Dark, Dreadful, Delish
“Ebb Tide,” the 7th episode of Showtime’s deliciously dark homage to Victorian horror literature Penny Dreadful, created and written by John Logan, left viewers breathless as it rushed down the strait, shadowy corridors toward its 2-episode, season 3 finale (Sunday 19 June). Virtually everyone was in danger, and because at least one of the storylines was neatly (and happily) tied up — without the show’s being renewed for a 4th season — I fear that the series, not just the season, may be coming to an end.
aka The Creature
aka The Orderly
John Clare (Rory Kinnear), also known, this season, as the Orderly from the Banning Clinic, and as Frankenstein’s first Creature, visited Vanessa Ives last night, telling her he was in need of a friend. He told her he’d found his family but feared that they would reject him, given his appearance “from the accident.” Vanessa was as loving and accepting as she always is: she told him she saw the man he is inside, and urged him to give his family a chance to take him back into their lives. She also revealed that she knew the scarred man before her is the same man who was the Orderly at the Clinic. John Clare did not recall her from the time in the clinic, nor did he recall the clinic, but she assured him that he had been good to her and that she loved him for it. It was typical non-demon-possessed Vanessa: loving and accepting of the shunned, the different, the alienated.
Part of Clare’s fear regarding his family was his own looks. Part of it was his son’s reaction from last episode: while Clare cared for the consumptive boy, who had his eyes closed, the boy spoke affectionately and longingly to his father. When the boy opened his eyes, however, he began to scream, causing Clare to run out into the streets, into an alley, where he grieved.
(These scenes as the Creature, along with those of Kinnear as the Orderly who is possessed by both Lucifer and Dracula as they attempt to seduce Vanessa, should, at the very least, garner Kinnear some award nominations. He is consistently strong and powerful in this role.)
Last night, after what seemed like hesitation but what ultimately may have been disbelief and shock, Clare’s wife threw her arms around Clare and hugged him tightly. She listened to his story, then assured him that he was the same man she had always loved. He told her he’d done things that were cruel and unnecessary — out of rage — but she said that he was now back home. Then she took him to the flat and told their son, Jake, that someone had come to visit, to stay, and Clare entered the room. The boy was silent and wide-eyed for a while, but when Clare knelt and helped with the model-ship, the boy grasped his hand, then hugged him. Clare was moved to tears, though this time from happiness over the love and acceptance of his family.
I was moved to tears, too (though it’s this happy ending for one of creator-writer Logan’s favorite characters that makes me fear, along with the fact that season 4 of Penny Dreadful has not been announced, that this may be the final season of the series).
Frankenstein, & Jekyll
Billie Piper has really come into her own since she was “transformed” from Brona to Lily. As Brona, she only had a relatively small part — as the consumptive lover of Ethan, as the presumptive bride-to-be of Frankenstein. As the re-animated Lily, Billie has been able to embody female rage at societal restrictions and at males’ abuse of females. Billie Piper may join Eva Green in the Emmy and Golden Globe nominations this season.
Over at La Maison Gray, Lily (Billie Piper) gave the entire graduating class of Whore University their first “world experience” assignment: find “a bad man” and cut off his right hand. Dorian looked mighty uncomfortable as all the whores cheered.
Next scene with the group, the women were “blood-drunk” and having an orgy,
while a pile of bloody hands was shown on the table. Dorian seemed repulsed, though that may not be the right word for the look on his face, since he’s not a man who is easily revolted. Justine (Jessica Barden) asked him for a dance, which he declined, then taunted him about his manners, which are always perfect and upper-class.
Dorian confronted her and eventually grabbed her throat; he told her that she was just learning the language of violence but he’d written the book on it; he called her “Kitten” and told her that if she wanted to play with him, she’d better show him her claws.
Since Dorian has his portrait to help him maintain immortality, Justine will not be able to defeat him. If she tries to kill him, it will just make a wound in the portrait, which viewers rarely get to see anyway, and which I know more about from the novel on which Dorian’s character is based than on the show itself. Take my word for it, however: the hidden portrait is the secret of Dorian’s longevity, beauty, and disdain for the rest of the world. I don’t believe Lily knows about it. Justine certainly doesn’t. If she did, she wouldn’t waste her time threatening Dorian: she’d just destroy the portrait, which would kill Dorian.
Later, walking with Lily, Dorian told her that he was bored with her “revolution,” having been through so many of them before, and that one of them “had to change.” Then a carriage stopped and out jumped Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway, below R) with Jekyll (Shazad Latif, below L) driving.
Dorian seemed to be doing just another break-up with one of the women in his life, but he was actually helping Frankenstein and Jekyll kidnap Lily and take her to Bedlam. When she recovered consciousness, she was understandably frightened, and that was before she discovered that she was chained by the ankle. Bedlam (St. Bethlehem’s) is such a frightening institution that even Americans know what “Bedlam” stands for: insanity, imprisonment, no escape. Lily was reduced to “rebelling” by calling Dorian the nastiest name she could think of for a man, which he found amusing. Then the Boys told her they were going to “cure her, make her well, restore her,” etc.
With fear on her face, Lily asked them what they were going to make her “better than,” and told Victor again that he had been the happy one in their relationship: not both of them, i.e., not Lily herself. They ended the scene with the nightmare-words heard by every woman who has ever not fit into society’s prescribed female role: we’re going to make you a proper lady.
Ethan, Sir Malcolm,
Back in the Spanish-desert-pretending-to-be-the-American-Southwest, Ethan (Josh Hartnett), no longer dressed like Zorro but now going hatless in the desert heat, and his Apache surrogate father Kaetenay (Wes Studi), also hatless, argued about whether or not Ethan was “done with Hell.” Ethan claimed that he was, but Kaetenay informed Ethan that Hell wasn’t done with him. It was one of the better lines of the evening.
Then Kaetenay proved his status as the current season’s Wise Old Man archetype by falling back against a fence and having a vision.
A vision of Vanessa, whom he doesn’t even know.
In the vision, Kaetenay saw Ethan return to Vanessa, whom he loves, as he informed Kaetenay last night. (And viewers finally got to see the much-anticipated “reunion” of Ethanessa: these photos have been circulating the ‘Net since before the series began its third season.)
The doomed couple’s feelings for each other are still strong.
However, when Ethan went to Vanessa in the vision, though they love each other, she told him it was “too late.” Then the Lost Boys broke through the windows of Sir Malcolm’s mansion, where Vanessa is now living alone.
That first vision was involuntary. Once Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton, below, background), Ethan, and Kaetenay were on the ship, Kaetenay induced a vision with his “bones” and “trinkets.”
In this vision, Kaetenay himself was with Vanessa. At first, he seemed to want to help her.
Then he called her a few TV-MA-rated words, saying that he loved her for who she was. That seems to be Vanessa’s theme song this season, although it may have always been her tune.
In any event, Kaetenay ended the vision by saying that he knew Vanessa was made for the “day,” not for the night. Her eyes turned red like the vampire-Creature’s as she told him he was mistaken.
Kaetenay was freaked by the vision. He told Malcolm to get the Captain to hurry up, ’cause, you know, if you have a boatload of monies, you can get a ship to go faster across the Atlantic…
Anyhow, while Kaetenay was taking a post-vision nap in the cabin, Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) and Ethan got caught up on some surrogate-father-son bonding, each revealing that they now feel themselves family to each other. It was a touching moment, but it made me wonder which one of them is going to get killed in the finale.
Not that I want to lose either of them: Ethan is, after all, the Lupus Dei, the Hound of God that protects Vanessa from Lucifer and Dracula, as well as an important component of Ethanessa; and Malcolm is, well, he’s played by Timothy Dalton, the only really sexy man my age on the show… sigh…
Vanessa & Dracula et al
In addition to appearing in Kaetenay’s visions, Vanessa was briefly mentioned by Dr. Seward (Patti LuPone), who was listening to the recordings made while Vanessa was hypnotized. Seward thought she was alone in the office at night, but Renfield (Samuel Barnett), in a super-spooky scene, appeared at the doorway.
After Seward claimed that Vanessa was a multiple personality — in a serious breech of professional ethics, even if it was a new field –Renfield startled Seward with his creepy, non-sensical talk (à la the Lost Boy who cornered Vanessa in the Hall of Mirrors and told her that the Master had already visited her in the White Room).
If Dr. Seward is more than she seems to be, or if she has any of her “ancestor” Joan Clayton the Cut-Wife in her, Seward better do something quick, or Renfield is going to have her as his “sweetie,” and I don’t mean in the metaphorical or romantic sense, but in the same way as he meant when he asked Dracula for some “sweeties” and gorged himself, with Dracula’s permission, on the body of the dead man hanging in the warehouse.
The actor playing Renfield doesn’t have much of a part, but Barnett does a super-creepy job with his few scenes. Renfield is traditionally portrayed as deranged — that’s how he is after his encounter with Dracula in the Bram Stoker novel — and Penny Dreadful’s Renfield seemed to be going that direction earlier this season when he was sitting at his desk, writing Vanessa over and over and over, right before he snatched up and fly and crammed it into his mouth. Last night’s episode let the actor revel in the creepity-creeps while still acting scared bloodless himself by the appearance of his Master, Dracula. Renfield crawled up to the sleeping Vanessa (Eva Green), posed like Sleeping Beauty on a Victorian Fainting Couch in the Museum, licked her neck, then appeared to be about to bite her with his baby vampire teeth…
Who’s that creeping up behind you, Renfield?
A not too happy Dracula, still in the guise of Dr. Sweet (Christian Camargo).
I gotta tellya, having grown up in the fang-baring, cape-as-bat-wings, bug-eyed era of Dracula (Bela Lugosi, in his iconic role, below),
I’m fascinated by Camargo’s performance as the Master of all Darkness on the face of the earth. He rarely raises his voice, only occasionally tosses minions across rooms, and seldom is seen is the presence of extremely-recently-dead creatures. Furthermore, when the recently dead animals are human, this Master of Darkness on the earth is not feeding on the humans himself: instead, he’s talking about Vanessa.
No matter what the love-of-his-undead-life Vanessa tells him, like that “a Creature” is seeking her for his bride,
Camargo doesn’t blink an eye.
Metaphorically, that is.
And his sexier-than-dark-chocolate voice is super-duper-calm when he asks her quasi-outré things (that he already knows the answer to), like, “And does this Creature have a name?
This is why I’m a writer and not an actor. How does Camargo do it? I don’t have a clue, but he’s really spooky good at it, my lovely Dreadfuls. With writer John Logan’s script as the basis, Camargo has totally re-invented Dracula and put new spin on the spook factor.
But back to “Ebb Tide”…
Renfield was doing the kissy-neck on Sleeping Beauty when Dracula (Christian Camargo) walked in behind Renfield, grabbed him by the throat, lifted him off the ground — just enough to let the minion know that the Master was none too happy about the physical-sexual intimacy with the Girl of his dreams — and, while holding Renfield by the throat, Dracula ever so slightly shook his head in warning.
You can bet Renfield took off as soon as Dracula released him.
Then Dracula played the lovey-dovey-sweetie role for Vanessa, who said he was “too good” to her, to which Dracula-Sweetie replied, “I hope you’ll always think that.”
Reeled in by the very best of them.
Back at Sir Malcolm’s Manse, Vanessa has been doing all this research on Dracula, which the thanatologist Catriona Hartdegen (Perdita Weeks) dismisses as superstition, myth, literature, and a lot like “reading the Bible for history.”
Cat then told Van that Dracula would be “unexceptionable” so that he would, in effect, blend in. I mis-heard that line originally, thinking she said “unremarkable,” and it made me laugh since Camargo as Sweet-Dracula is most decidedly not “unremarkable looking.” His eyes alone are “remarkable,”
and his voice is unusual enough to make him stand out.
Note: When I watched “Ebb Tide” for the third time, I realized that Cat said “unexceptional” rather than “unremarkable.” I tried to think only of the character instead of the actor playing Dracula. Is the Director of the Natural History Museum “unexceptional”? I understand what Cat was trying to tell Vanessa, but it seemed an odd choice of words: whether it’s “unexceptional” or understood as “unremarkable:” Cat was telling Vanessa that Dracula will blend in. (Okay, perhaps it’s being picky, but when things bounce out at you like that, it means that something is “off,” whether or not you originally mis-heard the line. Thus, my reaction to the line.) End Note.
That issue aside, when Cat tells Vanessa that Dracula will “live among the Night Creatures,” you can bet she recalls that Dr. Sweet is preparing an exhibition of the Night Creatures — how can she forget since that’s where the two of them made passionate love and spent the night together?
Now Vanessa knows that Dr. Sweet and Dracula — the mild-mannered milquetoast who kept forgetting her name, and the Dark Master of the earthly realm who has been seeking her — are one and the same. Armed in a low-cut gown and sporting a pistol, Vanessa returns to the museum to confront Sweet.
He’s waiting for her.
She makes the mistake that far too many people with pistols in dramas make: she doesn’t go ahead and shoot. She talks to him first. She tells him how hurt she is, how truly cruel he is (even more so than she ever imagined he would be), how he twisted her heart, blah blah blah.
First mistake in drama when a character has a pistol: too much talk.
Then Vanessa makes an even more serious mistake: she lets him talk.
Oh, Vanessa, when will you learn not to listen to the Darkness?
Of course, he tells everything she wants to hear.
He tells her everything she’s always wanted to hear.
He loves her just as she is, how he doesn’t want her to change for him, how he doesn’t want her to be as society-family-doctors expect her to be, how he doesn’t even want her to be good, how he wants her just the way she is.
He admits that he was “seeking” her, but insists that he fell in love instead.
He doesn’t want her to “serve him” — instead, he wants to “serve” her, as the Mother of All Darkness…
Oy, vey, what red-blooded woman could resist?
Even if their union would start the Apocalypse.
Meanwhile, with every line, he’s walking closer and closer.
She points the gun at him.
He tells her to go ahead and shoot, saying something like, if he can’t have her the way he wants, then what’s the point of living any longer?
Does she shoot him?
No, she does not.
Instead, she lets him get even closer, like this.
He keeps right on talking in that sexy-smooth totally “unexceptional” (cough, cough) voice that he has, telling her that she’s all he’s ever wanted, and that he only wants her just the way she is. He tells her that she will never be alone again. He says he will love her until “time ceases to exist.”
He keeps talking in that unexceptional voice until she’s like this:
“Do you accept me?” he says.
“I accept,” she says, “myself.”
Dracula bares his teeth and bites her neck.
Vanessa’s voice comes over the two of them — as they stand there in some sort of erotic ecstasy — saying something about the end of life-as-we-know-it on earth and all the Darkness in the universe settling on the face of the world or something very like that.
If Logan had made that the cliff-hanger, I would’ve gone berserkers.
Fortunately, though season 4 of Penny Dreadful has not yet been announced and though the Creature’s storyline seems to have closed for all time and on a happy note, we have at least one more, 2-hour, season finale episode remaining.
Be there, my Dreadfuls, or be very scared.