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May the Lost Souls Be Found: Penny Dreadful, season 3 episode 7, “Ebb Tide,” Review and Recap

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Spoilers:
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.

John Clare
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.

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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).

Lily, Dorian,
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.

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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.

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Next scene with the group, the women were “blood-drunk” and having an orgy,

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Nightmare-City, Lil.

Ethan, Sir Malcolm,
& Kaetenay

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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In this vision, Kaetenay himself was with Vanessa. At first, he seemed to want to help her.

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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.

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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

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 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.

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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…

But wait…

Who’s that creeping up behind you, Renfield?

 A not too happy Dracula, still in the guise of Dr. Sweet (Christian Camargo).

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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),

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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,

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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?

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Yowza!

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”…

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Samuel Barnett as Renfield in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 7). - Photo: Patrick Redmond/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_307_0478

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.”

Poor girl.

Reeled in by the very best of them.

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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.”

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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,”

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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?

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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.

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He’s waiting for her.

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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.

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Meanwhile, with every line, he’s walking closer and closer.

She points the gun at him.

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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.

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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:

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“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.

Related Posts

Loving the Darkness:
Penny Dreadful, Season 3, Episodes 5-6,
Review and Recap

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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Behind the Masks: Penny Dreadful s3 e2, Review & Recap “Predators Far and Near”

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Spoilers
Most Dreadful

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“Predators Far and Near,” the second episode of Showtime’s third season of its horror classic Penny Dreadful, created and written by John Logan, once again showed us that every character wears  a mask in order to get what he most desires. From Sir Malcolm’s Apache guide Kaetenay to Ethan Chandler, from Dorian Gray to Lily and Victor Frankenstein, from Vanessa to Dr. Steward and Dr. Sweet, everyone wears a mask to hide his evil and his secrets. And, as expected, it’s when the characters take off those masks that we viewers get the frights and the shudders.

Dorian & Lily

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In season 1, the storyline of Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) was virtually completely separate from those of the other characters. Though Dorian and Vanessa (Eva Green) had some interactions, one of them sexual, Dorian existed at the fringes of the major story: that of Vanessa, Sir Malcolm, and Ethan Chandler hunting the Creatures that had kidnapped Sir Malcolm’s daughter Mina. Dorian’s story, disconnected as it was — and unfamiliar to viewers who had not read Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray — was confusing, to say the least.

This confusion was eliminated in season 2 when Dorian began a relationship with the transgendered Angelique (Jonny Beauchamp), then revealed his innate cruelty when he virtually abandoned his live-in love Angelique for Lily (Billie Piper). Dorian’s previous connection with Lily was when he hired the consumptive prostitute Brona — Lily’s identity before Victor Frankenstein killed her and re-animated her as a Bride for his Creature. When Lily revealed that she remembered her previous life, that she was filled with rage against men, and that she was attracted to Dorian because of his dark side, Dorian’s story became more integral to the other events in the show.

Now, with this episode, Dorian and Lily have moved to center stage, where they jointly commit atrocities. Last night, dressed in evening finery, the two of them went into a cellar, where the Bouncer informed them there would be some “butchery.” Dorian replied, with a smile, “I believe that’s what I paid for.” In the cellar, Dorian and Lily sat in a circle of  well-dressed, upper-class men, for a “show” which appeared to be a sort of “snuff film” in the flesh. A masked man brought in a naked, bound prostitute, who may have been slightly drugged. As the masked man picked up a whip to torture the girl, Dorian and Lily sprang into action, killing not only the masked man, but every one of the gentleman at the show. Dorian used a pistol and Lilly used a knife. It was gruesome but thrilling in a scary way. Then Lily walked up to the nude girl and said, “Now you are mine.”

Yowza!

What did these two have in mind?

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They took the girl — Justine — home to Dorian’s house, where Lily is living, and the young girl awoke in a magnificent bed, wearing a silk gown. When she went downstairs, she was a bit confused, wary, and overwhelmed by the beauty of her surroundings as well as by the cultured beauty and manners of Dorian and Lilly. It was Lily who told Justine (Jessica Barden) that they are going to seek revenge-retribution for all the men “with two bob” who made the girl “kneel” to them for sexual service.

Ah, Lily’s complaint from last season, in her tirade to Frankenstein’s Creature.

Lily has a lot of anger issues, there’s no doubt about that. Instead of talk-therapy, however, she plans to use violence to make herself — and the girl-prostitue Justine — feel better. That’s right up Dorian’s alley. I mean, this is a man who killed his transgender lover Angelique after she discovered his hidden portrait, which revealed that he is an aged, ugly “monster” inside, i.e., morally, and in the portrait, while he remains young and beautiful on the outside.

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Dorian rarely takes off his mask, but with Lily, he doesn’t have to: she seems to see beneath it. That makes him more comfortable with her than with any other woman he’s been with. And it makes him a perfect foil for the rage-filled, murderous Brona-turned-Lily.

I’m not sure why they need the girl to go on a killing spree, if that’s what they intend to do, but Lily told the girl that they will have a “monumental revenge” before kissing her like a lover.

Sir Malcolm, Kaetenay,
Ethan Chandler, and Inspector Rusk

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Continuing the plot line introduced in the premiere of season 3, Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) has joined with an Apache named Kaetenay (Wes Studi), who claims that both he and Malcolm are surrogate fathers to Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett). As said fathers, they are morally obligated to rescue him from Inspector Rusk the Intrepid, who extradited Ethan to America,

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as well as to rescue Ethan from the brigands who, on Ethan’s father’s orders, kidnapped him in order to return him to his family home: The Talbot Range.

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Last week, viewers were left with the impression that Kaetenay had Ethan’s best interests at heart. In episode two, however, after Kaetenay has a vision — he actually summoned the vision — we learned that a fierce antipathy exists between Ethan and Kaetenay, at least on Ethan’s part. Kaetenay reached out to Ethan in the vision, found him in the New Mexico Territory desert, and Ethan attacked him.

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We know Ethan doesn’t like his biological father, whom we have never seen, but who is always sending Pinkertons after Ethan, but it was a surprise to learn that, even in the vision, Ethan reacted violently to Kaetenay’s presence and attacked him. Kaetenay never revealed this to Sir Malcolm. Instead, he continued wearing his “Wise Old Man” mask, and told Malcolm simply that Ethan was aware that they were coming.

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Considering the fact that, in the vision, Ethan fought with Kaetenay and threatened to kill him, we were left wondering what secrets Kaetanay is keeping from Sir Malcolm. And why Kaetenay needs Sir Malcolm’s help “rescuing” Ethan. After all, Kaetenay seems an adequate warrior, as demonstrated when he helped Sir Malcolm defeat the bandits who attacked him. Kaetenay has the further ability to not only see Ethan far away in New Mexico, but to communicate with Ethan.

Ethan did not welcome Kaetenay in his vision.

He threatened to kill Kaetenay if he shows up in person.

Kaetenay did not reveal that to Sir Malcolm.

More masks.

More secrets.

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Meanwhile, in the American Southwest, Ethan is simply biding his time, waiting for the moon to turn full, when he now realizes he will turn into a Wolf-Man, so that he can indiscriminately kill anyone around him. Since he’s made it clear since his capture that he knew it was only a matter of a few days or weeks until the full moon caused his transformation, Ethan hasn’t seemed unduly distressed by his captivity. Last night, the full moon came out, Ethan changed into the Wolf, and killed virtually everyone in the place where his captors were buying supplies.

Virtually everyone.

In a surprise move, the Witch Hecate helped Ethan.

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Hecate (Sarah Greene) was shown eavesdropping on Rusk the Intrepid as he told US Marshals that he was the one who was going to recapture Ethan Chandler, whom he calls by his biological name, Lawrence Ethan Talbot. (The name is an homage to the 1941 Wolfman film which starred Lon Chaney Jr. as Lawrence Talbot [below], as is the makeup designed for Ethan’s character in Penny Dreadful.)

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Though Ethan doesn’t appear to be able to control himself when he is on a rampage as the Wolf, he did not attack Hecate, who appeared in her Witch/NightComer guise as she helped him kill the people in the trading post. When the two of them came together at the end of the scene, Ethan-as-the-Wolf stopped before her. And she gazed up at him, mask-free, scarred and naked, and said she’d missed him.

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Very romantic.

But has she missed him because she’s drawn to Ethan’s dark side or because she wants to use him to get to Vanessa? After all, Ethan is the Lupus Dei — the Hound (or the Wolf) of God — who protects Vanessa. And Hecate is the daughter of the murdered NightComer Evelyn Poole, who was attempting to ensnare Vanessa for the Master, Lucifer.

Hecate and Ethan may seem to have faced each other without their masks, but Hecate seems to have more than a couple masks.

Watch out, Ethan

I’m guessing, considering Ethan’s curse, it should also be, Watch out, Hecate.

Frankenstien, Jekyll,
and company

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Poor Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadawway, above R).

For a man who brings dead people back to life, he sure has crumbled emotionally after losing his lover Brona-turned-Lilly to Dorian Gray. Victor can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t get off the morphine. And now he’s working with Dr. Jekyll (Shazad Latif, above L) on a way to “tame” Lilly.

As if…

Snort.

In a super-cool plot complication, the casting directors of Penny Dreadful used a British-Indian actor, so he gets to rant and rage about whites viewing him only by his skin color — “once a Wog, always a Wog” — and about his being an unaccepted “half-breed,” as well as permitting his character to make other political comments about British Imperialism while appearing only to be railing about racism and his selfish, white, rich, British father (who abandoned his “exotic whore” Indian mother).

Jekyll revealed last night that he works at Bedlam, not being welcome at any other British medical institution. At Bedlam, home to the most violent, crazed, and forgotten mental patients, who are treated like prison inmates, he gets to perform experiments on them. I’ve read Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde many times, and I was still creeped out by the fact that, in Penny Dreadful, Dr. Jekyll is experimenting on mental patients rather than only on himself.

Excellent writing, Mr. Logan.

Excellent socio-political commentary woven into Jekyll’s character.

Jekyll wants to put the mask of cultivated, tamed, controlled, civilized society on the most rabid and violently dangerous patients-criminals.

Victor, who helps him inject a violent, crazed criminal, and who witnesses the transformation from violent to civilized, wants to do that to Lilly.

Oh, if only he’d read the book…

Danger, Victor Frankenstein, Danger.

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To make matters worse, the love-sick Victor is stalking Lilly, sitting on a bench outside Dorian Gray’s house and watching her in her bedroom. She sees him and comes down to confront him.

Lilly warns Victor to go away, telling him that he will not like what she is becoming. We know Victor’s not going to listen to that: he wants to have Lilly-with-her-mask back in his arms and his bed again.

Despite the fact that Lilly took off her mask and told him that she is not the woman he thinks, that she is dangerous, that he would not like her, and that she is not in any way interested in him, Victor still did not get the message.

She’s taken off her mask several times.

But Victor is too blighted with unrequited love to see anything other than his unrealistic, romantic vision of her.

Much heartache and damage ahead for this fellow.

Vanessa Ives,
Dr Seward, and Dr. Sweet

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Poor, unlucky-in-love Vanessa (Eva Green, above, bottom).

The girl simply cannot win.

Despite the fact that she thinks she is filled with evil, she really tries to be a good person. Most of the time, anyway.

Like when she’s not seducing her best friend’s fiancé on the eve of the wedding.

And when she’s not setting Sir Geoffrey’s hounds on him to kill him as revenge for his burning the Cut-Wife at the stake.

This season, Vanessa has entered therapy: it’s a “new science,” and I’m not sure what name it’s called. In any event, Dr. Seward, who has already admitted to being related to the Joan Clayton (Cut-Wife) family, pushes Vanessa to discuss things “beyond murder.”

Like sin.

She’s recording all Vanessa’s sessions. Ostensibly, so she’ll save herself time taking notes. But really so that, behind her back and without her knowledge, her secretary Renfield can listen to the sessions and report back to his new Master, Dracula.

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Dr. Seward (Patti LuPone) did something beyond-strange in last night’s episode: at the end of the session, after Vanessa had her “homework” — to do something that gives her pleasure — and had left the office, Dr. Seward began to weep.

What on earth?

But perhaps that is, indeed, a mask Dr. Seward is wearing.

Perhaps she is more than “related” to Joan Clayton, the Cut-Wife who was burned at the stake for being a Witch.

Perhaps, at the last moment, as the flames engulfed her, the Cut-Wife learned that she did value life more than she’d realized.

Perhaps she finally made a bargain with the Devil.

To deliver Vanessa.

I can’t think of any other reason for a therapist to weep.

Something is going on behind that mask of hers.

I’m almost afeard to know exactly what it is.

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To find some pleasure, Vanessa (Eva Green) returned to the Natural History Museum, where she once again encountered the rather self-centered milquetoast Dr. Alexander Sweet (Christian Camargo). Once again, he forgot her name.

How many times, I wondered, is this man going to forget the name of a woman who is startlingly unusual looking, given the standards of the time period, and who is clever, articulate, and intelligent?

Vanessa invited him out for a “show” about Captain Nemo, whom Sweet had revealed as one of his childhood heroes. He seemed to enjoy himself. When she asked him to join her for coffee afterward, he declined. Then he kissed her hand, vowing that he would never forget her name again.

Talk about mixed messages.

And Vanessa keeps coming back.

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I’ve known from his character’s introduction last week that Dr. Sweet had some secret. Creator-writer John Logan is far too talented and careful to introduce a character that is a throw-away. So, it was just a matter of time until we discovered Sweet’s secret.

Until he took off his mask.

In one of most astounding reveals ever, Sweet took off his mask at the conclusion of last night’s episode.

To the viewers, not to Vanessa.

When Renfield returned to Dracula’s lair with information about Vanessa, Dracula — also known as The Master by the Lost Boys, who are following Vanessa all around the city — rewarded Renfield with some of the Master’s blood. As Renfield greedily lapped up blood from Dracula’s proffered wrist, the camera pulled up and back, revealing Dracula, who let his head fall back.

Holy Wooden Stake, Batman!

Dracula is none other than Dr. Alexander Sweet.

Talk about dropping a mask.

This milquetoast who can’t remember Vanessa’s name is the Master of Darkness on earth: Dracula?

That means he can, in fact, remember her name, because he’s been hunting her.

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So, how did she just happen to end up at his museum?

Dr. Seward told Vanessa, at the end of their first session, to do something she’d never done before, and she went into the museum, where she met Dr. Sweet. Then, at the end of the next session, Seward told Vanessa to do something that would make her happy: she returned to the museum, reconnected with Dr. Sweet, asked him out for the evening, and asked him for coffee, though he declined the latter.

All this leads to many questions. Is Dr. Seward somehow connected to Dr. Sweet? He appears to be well-established at the musem, but viewers now know he is Dracula. If Dr. Seward is the Cut-Wife, Joan Clayton, did the Cut-Wife promise this Master the soul of Vanessa Ives in return for her own life? Wouldn’t the Cut-Wife have made a bargain with the Lucifer, who is the other Master in the show, reigning over Hell while his cast-out brother, Dracula, reigns on earth?

Much dropping of masks in “Predators Far and Near.”

Much shivery and shuddery happenings, my Lovelies.

Be afeard.

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My Penny Dreadful Blogs, Seasons 1-2

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When Lucifer Fell: My PENNY DREADFUL blogs, S1&2, Review & Recap

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When Lucifer fell,
he did not fall alone

(The Cut-Wife to Vanessa, S2, Penny Dreadful)

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Spoilers,
Most Dreadful

One of the most successful horror series ever broadcast, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful gets its name from the Victorian penny dreadfuls. According to Judith Flanders of the British Library, these cheap, sensational, highly popular news-booklets, originally called Penny Bloods, initally concentrated on adventurous stories about pirates and highwaymen, but gradually shifted their focus onto crime and its detection. The penny dreadfuls replaced 18th century gothic horror, as they began to concentrate on supernatural and horror tales, including Varney the Vampire (cover of a vampire penny dreadful below), which influenced Bram Stoker, author of Dracula.

varney

Showtime’s Penny Dreadful takes the Victorian penny dreadfuls, as well as the Victorian literature inspired by them, and gives us the “origin stories” of their characters. Thus, Dracula‘s Mina Murray is given an entire family, while Frankenstein‘s titular character gets to create more than one Creature.

PennyDreadful

Original characters, such as Vanessa Ives, played by the brilliant Eva Green (above, standing), and Brona Croft (Billie Piper, above seated) further flesh out the series’ exploration of evil, and of human choice to consciously do either good or evil.

Season One

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The series begins with Vanessa Ives (Eva Green, above L) hiring a professional gun, Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) for some dangerous “night work.” Along with the father of her childhood friend, Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), Vanessa is searching for her missing friend, Mina, who has been taken by some sort of Creature (also called Vampire, below).

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Dr. Frakenstein (Harry Treadaway) enters the story when he is hired by Sir Malcolm to do an autopsy on one of the dead Creatures.

Penny Dreadful - Episode 1...Penny Dreadful - Episodic - Unit 101 April 25th Sky Atlantic SHOWTIME 2014 No embargo

Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) is also introduced in the first season, though his story isn’t as integrated into the main stories. Also, there are at least two “Creatures” initially: the Vampire Creature hunted by Sir Malcolm, as well as those created by Frankenstein, the most striking of which is played by Rory Kinnear (below).

Rory Kinnear as Frankenstein's Monster, also called The Creature

In addition to helping Sir Malcolm search for his missing daughter Mina, Vanessa has her own dark secrets, as does everyone else in the show, including Ethan, Sir Malcolm, Frankenstein, and Dorian. Of course, readers of the books will know some of Frankenstein’s and Dorian’s secrets. And viewers may guess Ethan’s secret.

Cast of PENNY DREADFUL season 1 (L to R): Danny Sapani as Sembene, Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, Billie Piper as Brona Croft, Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Rory Kinnear (in doorway) as Frankenstein’s Monster/Creature, Harry Treadawell as Victor Frankenstein

In any event, the show’s initial season, despite its few weaknesses, was a stunning exploration of good and evil, in which everyone has a very dark secret. My blogs do contain Spoilers, since I wrote them after watching the episodes.

Penny Dreadful:
Be Not Afeard

So Many Monsters:
The Penny Dreadful Finale

The official season 1 trailer is below.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Penny Dreadful yet, you can watch the Season Premiere Episode 1 free on its homepage on Showtime. You can catch up with the remaining episodes on ShowtimeAnytime.

The premiere of season 3 is Sunday 1 May at 10 p.m. ET.

Season Two

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In its second season, Penny Dreadful creator-writer John Logan introduces Witches who pursue Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) for their “Master,” Lucifer. The focus of the show changes from the characters’ hunting external evil, represented by the Vampire Creatures of the first season, to protecting Vanessa from her own internal evil, which the witches wanted to “give” their Master.

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The head witch, Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory, above R) had been hunting Vanessa since season one, when she appeared at the séance as Madame Kali (below).

The storylines of Frankenstein and Dorian Gray become more complex even as they are more integrally tied to the story of Vanessa and Ethan. We also learn more about Vanessa’s past when the Cut-Wife (Patti LuPone) story appears in flashback.

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My blogs do contain Spoilers, since I wrote them after watching the episodes: you have been warned.

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

The Cut-Wife, The Day-Walkers,
and The Night-Comers: Penny Dreadful, s2 e3

Betrayal of the Blood:
Penny Dreadful, s2 e4-6

Welcome to the Night:
Penny Dreadful, s2 e7

The Lion Hunts Tonight:
Showtime’s Penny Dreadful
“Memento Mori,” s2 e8

Monsters, All:
Penny Dreadful, s2 e9

All By Myself:
Penny Dreadful, Season 2 Finale

Season Three

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Viewers don’t know quite what to expect from season three, although it looks like the members of the extended “family” have been scattered around the globe. Also, from the official trailer, we see that Patti Lupone, who played the Cut-Wife in season 2, is returning as Vanessa’s doctor.

You can watch both seasons of Penny Dreadful with a free trial of Showtime. The premiere of season three is already available for viewing on Showtime, but if you can wait, then the official premiere is Sunday. Afterward, you’ll be ready to join the rest of us #Dreadfuls on Twitter and buzz about the show.

Season 3 Premiere
Sunday 1 May
10 p.m. ET

After you’ve watched the first two seasons, or if you’ve already seen them, you might enjoy Wired’s gifs to catch you up on what’s happened.

The Books

If you want to read the books that Penny Dreadful‘s literary characters are based on, Showtime is offering them for sale on its site, but you can get them free as ebooks: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein. And I’ve thrown in Robert Louis Stevenson’s  The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde simply because no exploration of the Victorian period and its literature would be complete without it — nor would any exploration of good and evil. Besides, I simply can’t believe the character of Jekyll and Hyde won’t show up, eventually, in Penny Dreadful, though I admit I’ve been saying that since its first season.


Penny Dreadful is rated MA for Adult Content, Brief Nudity, and Violence

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So Many Monsters: The PENNY DREADFUL Finale

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Warning: Spoilers Galore

Cast of PENNY DREADFUL (L to R): Danny Sapani as Sembene, Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, Billie Piper as Brona Croft, Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Rory Kinnear (in doorway) as Frankenstein's Monster/Creature, Harry Treadawell as Victor Frankenstein

Cast of PENNY DREADFUL (L to R): Danny Sapani as Sembene, Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, Billie Piper as Brona Croft, Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Rory Kinnear (in doorway) as Frankenstein’s Monster/Creature, Harry Treadawell as Victor Frankenstein

The finale of season one of Showtime’s new Gothic horror thriller Penny Dreadful was both exciting and, I’m sorry to say, a bit disappointing. I was looking forward to the finale so much that I watched the Penny Dreadful Marathon the day before. And I’d already watched virtually every episode at least two or three times. I loved the dialogue, the characters, the ever-improving writing, the entire concept of the show itself. Despite the fantastic episodes “Séance” (2), “Closer than Sisters” (5), and “Possession” (7) — where the literary storylines and imaginary characters seemed, at last, to be meshing — the flaws that have plagued the show from its inception were still sadly present in the finale.

From the beginning of the show, I’ve admired the costumes, the atmospheric settings, the makeup, and the hairstyles. All of that placed Penny Dreadful‘s world firmly in the Demi-monde — the world between light and dark, between the living and the dead — of Victorian England. All of those wonderful things are present in the finale as it revisits some of its earlier sets: the theatre, most particularly, where Sir Malcolm and his crew once again encounter the vampires they’re hunting.

The cast, too, has been strong. Led by the powerful performances of Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives — father and childhood friend of the lost or kidnapped Mina Murray (from Bram Stoker’s Dracula) — the remaining ensemble cast includes Josh Hartnett as American gun-for-hire Ethan Chandler with Billie Piper as his consumptive lover Brona Croft, Harry Treadaway as Victor Frankenstein and Rory Kinnear as The Monster/The Creature (from Mary Wollstonecroft Shelley’s Frankenstein), Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray (from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray), and Danny Sapani as Sir Malcolm’s servant Sembene. Guest appearances included David Warner as Dr. Van Helsing from Stoker’s Dracula.

Cast of PENNY DREADFUL (L to R) Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Billie Piper as Brona Croft, Harry Treadawell as Victor Frankenstein, Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, and Danny Sapani as Sembene.

Cast of PENNY DREADFUL (L to R) Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Billie Piper as Brona Croft, Harry Treadawell as Victor Frankenstein, Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, and Danny Sapani as Sembene.

Early in the season, the disparate stories were too disconnected. Some characters disappeared for episodes at a time. Others seemed to have no point even being in the series. In the finale, more of the stories came together. The writing was a bit stronger, and the performances more impressive.

The only literary character who simply never fit in well is Dorian Gray. His portrait was never shown the entire season — not even in the finale — and unless one is familiar with Wilde’s book, the portrait that Dorian sometimes looks at in private, and which heals his wounds from rough sexual encounters while he gazes upon it, could very well be a portrait of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary. In reality, it is of Dorian himself, and should reflect all his moral ugliness and physical injuries, while he himself remains outwardly beautiful.

Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray

Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray

Unless the viewer is familiar with the book, however, Dorian Gray’s story in Penny Dreadful makes no sense whatsoever. His portrait should have been shown in the finale so that viewers not familiar with the book would know what he’s always looking at. I still don’t know why Dorian Gray was in the show, even after the finale.

The only character with less screen-time and less of a story than Dorian Gray is Sir Malcolm’s African servant Sembene. Even when Ethan Chandler asked, in “Possession” (episode 7) what Sembene’s story was, he replied, “I have no story.” Sadly, that is true.

Danny Sapani as Sembene

Danny Sapani as Sembene

I had hoped there would be a revelation concerning Sembene’s and Sir Malcolm’s connection. Alas, there was not. Sembene did get to help out killing more female vampires (who, for some unexplained reason, all look exactly alike) when he accompanied Sir Malcolm on a final hunting expedition for his daughter Mina. That might be Sembene’s entire story: killing female vampires, and answering the door when someone comes to Sir Malcolm’s big mansion.

For a long time — in fact, for the first 7 out of 8 episodes — Dr. Frankenstein could have been Dr. Fill-In-The-Blank, or Dr. I-Can-Check-Your-Pulse-And-Make-Up-Theories-About-Women’s-PsychoSexual-Disturbances-Too, or Dr. Anybody-Who-Happened-To-Have-Made-A-Sentient-Creature. He was rarely with his Creation, brilliantly played by Rory Kinnear — who lurked throughout the entire season rather than viciously menacing (except for murdering Van Helsing) while waiting for Frankenstein to make a Creature Bride.

Harry Treadaway as Victor Frankenstein

Harry Treadaway as Victor Frankenstein

It wasn’t till the finale that Frankenstein actually demonstrated some of the arrogant evil and selfish cruelty his character exhibits in the novel. So Frankenstein’s character was weak during most of the season, but finally reached its potential in the finale when he smothered Brona Croft, already dying of consumption, instead of mercifully letting her die of an overdose from his own stash of morphine (to which he is addicted).

Rory Kinnear as Frankenstein's Monster, also called The Creature

Rory Kinnear as Frankenstein’s Monster, also called The Creature

Throughout the season, Frankenstein’s Creation and the male vampires who are mistaken for “The Master” are referred to as “Creatures.” In the finale, Rory Kinnear’s stunning performance demonstrates that The Creature, though he claims to be filled with malignancy and rage, which, he reasons aloud, explains his exterior ugliness, is actually more decent, faithful, empathetic, and affectionate than any of the other characters.

The humans in Penny Dreadful are the “creatures” in this drama: cruel, heartless, unfaithful, disloyal, unempathetic, violent, unkind. In short, they are the “monsters,” and Sir Malcolm, despite his elegant looks, dress, and language, is one of the most vicious of them all.

Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, searching for his lost daughter, Mina, taken by (unnamed) Dracula, called the Creature.

Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, searching for his lost daughter, Mina, taken by (unnamed) Dracula, called the Creature.

In the finale, one of Sir Malcolm’s nastiest secrets is revealed, in a show where everyone has secrets. He bluntly tells Vanessa, who has been helping him search for his daughter Mina, that, given the choice, he will (a) choose Mina over Vanessa, (b) that he would kill Vanessa if it would save Mina, and (c) that, in fact, he’s hoping he will get the chance to kill Vanessa.

Yes, there be many monsters here, indeed.

Imagine, then, Vanessa’s — and probably every viewer’s — surprise when, at the crucial moment, having found Mina, who is attempting to harm Vanessa in order to subdue her and take her to The Master, Sir Malcolm shoots his own daughter Mina dead. I was so happily surprised that I cheered. Perhaps Sir Malcolm himself was astonished by his “choice” of Vanessa over Mina in the finale.

Throughout the season, various characters have stated that “each has his secrets,” “each has sinned,” and, despite regrets, none can “unmake the past.” After a while, it got tiresome hearing so many people saying the same thing so many times. Then Frankenstein said something amazing: that each person was morally bound forever to those he had hurt. Very intriguing philosophical commentary. One that fit the show and the finale well.

Though Penny Dreadful is set in the Victorian era and was influenced by the literature of the period, the characters constantly quote Romantic poetry. In the Romantic period, which took place earlier in England than in America, artists of all genres and media believed that man could commune directly with the Divinity — however it was perceived — through nature.

Thus, Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley were extremely popular poets, and their work has often been recited in Penny Dreadful. Keats, who was dying of consumption, had some of the darkest yet most erotic poems, while Wordsworth had some of the most optimistic ones, despite their expressing regret for lost childhood or unrealized dreams. The Romantic poetry quoted and beloved by these monstrous, constrained, secretive, deceptive, yet ultimately fascinating characters — who constantly question each other about their faith in God as well as the meaning of life — was a wonderful irony couched in beautiful and famous poetry.

In the finale, Frankenstein’s Creation recited some lines himself — not from a Romantic poet — but from Milton’s Paradise Lost. It was very effective.

I’m not going to pretend that there were no weaknesses in the finale. There were, and, unfortunately, they were major ones.

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives at the London Zoo at night, just before the encounter with the wolves

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives at the London Zoo at night, just before the encounter with the wolves

In one of the earlier episodes, the group is drawn to the London Zoo in the middle of the night, where they expect to find Mina and the (vampire) Creatures. Instead, they find a pack of wolves. Ethan orders everyone to stay still. Then he lowers his body and holds out his hand. One of the male wolves, snarling, approaches and tentatively takes Ethan’s hand gently into its mouth, acknowledging Ethan as the Alpha male.

The Alpha male wolf.

From that episode on, bloggers and reviewers of the show began predicting 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 has repeatedly stated that Penny Dreadful mixed Victorian literary characters, re-imagined, with his fictional characters.

I was 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 Mysterious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The Wolf-Man simply does not fit into the entire scheme of Penny Dreadful, where the characters choose 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 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 are all themes of Penny Dreadful, and all of the characters make these choices repeatedly (though Dorian’s evil or cruel choices are not shown: I know this from the novel itself). Even Ethan’s consumptive lover, Brona Croft, tells him how she went out and intentionally had sexual relations with a stranger for money after her fiancé in Ireland physically hurt her.

Just as the characters in Penny Dreadful consciously choose 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 goes against the very premise of the show. It also eliminates the literary basis for his story since no Wolf-Man literature existed till 1933, and the show takes place in 1891. I just couldn’t believe that Ethan’s secret would be that he was a Hollywood-Lon-Chaney-style Wolf-Man.

Imagine my dismay when, in the penultimate scene of the 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.

It wasn’t just a disappointment because Ethan’s being a Wolf-Man didn’t fit with the rest of the show: it was a disappointment because so many people had predicted it weeks beforehand, and they were correct. That’s just bad writing.

One of the vampire Creatures

One of the vampire Creatures

(Note to creator and writer John Logan: my boyfriend was really annoyed that, after viewing the “unimpressive vampire Creatures” all season, he didn’t get a sufficient look at a “really cool Wolf-Man with good makeup and everything,” and he “didn’t get to see Ethan as the Wolf-Man tear all those people apart” after “sitting through countless vampire killings.” In fact, my boyfriend didn’t even realize Ethan was turning into a Wolf-Man. He had to ask me what was happening because he couldn’t tell. And I wasn’t absolutely sure myself until the full moon was displayed above the building where the killings were taking place.)

Another constantly circulating prediction that, unfortunately, turned out to be right was that Brona would die of consumption and become Frankenstein’s Monster’s bride. Actually, the consumption didn’t quite finish her off: Frankenstein himself did, for the express purpose of getting the “subject” to accede to his Creature’s demand for a bride just like himself.

Again, the pundits were correct early on in the season. That makes it bad writing, not good guesswork since there were no clues that Brona would be his bride. After all, the Creature had a crush on a young woman from the theatre, not on Brona.

Billie Piper as Brona Croft

Billie Piper as Brona Croft

The last disappointment in the finale of Penny Dreadful was Vanessa’s going to a priest who actually asked her if she really wanted to get rid of the evil inside her. I almost laughed out loud. Since when has a Catholic priest, fictional or real, ever asked someone if he wanted to keep the devil inside him or have the devil exorcised?

Though Vanessa didn’t answer the priest, it was a disappointing “cliff-hanger.” Throughout the season, she has chosen to remain as she is, with her knowledge of the dark side of human nature, even if it does cause her to have fits, seizures, and to be possessed. Whether she is possessed by the Devil, the Master, or Amunra — who wants her to be the Mother of Evil — is not clear.

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, "possessed"

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, “possessed”

With the death of Mina, the relationship between Vanessa and Sir Malcolm changed, as if Vanessa’s decision to hurt Mina when they were younger was the only reason Sir Malcolm and Vanessa chafed at each other. Their animosity seemed to have suddenly and miraculously disappeared. They even hugged as Sir Malcolm wept and Vanessa comforted him (though she actually held him, while, with his arms around her, his hands were in fists). Sir Malcolm even talked about their getting a Christmas tree. Vanessa responded by suggesting they “invite the boys over to decorate it.” If that conversation had made any sense, I might have laughed. As it was, I began to fear for season two of Penny Dreadful.

Mina is dead, so no more searching for her. What is Sir Malcolm’s purpose in life going to be? Brona is going to be Frankenstein’s Creature’s re-animated bride. Ethan has been revealed to be, not Jack the Ripper, not Edward Hyde, but the Wolf-Man who ravaged the mother and child in the beginning of episode 1, and the prostitute at the beginning of episode 2.

One of the Wolf-Man's first victims

One of the Wolf-Man’s first victims

If Vanessa chooses to have the evil inside her exorcised, then she basically has no part in the show. If she chooses to remain as she is, then there will be more episodes where she’s possessed. Those episodes were some of the best of season 1, but three of them were plenty, thank you very much.

Suddenly, the gaslights dim, the candles flicker, the wind howls, the full moon comes out from behind the clouds, the glass table cracks, the windows shatter, Vanessa’s head turns 360°, Sir Malcolm faints, Sembene does not answer the door, and I have a terrible vision of season 2 of Penny Dreadful.

It’s going to be nothing but The Exorcist, The Bride of Frankenstein, and The Wolf-Man.

Unfortunately, I’ve already seen all those films.

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PENNY DREADFUL: Be Not Afeard

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Be not afeard.
The isle is full of noises.
Caliban (the monster)
The Tempest 3.2.148
William Shakespeare

Cast of PENNY DREADFUL, from L to R: Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Harry Treadaway as Victor Frankenstein, Josh Harnett as Ethan Chandler

Cast of PENNY DREADFUL, from L to R: Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Harry Treadaway as Victor Frankenstein, Josh Harnett as Ethan Chandler

Showtime’s new series Penny Dreadful has its origins in literature of the late 19th century, a time when men of all kinds were questioning the relationship of the supernatural to man, of God to man, and what was on the other side. Named after the contemporaneous tabloids, the Penny Dreadfuls, which listed all the gruesome details of crimes and atrocities, including those of Jack the Ripper, the show’s atmosphere is haunting and spooky.

Most of its characters seem to inhabit “The Demi-monde”: a half world of shadows and light. It is there that Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), with the help of his daughter’s childhood friend Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and an American gun-for-hire Ethan Chandler (Josh Harnett) search for Murray’s missing daughter Mina. In their search, they also encounter Victor Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, and other fictional characters. Despite its flaws so far, the show is fascinating.

Cast of PENNY DREADFUL, from L to R: Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Harry Treadaway as Victor Frankenstein, Josh Harnett as Ethan Chandler

Penny Dreadful was created and is mostly written by John Logan, who, in the clip below, explains the literary origins of Penny Dreadful.

Despite the trailers, I found the first show a little slow, as did other viewers and reviewers. Till the end. So I watched the second. Then the third. The show does have some weaknesses, the most distracting of which is its disconnected storylines. I still haven’t figured out how Dr. Frankenstein is involved, though he was introduced in the first episode. His role in the “Searching for Mina” story seems mostly like a satellite, and his own story of his Creature, has been, at least temporarily, discarded.

How Dorian Gray fits in, I have no idea, I confess. And except for the fact that he has sex with a lot of people, I haven’t seen anything he’s done that he needs to hide. Unless he’s committing crimes we don’t know about. That’s the whole premise of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray: that the portrait becomes as gruesome and ugly on the outside as Dorian himself is morally, while he remains physically beautiful. (I had to explain that to my boyfriend, who kept asking where Jekyll and Hyde were, and didn’t know anything about Dorian Gray). Penny Dreadful Right Behind You Trailer.

Weaknesses

  1. The stories of Dorian Gray and of Victor Frankenstein are not sufficiently integrated into the main story of Dracula (variously referred to as The Master and The Creature)
  2. In fact, Frankenstein and his creations are mostly shoved to the background, despite one entire episode devoted to him and them.
  3. Famous, or infamous, literary characters of the period, like Jekyll and Hyde, are missing, though I realize that they might show up later.

4. The most quirky flaw I’ve noticed so far is that every episode ends with a punch, a shock, an unexpected surprise. Now that could be considered a good thing, although it could end up making each episode seem like something from The Twilight Zone, where viewers just wait for the ending to get their fix, and make more sense of the story so far.

5. The most serious flaw in Penny Dreadful to date is that the story of Sir Malcolm Murray, his protegée Vanessa Ives, and their search for Sir Malcolm’s missing daughter Mina, who has been taken by Dracula (unnamed as yet) keeps getting interrupted by the vague appearances of Dorian Gray, Victor Frankenstein, and, frankly, Ethan Chandler, despite this final character’s being hired by Vanessa Ives to help in the search for Mina.

Still, the show is very intriguing. It has a lot of strengths.

Strengths

  1. Dalton & Green. The interconnected internet tubes and social media are a-buzz with predictions of Eva Green’s Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for her brilliantly nuanced and terrifying performance as Vanessa Ives. Her strong performance is matched by the great Timothy Dalton’s as Sir Malcolm Murray, who is beginning to appear more in the show. Their ambiguous relationship and the sexual tension between them could make an entire series itself, that’s how well they’re acting their intriguing and frightening roles.
  2. The rest of the Cast. Taken as an ensemble cast, the remaining actors are doing a fine job. None outshines either Dalton or Green, however, but as a group, an ensemble, they’re doing a good job around the two central figures played by Dalton and Green.
  3. The Characters. Whether literary or original to Penny Dreadful, the characters themselves are interesting, and I certainly want to know more about them. The twists the writers have added to the literary characters are great.
  4. Everybody has secrets. As those secrets are slowly being revealed, the show is improving. (The secrets we already know about the literary characters are not secrets to the audience, most of which has, no doubt, a passing familiarity with the books. Their secrets are only secrets to the other characters in Penny Dreadful.) Still, the writer(s) have managed a few surprises based on the original literary character of Frankenstein so far.
  5. Sexual tension abounds. Especially between Timothy Dalton’s Sir Malcolm and Eva Green’s Vanessa (whether or not Dalton likes to dismiss it in interviews).
  6. Atmospheric Costumes, Sets, and Makeup. Just wait till you see the episode “Closer Than Sisters”, devoted entirely to Sir Malcolm, Mina, and Vanessa.

7. Finally, the greatest strength in Penny Dreadful is its writing. The audience is not treated like a bunch of buffoons who have to be hit over the head with every piece of symbolism that appears. The plot is often moved forward by what the characters don’t (or won’t) reveal rather than by what they reveal. The characters are interesting and the actors have good lines to say: that comes from the writer(s). Based on that alone, I’m going to keep watching. Penny Dreadful: Behold Terrible Wonders Trailer.

In fact, I’m starting to look forward to Penny Dreadful, which means the show seems to have found its stride and is firmly centering itself, letting the strengths outweigh the minor weaknesses. Metro Entertainment’s blog called Penny Dreadful “elegantly scripted, with a dangerously handsome cast, enchanting cinematography, and an enigmatic storyline.” While I don’t agree with everything Metro Entertainment said about the show, I agree with most of its points.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Penny Dreadful yet, you can watch Episode 1 free on its homepage on Showtime. You can catch up with the remaining episodes on ShowtimeAnytime. Then, at 10 p.m. ET on Sunday, you’ll be ready to join the rest of us #Dreadfuls (from Twitter) and buzz about the show.

If you want to read the books that the literary characters are based on, Showtime is offering them for sale on its site, but you can get them free as ebooks: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein. And I’ve thrown in Robert Louis Stevenson’s  The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde simply because no exploration of that period would be complete without it, and I can’t believe he won’t show up, eventually, in Penny Dreadful.

And, note to the creator and writers: I want to be afeard. I want to be very afeard.

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Metro Entertainment Penny Dreadful blog

Independent‘s article: Penny Dreadful Fails to Make a Gripping Start

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HBO’s neo-noir, intense, miniseries True Detective.

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