Review: Penny Dreadful ep 5: Closer than Sisters

Posted: October 19, 2014 in gothic, horror, television
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.”

  1. D. D. Syrdal says:

    I’m not reading the whole review because I haven’t seen any of this show yet, but I think I may have to check it out on Amazon.

  2. I think you might like the show. It does hold a good Victorian Gothic feel. Some of the eps have been a bit lacking. Not bad at all, just didn’t live up to their potential. But I think they may be finding their groove at this point.

    and yes, there are spoilers in my reviews, so def don’t read until afterwards.

  3. This episode was good! I don’t know if I can say the comment I want or not because as you know I watch the whole thing in a day. That how good it kept my attention of wanted to see more and everything for me is now a whole. Instead I will touch the surface very briefly. I think Vanessa seeing her mother and her friend father in the garden dramatize her for life. Even when it showcase it as noting. In my opinion it stayed with her through adult age and created jealousy for her wanted to sleep with her best friend man. She did not had feeling for him but wanted to have what her friend had. What sadden me is at the time she was getting screwed and saw her find witnessing the action of being screwed by her finance she did not show any remorse.

    The pain that she encounter or traumaterization was cruel and that too sadden me to watch. However it was beautifully play out and written.

  4. Hey Lora, your comment is totally fine! It’s only things regarding future eps that I wouldn’t want discussed at earlier eps. 😉

    I think Vanessa slept with Mina’s fiance for two reasons. One, she was simply horny and frustrated being a grown woman in a time without many opportunities for females to express such needs. Not like she could just go out to some nightclub or something.

    Two, I think she did purposely or subconsciously want to ruin things between Mina and her fiance because she was jealous and afraid of being alone (as she admitted in the letter she wrote)

  5. honeythatsok says:

    This was my favorite episode too! Up until this I didn’t really care about Vanessa and i found it hard to pay serious attention. This show has kinda stuck with me after I finished it so I think that means it’s a good one 🙂

  6. Hi Honeythatsok,

    Thanks for stopping over at my blog. 🙂

    I actually was interested in Vanessa from the start, but then she’s my kinda character. But definitely the difference for me was that in this episode I could finally feel some emotion. To this point, everything has looked excellent and been well-crafted, but has felt so distant.

  7. p.s. love your username!

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