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

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Dark & Dreadful

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

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

♦ ♦ ♦

Episode 5
This World is Our Hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦ ♦ ♦

Episode 6
No Beast So Fierce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WTH?

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

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

So, yeah, Hecate died.

In Ethan’s arms, no less.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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whom the viewers know is Dracula himself.

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

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

Wowza!

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

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

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Afterward, weeping, Vanessa held Sweet in her arms.

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

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

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

Vanessa said, “So, the Darkness spoke.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello, Vanessa, anybody home?

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

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

That means sexually.

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

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

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

Oh, Vanessa, how could you have missed that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shivery and shuddery, my Dreadfuls.

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

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Related Posts

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Welcome to the Night: Showtime’s PENNY DREADFUL, S2E7

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Warning: Spoilers, Most Dreadful

images-17Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, created and written by John Logan, originally based on characters from Victorian literature — Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein — as well as on characters from the Victorian Penny Dreadfuls, like Varney the Vampire and Wagner the Werewolf, twists those characters around Logan’s principal creation, Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), in an intriguing and complex exploration of evil. Not the evil that some people insist exists only outside each of us, and call by names like the Devil or Lucifer or Satan, but the evil that exists inside us. Season 2’s Episode 7, “Little Scorpion,” returned to that theme with a vengeance.

The Lion Still Hunted

images-10After the blood-soaked hallucination that ended the grand ball at Dorian’s mansion in E6, Vanessa decided that she was not safe in London. Museum curator and closet-homosexual Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale) immediately seconded her wish to go away, advising her to go away now and to not tell any of them where she was going. Despite Eveyln Poole’s (Helen McCrory) blackmail of him (because of his sexual orientation) to help her get Vanessa, Lyle occasionally surprises us by his affection for and attachment to Vanessa. At the ball, he was upset that she was without an escort, and offered to see her home, telling her outright that it wasn’t safe for her there. Now, he was strongly advising her to go away without telling anyone her location. Mrs. Poole would be understandably upset at his “betrayal.”

images-11Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton), who is literally bewitched by Mrs. Poole, was upset at his exclusion from Vanessa’s plans. He asked if they were no longer to trust each other, especially after Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) and Lyle both agreed that Vanessa should go away without revealing her destination. Ethan (Josh Hartnett) insisted that he was going with her. Sembene (Danny Sapani) seemed to approve of Ethan as her companion. When Sir Malcolm asked, rather petulantly, why Ethan got to accompany her and no one else did, Vanessa summed it up very simply, saying that all — except Ethan and Sembene — had been present at the ball, and “yet the lion still hunted.”

The Warriors

images-5Though Sir Malcolm may feel piqued at not being considered Vanessa’s sole or ultimate protector, he is actually not one of the warriors in the show. The only true warriors, given their histories, are Ethan and Sembene. Ethan hunted Indians in North America, sometimes infiltrating and destroying whole tribes who refused to be relocated to reservations. Semebene, whose face is marked with tribal “coming of age” scars, knows what it is like to hunt and fight. He was the only one Ethan trusted to watch his transformation, which, as he learned in the morning, was into a Wolf.

Sembene was not afraid, telling Ethan that he saw beyond the crocodile (who ate) the monkey (who ate) the whatever, each higher predator absorbing the prey lower in the food-chain. Sembene told Ethan that he also saw beyond the Wolf, and was not afraid because he sees the good in Ethan.

In effect, Sembene and Ethan are the warriors in Penny Dreadful, and they have now bonded as such.

UnknownSir Malcolm, who literally and metaphorically raped his way across Africa (Vanessa accused him of S1E7, “Possession,” saying that he also insisted that his son Peter have sexual relations with the women against his will, to prove his manhood) is an imperialist, not a warrior. He conquers. He orders. He commands. He takes. He controls. Hence, his condescending remark that Vanessa may have imagined the blood-bath at the ball.

images-2Despite Sir Malcolm’s being under a love-spell cast by the head Night-Comer, or witch, Evelyn Poole, his dismissal of Vanessa’s vision and its implications for her own safety are typical Sir Malcolm. Later, Vanessa revealed to Ethan her disappointment, and perhaps resentment, that the relationship between her and Sir Malcolm has changed since Mrs. Poole came into his life and he “fell in love.”

But I don’t see that the relationship between Vanessa and Malcolm has changed: he was always using her for his own ends. Just because his daughter Mina is now dead and Vanessa thinks he “chose her” over Mina, doesn’t mean Sir Malcolm has ever changed his basic imperialistic character. Or his attitude toward Vanessa and the others.

imagesSembene and Ethan, who have bonded over Ethan’s secret as well as over their own individual but similar pasts as hunters and warriors, are the ones who have now been revealed as the two characters most capable of good, although, of course, each is capable of killing another creature to ensure his own survival.

Little Scorpions

UnknownDespite the episode’s title and the Cut-Wife’s (Patti LuPone) reference to Vanessa as her “Little Scorpion,” quite a few of the characters are dangerous creatures who “sting whether you believe in them or not,” as Lyle explained to Victor, when he and Lyle were discussing good and evil, the Devil and God, Amu-net and Amun-ra. Lyle said the Egyptians called love the “Scorpion’s Sting,” insisting that it would infiltrate your entire system and last forever.

We know Mrs. Poole has stung Sir Malcolm, literally, with her ring, several times, sucking his blood as the vampire Creature did from his victims in S1 of Penny Dreadful; and perhaps injecting him with love’s venom, metaphorically.

images-27Dorian (Reeve Carney), who is supposed to be in love with transgendered Angelique (Johnny Beauchamp), has already been technically unfaithful to her, though I’m not sure he ever actually promised her fidelity. images-44Not only did he “forget” Angelique at the coming-out ball he threw in her honor by becoming virtually obsessed with Lily (Billie Piper), formerly Ethan’s lover Brona, whom Frankenstein smothered to make her into a Bride for the Creature (Rory Kinnear), but Dorian further betrayed Angelique by taking Lily out on a date. Dorian stings anyone involved with him, too.images-14Despite Victor’s obvious distress at the events at the ball, as well as at the invitation from Dorian, Lily was delighted by both and went out with Dorian. Victor has been stung by the scorpion of love, but Lily apparently has not. She not only spent the day with Dorian, she picked up a stranger afterward and, while having sex with him, choked him to death, her face expressionless throughout.

images-15Her transformation into a Creature-Bride seemed to have left only amnesia and the visible scars over her breasts and down the center of her chest and abdomen (and what they represent, I have no idea, unless Victor replaced her consumption-damaged lungs). But the scars over her breasts were clearly visible as she choked the man while she was having intercourse with him. One scar over each breast, connected to the main, body scar. Rather like a scorpion’s claws, eh?

images-15Despite the fact that Vanessa was called “Little Scorpion” by the Cut-Wife, and despite Vanessa’s using the symbol of the scorpion as her badge of protection, she still stings. For one thing, she can shoot flawlessly, apparently without ever having had lessons.

images-25And though she claims to accept Ethan completely, she accepts then immediately rejects any physical or sexual advances, saying, “We’re dangerous.”

Has she stung him? It would seem so.

Has he stung her? Perhaps.

But she’s maintaining control over her emotions and her sexuality.

Welcome to the Night

images-30The bulk of the episode dealt with Vanessa’s and Ethan’s doomed Romeo & Juliet romance. Despite the fact that he chopped down the tree from which the Cut-Wife was manacled and burned alive,

images-31despite all their revelations about their own sorrows and brief moments of happiness or safety in the past as they walked the fields, searching for herbs, and setting rabbit snares,

images-28despite her teaching him to dance in return for the shooting lessons, and despite his proficiency in dancing, leading to closer physical proximity between the two,

images-24the evil in each of them comes between them.

By Vanessa’s choice.

imagesAfter being confronted and threatened, once again, by Sir Geoffrey in his woods, Ethan goes to Sir Geoffrey’s mansion, intent on killing him: not as a werewolf, but as a man, with a pistol, to protect Vanessa. He is stunned to witness, as he aims the gun, Sir Geoffrey’s own hounds turn and devour him.

images-12Though Vanessa was warned not to use the Book with the glyph on its spine unless she felt completely abandoned and lost, since once she used it, she would “have turned forever from God,” that is exactly what Vanessa did.

In a scene eerily reminiscent of Evelyn Poole’s incantation to the Devil,

images-7Vanessa got out the book and started chanting its spells.

images-1To have Sir Geoffrey’s dogs kill him in retaliation for his killing the Cut-Wife.

images-29Whoa.

Vanessa sold her soul to the Devil, turned her back on God, to get even with a worm like Sir Geoffrey?

Sure, she shed a few tears after she collapsed.

But Ethan, he was madder than hell.

He returned to the Cut-Wife’s cottage, calling Vanessa a “little girl” as he berated her for the evil thing she’d done. After all, he’d not only taught her to shoot, “to protect herself,” but he’d gone, as her protector, to do the deed himself.

Ethan hadn’t gone to do “evil,” in his opinion: he was an animal, trying to survive; he was defending the life of someone he loved from a predator. Ethan may, in fact, be the Lupus Dei — The Hound of God — repeated in the puzzle that Lyle and the others are attempting to solve in order to understand the Verbis Diablo — the language of the Devil which the Night-Comers use, and which is in the book Vanessa used to turn Sir Geoffrey’s hounds against him.

Furthermore, if Ethan is the Lupus Dei of the puzzle-tale, it may be his job to protect Vanessa. He certainly seems to see it that way, even though there is also now a sexual attraction there.

(Remember that the two of them had no relationship last season beyond employer-recruiter and hired gun. Sir Malcolm needed more guns to kill the Creature in his hunt for his daughter Mina, and Vanessa found and hired Ethan Chandler. Ethan was emotionally involved with Brona Croft (Billie Piper), who was dying of consumption but whose death was hurried by Frankenstein’s holding a pillow over her face so he could transform her into Lily, the Creature-Bride. Vanessa attempted a sexual liaison with Dorian, but in the midst of intercourse, her participation in the sex act unleashed the demons that the Victorians associated with female sexuality, and she became possessed.)

images-32Now, however, Vanessa has once again chosen to do evil, just as she did when she seduced her best friend Mina’s fiancé the night before the wedding, causing a permanent rift between Mina and Vanessa, as well as between the two families. In “Little Scorpion,” Vanessa’s choice to do evil, when she knew she had a protector, when she’d learned how to shoot, when Sir Geoffrey was not actively harming her, infuriated Ethan and caused a rift between them.

It’s a rift far wider than that between Romeo and Juliet’s families. After all, the Montagues and the Capulets can’t even remember what started the feud in the first place: they just recall that their families are ancient enemies.

Vanessa consciously chose to do evil, to use the book of spells and the Verbis Diablo — which she was warned would separate her forever from God — for something as petty as revenge.

“We have claws for a reason,” Ethan told Vanessa earlier.

But after she used a Night-Comer’s spell to kill Sir Geoffrey, Ethan angrily told her that she could never go back to what she was before.

“Welcome to the Night, Vanessa,” he said, before turning away.

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Leave a Comment

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