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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).


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.


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

Penny Dreadful, Season 1

Penny Dreadful: Be Not Afeard

So Many Monsters: the Penny Dreadful Finale


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


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.


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.


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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