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

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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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All By Myself: PENNY DREADFUL s2 Finale

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Warning: Spoilers, Most Dreadful

1pennydreadful2100004rjpg-9c6cd0_640wThe season 2 Finale of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful was gory, frightening, and sad, even if some of the characters’ actions were a bit predictable. Their ultimate fates seemed almost like an ending to the series, so it was with relief that I read — before watching — that the series has been renewed for another season. Oh, there were plenty of loose ends that would allow for a “cliffhanger” finale, and this season’s finale surpassed the first season’s in many ways. But the entire “family” that’s been formed over this season was torn apart, leaving virtually all characters completely alone, both physically and emotionally.

Sembene

images-12Yes, grab your tissues, my Dreadfuls, for Sembene (Danny Sapani) is, indeed, dead.

Not that we would have expected him to survive having his throat torn out by Ethan (Josh Hartnett) after Hecate (Sarah Greene) locked them in a narrow passage of stairs, closed off by un-breachable doorways.

Still, it’s sad. The relationship between Ethan and Sembene has been one of the most interesting stories in the season. It’s delightful to see that men can honestly and deeply love each other without sexuality being involved.

images-25Poor Ethan was devastated by the fact that he’d killed Sembene, though he could not have prevented it. He attempted to — by trying to commit suicide before he changed into a wolf — but Sembene stopped Ethan, reminding him, “You are chosen by God.” All the while knowing that there would be no way to defend himself from Ethan.

images-3What we didn’t know was how attached Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) was to Sembene. He’s always referred to him as a servant, albeit a trusted one. But after Malcolm was released from the locked, enchanted room — where his dead family members were trying to convince him to kill himself and join them — he was shown holding Sembene in his arms. Weeping. I don’t recall seeing Sir Malcolm weep in this series, not even when his children died.

Sir Malcolm was on a boat at the end of the finale, taking Sembene’s body back to Africa.

This showed his great respect and love for Sembene, since Sir M didn’t even bring his own son’s body back from Africa for burial.

Evelyn & Hecate

images-6I think most viewers were reasonably confident that Evelyn (Helen McCrory), the leader of the Night-Comers, would not be able to successfully capture Vanessa, and not only because her own daughter Hecate opened the door that allowed Ethan as Wolf to come into the doll-factory and tear out Evelyn’s throat.

No, Evelyn was already failing before her throat got ripped out.images-2Because Vanessa — whether she is good or evil — proved herself more powerful than Evelyn and than the “Master.”

images-4Evelyn had already begun to age, screaming at her failure to deliver Vanessa to Lucifer as his bride, when Hecate showed herself the more clever opponent by releasing the Lupus Dei to kill her mother. With Evelyn out of the way, Hecate packed up her mother’s box of witch-y instruments, set fire to the doll factory, and strolled out of the house, singing “The Unquiet Grave,” which we heard Evelyn singing in the premiere, as she bathed in a tub of blood.

No doubt Hecate has her own plans for serving Vanessa up to the Master, whether it be Lucifer, who rules in Hell, or his brother, the Dracula figure, whom we have not actually ever met, and who rules on earth.

Victor, Dorian, & Lily

images-1Poor Victor (Harry Treadaway). As if being tormented by his creations in Evelyn’s locked room (while Sir M was being tormented by the ghosts of his family) wasn’t painful enough, he was released from that enchantment to a much more painful reality.

Lily (Billie Piper) does not love him.

Never has.

Never will.

After Victor went to Dorian’s (Reeve Carney) mansion and found the two newly pledged immortal lovers dancing, he shot Lily. Then Dorian. I guess Victor forgot that Lily, at the very least, was immortal. He quickly discovered that Dorian was as well. As he stumbled out, the two “lovers” danced on, blood spilling on the hardwood floor from their wounds.

BN-JF942_billie_G_20150705220005Afterward, no doubt thinking of the lovely but heartless Lily, Victor stuffed himself with enough morphine to make me wonder if he’d die of an overdose.

Too bad it wasn’t enough to ease his broken heart.

Ethan & Vanessa Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_207_4078

So what was Lucifer’s great temptation for Vanessa (Eva Green)?

To be normal. To have an ordinary married life with Ethan. To have children. To be happy.

And it was really creepy to have the fetish-Vanessa-doll talking in Eva’s voice as the “Master.”

How much more satisfying for the viewers and for the show itself when its entire theme is the evil within each of us. How much better than to portray some winged beastie from religious documents over the centuries. Vanessa confronts the Master of Evil, and he speaks to her in her own voice, from an image of her own face.

It worked.

imagesOnly one evil could really tempt Vanessa.

The evil in herself.

Vanessa proved herself a worthy opponent to her own inner demons. Matching the devil-doll virtually word-for-word in Verbis Diablo, Vanessa was able to vanquish the doll, then crush it, saying, “No, meet your master.”

images-9Realizing and releasing her own inner evil may have caused Vanessa to weep, but it didn’t stop her from winning.

Ethan

images-7When Vanessa found Ethan again, he was in her room at Sir Malcolm’s. She invited him to share a life with her, knowing full well what he is. And with him knowing full well of what she’s capable.

But what would any love story be without its obstacles?

In this case, Ethan apparently cannot live with his own inner beastie, now that he knows what it is, and now that he’s killed Sembene. Ethan turned himself in to Inspector Rusk, confessing to the murders at the Mariner’s Inn. Ethan expected to be jailed or hanged, perhaps, before the next full moon. But the Inspector had an Extradition order ready and waiting.

An extradition order for Ethan Lawrence Talbot, which is Ethan’s real name (and a tribute to the 1930s Werewolf films starring Lon Chaney, whose character’s name was Lawrence Talbot).

images-5The final scene of Ethan was with him in a cage in the hull of a ship, his head shaved — or so it seemed — and Inspector Rusk sitting in front, watching.

On their way to America.

John Clare

images-19It was rather surprising that the Putneys, beasties though they be, were able to imprison Frankenstein’s first Creature, now going by the name of John Clare (Rory Kinnear). After all, even Lily is frightfully strong, and she was only a small female in her former life.

So it actually was not a surprise that, in the finale, Clare — after agreeing to be a “good little freak” and help train the other freaks, soon to be present in the Putney dungeons — simply broke down the doors of his cage and swiftly broke the necks of Mr. & Mrs. P.

Their blind daughter Lavinia, who had so treacherously betrayed Clare by pretending friendship before locking him in the cage herself, was left alone, unharmed, screaming for her parents as Clare walked away.

By leaving her alive, the Creature has once again proven that he is more humane than most of the human characters in the show.

images-10One of the most poignant moments of the finale came when Clare, who has decided to leave all mankind behind, met Vanessa for the last time. He asked her to go with him. She declined.

Clare was shown on a ship in the Arctic, which is where the Creature ends up in the novel after the death of the book’s Frankenstein.

It was a sad and lonely scene.

I do hope he’ll long to return to humanity.

After all, he’s the most human of any of the characters.

And he’s one of the show’s most interesting “creations.”

Vanessa

images-9No, she can’t have Ethan. Not as a normal woman with a husband and children. Perhaps, she can’t have him even though each knows the darkness and evil that lies at the other’s center.

At least, not yet.

Ethan is caged, on a boat bound for America, unbeknownst to her.

1pennydreadful2100004rjpg-9c6cd0_640wFurthermore, Sir Malcolm has abandoned his great house to take his friend and companion Sembene back to Africa. His ward, Vanessa, whom he claims to love like a daughter, is alone.

Completely alone.

Not as the new Cut-Wife of Ballantrae Moor.

But as Vanessa.

The one whom the Master still seeks above all.

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Monsters, All: PENNY DREADFUL s2e9

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Warning: Spoilers Most Dreadful

Penny-Dreadful-serieThough the penultimate episode of season two of ShowTime’s wonderful gothic horror series Penny Dreadful, created and written by John Logan, was officially titled, “And Hell Itself My Only Foe,” it actually revealed that almost all the characters are capable of being monsters.

Even those you would least suspect of having any evil intent.

Roper

images-10Of course, we know Roper (Stephen Lord), a Pinkerton hired by Ethan’s father to bring him home, even if in manacles, was a bad guy. Even with the scars from his attack when Ethan changed into a wolf, there wasn’t much reason to empathize with the guy. After all, he threatened Ethan even after he knew what Ethan was capable of doing. Roper crawled in through the window of the Cut-Wife’s isolated cottage, indicating that he’d been following Ethan (Josh Hartnett) and Vanessa (Eva Green), and threatened to kill them both.

Unknown-1He ordered Vanessa to manacle Ethan, but I guess this Roper guy lost some of his brains in the attack at the Mariner’s Inn. Even manacled, Ethan proved himself a formidable foe — and that’s without his turning into a wolf. Vanessa just kicked herself some ass, too, without any spells or enchantments, and without using the gun as Ethan had taught her.

Unknown-3She stabbed Roper repeatedly in the chest. And if those wounds weren’t mortal, Ethan helped her out as much as he could with his hands manacled.

If I’m ever in a fight, I want these two at my back.

images-1Though Vanessa “mourned” that they were both murderers now — almost as if she’d forgotten that she’d set Sir Geoffrey’s dogs on him and killed him by a Verbis Diablo spell in an earlier episode — the two only defended themselves against another monster: Roper.

I call self-defense.

Vanessa

images-6Vanessa thinks she’s a monster now, though she’s always acknowledged that she had “demons” inside, because she murdered Roper. That must be her weak spot because that’s what Evelyn got the fetish to say to Vanessa in the basement: “Murderer.”

Vanessa was more of a monster for going alone to Evelyn’s house, ostensibly to rescue Sir Malcolm, but instead putting all her other friends and defenders in jeopardy by forcing them to go, without a clear plan, to the Night-Comer’s home to rescue Sir Malcolm and Vanessa herself.

How monstrously thoughtless of her.

Hecate & Evelyn

images-4Oh, that Hecate (Sarah Greene), she is one wicked, little girl. Not only did she intensify the conflict with her mother Evelyn (Helen McCrory), she came right out and insulted her, calling her a “Dinosaur” and warning her that “Dinosaurs should know when Mammoths are hunting.”

Evelyn was a little too preoccupied “feeling [Vanessa] coming closer” to be on sufficient guard.

images-23Besides, Evelyn didn’t know till later in the episode that Hecate had gone to visit Ethan, easily getting by all their defenses and fetishes, which only have power, as she told Ethan, “for those that believe in them.”

Even when Hecate told Vanessa, in front of Evelyn, that she’d gone to Ethan and kissed him, she neglected to mention that she’d also told Ethan, who is clearly now regarded as the Lupus Dei, that she would worship him and help him destroy God.

I guess she didn’t think that information was important to her mother, revealing Hecate’s treachery goes deeper than Evelyn thinks.

images-20I suppose Hecate’s also missed the definition of Lupus Dei — The Wolf of God — and the fact that he is a Protector. Lyle (Ferdinand Russell Beale) explained this when he and Ethan were in the basement of the museum, gettting ready to steal Father Gregory’s “puzzle” of Verbis Diablo and Ethan saw the shield (or family motto) with Latin on it about wolves. Lyle said the mottoes and shields weren’t so much to scare the enemy as to protect the bearer.

Ethan is the Protector.

Too bad little monster Hecate doesn’t know that.

Lyle

images-17All the viewers have probably been thinking that Lyle was a monstrous bad guy, what with his letting himself be blackmailed by Evelyn into betraying Vanessa.

Of course, the other characters and most of the viewers probably guessed that he was a closet-homosexual long ago: he has a terrible crush on Ethan, and flirted outrageously with him, which Ethan seemed to mostly find amusing. images-24

None but the viewers knew Lyle is Jewish until this episode, and viewers only discovered it after Ethan instructed everyone to use every spiritual practice and belief he knew to help protect Vanessa from the Night-Comers. While Ethan was using Native American chants and passing smoke over himself and the entry-way, Lyle snuck down to the basement where, glancing around beforehand, he donned his yarmulke, kissed his prayerbook, draped his prayer shawl over his head, and began to daven and pray in Hebrew.

UnknownWhen Lyle and Dr. Frankenstein were left alone at the front of Evelyn’s house — while Ethan and Sembene went to find a back entrance — Lyle paused to say the opening lines of the Kaddish, also known as the “Mourner’s Kaddish,” the Jewish prayer for the dead, which is actually more about praising God than about the dead, so it was literally and symbolically appropriate considering they’re entering a witch’s house and facing death. Afterward, when Lyle looked at him, Victor made a comment like, “Far be it from me…”

imagesNone of the characters surrounding Vanessa knew that he was “in league,” albeit involuntarily, with Evelyn, to help her capture Vanessa, but the viewers knew his secret.

images-6For the last couple episodes, however, he’s shown that he’s actually on Vanessa’s side: he urged her to leave the ball, telling her she wasn’t safe there; when Vanessa said she had to leave London, he encouraged it, telling her that she should go immediately and without telling any of them her destination; and since he actually didn’t know where Vanessa had gone, Evelyn was unable to get that information out of him with her threats of torture.

images-12In E9, he confessed his duplicity. After Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) questioned their ability to trust him now, Vanessa was quick to forgive him, saying, “No one here is above guilt.”

images-5When the men went to “rescue” Vanessa from Evelyn’s house/castle, where Vanessa had gone alone to “rescue” Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton), Lyle went with them. Though he declined Ethan’s offer of a gun and took what looked like a pocket-knife.

images-6Lyle’s consistently been demonstrating that he is not, in fact, a monster.

Just a man with secrets.

And jittery nerves.

The Putneys

images-24How ’bout them Putneys, eh?

Them Putneys (David Haig as Oscar P, above R; and Ruth Gemmell as his wife, Octavia) with their wax museum of horrors and crime scenes and “beasties.”

Them Putneys with their pretty, blind daughter Lavinia  (Tamsin Topolski) who’s so sweet to the Creature, now going by the name John Clare (Rory Kinnear)…

images-54Sweet, blind Lavinia, who made no comments when she touched Clare’s face, but “grew uneasy” when she felt how cold his hand was, and told her parents there was something wrong, something “dead” about him…

images-43That Lavinia showed herself to be one of the most vicious monsters of all, along with her parents, when she lied and manipulated John Clare into a “secret” part of the museum, claiming to want to know what her father was building, telling Clare, “You are my true friend,” just before she locked him in a cage.

He’s going to be part of their “Freak Show.”

Against his will.

If that weren’t bad enough, Lavinia, little horror-show that she is, insulted his poetry, too.

John Clare

images-33Poor John Clare (Rory Kinnear), Frankenstein’s first Creature. All he wants is love. All he wants is companionship. All he wants is poetry. All he wants is to “fit in,” even if it means learning how to dance.

images-27What does he get?

Nothing but betrayal.

He’s metaphorically been in behind bars for the entire two seasons.

At the theatre watching the performers,

images-20In his basement “living quarters,” sobbing after the “ingenue” Maude rejected his advances,

images-17Watching Lily (Billie Piper) go out with Dorian (Reeve Carney) after Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) made her specifically to be Clare’s mate.

images-18Now Clare is in a real cage.

Imprisoned by real monsters, who consider him nothing more than a freak, when he is the most loyal, loving, passionate “creature” of them all.

Sir Malcolm

imagesSir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) should be a monster. After all, he did rape and pillage and murder his way across Africa. He did neglect and emotionally abuse his family. He did use Vanessa to find his lost daughter Mina. He did shoot his own daughter in the head, to protect Vanessa.

Now Sir Malcolm’s cowering in a locked room in Evelyn’s house, surrounded by the ghosts of his family, all of them reminding him of his past misdeeds.

images-8Instead of dancing at a phantom ball with his family members, which is how he broke Evelyn’s enchantment last episode,

images-15Sir Malcolm is trapped with the ghosts of his family, screaming so loudly that the other characters can hear it all through the house.

This is the only part of the show that didn’t work for me.

Unless his “breakdown” is due, in part, to more enchantment, Sir Malcolm is too much of a monster himself to be broken by ghosts, even if they are the ghosts of his family, and even if they are telling him the “monstrous” things he did to them.

Because, you see, Sir Malcolm already knows what he is.

And he already knows what he’s done.

Lily-Brona

images-16If, despite her brilliant tirade against men and how they “use” women in e8, if any viewers or other characters had any doubts that Brona-turned-Lily (Billie Piper) is, indeed, a monster, they can toss those doubts out with the metaphorical window. This episode, Lily sought out Dorian (Reeve Carney) herself.

reeve-carney-as-dorian-gray-in-penny-dreadful-season-2-gallery-photo-courtesy-of-showtimeTaunting him with the line, “You tell me your secret, and I’ll tell you mine,” she made love to him on the floor of his portrait gallery, then bit off his ear.

Ouch!

She called him her “Monster” and told him to go heal himself.

Any viewers who had not read the book The Picture of Dorian Gray got to see his own portrait in the episode when he killed his transgender lover Angelique (Johnny Beauchamp) for discovering it. Anyone who didn’t know he was a monster before certainly knew it then.

In e9, we learned that Lily knows perfectly well that she was Brona in her former life, that she was a prostitute in her previous life, and that Frankenstein did something “monstrous” to her.

images-9Looks like she’s out for revenge, this little Monster.

Against all men, whom she wants to “kneel before [her].”

As Dorian so obligingly did.

Before she bit off his ear, of course.

Sembene

images-25For two seasons now, Sembene (Danny Sapani) has claimed that he “had no story,” as he told Ethan when asked. But since they are the only two real warriors in the show, they have become close. Ethan trusted Sembene to tell him what happened during Ethan’s blackouts.

images-1Sembene revealed that the scars on his face are not tribal initiation marks, as I’d thought and stated in a previous blog, but marks of a slave trader.

Hated by his own people as well as by whites.

In short, Sembene has been a monster for most of his life, even if he’s attempting to atone for his sins and treachery now.

The growing bond between Sembene and Ethan has been marvelous.

Hecate ended that by trapping the two of them in a narrow passage of stairs, knowing that the moon was going to be full that night. Realizing that he could not stop the change, and not wanting to hurt Sembene, Ethan attempted to commit suicide.

Sembene prevented it, reminding Ethan that he was “chosen by God.”

images-11Then, as Sembene braced himself for the inevitable, Ethan changed into the monster-wolf that he is, and tore out Sembene’s throat.

Even if Sembene claimed that he, too, had once been a monster, I’m so sad…

The Finale

images-3I have no predictions about what will happen in the Penny Dreadful Season 2 Finale — my heart’s still broken because Ethan killed Sembene — so I’ll leave you with this teaser from ShowTime.

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When the Hunters Become the Prey: Showtime’s PENNY DREADFUL Season 2 Premiere

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Warning:
Spoilers Gory & Galore

images-28Showtime’s hit series Penny Dreadful, whose second season premiered last night with “Fresh Hell,” might be advertising itself with photos of the major characters stating No Rest for the Wicked, or videos where the characters move in slow motion, in blurred and changing images, saying, “The Devil is in us all: that’s what makes us human,” but the real theme of Season 2 was revealed last night in the premiere, and it seems to be changing from its initial season.

In Season 1, most of the characters were hunting: for Sir Malcolm’s “taken” daughter Mina, for Creatures suspected of working for the unnamed “Master,” for a cure for Mina should she be found, for a mate for Frankenstein’s Creature, for Ethan’s secret that made him say things like “There are such sins at my back that it would kill me to turn around,” for Dorian’s secret to eternal youth and perpetual boredom, for a way to save Vanessa from her inner demons.

Last night the premiere of Season 2 revealed that virtually all the hunters from last season have now become the prey.

images-21The premiere episode of Penny Dreadful Season 2 flowed seamlessly from the finale of Season 1 as if several months had not intervened. The writing was flawless, though the story itself still has a couple weaknesses.

Vanessa & the Night-Comers

penny-dreadful-season-2-570x379Poor Vanessa (splendidly played by the talented Eva Green) had enough trials and tribulations last year with the “Master” hunting her for his bride, and with, unbeknownst to her, the “Devil” — in the form of Amunra — hunting her, as his mate “Amunet.” Also, her own inner demons were released each time she viewed someone having sex (Sir Malcolm with her mother in the hedge-maze) or participated in the sex act herself (with Mina’s fiancé Captain Branson, or with Dorian Gray) — releasing the psycho-sexual demons that the Victorians so feared, especially in females.

images-6Last night, a woman from S1 E2 “Séance,” Madame Kali (Helen McCrory), who seemed so innocuous when Sir Malcolm (played by the excellent Timothy Dalton) met her later in the season and she revealed herself to be merely “Evelyn Poole from Brighton,” was shown to be “hunting” Vanessa for nefarious reasons.

images-12We first saw Evelyn chanting in a language we did not recognize, but which we later learned is Verbis Diablo — the language of the Devil, or God’s language turned inside out after Adam was cast from the Garden. Evelyn’s chanting caused Vanessa to stumble and fall as she was leisurely strolling through the snow.

penny-dreadful_612x380When Ethan (Josh Hartnett) came to tell Vanessa that he must go away so that he doesn’t hurt anyone he loves, the two were attacked. Vanessa was obviously the main target, and Ethan was considered — by Vanessa and the attackers — as her “protector.”

images-19We later saw Evelyn bathing in the blood of a murdered woman — like Countess Erszabet [Elizabeth] Báthory, one of history’s most notorious female serial killers — while casually smoking a cigarette (also considered unfeminine, radical, and rebellious during the Victorian age).

images-27The bald, nude, scarred, female attackers who went after Vanessa are shown, first at the side of the street, then in Evelyn’s home, as beautiful women, one of whom — Hecate — is addressed as “daughter” by Evelyn, and another of whom is murdered by Evelyn for “failing” to capture Vanessa.

penny-dreadful-season-2Vanessa is so terrified by the attack, and by the fact that she vaguely understood their language and rebuked them in it herself without really knowing what she was saying, that she keeps herself locked in Sir Malcolm’s house. His faithful servant Sembene (Danny Sapani), who got a new coat this year — and more lines last night than he got the entire season last year — kept watch over her inside the house. (Ethan kept watch outside.)

images-16When Sir Malcolm finally arrived home — he’d been burying Mina at their home in the country, and being told by his wife Gladys to stay away from her for the rest of their married lives — Vanessa flew into his protective arms. It was a touching moment.

images-26Vanessa has, indeed, become Sir Malcolm’s “daughter” this season, but instead of hunting for her, as he had to do for Mina last season, he has only to protect her from the “Night-Comers” or “Witches” who are themselves hunting Vanessa.

images-15Later that episode, though Vanessa tried to protect herself by drawing a bloody scorpion on the floor between two candles as she prayed, the naked Night-Comers appeared behind her: they are the evil behind her back this season. And it seems Vanessa’s prayers will not protect her since, as she was praying, Evelyn was pledging Vanessa to her own “Master” — Lucifer.

images-13Vanessa had blood on the floor. Evelyn had blood on the forehead. Vanessa was praying in Latin to God — or at least to Jesus Christ on the crucifix before her — but Evelyn seemed to be “praying” in Verbis Diablo to Lucifer. As of the end of the show last night, Evelyn’s “prayers” and pledges seemed much more powerful. It seems that Vanessa has even greater cause to “be afeard” this season than last. More than one version of the Devil seems to be hunting Vanessa this year.

Frankenstein &
the Creature’s Bride

images-11All last season, Frankenstein’s “first-born” Creature (brilliantly played by Rory Kinnear) — called “Demon” by Frankenstein himself, and Caliban by his fellow theatre workers — insisted that Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) create an immortal mate for him, partly in retaliation for Frankenstein’s cruel and heartless abandonment of the Creature after his “agonizing” creation/birth, and partly to alleviate his subsequent loneliness and isolation from the rest of mankind.

The Creature slowly fell in love with the actress Maude, and it seemed she might become his “bride.” Though kind to him occasionally, because he reminded her of her brother “Luke” whose face was burnt in an industrial accident, Maude rejected the Creature’s amorous advances. And got him fired.

images-3Frankenstein was forced to seek another candidate for the Creature’s mate. He chose Ethan’s lover Brona (Billie Piper), a prostitute dying of consumption, hurrying her death along by smothering her with a pillow, instead of more mercifully overdosing her with morphine to which he himself is addicted.

imagesIn the premiere of S2 of Penny Dreadful, after the Creature helped lower Brona’s scarred body into a vat of water, Frankenstein announced that they had to wait for an electrical storm before anything more could be done. I’m not sure what the Y-shaped scar over Brona’s breasts and down her chest and abdomen are, unless Frankenstein replaced her consumption-ravaged lungs. Otherwise, Brona the intended Bride is un-scarred. Unlike the Creature himself, whose appearance frightens and disgusts onlookers.images-17

Alas, for the poor, love-lorn Creature, Frankenstein himself seems to have fallen in love, or in lust, with the lovely Brona. Talking to her, telling her he’ll miss her when she was made into the Bride for the Creature, touching her dead body in an openly sexual way (without her consent, since she’s… dead), Frankenstein’s inappropriate lustful behaviour seems to be setting up a vicious conflict for this second season. I’m guessing that the beautiful Brona will be desired by both Frankenstein and by the lonely Creature.images-4

The storm eventually came, with both men screaming loudly for her to come back to life Now! And slowly Brona’s hand, head, then her entire naked body appeared out of the electrified water. No doubt, both Dr. F and his Creature will want her. Whether she will want either of them remains to be seen, since Dr. F pointedly remarked that he didn’t know whether she would retain any memories of her previous life. She may decide to hunt her love, Ethan.

images-8

The Bride v the Blind Girl

Having lost his job at the theatre because of his love and sexual advances toward Maude, however, the Creature was forced to seek alternate employment. He found work at a family-owned wax museum. The proprietor hopes that his new “crime scene re-creations” — along with the Creature’s face — will draw new customers. His wife scolded the husband for choosing an employee with such a face, and was scolded in return.

UnknownA more significant conflict appeared, however, when the Creature, calling himself “John Clare” for employment purposes, met the proprietors’ daughter, who is blind. She needed to “touch his face in order to meet him,” and made no remark or reaction when she carefully examined his severely scarred face.

images-29Because the daughter is not only blind but very beautiful, I suspect that she will come to care for the Creature, and he for her — even if he is torn with guilt about feeling “unfaithful” to his Bride Brona.

Of course, if Frankenstein’s feelings lead to a conflict between himself and the Creature for the Bride, who knows what will happen between the Creature and the blind girl? Will the Creature still be hunting for a mate, will he accept the potential love and affection of the blind girl, or will he continue hunting Frankenstein for taking the Bride Brona?

Ethan as Wolf-Man / Were-Wolf

One of the Wolf-Man's first victimsLast season, a vicious killer murdered and dismembered a mother and her young daughter. It was gruesome. At first, it was believed that The Ripper had returned. In one of the  episodes, the group hunting for the missing Mina was drawn to the London Zoo in the middle of the night, where they expected/hoped to find Mina and the (vampire) Creatures.

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives at the London Zoo at night, just before the encounter with the wolves Instead, they found a pack of wolves. Ethan ordered everyone to stay still. Then he lowered his body and held out his hand. One of the male wolves, snarling, approached and tentatively took Ethan’s hand gently into its mouth, acknowledging Ethan as the Alpha male. The Alpha male wolf.

Unknown-1From that episode on, bloggers and reviewers of the show predicted that Ethan’s secret was that he was the Wolf-Man, though there is no literary piece of the period dealing with such a creature. There is a Penny Dreadful which features  a Wolf-Man — Wagner the Werewolf — but no literature. Guy Endore’s 1933 novel The Werewolf of Paris was the first literary exploration of the Wolf-Man.

I assumed that the bloggers, critics, and reviewers who were proclaiming that Ethan was the Wolf-Man had to be mistaken since creator & writer John Logan had repeatedly stated that Penny Dreadful mixed Victorian literary characters, re-imagined, with his fictional characters.

The Wolf-Man v Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Dr_Jekyll_and_Mr_Hyde_poster_edit2At that point, I was still convinced that Logan would introduce one of the most famous novels of the period which explores the nature of good and evil, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The Wolf-Man simply did not fit into the entire scheme of the first season of Penny Dreadful, where the characters chose to do good or evil. The Wolf-Man is cursed or bitten or somehow turned into a violent and dangerous creature against his will. He doesn’t consciously decide to go around during the full moon, tearing people apart and eating some of their internal organs.

In Stevenson’s novel, however, Dr. Jekyll makes a conscious choice to explore the evil aspects of his personality by concocting a formula which will allow his personality to separate into two parts: one entirely good, the other completely evil. Mr. Hyde is the evil, immoral part of Dr. Jekyll.

The importance of Jekyll and Hyde versus the Wolf-Man to Penny Dreadful and Ethan Chandler’s secret is choice. Choosing to do evil, choosing to harm others for selfish reasons, intentionally hurting others to achieve personal satisfaction or pleasure at the others’ expense — these were all themes of Penny Dreadful S1, and all of the characters made those choices repeatedly (though Dorian Gray’s evil or cruel choices were not actually shown: I know this from the novel itself).

Just as the characters in Penny Dreadful consciously chose to do evil and to hurt others to satisfy their own selfish desires or to exact revenge, Dr. Jekyll chooses to allow his evil side to come out. As Edward Hyde, he seriously hurts children, dismembers women, and murders famous politicians. Hyde enjoys it.

Dr. Henry Jekyll enjoys it, too, because it allows him to do whatever evil he wishes — as Hyde — while maintaining his good reputation and respected standing in society as Dr. Jekyll. Unfortunately for Jekyll, Hyde also has free will, and he chooses to take over Jekyll’s life to the point where Hyde can gain control of their shared body at will, without any potion, and Jekyll is unable to get it back. Jekyll commits suicide when he realizes that the good part of himself is being subsumed by the evil part of himself.

Therefore, if the bloggers and reviewers who predicted that Ethan’s secret was that he was a Wolf-Man, it took away Ethan’s choice to do evil, which went against the very premise of the show in season 1. It also eliminated the literary basis for his story since no Wolf-Man literature existed till 1933, and the show takes place in 1891. Also, throughout S1, Ethan objected to extreme violence — unless it was in the interest of self-preservation or to save those he’d been hired to protect — as well as to cruelty, especially in the case of the captured Fenton (Olly Alexander), whom the others tortured and experimented on, in an attempt to find a “cure” for Mina, whom they’d not even discovered yet.

Unknown-1Imagine my dismay when, in the penultimate scene of the S1 finale, Ethan did transform into a Wolf-Man and murder the Pinkertons his father had sent from America to forcibly bring Ethan home, as well as everyone else in the restaurant-bar-hotel where Ethan was staying.

UnknownIt wasn’t just a disappointment because Ethan’s being a Wolf-Man didn’t fit with the theme of the rest of the season 1 of Penny Dreadful. It was a disappointment because so many people had predicted it weeks beforehand, and they were correct.

Ethan & his Blackoutsimages

It appears that S2 of Penny Dreadful is also eliminating Ethan’s choice to do evil, separating him from the remainder of the characters. He told Vanessa that he has blackouts, during which he assumes bad things happen, because there’s a lot of blood, and that he is the one who’s done them, since he’s the one who’s still alive.

images-2The final episode of S1 showed that in addition to being a paid hunter, Ethan was also one of the hunted: the Pinkertons sent from America by his father were hunting him, determined to chain and drag him back home. This year, those hunters are dead, but since there was a survivor — mentioned once by Police Inspectors, and shown only briefly, completely bandaged, in a hospital bed — Ethan may be more prey than hunter this season.

Dorian

Reeve Carney as Dorian GrayThe only major character we didn’t get to see in the premiere episode of S2 of Penny Dreadful was Dorian Gray, whom I also felt was greatly neglected and unexplored last season. Anyone unfamiliar with Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, for example, had no idea what that secret, hidden portrait he was always looking at displayed.

The portrait is of Dorian, of course, and shows his external evil and ugliness in the portrait without its showing on his own face or body, but without reading the book itself, viewers could have thought it was a portrait of God, angels, Jesus, or the Devil. Of course, they could tell from the scene following his sexual encounter with Vanessa last year that the portrait has the power to heal physical wounds, but beyond that… Nothing.

Season Two Predictions

UnknownOf course, Penny Dreadful may be changing its theme of all the characters’ choosing to do evil this season. That would mean that the “weakness” of not giving Ethan a choice concerning evil would not longer be a weakness. Sembene has already been given more lines, so perhaps, he will “have a story,” this year, unlike last season. Dorian Gray has not yet appeared — which surprised me since creator & writer John Logan worked every other major character in the series into the premiere. In any event, unless Dorian radically changes his character, he will still be a hunter, seeking personal pleasure even if it involves the pain or death of others. Otherwise, only the Night-Comers — of which Evelyn Poole aka Madame Kali is the leader — are choosing to do evil as far as I can determine.

Ethan’s “curse” of being a Wolf-Man and his blackouts prevent his choice. Vanessa has become the prey rather than the “cruel little girl” who intentionally caused best friend Mina’s distress and ultimate entanglement with the “Master.” Frankenstein is attempting to give the Creature a Bride, though Dr. F is getting a little too involved with her himself, before she’s even brought back to life. Sir Malcolm has become Vanessa’s surrogate father rather than her judge and jury, constantly and cruelly reminding Vanessa of her “sin” and “betrayal.”

Since the S2 premiere so carefully integrated the various storylines set up in S1, I was surprised that we never saw Dorian, but I’m sure he’ll be along shortly. He’s probably just picking up some more manuscripts in Italy.

What I don’t know is if Dorian, too, will become one of the prey rather than one of the hunters.images-23Catch up on Season 1 of Showtime’s horror-thriller Penny Dreadful on Amazon ($1.99-2.99/episode, SD v HD). Watch the premiere of Penny Dreadful S2 “Fresh Hell” free on Showtime Anytime.

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