Archive for the ‘gothic’ Category

“Under the oil lamp that hung outside the Hare and Billet public house opposite the willowed pond at the bottom right of the heath, a spindly figure came hurrying into view.  She was cloaked in black, pulling the swirling material close to her body and moved with determined strides, hurried along by the threat of what stirred above.  Illuminated by the orange glow of the pub windows, she stopped suddenly, distracted by a noise at the pond.  Beyond the curtain of dark willow branches that dipped down into the water something was moving.”

…..

Racing up the old Dover road from the coast two large black carriages pulled by four muscular black horses attempted to outrun the storm that had kept pace with them since their arrival in the country.  Finally Blackheath opened up to them, the storm a dramatic black sea above it. The carriages veered and swayed as their wheels hit verge and pothole, turning the corners too fast and at alarming speeds.  They threatened to topple as they approached the Princess of Wales public house that marked entry into the village.”

Set in 1850s Blackheath- an area of south-east London- Alan Williams’s novel begins as forty year-old Maggie Cloak makes her way home through a crazy storm, while her younger sister, Judy, sits at her desk penning the first lines of the gothic horror she is attempting.

It is a few years since the Fox Sisters of Hydesville, NY made headlines with their spirit tappings, and across the sea, the Spiritualist Movement has caught fire.

As their chocolate store is barely selling enough sugar mice or marzipan ladybirds to keep them fed, Judy declares they must finally close shop and, “We must open the Blackheath Seance Parlour!”

And so begins one of the most fun, engaging romps I’ve read in years.  Filled with beautifully realized characters, a poignant portrait of a troubled sister relationship, a surprising friendship between Maggie and a minister, a serial killer stalking women across the desolate landscape, psychics, angry royalty, and a very naughty gothic number by Judy… this one had me utterly engrossed.

It may be important to note, that others have pointed out some anachronisms.  Indeed, it is unlikely that Judy’s bawdy, explicit novel with 18th century sensibilities would be so easily published in the repressed, hushed nineteenth.  However, the inaccuracies blended so easily into the story, that they never took me out of it.

Blackheath Seance Parlour

written by Alan Williams

2013

Favorite book read in ages.

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… and I fell behind.  Much behind.  While I continued watching, and thoroughly enjoying the sophmore season of Penny Dreadful, I’ve been so caught up in a manuscript, that I didn’t have enough of a desire to write posts on our show of glorious horrors.   So forgive me for skipping to the end, because I do want to take a moment to discuss the season finale.

I won’t do a plot summary as there doesn’t seem to be a point in doing so after all this time.

But there are some key moments that are on my mind:

John Clare and Lavinia.  Anyone who has read my posts know I loathe Frankenstein’s monster.  Whatever name he takes on, however many Wordsworth poems he recites in that knowing and tender voice, he is always, always only concerned with self.  Everything is how it relates to him.  Some hurt him so now the world will pay, and  any woman who doesn’t swoon at his poetic yearnings will find herself at the wrong end of his  hands.  But Rory Kinnear has played him with perfection, always leaving me wanting to find the beauty within the monster.

In Lavinia, we discovered the monster inside the beauty.  As she mocked him, there was a sense that she was really seething, “You thought I must be pure and good because I am beautiful and blind.”

Many have wondered why he let her live.  A moment of kindness?  Or cruelty- knowing her life would become a hell?  I think it was because in that instance he saw himself in her.

We will probably not see either of them again.  Her fate on the cold streets of London can be imagined, as can his in that cold, dark sea.

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next post: an ode to Sembene

 

Originally published on my former blog: Gypsyscarlett Weblog on April 30, 2012

Released in 1966 by Mario Bava, Kill, Baby, Kill, is a fantastic horror set in a Carpathian village.  Despite its ridiculous American title (the original being, Operazione paura) which conjures images of a c-grade slasher, the film is a surprising mix of an old-fashioned ghost story with dashes of surrealism. The film begins as a woman leaps to her death onto a spiked fence.  Then a child’s mocking laughter is heard as the opening credits roll. An outsider, Dr. Paul Eswai, is summoned to perform the autopsy.  He quickly befriends a young nurse, Monica Shuftan, who only recently arrived at the village, herself.   She reveals having been born there, but sent away when orphaned at two years.  “I came to visit my parents’ graves,” she tells him. Image
The two quickly learn that the villagers fear a ghost child named Melissa.   Legend goes that anyone who sees the malevolent spirit will kill themselves Image
The scientifically-minded doctor scoffs at the notion of a curse, while the more emotional, but sensible Monica realizes that science can’t explain the odd deaths which have plagued the village for twenty years. Along with the pile of bodies all found with coins in their hearts, is the mysterious presence of the black-robed Ruth.

kill baby kill ruth

     When a teen-aged girl claims to have seen the ghost, her petrified mother cries for her husband to seek help from the witch.  But when he opens the door to do so, she is already standing at the threshold.   “We know when someone is in harm’s way.”
When Paul arrives, he is aghast to witness what he considers Ruth’s arcane healing methods.  And further, he ignores her warnings to leave the village.   Instead, he continues to search for rational answers and save the ailing Nadienne. Meanwhile, Monica is plagued by a doll-filled nightmare that suggests there’s more to her past in connection with the village than even she is aware.. As the plot deepens, Monica, Paul, and Ruth find their way to the home of the Baroness Graps, the reclusive mother of the ghost child.  Two are seeking the truth.  One, is looking for retribution. Image Not as well known as Bava’s sublime, Black Sunday, this film is every bit as worth a view.   Interesting camera angles and dazzling colors create a highly atmospheric mood.   An intelligent script converts some of the genre’s even by then tired clichés.   Giacomo Rossi-Stuart displays solid acting as Paul, though he lacks the charisma necessary to elevate the role from merely the “good guy”. It is the women of this film that the camera loves.  Erika Blanc is effective as Monica, and even drab clothes can’t hide her charms.  The haunting Fabienne Dali (Ruth) steals every scene she’s in.  And of course, there’s always Melissa and her devoted mother…

Mary Shelley

 

Originally published in my former blog: Gypsyscarlett Weblog on February 9, 2009

In the summer of 1816, a cold spell swept across Europe and North America.   The unusual chill caused snowfall in July and unparalleled thunderstorms.   Pamphlets were passed around predicting the end of the world.

During June of that year,  five of the most famous persons in the world gathered together in a summerhouse in Villa Diodati, on the southern shore of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.  “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know”- Lord Byron, Dr. John Polidori, ethereal Percy Shelley, Claire Clairmont (eighteen years-old and pregnant with Byron’s child), and her stepsister, Mary Godwin (mistress to the married Shelley).

Mary Godwin (later Shelley) was born on August 30, 1797 to the radical political philosopher William Godwin, and  founding feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (authoress of “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”).   Mr. Godwin never got over the death of  his wife who died due to complications during childbirth.  He taught young Mary to spell her name by tracing the letters on her mother’s tombstone.

Although both Godwin and Wollstonecraft had been disciples of the free love movement, he was outraged when his own daughter began a love affair with the married poet and refused to speak with her. Mary had spent her childhood haunted by the idea that she’d murdered her mother and  was determined to prove her consequent life worthy.   It had not been easy growing up the child of famed revolutionaries.   Now,  practically disowned by the father she adored, and in the company of  the poetic geniuses, Byron and Percy, Mary felt an even greater need to prove herself.

On June 16, 1816, as candles flickered and lightning illuminated the room, Byron read from Fantasmagoriana,  a volume of German shudder stories translated into French.  Upon finishing, he challenged everyone in the room to write a ghost story.  This was just the incitement Mary needed. She later explained, “I busied myself to think of a story,- a story to rival those which had excited us to this task.  One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror.”

However, she was unable to think of an idea until June 22nd.   On that evening, the conversation turned to, “the nature of the principle of life, and whether there was any probability of its ever being discovered and communicated.”  They discussed the experiments of Erasmus Darwin who had, “preserved a piece of vermicelli in a glass case, till by some extraordinary means it began to move with voluntary motion.”

Past midnight, she found herself unable to sleep- imagining a corpse reanimated.  “My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie.”   Her eyes closed, she saw, “a pale student of unhallowed arts….kneeling beside the thing he had put together.  I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion.”

After opening her eyes, she was still not able to dismiss the “hideous phantom”.  She later recalled thinking, “O! if I could only contrive one which would frighten my reader as I myself had been frightened that night.”  A few moments later she realized,  “I have found it!”

The next morning, she announced having thought of a story.  And along with the dream, she brought with her  a lifetime spent devouring the works of Goethe, Dante, Schiller, Shakespeare, Milton, and Matthew “Monk” Lewis.

In writing, Frankenstein ; or, The Modern  Prometheus, she would further utilize the theory of vitalism which held that a life force separated living things from  non-living things.  Some believed in a connection between vitalism (or elan vital) and electricity.  In 1803,  Giovanni Aldini had claimed to make dead bodies sit up and raise their arms by applying electricity.

Mary began, “It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils.” ( This opening spoken by Dr. Victor Frankenstein would later become the opening of chapter 4 in the 1818 edition and chapter 5 in the revised 1831 version).

Dr. Frankenstein discovers the secrets of creating life.  After gathering human parts from charnel houses, he infuses the spark of life into the being.  However, Frankenstein is immediately horrified at the ugliness of his own creation.    He casts the Monster out into the unfeeling world.  This Monster- sensitive and tender- seeks understanding from Man but is constantly spurned until he chooses suicide. ”I shall die.   I shall no longer feel the agonies which now consume me, or be the prey of feelings unsatisfied, yet unquenched.”

As Mary began penning what at first was only intended to be a short story, she could have no idea that she was creating one of the most enduring characters ever invented.   The  unnamed Monster, rejected by his own father, (as Mary had been rejected by hers) would outlive all of the five men and women gathered together in that villa on the shores of lake Geneva.

*quote by Lady Caroline Lamb- lover to Lord Byron

the monk

reblogged from my older blog, Gypsyscarlett: Writing the Victorian Gothic.  originally posted on May 20, 2012

Into the Gothic World of the Monk

One of my maxims for writing stories that take place in past eras is that people have always been the same.  What goes on inside hearts, and behind closed doors has never changed.   It is only the outer society that differs in clothes and manner.
     A fantastic example of this is the 1796 novel by Matthew G. Lewis.   It is difficult to imagine this being published in the staid Victorian period.  But go back one century to the much more bawdy 18th, and this book was not only published, it was a smashing hit.  The fact that some critics deemed it obscene and dangerous, of course, only helped to sell more copies.
      Matthew Lewis, born on July 9. 1775, to a prominant English family, wrote the novel in a span of ten weeks.  Inspired by the novel, Mysteries of Udolpho, he aimed to write his own Gothic masterpiece.   Evidently putting aside any care or worry what anyone would think of him or his novel, he went full out, no-holds barred. The title character, Ambrosio is the ultimate man of two faces.  To his congregation he is the embodiment of purity and moral excellence.  Inside, he is an ego-ist who feeds on their adoration.
       The novel becomes a Matryoshka doll of stories within stories.  Romance,  sex, magic, murder,  and ghosts  fill the pages. While the confessions he hears indicate that most of the characters are decent enough folk caught up in an unjust world,  Ambrosio, himself, spirals into one of the most loathesome characters in all of literature.  A hypocrite to the extreme who blames everyone  and everyone but himself for anything and everything he does,  his arrogance and utter disregard for others leads him to rape and murder.
     The novel also boasts one of the most fascinating, unapologetic characters in Matilda.  As Ambrosio’s lover and nemesis,  she is his perfect foil, and the reader will be quite curious whose side she is really on.
     Story-wise, the novel is a marvel and it is easy to see why it had such great influence on such later literary figures as Emily Bronte and Poe.  On the negative side, the novel is unfortunately filled with the racism and sexism of its day.  Reading the treatment of the women is not easy.  Their constant punishment will raise the hair of anyone with modern sensibility.   While the men happily go along their merry ways, you can bet any of the female characters who engages in physical intercourse- whether it be consensual sex or  rape, will either die or lose her beauty and retire into a convent.  Only one female character in the book who has had pre-marital sex is “allowed” by the author to marry the man she loves at the end.   But not until after she has suffered one of  the cruelest, most heartbreaking tragedies one can imagine.
     Accepting the book for the era it was written, I was able to greatly enjoy the story while glaring at times and being grateful that authors no longer need to punish their ladies as some sort of horrible, hypocritical “moral”.
     Recommended as a highly engaging, spellbinding, and at times, surprisingly humorous tale with a fantasic, witty end.

“And then?”
“They burnt her alive.” The fourth episode of the sophmore season begins as Vanessa finishes the tale she began in last week’s, The Nightcomers. However, now Dr.Frankenstein, Sembene, Ferdinand Lyle, and Sir Malcolm have joined the previous solo-audience of Ethan.
“We have to find out what these things are,” Ethan not-so-sagely concludes.
“Yes. They’re witches. Understood,” Dr. Frankenstein interrupts. Since Penny Dreadful may be accused of taking itself a bit too seriously from time to time, this moment of very subtle, natural humor was much appreciated.

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“Witchcraft has a long history in many cultures, Doctor,” the dandyish Ferdinand Lyle puts in, making one wonder if he is trying to throw them a hint, as he can’t be pleased being under the control of Miss Poole.

As the group gathers around the table to continue trying to put together the pieces of artifacts they have gathered, Ferdinand tells them, “It is not so much a language as a collection of known languages. Old languages forming new patterns.”
“Found us to be evil angels so He cast us out,” Ethan deciphers with his knowledge of Latin.
“It is not just a story,” Ferdinand nods. “It is an autobiography. The memoirs of the devil.”

After the group disperses, Vanessa returns to the foyer to find Sembene sitting on the stairs. “Watching those things that hunt at night. Lions.”

She turns from him and wanders away.

Night. Bartholomew Rusk begins to investigate the murder of the couple whose baby was kidnapped by Hecate.
“We’ve been going about this all wrong,” he realizes. “We’re pursuing patterns of logic when the answer lies elsewhere.” In magic.

Meanwhile, Oscar Putney continues plans for his freak show. Down in his cellar, John Clare and Lavinia get to know each other while studying the masks.
“Father’s murderers. All those figures screaming in his new crime scenes. Ah, Mr. Clare, it hurts me to create them. Like I’m bringing them to life and then torturing them. Like some sort of terrible African Voodoo doll.” Of which the now-changing Clare reveals he no longer believe life is all about suffering.
Indeed, she agrees, “there is hope for you, anyway.”

Outside, the newsman waves his papers. “All murders on the underground. Read about it!” Ethan grabs a copy while being watched by the three witches. And then a certain Hecate makes her move:

chandler-and-hecate

Elsewhere in London-

“Honestly, Doctor, this is the last thing I expected.” Vanessa laughs as she assists good ol’ Frankenstein as he clothes shops for his “cousin”, Lily.

Hecate (she claimes named by her classics-loving parents, and holding a degree in botany) flirts with Ethan and thinks she has him enthralled until he accuses her of being sent to spy on him by his father.

Gray takes Angelique out for a night at the Gossima Parlour.
“Electrical lights,” she laughs. “What it does to a girl’s complexion.”
“Shall we keep score?” Gray asks as they settle to play a game of table-tennis.
“Why else live?” The other arches a brow.

S02E04_Evil_Spirits_In_Heavenly_Places_1

“He could smell me,” Hecate later explains to her mother on why she could not hook Ethan.

“Then we shall fight him tooth for claw. I’ll prepare the enchantment for tonight.”

Back at the loft:
penny dreadful evil spirits frankenstein and lily

“So women wear corsets so they don’t over-exert themselves.” -Lily to Frankenstein.
“Yes.”
“What would happen if they did?”
“They would take over the world.”

As the two flirt over the issue of gender equality,back at the mansion Lyle and Malcolm continue to try to further deciper the relics.

“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” The former teases. “Now that you’ve given up the Nile, you need a new quest.”

And he further tries to lightheardly warn Malcolm away from Miss Poole. “You might proceed with precaution, eh?…Those little dalliances can get so Byzantine.”

“If we can accept the Devil walks amongst us today,” Sir Malcolm later surmises to his group, “we must conclude this is part of an ongoing story.” Foretelling a future, mostly Vanessa’s…

and then the house is invaded by the three witches…

And thus ended this lively episode. In contrast to last week’s darkly atmospheric Nightwalkers, tonight was a fun-romp through London.  From Vanessa’s lighthearted shopping spree with the Doctor to Gray’s date with Angelique, to Ethan figuring out Hecate, yet not figuring out Hecate, there was a large feeling of lighthearted play.
Kudos to the heads of casting. Along with the main cast, all the actors in the supporting roles are performing briliantly.

favorite lines: “Whatever we can imagine, far worse is true.”- Doctor Frankenstein

“No sensible shoes now, Mr. Chandler.”- Hecate

fun little tidbit: Vanessa always eats dessert for breakfast. A gal after my own heart!

Questions:

-Sembene! Sembene! Sembene!

– might Hecate really fall for Ethan?

– and is she tired of being under her mother’s total control?

– why did she claim that she was named after a sea goddess, and not a moon goddess as Vanessa later corrects to Ethan? Surely she had to figure that Ethan might also have known that fact, and have read Macbeth… It seems a rather stupid, unnecessary lie.  Was it only thrown in as plot convenience so our people could quickly come up to speed?

– when will Vanessa meet Cousin Lily?

– Does Angelique have ulterior motives when it comes to Gray? Probably. But I think it would be a nice change if she didn’t…

til next week…

*Spoilers may follow*

“What is wrong?” Ethan asks of Vanessa after spotting the blood left on the floor from Verbis Diablo


As Vanessa begins to tell her story to him we are brought back to the time in which Mina had gone missing. In order to find out why she is, as she is, Vanessa has traveled to the West Country to speak with the infamous  Cut- Wife (Joan).

nightwalkers vanessa and joan

Unfortunately, her introduction is marred with crass-to-be-crass dialogue, and an overly dramatic performance by Patti Lupone.   As the character kept spitting out venom and turning to Vanessa for a reaction, it brought to mind a teen trying to shock their parents by leaving  The Satanic Bible open on the kitchen table, or making sure they’re caught while acting out scenes from the works of the Marquis de Sade.

Vanessa wasn’t buying it.  Neither did I.

Once Cut Wife stopped jamming her fingers into Vanessa’s forehead and lifting her up from the ground by her crotch, she calmed down enough to allow our gal to come inside her fetish-filled witch hut.

“Who marked you?” She wants to know of the pentacle branded in Joan’s skin.  When the other will not respond, the answer comes to Vanessa, herself.  “Someone you kissed once.  A woman.  A sister?”  “Your sister.” She looks to the witch.  “If I am right, let me stay.”

At that, Joan brings out a tarot deck and orders Vanessa to pick a card.

The Devil.

“When you understand the major arcana, you can hear the echoes of time in your ear,”  Joan explains the next day as they walk through the morning forest. “They’re never always as they seem.”  Words which certainly describe the characters who populate Penny Dreadful.

penny dreadful vanessa and joan

“And what do they mean?”

“You’ll learn.” And she has Vanessa describe her impressions of the Devil Card.

“A dark lover.  Part of yourself, but not.  The whispers of something ghastly and beautiful.”

Later, Joan warns Vanessa she is in danger.

“From what?”

“Legions.” Vanessa is a terrible woman, she insists, and like attracts like. “I felt you every step across the moor. And they felt you, too.”

Nighttime.

As they sit discussing Vanessa’s hopes in saving Mina, Joan feels a stir. She warns the other to stay seated while she takes a look. In a fantastic shot, three witches stand outside underneath the crooked branch of a tree. Behind, the landscape evokes the isolation of Caspar David Friedrich.

Helen McCrory as Evelyn Poole in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 3). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_203_2785

Helen McCrory as Evelyn Poole in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 3). – Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: PennyDreadful_203_2785

Joan greets one. “Sister.”
“Sister,” Miss Poole replies.

She has come for the Master will not be denied the woman he seeks the most, and warns the Cut-Witch that she can’t protect Vanessa forever. “Your bones are brittle. Do you really want this to be your last battle?”

“It is the only battle,” Joan spits back.

She and her sister once followed the old ways as “daycomers” until the devil tempted Miss Poole with promises of youth, beauty, love, and power. The coven followed her and cast out Joan when she would not join them in their midnight arts.

“You know them,” she now says to Vanessa. “All those midnight things.”

And it is a good thing that Vanessa does indeed know these midnight things, for Miss Poole and her witches will be coming back…

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At the conclusion of the episode, I wasn’t sure how I felt, and still don’t. Some of the dialogue was over-the-top, and some didn’t make any sense character-wise. “They come to me so I can kill their babies.” “You’re here so I can kill your baby, right? Okay. Lie down on the floor.” That’s terminology that someone against abortion would use. Not words a wisewoman or “cut-wife” performing the procedure would.

The mentor/student relationship between Joan and Vanessa came across very stereotypical and contrived.  Of course crusty ol’ Joan allows Vanessa to stay and decides to help her even though she pretty much knows doing so will be the death of her.

The plot was paint by the numbers and quite derivitive.

YET, I loved the mood and atmosphere evoked throughout. The Salem-y bleakness mixed with the lustiness of a Hammer Horror film.

The landscape felt like a character, itself.

Helen McCrory shined in another captivating perfomance. And
her witches beguile even while remaining silent in the background…

While some lines of dialogue were ridiculous, the episode was also filled with some exquisite lines.

With a little bit of help from Shakespeare: “I felt you every step across the moor. They felt you too. They’ll be here soon. I felt you walking to my door. Felt you standing there. By the pricking of my thumbs something wicked this way comes.”

Hopes:

– while this is unlikely, I’d love a flashback episode of Miss Poole and Joan set back in the days when the devil came between them…

Questions:

– How long will it take Vanessa to realize who Miss Poole is?

and how long will it take her to open the Poetry of Death?

– Why does Miss Poole’s master desire Vanessa so much?

*spoilers may follow*

After last week’s events, Vanessa is not faring well and she goes to Sir Malcolm for support. He, in return, suggests she go with him to a place which always gives him some peace. While doing charity work isn’t probably really helpful in keeping one’s mind off the fact that supernatural monsters are after them, it is an effective way for the writers to show Vanessa coming face to face with our dear self-involved Caliban.

She offers our Caliban (now going by the name, John Clare) soup, and they are soon conversing on the the nature of paganism vs christianity. After she asks him about exaltation, he quotes from Augories of Innocence.

“No offense to Blake,” she smiles, “but I see no wildflowers here.”

“Then you are not looking closely enough.”

A nun calls her back to work, and she leaves, pondering his words.

Sir Malcom takes Miss Poole (who now looks delightfully amusing with her tight up-do and high-collared dress) for a round of target shooting.

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Brona awakens in the loft. Her memory gone, she is told by Victor that her name is Lily, and they are cousins who grew up together.

“Who was that strange man?” she asks of John Clare.

“He was your intended.”

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While “the bride” didn’t scream Elsa Manchester-style at John, it is easy to assume that things will not go well if she and Victor act out their obvious attraction for each other.

Ethan and Ferdinand Lyle visit the British Museum where it is revealed that the former knows Latin.

“The hounds will protect,” he reads from a family heraldic symbol.

“The wolves will protect,” Ferdinand corrects.

penny dreadful ethan and lyle

Dorian Grey makes his season two debut as he enounters the beguiling “Angelique”.

And Hecate kills a mother and father and brings their baby home to Miss Poole who ends the episode in a seriously creepy doll-infested room.

episode highlights:

-Vanessa’s thoughtful conversation with John

-Miss Poole playing mind games with Sir Malcolm

– that room!

questions:

– Is Ethan connected somehow to the family whose heraldic symbol was found?

– will Angelique play any real part in the story or was this just another quick sex scene thrown in for Grey’s character?

Rare snark moment:

– The reveal that Sir Malcolm likes going to cholera-infested towns because they help give him peace of mind.  If others’ sufferings don’t make you feel serene…

hopes: that Reeve Carney is soon given more to do. Sex is a great and lovely thing, but the actor is too talented, and the character too rich, to be reduced to nothing but a boy toy.

– criticism:  the transformation of Brona into Lily.  Rather than appearing like one returned from the dead, she appears like she just got back from a boring day of shopping at the Victorian version of the Gap.

Overall: While not a particularly exciting episode, it is a solid one which flows seemlessly with some very good moments throughout.

grand guignol

Sitting at a parlor table, Vanessa tells Sir Malcolm that the images she has recently seen took place in the theater in which she watched a play.  “I believe Mina is trying to get out.”

To this, Sir Malcolm responds he hopes this time they might be lucky.

“And if we are not?”

Sir Malcolm promises to try to save Mina- if not, he will end her suffering.

Understandably, Vanessa doesn’t seem convinced that he will be able to kill his own daughter.

“And will that bring you peace?”

“Don’t be foolish.  It doesn’t suit you.”   He rises, and before leaving the room, informs her to call in the others.

So thus begins the season finale of Penny Dreadful

It is only fitting the last episode should culminate at the Grand Guignol- that famous theater of bloody delights.  Right, the Victorians were sooo prudish.  Can we finally dispose of that myth once and for all?

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Mr. Gray comes by to see Miss Ives.  As he notices her tarot cards, he asks if she might tell his future.

“I’m not sure if you have one.”

“Everyone has a future.”

“No not everyone.” She studies him carefully.  “Some only have a past.”

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Chandler holds Brona’s hand as he prays for her.  When he leaves her home, he is followed by two men.  One of whom is told to be patient, to enjoy the hunt…

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Sir Malcolm comes across Madam Kali while shopping.  She who seems very interested in how Vanessa is doing… Now, of course, this might be natural curiosity.  After all, it’s not every day you see a woman become possessed and spew out obscenities at a dinner party…yet I’d wager a bet there is more to just that behind her questioning.  And when Sir Malcolm says he hopes to see her again, she replies that she is sure that they will.

Innocent flirting, or is there something cryptic behind those words?

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Meanwhile, Caliban is watching his favorite actress practice a scene with her boyfriend.  When he has trouble with the props, Simon threatens not work there anymore as long as the monster is employed.  While his anger at being left hanging from the rafters is understandable, his insults border on the abusive, and when Maude returns to apologize for the oaf’s behavior- and kisses Caliban’s forehead- I was definitely wondering if that accident might plant a murderous seed inside of him.

caliban and maude

However, the moment he walked into Maude’s dressing room, I correctly began to fear for her life.

“You shouldn’t be in here.”

“Simon does.”

Oh, so that gives you the right?  Uh huh…

It’s pretty obvious what is about to ensue.  And yup, within the next few moments, Caliban’s near sexual assualt becomes almost a murder when he nearly chokes her to death.   Thankfully, he possesses at least a tiny morsel of morality- and stomps away.

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Vanessa meets Dorian Gray at their botanical garden where she confesses there is a connection between them but it is too dangerous.  “That very intimacy released something unhealthy in me.  Something I can not allow.”  Gray, thinking she is merely afraid of her sexual desires tries to ease her fears, but she tells him goodbye.  As she walks away, he wipes a tear, which he looks at in wonder.

Vanessa and Gray

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Caliban seeks refuge with Dr. Frankenstein who understandably refuses to forgive him for the murder of Van Helsing.  In a rare moment of self-reflection, Caliban notes his monstrosity has shifted from without to within.  “This shattered image only reflects the abomination that is my heart…I would rather be the corpse I was, than the man I am.”  He shuts his eyes, telling his father to pull the trigger which he cannot.

chandler and his hunters

Will the doctor come to rue this decision?

Before we can muse further upon this, Chandler arrives to say he needs his help and brings him to the dying Brona. As she admits her fears, the Doctor tries to reassure her that she’s only going to walk through a different door.  That there is a place between heaven and earth, a place of salvation but if she wants to go there, there is a price.  And as she stares at him in confusion, he lifts a pillow and smothers her breath.

“I’m sorry,” he says when Chandler returns to the room.  “It is over.”  And as Chandler breaks into sobs, he promises to take care of the body.

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Poor Chandler doesn’t have much time to mourn before his hunters meet up with him at a tavern, announcing that his father misses him.

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While Chandler escapes from their clutches, he has no time to rest as he meets with Sir Malcolm, Sambene, and Vanessa.  Together, the group head to the theater.

Inside they are attacked by more of those blonde vampiresses who vanish when a male vamp is killed by Sir Malcolm.

“Vanessa.”

They turn as Mina comes out from hiding.

“Mina.”

The best friends embrace, but the joyous moment is short-lived.  Mina’s eyes darken and she twists Vanessa around.  “You’ve brought her to me.  Good job, father.”

When Chandler makes a move, she warns him not to try anything.  “You don’t have a role in this play.”

Sir Malcolm begs his daughter to remember who she is, but she insists this is who she was meant to be.  “You will understand when you join the Master.  When you all join him.  And now that he has his bride, they will sire generations.”

In a moment which shocks Vanessa, Sir Malcolm chooses her, after all.  Shooting Mina dead, he announces he already has a daughter.

Mina shot

Meanwhile, father Frankenstein brings Brona’s corpse to Caliban…

While Chandler unleashes his hidden self…

And Vanessa enters a church, seeking an exorcism.

final thoughts:

Much played out as I expected, which is fine. Just entertain me. I don’t need twists for the sake of twists. Surprises are fun, but let them be organic, not put into a script just to say, “gotya.”

And entertain, Penny Dreadful did.

Was this season all it could be? No, as mentioned, at times it did feel a bit too restrained, a bit too afraid to put that heart on the sleeve. But the acting, scripts, direction, and art direction was all top-notch and the show definitely captured the feeling of a Victorian Gothic.

– am disappointed to see Mina killed off so quickly. Definitely wanted to see more of her storyline. Seems a waste to end it so abruptly. But I suppose there’s always a chance she could be brought back, and the Master is still out there…

This week’s ep begins shortly after the final events of “What Death Can Join Together”. And just as that episode ended with Miss Ives levitating toward the ceiling- this is indeed a Vanessa-cenric episode.

She lies resting upon Sir Malcom’s sofa. “To be beautiful is to be almost dead.” She muses of how women are portrayed- pale and ethereal in the throes of death. “Men circulate such pictures and pleasure themselves.”

Sir Malcolm, understandably uncomfortable with such subject matter, interupts to ask if she remembers anything. She doesn’t, but is more concerned about who dressed her. It was he, Sir Malcolm admits. “Just like when I was a little girl.” She beams and for one moment a childlike joy sweeps over her face; but just as quickly it is painted over by a new darkness. “But you didn’t dress me as a little girl. So silly of me. You weren’t there to dress me. You were away on some trek.”

vanessa and sir malcolm

“Mina?” He leans forward.

She sits up. “Somewhat.” And as she sips the tea at her side, she berates him on  how he treated her mother. “You could have at least attended her funeral for decency’s sake.” And then as he listens in horror, she spits out how he was too busy going from village to village taking women and convincing himself that they wanted him. If this is true, and there’s no reason to believe it is not as all her demonic outbursts have hit bulls-eye, then this reveals a much, much uglier truth about the African explorer.

As “Mina” continues to hurl revelations toward him, the room becomes an inferno of flying papers, utenils, dishes, furniture… which is only stopped when Sembene rushes in and slaps her unconscious.

Locked in her room she is visited by Dr. Frankenstein who wishes to examine her. “May I listen to your heart?”

“Such as it is.”

“Your hands are trembling. Are you afraid?”

“Yes, but not of you.”

“Do you know a greater demon?” She teases. “Tell me about him. Or should I tell you?”

vanessa and frankenstein

Another man perturbed that she can see through him like glass, the Doctor rushes downstairs where he informs Sir Malcolm that he believes her troubles stem from sexual guilt. Before he can discuss possible treatments, he jumps back as bugs crawl all over the tarot deck she had left on the table. They stream across the shiny surface onto the floor- hundreds, countless numbers of them. . Chandler, who’d been invited over, arrives just then, and as Miss Ives lets out a blood curdling scream, the men rush upstairs to find her sitting on the floor, rocking back and forth, her wet hair lying lank against her gray cheeks.

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Vanessa awakens and is told by Chandler that she has been asleep for almost a week. She asks him for a sip of water, and as they are alone, promises that she will not hurt him.

“It gets pretty rough at itmes.” He admits the doctor wanted to restrain her.

“He would.” She sinks onto her pillow while sighing that he can’t understand what it’s like to have that thing inside of you. “…like an animal…scratching to get out.”

Oh, Vanessa…I think he can…

After admitting she might have been able to fall in love with him, she makes him promise to kill her if such a time should come. “I want you to look into my eyes and pull the trigger.”

The lady is just as philosophical about facing her own death as she is in Mina’s.  Just as she loves her old friend enough to kill her, she would want someone to set her free as well.

“So you can go to heaven.”

“If you beleive in it.”

“I do. But I believe in the other place more. Cause I know that place pretty well. You might say it was where I was fllung when your fucking cunt of a God kicked me out.” Now it is Vanessa’s turn to recoil in shock. And may I confess the writers got me here too.

“You don’t recognize your old friend, Vanessa?”

Penny-Dreadful-recap-1x07

She declares the day will never come that she will surrender to him. But ah, he has ways to convince her. After all, there’s a bunch of people downstairs to kill if she continues to rebuke his advances.

“What do you want from me?”

“I want you to be the mother fo all evil. I want you to rule the darkness with me.” Now this line could have been very cheesy, but delivered in quiet tones and a tender manner, Josh Hartnett elevates it to something much higher, and I’m becoming more and more impressed with his acting.

“And we will conquer God and throw him from his bloody throne.” He promises as they kiss.

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While Frankenstein is haunted by Caliban lurking outside, Chandler and Sir Malcolm argue over how to care for Vanessa. Ultimately a priest is called in, but it is Chandler who ends up saving Vanessa who awakens to reveal she knows exactly where to find Mina.

Bring on the finale!

final thoghts- As stated previously, I haven’t looked forward to what I feel will be an inevitable romantic pairing of Chandler and Vanessa as I’m utterly sick of this idea that main characters *must* end up together for no other reason than they are the leads. But in this ep, Josh and Eva showcased not only great acting together in their scenes, but that vital chemistry.

Even though it was The Devil disguised as Chandler, I’m still pretty certain that the mention of “scratching” and “animals” was another hint about the American gunslinger’s secret.

After Chandler reappears downstairs- is that truly him or still the Devil? It was difficult at times to tell as he conversed with the other players, confronting them on their pasts.  At whatever point he did become our Chandler again, wouldn’t he have realized he lost time?

How did Chandler learn to expunge the Devil from within a person? If he is a werewolf, did he learn the rite in hopes that it might cure him?

While he was always solid, I did feel Hartnett was the weak link in the cast at first.  Am very happy to see him proving me wrong.

Eva Green continues to amaze.

And the biggest question of the night:  Did Vanessa and the Devil have sex?