Archive for October, 2014

She’s still alive!- was my first thought upon seeing poor Brona in bed, coughing up blood. Luckily the dear is comforted by Chandler who comes and lies beside her. After she apologizes for her behavior the night before, he tells her, “I love you with all my heart.” I sat up at this, not only because I rather like the two as a couple, but because it is so rare to hear an actor express that sentiment so earnestly. Ever since the onset of talkies in which audiences giggled upon hearing their dashing heroes confess their love, screenwriters have been hesitant in its use; and when uttered, is usually downplayed or expressed in a joke-y sorta way. (think Hans and Leila in Star Wars) So kudos to Josh Harnett for going for that line with unapologetic feeling and making me believe.

chandler and brona what death
Now let us move on to Miss Ives, who, while reading tarot, once again hears Mina’s voice. As well as some screams and creepy chomping noises. Off she goes to Sir Malcolm to inform him that the cards have revealed something about a ship.

Meanwhile, Dr. Frankenstein is busy studying the bodies and movements of women for Caliban’s bride. His work is interrupted, however by Van Helsing who asks if he has ever heard of vampires. Once the doc answers in the negative, the good Professor pulls out a Penny Dreadful, and explains that while the author got his facts wrong, his story was still true. There is much more that Van Helsing wants to tell Frankenstein, but their conversation is interrupted by Caliban who in a fit of rage, breaks the former’s neck. How dare his father pause in his endeavors! Caliban will have none of that nonsense. He wants his lady and will kill anyone that Frankenstein cares about or who gets in the way of the work. I lost pretty much any sympathy for this “monster” the other week when he declared his bride must be beautiful despite hating how he is treated because of his own looks. Very different than Mary Shelley’s famous creation, this monster really lives up to his name. Frankly, the hypocritical dude is no different than the plethora of people who walk around believing they have suffered some unique breed of suffering which gives them the allowance to hurt and lash out at others.

helsing and frankenstein

Time to move away from that weasel and back to Brona who gives Chandler her St. Jude medal. The Saint of Lost Causes. I feel rather ghoulish that everytime that woman is on screen I muse on how and when she is going to die. Will she become Caliban’s chosen as I first suspected? That notion seems to be losing steam now that Caliban has eyes on a certain actress. Will she become a victim of The Master? Or, if Chandler is a werewolf, as has been hinted, would he turn her to save her life? There’s certainly much foreshadowing when Sir Malcolm later warns Chandler that once put on opiates to dull the pain, Brona “will cease to be who she is”.

Chandler lets that go for the moment as he, Sembene, and Sir Malcolm board a ship which the latter believes may be the one propheseid. Aboard, they search amongst the corpses and scurrying rats. Losing hope, Sir Malcolm declares that his daughter is not there. Cue several long-haired blonde vampiresses awakening. And once that fight is won, the real Mina, in the arms of The Master, reaches out for her father.

penny dreadful mina

While the men are sweating off vamps, Miss Ives is having her fun with Mr. Gray, and in the midst of orgasm hears a voice informing her that He has been waiting…

final thoughts: utterly fantastic epidode. All the scenes are long enough to possess depth, but none so long that any of the storylines drag. The writing was great, most notably the exchanges between Vanessa and Dorian Gray through the hall of portraits into bed, from their kiss to knifeplay.

There are enough questions to keep the viewer excited to turn the page onto the next ep, yet enough is known that one feels grounded.

– I do find it odd that no one at all is suspicious that Mina’s appeareances to Vanessa might be a ploy. I can understand Sir Malcolm and Vanessa being blind to such a thought, but wouldn’t Chandler and Sembene, from their comfortable emotional distance, at least acknowledge that possibility?

– hopes: Mina Harker is such a cool, strong, resourceful heroine in Stoker’s novel, that I certainly hope that her character is given justice here

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Ah! The episode I’ve been waiting for opens with Vanessa penning a letter to Mina. “I write in hope that one day things will be as they once were, though I know that can never be.”

She looks up and as her gaze turns faraway, we are taken back in time to a young Vanessa frolicking on the beach with Mina. The two girls hold hands, both dressed in angelic white, as their ribboned hair flows behind them. “I don’t remember any clouds when we were young. Were there any?” an adult Vanessa wonders as the scene plays out. “Were they on the horizon or was it all seashores and sandcastles? Such thoughts seem naive, but aren’t all memories?”

Later, the two friends are over at Mina’s house where they discuss the kind of men they wish to marry. Mina teases Vanessa that everyone expects her to marry her brother, Peter. The boy looks up and informs them both that he will be joining his and Mina’s father (Sir Malcolm) on his expeditions. That he won’t be spending his life stuffing monkeys and other animals as he is just then. Vanessa goes over to him and insists that he must name everything so they come alive. “Like a witch’s spell.”

Sir Malcolm arrives home and while lavishing much attention on his daughter, and also toward Vanessa whom he obviously also feels fatherly affections for, he offers little affection to his son, except to give him a present. As Peter watches the way his father interacts with the two girls, it leaves little wonder why it is so important for him to become an explorer like his father and join him on his adventures.

sir malcolm and teh girls

Years pass and Vanessa depicts the friendship between the two families, and the many dinners they spent together. Yet, “If I had been older I would have seen more beneath the laughter.”

After one such get-together, Vanessa strolls through a hedge maze upon the Murray’s estate. Certain she is going to come across Mina and her beau, she instead encounters her mother with Sir Malcolm. “More than the forbidden and the sinfulness, there was this…I enjoyed it. Something whispered. I listened.”

vanessa watching her mother
Vanessa runs to her room to pray. “Perhaps it had always been there. This thing, this demon inside me. Or behind my back waiting for me to turn around.” She swivels her head to glimpse her face in the mirror.

Jealous that her best friend is going to be married while Peter rejects her own advances as he is still determined to go away to Africa, she sneaks downstairs and meeting upon Mina’s fiance, comes on to the man, and they are soon all over each other. An almost hypnotized Vanessa (whether her eyes are glazed from sexual delight or from demonic possession or just shock at what she is doing is not quite clear) but she quickly sombers when Mina appears in view.

All goes to hell, and while Mina’s pareents attempt to console her, Vanessa tries to flee. She is stopped by her mohter who insists she goes back upstairs and try to make amends. Vanessa counters that her mother should go upstairs and beg her own husband’s forgiveness. Starteld that her daughter knew about the affair, Mrs Ives lets her daughter go. But Vanessa only runs so far before she falls hopelessly to the ground.

In an asylum, Vanessa suffers horrific “water treatments”, as well as having her hair shorn  before being forced to undergo brain surgery.

vanessa in hospital

Once released, the now almost camatose young woman is being tended to by her mother. Peter comes to say goodbye before leaving.  Vanessa wakes up as he leans over her. “You should have kissed me then. Kiss me now.” After he tenderly does so, she informs him he is going to die in Africa. The disturbed man quickly leaves, perhaps sensing his old friend is correct about his fate.

Once alone again, Vanessa gazes toward her mirror and this time sees the figure she always felt around her. “You are not Sir Malcolm,” she insists although the creature has taken his form. Realizing it is the devil, she tries to rebuke his advances but he assures her that she has always had choices and everything that has happened has been her doing.

“Darkling I listen; and, for many a time / I have been half in love with easeful Death / Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, / To take into the air my quiet breath,” he recites from Keat’s “Ode to a Nightingale”.

Soon the two are enthroed in a passionate embrace.

Hearing noises coming from upstairs, Mrs. Ives hurries up to find her solo daughter, naked and writhering upon the bed, her eyes mad. Unable to take the shock, she dies of a heart attack.

A mournful Vanessa comes across Mina on the same beach they used to play together. Her best friend informs her that she has been forgiven because Mina realizes how much she has suffered.  Mina also goes on to say she is now married to a good man named Mr. Harker. But when she continues on, uttering things she could not possibly know, Vanessa realizes something is terribly wrong. As Mina’s face transforms to that of a vampire, she begs Vanessa to save her from the master.

Mina and Vanessa on beach

Determined to set things right, Vanessa goes to Sir Malcom’s and informs him they must save his daughter.

final thoughts: Definitely my fave episode thus far, and last week’s had already been an improvement. Everything which failed in the Frankenstein flashback, excelled here. Eva Green is always enchanting on the screen, but never moreso than when going feral. The interplay between she and Sir Malcolm, the history of how they have bonded together to save Mina despite the hurt they have caused each other is duly felt and understandable.

favorite line: “He loves you enough to save you. But I love you in a different way. I love you enough to kill you.”

The most sensual episode yet opens with Dorian Gray lazing on a chaise, watching his naked guests engage in an orgy.

All this is ho-hum, however, for the Mr. Gray. Bored, he leaves the party and wanders down a hall of mirror until he sits down in front of a painting which is shielded from the TV audience’s view.

Meanwhile, we turn to Vanessa Ives who is sitting outside of a cathedral. Her thoughts are interrupted by a little girl who questions why she does not go in. As Miss Ives does not answer this one is left wondering if she simply feels uncomfortable in religious instituions, or if she is not able to enter them.

girl and Vanessa outside church

The two characters, alone in their respective situations, later meet upon each other at a botanical garden. As Gray leads her through a greenhouse, he asks, in a daring way, for her to close her eyes and describe how a certain flower makes her feel. After she seductively inhales its scent, detailing how lovely, and inviting its bouquet is to her, Dorian happily informs her that the flower is the deadly nightshade.

vanessa and dorian flowers

The flirting and double entrendes between Gray and Ives contrast with the much more serious conversation spent between Chandler and Brona. After she reveals to him her abused past, he invites her for a night out.

In the highlight of the episode, the two couples run into each other at a performance of “The Transoformed Beast” at the Grand Guignol. As the back stagehands work the props, and the actors are gaily murdered on stage, we know something is going to happen soon. Soon….

And the questions abound. Why does the vampire, Fenton insist on referring to Vanessa, as “mother”?

What did Vanessa mean when she mentioned to Sir Malcom that she had once betrayed Mina?

These questions lingered as our main characters of tonight’s episode watch the play with much merriment.

Penny_Dreadful_-_1x04_-_Demimonde

However, things take a darker turn when Brona is embarrassed to be recognized by Gray. Also, perhaps sensing some quiet attraction between Chandler and Vanessa, she storms off. When a bewildered Chandler chases after her, she laments that she is a lost cause and he’s basically screwing a walking corpse. Pissed off at the rotten hand she’s been dealt, she storms away, as a confused and hurt Chandler watches her go.

Penny-Dreadful-2x04

The camera follows her along the bustling streets as her cough hits. She struggles through the crowds until at last she falls onto the ground.  In a scene more chilling than one filled with any literary monsters because it is too tragically real, she is ignored and left to die alone by the pedestrians who just keep on walking.

A lonely Chandler ends up at Dorian’s house later that night. The guest is offered his first taste of absinthe. After drinking down the green elixir, he is overcome by images of the women who were murdered, and of the woman who looked at him with suspicion as she mentioned, Jack the Ripper. As there have been several hints that our gunslinging American is a werewolf, one might wonder if he actually committed those crimes or fears that he did. My guess is the latter, but all that is put aside for the moment as the episode ends on a kiss.

final thoughts: As much as I really liked Brona (if she’s not dead yet, she certainly will be soon) and wanted to see how her relationship with Chandler might continue, I’m looking forward to her turn as The Bride of Frankenstein, as there is little doubt it will be her corpse that Frankenstein chooses for Caliban’s mate.

The only question on that front is, can Billie Piper scream like Elsa Lancheser?

“Your first born has returned, father.”

And so ended the second episode of Penny Dreadful.

penny dreadful victor and monster

Not suprisingly, we are now shown the flashback of how Doctor Frankenstein created his monster.

Unlike Mary’s Frankenstein whose wish to create life stemmed from scientific ambitions, this version of the doctor is driven by loss.

A young boy, his beloved dog has recently died, and his mother is painfully (and bloodily) wasting away from tuberculosis. The distraught Victor wonders why dying is not beautiful as it is in the world of the Romantic poets.

“Death is not serene,” he later says at his mother’s funeral.

Back to present time, the monster reels off about hs birth and immediate desertion. “Was every newborn abandoned at birth? Is this what life was?” And so goes his memories of learning about people by staring out the little window, and reading  his father’s books.  Wherefore, he scoffs at Victor’s romantic sensibilities. “We live in a time of steam ships. Did you really think I’d see eternity in daffodils?”

Spurred to join the world that he’d only glimpsed at, the monster left his safe haven and traveled.  Whereby, he was met with cruelty and abuse until befriended by an aging actor who secured him a job working behind the stage at the Grand Guignol. The monster, now called Caliban, muses of how night after night the actors died, only to be reborn the next.

Caliban found some level of friendship and acceptance in the world of theater, yet coveted the one thing he knew would always be unattainable.

“I want an immortal mate,” he now tells Victor.

Meanwhile, Sir Malcolm, perturbed from the incidents from Seance, is met by Vanessa who infroms him that they must find Mina after she sees a vision of the girl.

“You must save me.”

Mina and Vanessa

The pair are joined by Chandler who needs a job in order to purchase medicine for Brona’s worsening illness.

Off they go to the zoo where instead of finding Mina, they manage to capture another poor soul who has become a slave to the “master”.

penny dreadful zoo

Sir Malcolm calls upon Victor to see about finding a cure for the young man (to hopefully be used on his daughter one day). The doctor is none too pleased, warning that when you create a life, or a new version of life, you are responsible for it.

final thoughts: Due to the lack of immediacy, it is difficult, by nature, to make flashbacks exciting. Yet, they can be a great technique in revealing character’s histories and motivations. Unfortunately, for most of this episode, it felt like the writers merely wanted to bring the viewers quickly up to speed so they could turn the page onto the next episode. While the acting continues to impress, the writing was akin to, “and this happend. And then this happened.”

While I commend the writers for being confident and taking their time with the storytelling, it is imperative not to forget the importance of emotionally bonding your audience.

Episode two had more of the heart I felt missing in the premiere.  Let’s hope this was a mere slip.  Bring on episode four!

nitpick: The teasing of the probably inevitalbe romance between Vanessa and Chandler.  *yawn*.  Perhaps this is subjective, for I really like his relationship with Brona.  They come from similar worlds, they understand each other, have a friendly, easy rapport, and respect for each other.  In real life, that’s what tends to make lasting relationships.  However in Hollywood, such realism is too often shoved out the door for forced upon romances of opposites.

Not that people from different backgrounds and/or contrasting personalities, can’t and don’t find true love with each other in real life, but too often in films it is just a lazy trope of sorts.  And really, the main male and main female don’t always have to get together.  Seriously.