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

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Spoilers,
Dark & Dreadful

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

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

♦ ♦ ♦

Episode 5
This World is Our Hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦ ♦ ♦

Episode 6
No Beast So Fierce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WTH?

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

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

So, yeah, Hecate died.

In Ethan’s arms, no less.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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whom the viewers know is Dracula himself.

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

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

Wowza!

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

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

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Afterward, weeping, Vanessa held Sweet in her arms.

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

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

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

Vanessa said, “So, the Darkness spoke.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello, Vanessa, anybody home?

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

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

That means sexually.

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

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

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

Oh, Vanessa, how could you have missed that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shivery and shuddery, my Dreadfuls.

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

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Related Posts

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

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

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

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

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

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No Mercy Anywhere: Penny Dreadful s3 e3, Review & Recap

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Spoilers, Most Dreadful

Despite its tongue-twisting title, “Good and Evil Braided Be,” episode 3 of Showtime’s popular Penny Dreadful continues to demonstrate strong writing, by creator John Logan, and acting, by all the principals, as it ramps up the intensity and the blood-spill. Viewers learned more about characters’ secrets, characters learned more about themselves and their pasts, and characters spilled blood galore — and reveled in it.

Ethan & Hecate

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The witch Hecate Poole (Sarah Greene) is gravely mistaken if she thinks she will win Wolf-Man Ethan’s (Josh Harnett) heart by committing more atrocities than he does. After all, by the very nature of his curse, Ethan doesn’t consciously choose to be evil and massacre people. In fact, during all of the first season of Penny Dreadful, Ethan didn’t even realize that he was a werewolf, though he did acknowledge that there was a string of dead bodies at his back, and he assumed that he was responsible for them. It wasn’t till season 2, when Ethan asked Sembene (Danny Sapani) to watch over him — as he was chained to the basement wall during the first night of the full moon — that Ethan finally discovered what happens to him during his blackouts. Still, despite being a Were-Wolf or a Wolf-Man, whichever you prefer, Ethan has consistently been one of the few characters in Penny Dreadful who seems to consistently have a conscience.

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Though Hecate helped Ethan escape from the men his father hired to kidnap him and bring him home to Talbot Range, Hecate seems to be completely misinterpreting Ethan’s character. In episode 3, after she’d slaughtered a small rancher and his wife, she told Ethan that, essentially, the two of them were the same kind of people. I guess she missed the look on Ethan’s face as he stared up at her over the body of the murdered rancher. Ethan obviously recognizes that his killing people during his wolfman-induced-blackouts is not the same as consciously killing innocent people, as Hecate does. She seems to believe that the two of them are soul-mates, and insisted that she is trying to bring out his true nature.

Ethan seems unconvinced.

And extremely wary.

Sir Malcolm & Kaetenay

Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) and the Apache Kaetenay (Wes Studi) arrived in the American West, where they are hot on the trail of Ethan, whom they now suspect is not traveling alone. Finding the dead bodies, Malcolm remarks that such atrocities could not have been committed by the Ethan Chandler that he knows. Kaetenay remarks that, no matter what kind of person Ethan may have been in the past, Sir Malcolm and Kaetenay are morally bound to destroy the evil creature that he may have become.

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That makes viewers, again, question Kaetenay’s role in this search for Ethan.

Kaetenay has already proven himself unreliable by not revealing to Sir Malcolm the animosity that exists between the Apache and Ethan (which viewers know from the vision of Kaetenay and Ethan in the desert). Even after Sir Malcolm confronted Kaetenay on the train, questioning why Kaetenay needs Malcolm’s help, Kaetenay claimed only that Ethan trusted Malcolm more. From Ethan’s vision-behavior, I’m guessing that Ethan doesn’t trust Kaetenay at all. But he’s keeping this secret from Malcolm to get to Ethan. We don’t know what Kaetenay wants from Ethan: the Apache guide claims to be his spiritual or surrogate father, along with Sir Malcolm, but also continually says that he and Malcolm are obligated to destroy Ethan.

Malcolm doesn’t seem to believe Kaetenay. That’s reasonable, given that Sir Malcolm is a man who “murdered and raped” his way across the African continent — according to Vanessa in one of her trance-induced episodes of revealing other characters’ lives to them — so he doesn’t seem the sort to blindly accept everything Kaetenay is telling him. Malcolm already questioned Kaetenay while they were on the train, although Malcolm later defended him from ignorant cowboys who insisted that “Indians ride with the luggage.”

It seems that Sir Malcolm is as wary of his traveling companion as Ethan is of his.

The Creature,
aka John Clare

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Frankenstein’s first Creature (Rory Kinnear), who was using the name John Clare last season, is looking to his past this season. Having had a glimpse of his family while on the ship in the premiere, he returned to London in last night episode. Finding the predominantly Chinese neighborhood where he and his family rented lodgings — and briefly glimpsing Vanessa and Dr. Sweet together on the streets — Clare went into the room he shared with his family. Then he set off in search of them. He found his wife and son, who is dying from consumption, in another rented room, spied on them from above (in a homage to the novel, where the Creature spies on a family from an adjoining structure), wept at their condition, then stole a watch from a rich man, and left it for the wife to find.

John Clare, previously called The Creature, has often been more humane and decent than most of the human characters in the series. Last night, his weeping over his wife and son, as he himself remained hidden from them, revealed his suffering. At this point, viewers are still not aware of how John Clare died in the first place: only that Frankenstein re-animated him, then abandoned him in terror.

Will Clare reveal himself to his wife and son?

Or will his monstrously scarred visage prevent him from doing so?

Dorian, Lily, & Justine

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The story of this trio started with Lily (Billie Piper, above R) and Justine (Jessica Barden, above L) at an outdoor café while female suffragettes staged a protest, agitating for the right to vote. The police responded with violence. Thinking, I suppose, that Lily wants the same thing as the suffragettes, Jessica commented on them. Viewers know Lily’s feelings about men, as well as her rage toward them. Despite any apparent moral or socio-economic connection with the suffragettes, however, Lilly ironically revealed that she does not, in fact, want mere equality with men: she wants to dominate and conquer them.

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Then, in a series of scenes so gruesome and bloody, they could have been part of the grotesque (novel and film) American Psycho, Dorian (Reeve Carney), Lily (Billie Piper), and Justine (Jessica Barden) had an orgy after committing atrocities. Dorian and Lily presented Justine with the bound and gagged man who had taken Justine when she was 12, used her sexually, then hired her out after he tired of her himself. Dorian and Lily taunted Justine, calling her “whore” other things, as if they thought she had no rage.

They were mistaken.

Justine, it seems, has almost as much rage as Lily. Grabbing the knife from Dorian, Justine slashed the throat of the man who used her, then stabbed him so often that she was covered in blood. Dorian kissed her.

Cut to the three of them in bed, covered in blood, having an intense — and apparently quite satisfactory — sexual encounter.

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These three amply demonstrate the “excitement” (physiological arousal) from having the power of life and death over another human being that serial killers interpret sexually. The three had sex, covered in the blood of their victim, then laid out the plan to conquer the world.

Or, to start a war, in Lily’s version, and to found a religion of sorts, in Dorian’s.

Either way, Justine, who is neither re-animated, like Lily, nor living an abnormal life, like Dorian, is in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say.

In her case, in for a drop, in for a bucketful, I guess.

Drs. Frankenstein & Jekyll

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Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway, above L), having been suitably impressed by Jekyll’s (Shazad Latif, above R) serum on a crazed and violent Bedlam patient, interviewed the patient on his memories during his calm vs violent phases. Right in the middle of the interview, however, to Frankenstein’s surprise — though not to that of viewers familiar with Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — the patient suddenly and dramatically reverted to his violent self (only without the mouth restraint).

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That allowed Jekyll to rant and rave, not on his favorite topic of British Imperialism and racism, but, rather, on the short-acting nature of his serum. Instead of blaming himself — because, of course, he’s infallible — Jekyll seems to blame the serum itself, as if he were not the one who formulated it. Bordering on violence himself, Jekyll insisted, in his almost out-of-control, maniacal rant, that man could be separated from his evil self, leaving only the good intact.

By which, I suppose, he means, make man other than what he actually is: a combination of good and evil.

Dang.

If only that serum would do what it’s supposed to.

Permanently.

Victor jumped on that train to Fantasy Island with Henry Jekyll, asserting that if his own method of electricity were combined with Jekyll’s elixir-serum, they would conquer evil by separating it from the good.

Which is what Victor wants to do with the re-animated Brona-turned-Lily, returning her to an “innocent” state, which viewers know was probably an act, so that he can have her back as his love and his lover.

Neither Frankenstein nor Jekyll seems to question where the evil goes once it’s driven out of the test-subject.

Neither seems to believe that he himself is evil either.

I wonder why.

Vanessa & Dr. Seward

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Like John Clare, Vanessa is attempting to recall her previous life, trying to learn how to live her life now, and in the future, by remembering what happened to her in the past. Eva Green, as Vanessa Ives, and Patti LuPone, as Dr. Seward (above), continue to display their on-screen chemistry and their superb talent as actors in this episode of Penny Dreadful. Dr. Seward, whose character originated in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is practicing “Alienism,” a new science that seems to be the precursor to psychiatry-psychology and talk-therapy. Last night, Vanessa, pacing like a caged animal, exploded at Dr. Seward.

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Vanessa felt that Seward was being condescending: saying Seward believed that Vanessa believed in vampires, witches, and the Devil, rather than actually believing in them herself. Seward insisted that the distinction wasn’t necessary for them to continue to work together. Vanessa insisted that Dr. Seward is the Cut-Wife Joan Clayton (played by Patti LuPone in season 2, above), resurrected or re-incarnated or somehow returned to life as Dr. Seward.

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Then, in a move similar to that which the Cut-Wife forced Vanessa to do, Vanessa grabbed Seward’s wrist and revealed part of her past. Vanessa claimed that Seward killed a man before he was able to kill her. And we know from experience that whatever Vanessa “sees” when she does this, it’s the truth.

Startled by Vanessa’s other-worldly ability, Seward agrees to hypnotize Vanessa so that she can recover her memories from her time in the Psychiatric Clinic of Dr. Banning where, as Vanessa correctly reports, she was “tortured.”

Vanessa & The White Room

After a conversation in the Hall of Mirrors (more on that later in this post) about The White Room, where past and present don’t exist, with one of the Lost Boys (Jack Greenlees, below),

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Vanessa decides that she must be hypnotized to recall her confinement in the padded room of Dr. Christopher Banning’s Clinic (from season 1). Despite Dr. Seward’s warnings that repressed memories are repressed for a reason, Vanessa (Eva Green, below) insists on revisiting that horrifying place, if only in her memory.

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In a brief image that revealed Dr. Seward’s profile against the wall of the padded room, we were given the impression that Dr. Seward might have the metaphorical or otherworldly ability to be with Vanessa in that White Room (which would explain the image above, circulating on the Internet, with Dr. Seward comforting Vanessa in said “prison”).

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Vanessa claims to have had no visitors while in The White Room besides the orderly who brought her meals and the attendants who came to take her to “treatment,” which viewers know included torturous cold water baths and fire-hosing, as well as skull-drilling — in an attempt to release the madness or the demons or whatever Dr. Banning thought he was getting to by drilling holes in the poor girl’s skull.

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To the surprise of viewers, Vanessa remembered the face of the orderly who brought her meals while she was locked in the padded cell: it was none other than the former self of the Creature, John Clare (Rory Kinnear).

This leads to startling questions, especially as to the manner of Clare’s death, which enabled Frankenstein to acquire his corpse and re-animate him as the first Creature.

We know he must have died: otherwise, he could not have been brought back to life by Frankenstein. Now we wonder if Vanessa herself, who is known to have been quite violent during her time before, during, and sometimes after, her stay in the sanatorium, is responsible for the death of John Clare.

A man with whom she formed an unlikely but charming friendship in season 2.

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We don’t know yet whether Vanessa will associate the living “John Clare” — the shy, scarred man she met while volunteering to feed the poor and homeless — with the orderly in Banning’s clinic, but the viewers have no doubt of it. From the first episode on this third season, we have been treated to images of actor Rory Kinnear without his Creature-makeup, so we know what he looked like in his previous life with his wife and son.

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When the orderly announced that he’d brought Miss Ives’ food, and the camera panned up to his face, we saw exactly who that orderly was.

“John Clare,” in his previous life.

Now we wonder if Vanessa was the one who killed him.

Vanessa & Dr. Sweet & Dracula

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Last week, it was revealed to viewers, though not to his prey Vanessa Ives, that the pseudo-milquetoast Dr. Sweet (Christian Camargo) is, in reality, the terrifying Master, Dracula. Despite Sweet’s continually feigning to have forgotten Vanessa’s name, we now realize that he knows exactly who she is, since he has been hunting her since season one. In the first season, Dracula was never shown, though his Creatures were.

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At the end of the first season, Mina thanked her father, Sir Malcolm Murray, for bringing Vanessa to her at the Grand Guignol Theatre, where Sir Malcolm’s group had just encountered yet another of the red-eyed Creatures and killed him. Mina said that the Master, which viewers assumed to be Dracula, wanted Vanessa as his bride. (In a surprising move, given that he’d been searching for his daughter throughout the first season, Sir Malcolm shot his vampire daughter Mina in order to save Vanessa’s life.)

Now, viewers know that Vanessa is in more danger than she herself realizes. Lulled to inattention by Dr. Sweet’s apparent harmlessness, Vanessa seems to actually be falling in love with the man. Despite her previous sexual encounters, all of which have led to unleashing the darkness within her, when the Dark Master, whoever he is, speaks to her and invites her to love him, Vanessa is pursuing the relationship with Dr. Sweet. In last night’s episode, he met her in London’s Chinatown (where John Clare briefly spotted her, his face alighting with a smile, before he saw Dr. Sweet arrive and take her arm). Sweet then took her to the Hall of Mirrors, or some such place, where the two gamboled and laughed and mocked their distorted appearances in the mirrors (leading a couple of reviewers to remark on seeing Dracula-Dr.-Sweet’s reflection, but this show traditionally takes the fictional sources as well as the traditional legends and turns them into something brand new).

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Suddenly, Vanessa found herself alone, in a maze of mirrors, where she was confronted by one of the Lost Boys (Jack Greenlees) who’s been following her all around the town. After speaking in a sort of nursery rhyme-riddle, the Lost Boy revealed that Vanessa had previously met the Master, though she didn’t recall doing so.

Lost Boy, in the mistake of his undead life, told her she’d met the Master in The White Room.

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This revelation caused Vanessa so much distress that she “broke off” the blossoming relationship with Dr. Sweet, telling him to consider her leaving him a sign that she feels “something, like love” for him. In a scary move, he shattered the teacup after she left.

Then he confronted the Lost Boy who’d tipped the Master’s hand.

Dracula was not pleased, to say the very least.

Ever since the startling Reveal, in episode 2 of the third season, that Dr. Sweet was Dracula, I’ve wondered how seemingly mild-mannered Christian Camargo was going to pull off the scary threat of the Master of Darkness on Earth, who’s searching for Vanessa as his bride so he can start the Apocalypse.

Let’s just say, Camargo did an outstanding job making us believe that he was, indeed, the evil Master of Darkness.

As punishment for revealing something that Vanessa had forgotten, the Lost Boy was literally thrown across the room of the abandoned warehouse before being offered as “food” to the other Lost Boys.

Yeppers, looks like this Dracula is going to be even scarier than we thought.

Already, though we only have three episodes of the third season of Penny Dreadful available for viewing, we’ve been shown just how intricate the plot of this marvelous series is. Creator-writer John Logan is masterfully weaving together the disparate storylines, not just so that the characters interact with each other, but so that they seem to have been fated to encounter each other.

“Poor characters,” I’d say, if I weren’t so thoroughly enjoying the show, “each of them is in a most dreaful nightmare.”

And there seems to be no mercy anywhere in sight.

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All By Myself: PENNY DREADFUL s2 Finale

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Warning: Spoilers, Most Dreadful

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

Sembene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evelyn & Hecate

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

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

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

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

Victor, Dorian, & Lily

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

Lily (Billie Piper) does not love him.

Never has.

Never will.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It worked.

imagesOnly one evil could really tempt Vanessa.

The evil in herself.

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

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

Ethan

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

But what would any love story be without its obstacles?

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

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

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

On their way to America.

John Clare

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a sad and lonely scene.

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

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

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

Vanessa

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

At least, not yet.

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

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

Completely alone.

Not as the new Cut-Wife of Ballantrae Moor.

But as Vanessa.

The one whom the Master still seeks above all.

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Monsters, All: PENNY DREADFUL s2e9

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Warning: Spoilers Most Dreadful

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

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

Roper

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

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

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

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

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

I call self-defense.

Vanessa

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

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

How monstrously thoughtless of her.

Hecate & Evelyn

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ethan is the Protector.

Too bad little monster Hecate doesn’t know that.

Lyle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a man with secrets.

And jittery nerves.

The Putneys

images-24How ’bout them Putneys, eh?

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

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

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

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

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

Against his will.

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

John Clare

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

images-27What does he get?

Nothing but betrayal.

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

At the theatre watching the performers,

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

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

images-18Now Clare is in a real cage.

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

Sir Malcolm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he already knows what he’s done.

Lily-Brona

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

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

Ouch!

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

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

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

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

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

As Dorian so obligingly did.

Before she bit off his ear, of course.

Sembene

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

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

Hated by his own people as well as by whites.

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

The growing bond between Sembene and Ethan has been marvelous.

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

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

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

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

The Finale

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

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

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Warning: Spoilers

(Updated to include Video of Lily & John Clare)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yowza!

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

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

As monsters.

Indeed.

(Lily rages @ John Clare)

Warning: Language

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Filed under Actors, Movies/Television, Penny Dreadful, Videos