him. The boy’s reaction grieved The Creature / John Clare.

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One of the most exciting parts of episode 6 involved Ethan’s story. At dinner with the family patriarch — surrounded by gunmen — Ethan was asked to say “Grace.” He didn’t comply with the request. Daddy Talbot started in on the usual, and, viewers suspect, eternal emotional abuse. Hecate (Sarah Greene) whispered to Ethan that he only had to give the word, and she would take action against Big Daddy. She is obviously devoted to Ethan.

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Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) immediately volunteered to say Grace for Ethan, and, furthermore, strongly cautioned Daddy Talbot against his continued verbal abuse of son Ethan, stating that Malcolm had treated his own son that way, attempting to make him the son Malcolm had always wanted instead of the son he actually had, and urging Big Daddy to learn from Malcolm’s mistakes. It was a big no-go with The Big Daddy. His continued abuse prompted Ethan to say a parody of the Lord’s Prayer as Grace, a parody which included lines like “May Your name be reviled” instead of “Hallowed be Thy Name.” Big Daddy erupted, and so did everyone else present.

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Big Daddy shot the Marshal accompanying Inspector Rusk dead without warning. In the ensuing shoot-out at Talbot House, Big Daddy escaped to the Chapel with bodyguards, Hecate unamsked herself and got witchy with everybody, Rusk threatened to kill Ethan if Hecate came closer, and Sir Malcolm took on one of the bodyguards.

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In the fray, Ethan shot Rusk who shot and killed Hecate.

WTH?

I mean, that’s all it takes to kill a witch? A single gunshot?

Dang, too bad Ethan et al didn’t know that in season two, where those bad-ass scarred Baldies were constantly attacking Vanessa and her protectors in the Murray mansion. Life would have been so much easier…

So, yeah, Hecate died.

In Ethan’s arms, no less.

Saying something like she’d wait for him in Hell.

Poor Hecate, she’s got it so bad for Ethan. Of course, since she died, she hadn’t the chance to see the previews for future episodes of Penny Dreadful, where it’s clear that Ethan forgets Hecate pretty quickly and returns to her rival, Vanessa…

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and that the love and sexual attraction between the two will be as strong as ever…

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but that didn’t happen in last night’s episode, so more on that later.

Meanwhile, in “No Beast So Fierce,” Kaetenay (Wes Studi), who’d been the one causing the ruckus with the horses outside during dinner, appeared and saved Malcolm, who didn’t have a gun, having brought a knife to the gunfight. Malcolm thanked Kaetenay by saying, “I knew you were too mean to die.” The two of them then joined Ethan, who instructed them on Big Daddy’s predictable fortification of the Chapel.

When Malcolm asked what Kaetenay should do, Ethan’s reply — “He knows what to do: he’s been here before” —  revealed to viewers that Kaetenay was a member of the raiding party that killed Ethan’s mother and siblings, for which Big Daddy (justifiably) blames Ethan himself since it was Ethan who gave them the location of ammuniton, weapons, horses, etc. (And that’s the kind of dialogue that the show usually has: one that reveals characters’ pasts, natures, conflicts, not just monologues about the characters’ pasts, which seem to bore the other characters as much as it slows down the drama’s forward momentum.)

Kaetenay took the lead in the present Chapel-killing, leaving Big Daddy to berate Ethan, goading and badgering Ethan in an attempt to get him to kill his own father. It didn’t work.

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Ethan, with tears in his eyes, turned and walked away. This fits Ethan’s character in the show, where he does not consciously choose to kill or perform evil unless it is for his own self-survival (I’m interpreting his killing for money in season 1 as his need to survive financially).

Sir Malcolm shot Big Daddy dead. This not only gives us further information about Malcolm’s character but supports Kaetenay’s continued assertions that Ethan is Sir Malcolm’s spiritual or “surrogate” son. Just as Malcolm killed his own biological daughter Mina when she threatened the life of his surrogate daughter Vanessa, Malcolm killed Big Daddy Talbot when his abuse against his own biological son threatened Malcolm’s spiritual son. True to his conquering, imperialistic nature — shoot first, ask no questions later — Sir Malcolm shot Big Daddy dead when he continued to berate Ethan but Ethan had turned away.

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In an emotionally powerful and disturbing storyline, Vanessa (Eva Green, above) continued to search for Dracula, whom she knows has been seeking her. Vanessa enlisted the help of several old friends and one new one. In a brief scene with Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale), who revealed that he is going to Egypt for an indefinite period,

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Vanessa said good-bye to her old friend and supporter. (I do hope that Lyle will return: not only is the character himself endearing, but the actor portraying him is brilliantly talented. I would hate it if Lyle/Beale never appears in Penny Dreadful again.) Before their farewell, however, Lyle gave her the name of someone he believed could help her: Catriona Hartdegan (Perdita Weeks, below L), a thanatologist with expert knowledge of the supernatural, in general, and of Dracula, in particular.

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Vanessa then sought the company and advice of her Alienist (the term used before “Psychiatrist,” apparently), Dr. Seward (Patti LuPone),

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who advised Vanessa to turn to Dr. Sweet (Christian Camargo),

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whom the viewers know is Dracula himself.

Urged by Dr. Seward to give Dr. Sweet a chance to make an informed decision about having a relationship with Vanessa, Vanessa went to him and revealed all.

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He told her he loved her, accepted her as she is not as the world wants her to be, and then he kissed her. Next thing you know, Vanessa and Sweet were down on the floor, making love.

Wowza!

Talk about your dangers: unprotected sex, sex in the workplace, sex with Dracula.

Okay, Vanessa doesn’t know about the last part, but she certainly knows about the first two…

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Afterward, weeping, Vanessa held Sweet in her arms.

Oh, boy, there are so many warning signs that Vanessa hasn’t seen.

First of all, whenever Vanessa has had sexual intercourse with a man before, the demons have been unleashed. In particular, some Dark Master who speaks to Vanessa gets released.

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After Vanessa seduced the fiancé of her best friend Mina on the eve of their wedding, the Dark Master came to Vanessa in the guise of Sir Malcolm Murray, quoting Keats’ poetry and sexually seducing her.

Vanessa said, “So, the Darkness spoke.”

And the Master, in the guise of Sir Malcolm replied, “Yes, but you listened.”

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She seemed to be having sexual relations with the Master afterward, which caused her mother to fall down dead (from shock, I suppose, though it could have been plain horror at seeing Vanessa’s white eyes).

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In the midst of sex with Dorian Gray, Vanessa heard the Dark Master’s voice, telling her how much he’d missed her.

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Vanessa doesn’t even have to engage in sex to have the Dark Master appear. All she has to do is think about it, or talk about it, as she did in the séance (season 1), and she goes off the edge of darkness.

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For Vanessa, sex and possession and the darkness within her and the Dark Master are all integrally interwoven. After being possessed at the séance and revealing, to Sir Malcolm, who was present, that she’d seen him having adulterous sex with her mother in the maze on Sir Malcolm’s country estate, Vanessa leaves the “party,” goes out into the pouring rain, seeks a complete stranger, and has sex with him (which Dorian, unobserved, observes).

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So Vanessa clearly knows that the demon comes to her, in many guises, when she has sexual intercourse. But she also knows that it comes when she talks about or recalls sexual acts (even other people’s), or when she’s tempted to have sexual relations. That’s the reason she avoided Ethan when he was staying in Sir Malcolm’s mansion with her,

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then rejected Ethan when they were staying in the Cut-Wife’s cottage.

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Though the two were clearly attracted to, and in love with, each other,

Vanessa felt they were “too dangerous” to be together.

I realize that Vanessa may have rejected Ethan because she already suspected that he was a werewolf (later confirmed when Ethan broke in Evelyn Poole’s house and killed her in order to protect Vanessa), and, as a wolf-man or werewol, he’s as dangerous as she believes herself to be. And we can’t expect Vanessa to know that Sweet is Dracula. Viewers know it, but she does not. She thinks he’s a mild-mannered milquetoast.

But while she was having sex with him, and after she had sex with him, she did not hear the voice of the Dark Master.

Hello, Vanessa, anybody home?

Because of the hypnosis-retrieved memory of her time in The White Room at the Banning Clinic, where both Dark Masters — Lucifer and his fallen-angel brother Dracula — appeared to her in the form of the Orderly,

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telling her that they both desire her, and that they both want her to embrace them — one spiritually (Lucifer) and the other physically (Dracula) — Vanessa already knows that Dracula wants her physically.

That means sexually.

Vanessa told the thanatologist Hartdegan that Dracula doesn’t want Vanessa dead: he wants her submission. That means sexual submission. Vanessa knows this.

Does she think because, as with Dorian, she got on top during the sexual act that she is not submitting to Dracula… I mean, to Sweet? Even if she believes she’s not submitting and is in control, she still did not hear the voice of the Dark Master as she has whenever she has had sex in the past. (Maybe she didn’t hear the voice when she was seducing her best friend’s fiancé, but then, Vanessa was intentionally destroying her friend’s life and happiness. In short, bad things happen when Vanessa has sexual relations.)

So, Vanessa has sex with Dr. Sweet but does not hear the voice of the Dark Master?

Oh, Vanessa, how could you have missed that?

How could you possibly think that some ostensible milquetoast, whom you’ve been pursuing, is everything that he appears to be?

Oh, what dangers are in store for our belovèd Vanessa.

And haven’t even begun to contemplate what dangers await her if her Alienist, Dr. Seward, is also much more than she appears.

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Is Dr. Seward, who encouraged Vanessa to go back to Dr. Sweet and “give him a chance,” really a re-incarnation of the Cut-Wife Joan Clayton (Patti LuPone, above), who taught Vanessa about being a Witch before being burned at the stake herself, and who knew that the Dark Master Lucifer was seeking Vanessa?

If Seward is the re-incarnated Joan Clayton, whom Seward claims is her ancestor, did Clayton, in those final moments of life, while she was burning, trade her own soul for Vanessa’s, enabling Clayton to return to life?

Does Seward, in actuality, know that Dr. Sweet is Dracula?

Is that, in fact, why she’s encouraged Vanessa to “give him another chance,” knowing full well that Sweet would not only accept but welcome the chance to gain Vanessa’s trust, love, body, soul?

Oy, vey, given the secrets that every single other character in the show has, my head is spinning.

Shivery and shuddery, my Dreadfuls.

Vanessa did more than just embrace the Darkness: she… uhm… made love to it.

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Related Posts

Embracing the Darkness:
Penny Dreadful, Season 3, Episode 4,
Review and Recap of “A Blade of Grass”

No Mercy Anywhere:
Penny Dreadful, season 3 episode 4,
“Good and Evil Braided Be,”
Review and Recap

Behind the Masks:
Penny Dreadful, Season 3, Episode 2,
“Predators Far and Near,”
Review and Recap

All the Unloved Ones:
Penny Dreadful, Season 3 Premiere,
“The Day Tennyson Died,”
Review and Recap

When Lucifer Fell:
My Penny Dreadful Blogs,
Seasons 1-2, Review and Recap

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The Lion Hunts Tonight: Showtime’s PENNY DREADFUL “Memento Mori” S2E8

Warning: Spoilers

(Updated to include Video of Lily & John Clare)

images-18Wow, I didn’t think Showtime’s brilliant series Penny Dreadful, created and written by John Logan, could get any better this season, but last night’s episode, “Memento Mori,” was stunning and  relentless. Actually, only one person got killed, but everyone was reminded of death because the lions were relentlessly hunting.

Many people have expressed their disappointment that Vanessa (Eva Green) and Ethan (Josh Hartnett) were not in “Memento Mori,” but they had virtually the entire previous episode, “Little Scorpion,” to themselves, so I found it rather refreshing to concentrate on some of the other characters, most of whom are directly involved in the storyline which involves Vanessa and Ethan, but almost all of whom are peripherally involved.

Harry Treadaway as Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 8). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_208_0149So Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway, above L) has gotten his heart broken by a lying Lily (Billie Piper, first photo, center), who had sexual relations with a stranger whom she strangled during intercourse. Victor confessed his suffering to Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton, R), who then explained that he, too, is suffering from the disease of love.

images-10In previous episodes, however, Sir Malcolm has been happy and carefree in his love for Mrs. Poole (Helen McCrory). Not so in “Memento Mori.” He expressed his dismay that he is no longer his “mono-maniacal self,” since that’s who he really is. He was so much a comfort to poor Victor as a fellow traveler on the path of those who suffer for love.

images-2Sir Malcolm is also missing his dead family members, like his wife Gladys, daughter Mina, and son Peter. All of his family, actually. He was glancing sadly and pensively through their photos. His own personality and ego may be much stronger than the Night-Comer (witch) Evelyn Poole imagined when she enchanted him.

images-13Despite massaging the heart of his fetish, then ripping it from the doll’s body and holding it in her hand while she attempted to completely submerge Sir Malcolm in her spell, he was able to break free, with Sembene’s (Danny Sapani, below) help: Sembene wrestled Sir Malcolm after he went nuts and tossed over the table containing the story of the Verbis Diablo, scattering their carefully constructed puzzle; dragged Sir Malcolm across the hall, kicked open a door, pushed Sir Malcolm in, and shouted, “Know who you are.”

images copyAs Lyle (Simon Russell Beale), Victor, and Sembene (L to R, below) watched, Sir Malcolm roamed around an empty, dusty room, where — in his mind — he was seeing and interacting, in a miniature ball, with his own dead family members.

penny-dreadfulHe broke free of Evelyn’s enchantment, she was aware of it, and fought with her daughter over that fact when her daughter suggested rather brazenly that her mother was perhaps too old and not attractive enough to maintain her hold on Sir Malcolm. Maybe, the daughter Hecate (Sarah Greene) suggested, she herself should give it a try with Sir Malcolm. She got shoved out of the room by her face for that impertinence.

Sarah Greene as Hecate in Penny Dreadful (Season 2, Gallery). - Photo:  Courtesy of SHOWTIME - Photo ID:  PennyDreadful-hecate-0038Actually, the only person who got killed last night — though they all might have been reminded that death is always imminent — was poor transgendered Angelique (Johnny Beauchamp), left alone for the second night in a row while her lover Dorian (Reeve Carney) took Lily (Billie Piper) out to dinner again.

Alas for poor Angelique, she’s inquisitive and clever as well as beautiful: when the wind in a room without windows blew out some candles, she discovered the secret door that led to the room which hides the picture of Dorian Gray.

The picture that allows Dorian to remain forever young, beautiful, immortal — unmarked physically by all his internal ugliness. When Dorian returned home and found that Angelique had discovered his secret, he poisoned her, despite the fact that she said she could still love him.images-12

The picture itself, shown for the first time last night, wasn’t that interesting. But then, unless you’ve read the book, you wouldn’t think Dorian had ever done anything except drink and eat to excess, have sex with members of both sexes and genders. You wouldn’t know the lies, betrayals, murders, drug use, alcohol abuse, etc because Dorian’s a rather minor character in this show, and his story isn’t much tied in to that of the other characters, except peripherally.

The only thing that was interesting about Dorian’s portrait — and I was the only one in our household who found it interesting because I’m the only one who’s read the book and who’s also seen previous film adaptations of it — was the chains on Dorian in the painting. That was an intriguing touch, since Picture-Dorian was pretty tame and dull, to be completely honest. It looked like a ragged mummy or dirty ghost.

The chains symbolized Dorian’s evil being trapped in the portrait, but they also represent the fact that Dorian is chained to the portrait of himself: if anything happens to it, Dorian ages, gets ugly, and could die.

images-16The most stunning part of “Memento Mori” was Lily (Billy Piper), who should have looked like the demonic photo below instead of the sweet one above.

images-11She’s broken Victor’s heart and caused him to attempt suicide (there seemed to be pills on the floor around his unconscious form when the Creature (Rory Kinnear) threw a bucket of water on him to wake him: then Victor vomited, which made me suspect he’s attempted suicide out of despair).

images-14Lily is a Creature, like her intended, the original Frankenstein creation, now going by the name of John Clare (Rory Kinnear, first photo above R, and below), who, despite his rages at Frankenstein himself, has often shown himself more passionate, loyal, loving, and decent than many of the human beings in the show.

images-7His love for poetry, his philosophical musings, his intellect, his suffering all make him a tragic hero extra-ordinaire, and I compliment creator-writer John Logan for his brilliant interpretation of this Creature, so different from the origin source, Frankenstein by Mary Wollestonecraft Shelley, so much more sophisticated, and so wonderfully acted by Kinnear. The Creature is one of the most fascinating and interesting characters in the series.

Lily, however, was the surprise of the night. Not only did she seem to prefer her murdered stranger dead, nuzzling and love-talking his nude body after she killed him, she blatantly lied to Victor about where she’d been all night, then turned Monster herself when the Creature came calling.

images-18It was a tour-de-force performance, with Creature-Clare dumbfounded — even, perhaps, frightened — as his Intended Bride, Lily, ranted about how women suffer because of men; as she tossed him about as if he were a rag-doll; as she questioned him about his dream that they’d walk country fields “quoting f***ing poetry to f***ing cows.”

Yowza!

Her rant against the societal expectations of women, the inequities they suffer, and men’s roles in all of it — with a few hints of dead prostitute Brona’s Irish accent — was phenomenal writing, social commentary, and acting. Then, as if Creature-Clare weren’t terrified enough, and the viewers not shocked enough, Lily then started making love to him, literally and figuratively, calling him her “ugly little monster” and saying that no one would ever love him like she did.

She also said lots of things about their having children, taking over the world, and being the future, but I’m not sure if the Creature got all that since she was sitting on his lap, making the beast with two backs, as she predicted their glorious future together.

As monsters.

Indeed.

(Lily rages @ John Clare)

Warning: Language

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When the Hunters become the Prey: Showtime’s Penny Dreadful Season 2 Premiere

Penny Dreadful, Season 1

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The Cut-Wife, the Day-Walkers, & the Night-Comers: PENNY DREADFUL S2E3

Warning: Spoilers

When Lucifer fell, he did not fall alone;
they will hunt you till they end of days.
(Cut-Wife to Vanessa)

960 Last night’s episode of Showtime’s hit show Penny Dreadful, “Night-Comers” (S2E3), took viewers on another flashback into Vanessa’s past, and an engrossing journey it was. From the beginning of the show last year, creator/writer John Logan has said that the emphasis of the show would be on Vanessa Ives, and the flashback in season 1 (E5), “Closer than Sisters,” involving Vanessa’s intentional betrayal of her best friend Mina was one of the finest shows of the season (followed closely by “Séance” [E2] and “Possession” [E7], both of which concentrated on Vanessa and her “demons”).

 One reviewer, Scott von Doviak, who felt the episode last night “stalled the momentum” of the show, compared “Night-Comers” to Star Wars, saying that the Cut-Wife Joan Clayton (magnetically performed by guest star Patti LuPone, above R)) was no more than Vanessa’s “Yoda” and that the episode was “too grounded in traditional archetypes” — in this instance, the Wise Old One teaching the worthy Young Seeker — to be as interesting as other episodes.

images-18Von Doviak also insisted that “strictly speaking, [the episode] can’t be Vanessa’s flashbacks… [because it included her] new nemesis Evelyn Poole” (Helen McCrory, above, with cows in field) when she came to her sister’s house. images-10Despite that reviewer’s unfounded objections, “Night-Comers” was the most dread-filled episode of the second season thus far, gave viewers some fine acting by the females in the series, and provided some excellent back-story to the main female character, Vanessa Ives (Eva Green, above), one of the most interesting fictional women ever created.

The Flashback

images-13The flashback begins after Ethan sees the bloody scorpion drawn on Vanessa’s bedroom floor and asks her what it’s about. After she reveals that she’s never told anyone the story, Ethan suggests that it’s a good reason to tell him (though I’m not sure why that would be so).

images-11Despite von Doviak’s claim that “strictly speaking, what follows can’t be Vanessa’s flashbacks as they include people and events about which she would have had no knowledge, most notably her new nemesis Evelyn Poole,”  this episode was a flashback, for many reasons. Any time a story leaves its “present” timeline to reveal an episode from the past of any of the characters, that episode is, technically, a “flashback” in literary terms.

UnknownMore important, however, the reviewer who said it wasn’t a “flashback” confused the story’s timeline. He claimed that because Vanessa didn’t recognize “Evelyn Poole” (Helen McCrory, above center) when she came to the Cut-Wife’s house with 2 other Night-Comers,  “it wasn’t a “flashback.” Evelyn Poole (I believe she was unnamed in last night’s episode) is Cut-Wife Joan Clayton’s  sister, and is, literally, at least as old as she is. When Vanessa saw Evelyn Poole in S2E3, it would have been the first time Vanessa had ever seen her.

The story with the Cut-Wife happens in the past, as is the meaning of flashbacks in fiction. After Vanessa has betrayed Mina, had her “breakdown,” met the Keats-quoting Devil in the guise of Sir Malcolm, and seen Mina on the beach begging for help…

images-21but before Vanessa has gone to Sir Malcolm’s house in London and told him that Mina needs their help (we must assume that this visit to Sir Malcolm is after the apprenticeship with the Cut-Wife because Vanessa knows how to read Tarot, etc when she goes to Sir Malcolm, and now believes that she can help find Mina, which is one of the reasons she gives the Cut-Wife for wishing to learn from her). So, between this sequence of events, Vanessa apparently went to the Cut-Wife, whose reputation is well-known, to discover her own story and who she is. The Cut-Wife story is a flashback.

In the past, when Vanessa went to the Cut-Wife, she could not have recognized Evelyn Poole as one of the Night-Comers — the show’s name for Witches — even if Vanessa had seen “Evelyn Poole” (there is some debate on whether Vanessa saw Evelyn well in the past because she kept covering her face with her hood or walking away when Vanessa came around, but Evelyn was present at the burning, and two men were holding Vanessa’s head so she had to watch). After Vanessa is alone in the house, she checks outside at night. The three women are there, including “Evelyn Poole.” Still, Vanessa would have known only that woman as the one who had come to the house and who was the sister of the Cut-Wife, and that all three of the women out there were Night-Comers.

images-22Any “problem” with the flashback — and I don’t think there is one —  would come with the fact that Vanessa had no reaction to “Madame Kali” in last year’s E2 “Séance” when Madame Kali aka Evelyn Poole walked openly into the party, showing her face, and then chanted things like “Amunet, Amun-ra” which sent Vanessa into her trance and eerie performance. Madame Kali’s face was clearly visible, especially when Vanessa was sitting directly across the table from her.images-4I can only put Vanessa’s lack of reaction last season to the fact that creator/writer John Logan didn’t know where the story was going to go this season, since all the other action in “Séance” (S1E2) concerned events that came up later in the first season (Peter’s death, Sir Malcolm’s infidelity with Vanessa’s mother, Vanessa’s catching them in the hedge maze, etc) though the viewers did not know about everything that was going to happen in the season and so may not have necessarily understood all that Vanessa said during her trance.

images-9Last night’s episode was a valid flashback since, this season, Vanessa has only seen Evelyn Poole’s minions as Night-Comers (above), and not as they appeared at the side of the street after their initial attack (i.e., with clothes and hair) or at Evelyn’s house (below),

images-20nor has Vanessa seen Evelyn Poole as anything except Madame Kali: only Sir Malcolm has (below).

images-14The only problem with the “Night-Comers” flashback, therefore, would be Vanessa’s lack of reaction when she saw Madame Kali in LAST season’s E2 “Séance” because Vanessa didn’t recognize Madame Kali as the Night-Comer from her past who was the Cut-Wife’s sister.

I can forgive that error, given the powerful story from last night’s show. And given the fact that I don’t believe creator John Logan had season 2 entirely written last year.

(As for the reviewer’s comparing the episode’s archetypes to those of  Star Wars… this episode of Penny Dreadful was so much more sophisticated, less in-the-viewer’s-face allegorical and more symbolic, and better acted, that I simply don’t think there’s any comparison to comment on.)

The Cut-Wife
& the Night-Comers

images-14After waiting for days in the rain outside the Cut-Wife’s house, Vanessa basically collapsed from exhaustion. Despite that, and despite being told to leave by the Cut-Wife (who aborts unwanted pregnancies), Vanessa stayed. Despite being sexually man-handled (“examined”) by the Cut-Wife, Vanessa stayed.

images-21After the Cut-Wife bit her own thumb, smeared the blood on Vanessa’s forehead, and ordered her to “see” what was on the Cut-Wife’s back, she allowed Vanessa to enter, telling her to leave behind “everything you were,” bringing in only “everything you are.”

images-17Having proved her worth to the Cut-Wife by detailing the fact that she was branded on the back by her own sister (before Vanessa actually saw the brand when she was helping the old woman undress, above), Vanessa was permitted to begin her “apprenticeship,” exploring her untapped and unfamiliar “dark” powers. Vanessa’s lessons begin with “seeing” the brand on the old woman’s back before the Cut-Wife let Vanessa enter, and continue with the Tarot cards, where the first card she draws is The Devil.

Unknown-3During her apprenticeship, which lasts long enough for people to hear that someone is living with the Cut-Wife, Vanessa was almost raped by Sir Geoffrey, Evelyn Poole’s lover in that time-period, but she  turned the attack back on him. She not only bit his hand hard enough to draw blood, but she pulled a knife on him.

Vanessa didn’t know that he was the lover of the sister of the Cut-Wife, i.e., the lover of one of the Night-Comers who was seeking her, since Vanessa never saw the two together. The only thing she knew about Sir Geoffrey was that he wanted to have the land on which the Cut-Wife’s house sat, land which she’d been granted in perpetuity by Cromwell in the 1640s — and the show is set in the late 1800s. But I don’t think Vanessa needed to know he was Evelyn Poole’s lover to draw a knife on him when he attempted to rape her.

Unknown-2 In any event, “Evelyn Poole” did not give up in her attempt to get at Vanessa, which she accomplished by manipulating Sir Geoffrey’s pride, killing his cattle, and using her powers to “suggest” that a girl in the mob — who’d had her baby aborted by the Cut-Wife — shout out, “Burn the Witch.”

images-6Unfortunately, Vanessa’s protection of herself from rape by Sir Geoffrey in the woods would come back to hurt her severely at the end, when he had her branded on the back with a cross, after the mob tarred and burned the Cut-Wife as a witch (in one of the most gruesome yet haunting scenes ever: sorry I couldn’t find an image that wasn’t a meme, because it was so well done that you deserve to see it without silly words on it).

images

Women,
Historically Speaking

This episode not only accurately showed how women who were different, unusual, or too independent (i.e., without male protectors) were often tormented, isolated, raped, tortured, and even killed, often as “witches.” Since there was no reliable birth-control, girls and women or all ages were often forced to seek out painful and dangerous solutions to their problems: despite the males’ role in the women’s pregnancies, it was the women who were blamed for the pregnancies, and further blamed for ending them.

Meanwhile, any women who aided these women or girls, whether through herbal concoctions or through abortions (horrifyingly and realistically depicted in last night’s episode), were considered evil, in league with the devil, or to be witches, and persecuted for their role in ending the unwanted pregnancies. Any women associated with such “evil” women, like Vanessa with the Cut-Wife, were treated as demonic and “un-Christian” as well.

All About the Girls

After Episode 2 this season, I thought Penny Dreadful was going to be all about the girls, rather than mostly about the boys, as it was last season. Of course, Vanessa will always be one of the girls — probably the most important one — whether it’s with Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton),

images-26with Ethan (Josh Hartnett),

Unknownas Dorian (Reeve Carney)’s latest obsession,

images-18with Frankenstein’s Creature (Rory Kinnear), who is, surprisingly, her intellectual, theological, and philosophical equal,

images-23or as the prey of Evelyn Poole, the leader of the coven of witches, who intends to capture Vanessa and give her to The Master as his bride.MV5BMTg2OTgwNjU4MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODgwMzI1NTE@._V1_SY317_CR131,0,214,317_AL_Some of the other girls this season will clearly include the Creature’s “intended” Lily (Billie Piper), formerly Ethan’s lover Brona, whom Frankenstein wants for himself.
images-12Dorian’s new sexual interest Angelique (below) pretends to be one of the girls but s/he’s a man, so I’m not sure where that story will go.

images-10(Again, this season, I’m not sure why Dorian Gray is even in the show, since he’s so unimportant and not integrated well into any of the other remaining stories.)

images-6One of the most amusing “girls” so far this season is Museum Curator Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russel Beale, above), who has a tremendous crush on Ethan — and his pistols — and who’s being blackmailed by Evelyn Poole / Madame Kali to aid her in her conquest-capture of Vanessa.

images-17

Season 2 Predictions:
Vanessa as “Day-Walker”

I suspect that the episode with the Cut-Wife, wherein Vanessa learned to somewhat harness her dark powers — though that obviously doesn’t protect her, either from possession or from attacks by Night-Comers — is key to this second season of Penny Dreadful.

The Cut-Wife claimed that Vanessa is still a Day-Walker, as is the Cut-Wife, because they still believe in God and in good, and have not given themselves completely over to the Devil. One of the reasons the Cut-Wife’s sister still looks so young and lovely despite their both being at least 250+ years old is because she (and her coven) decided to abandon God and follow the Devil. It was her own sister who branded the Cut-Wife and cast her out of the “Coven of Sisters” because she chose not to follow the Devil and to do evil.

Interestingly, the Night-Comers were not able to cross the stones protecting the path to the Cut-Wife’s house. Neither, however, was Vanessa. This may be why the Cut-Wife told Vanessa that she herself had learned to become a witch, but Vanessa had been born one. I would have liked to learn more about why Vanessa was unable to cross the “magic” barrier, but there was no further information beyond showing her unable to do so, and the Cut-Wife’s saying that the Night-Comers could not do so: only ordinary humans could (or something similar to that).

The Sign of the Scorpion

images-3The scorpion, which was present last season and seemed to be a symbol of evil and of possession, became a symbol of good and of protection in last night’s episode. (It was unclear why Vanessa cut her thumb and put the scorpion on the floor of her room in S2E1.)

images-2The Cut-Wife called Vanessa “my little Scorpion” because of her ability to see the unseen world and the past when she identified the person who had branded the Cut-Wife. By the end of the show, the scorpion had become a symbol of protection for Vanessa, who left it on a stone in blood to guard the house.

images-2 It looks as if Vanessa will slowly become the major focus of the series, while all the other stories, whether involving boys or girls, will become mere tangents as creator-writer John Logan further explores his incredible character Vanessa, played by the supremely talented Eva Green.

 ♥

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