Archive for the ‘television’ Category

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.

After the breathtaking but perhaps too-rushed premiere, the second episode slowed down to a gorgeous andante. Just moving fast enough to keep things interesting, but slow enough to dwell deeper into the lives of the characters who inhabit this world.

Ethan is trying to drink away his memories of “Night Work” when he befriends Brona Croft, who later accepts a modeling job from the Byronic, Dorian Gray.

Ethan: Brona?
Brona: It’s Gaelic.
Ethan: What does it mean?
Brona: Sadness

penny dreadful seance bona and ethan

While this arc is certainly going to be pursued throughout the season, tonight’s episode centered on two other very emotional storylines.

Vanessa and Sir Malcolm attend a party hosted by Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle in hopes to learn more about the mysterious hieroglyphics they discovered. But Lyle has other things in store for his guests, and what can be more fun at a Victorian party than channeling the dead? Enter Madame Kali. And then…to no surprise it is Vanessa who becomes possessed. By no other than Malcom’s son. In what could have been just an over-the-top, campy scene of a staid 19th century woman writhering and screaming out obscenities, becomes something much more as she (channeling the son, Peter) berates the grief-stricken father for a series of sins he has supposedly committed.

penny dreadful seance scene

An electricity sizzles between Vanessa and Sir Malcolm. Not a sexual one, but of one between two persons who understand each other’s secrets. The African hunter is haunted by his past, while Miss Ives has likely been fighting real demons within her for some time.

The other main storyline takes us to Victor Frankenstein and the being he has brought back to life. No “monster”, this creation is a thinking, sensitive man from the start. “Victor, what am I?” Realizing his newborn needs a name, the doctor takes out a large tome. “My mother taught me many things. Among the most useful is that one must always have Shakespeare at hand.” Thereby the other flips the pages until his finger rests upon Proteus.

A father and son relationship begins to develop as Victor takes Proteus out for the first time to show him the world. A world full of lights and noises and bustling people and carriages rushing by. Of strung animals and sweet apples and fires and dirty children and working women.

It is a much different Frankenstein from the one we know from literature, the one who abandoned his creation because of how he looked.

Which makes the surprising end all the more tragic.

penny dreadful victor and proteus

favorite quote of the ep: “Man does not live only in the empirical. We must seek the ephemeral, or why live?”- Victor Frankenstein

Penny-Dreadful-header2

Netflix has come to Germany, and with it a show I’ve been eager to dive into.

How could i not be excited to watch a show whose name is adopted from the lurid pulp fiction serials so popular amongst the sensation-hungry Victorians?

Gothic Horror, Victoriana, silks and lace….I’m there!

And a grimly lit macabre opening propels us right into this world.

Next day, American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, is offered a job by the mysterious Vanessa Ives.  “Do you believe there is a Demimonde, Mr. Chandler?  A half world between what we know and what we fear?” she asks him.

Episode 101

It turns out that she (a devoutly religious tarot reading woman who might not be fully human) and her partner, Sir Malcom Murray, an African Explorer need help in finding his missing daughter, Mina. Through a funereal opium house they search, coming not upon his daughter, but monsters stemming from the darkest of nightmares.

While it is unclear how long Ives and Murray have been aware of these creatures haunting London, it is evident they definitely know more people are needed in the fight against them. Thus, soon into their fold, the remarkably bold and innovative, Victor Frankenstein, is invited.

The pilot episode is superbly shot, as darly delicous as any Victorian Gothic should be. Boasting divine set designs and costumes, as well as a top-notch cast, it is a welcome beginning.

Yet while all the main ingredients were present, a certain soul or heart was missing. In short, the opener was like a sundae missing the whipped cream and cherry on top. So while I can’t bestow the highest lavish praise upon it, I look forward to what the show can become.

Episode 101

After hearing so many accolades about the French, international Emmy winning supernatural drama, The Returned (Les Revenants) I was naturally psyched to see it listed on Watchever (Germany’s version of Netflix). Available to watch in either the original French, or dubbed in German, I picked the latter since I know perhaps two words of French. To say I wasn’t disappointed, is an understatement. In three nights, I gobbled up all 8 episodes of the first season. It would have actually been one marathon evening if I wasn’t inclined to liking sleep.

Set in a small French town somewhere, the show poses the question, “What would it truly be like if our loved ones returned from the dead?” Most anyone who has lost someone dear, wishes for such a thing to come true. That soap opera moment of, “it wasn’t really me who was buried ten years ago.” “It was only a dream…” But what really would be the consequences? Should the dead be able to return once they’ve crossed over to the otherside?

The series begins with fifteen year-old Camille walking home. She’s starving, and has a long trek til she finally reaches her house. Helping herself to some food, she has no idea why her mother stops in her tracks upon seeing her. Why her mother follows her upstairs, barely able to speak, while Camille readies her bath. Why does her father look so disturbed when he arrives home from work? And when did he start smoking? It is only later when she knocks on her twin sister’s door that in one horrifying moment she realizes the truth. Her sister, Lena, now looks a lot older. They both release screams from the very depths of their beings. Lena at the sight of seeing her dead sister, and Camille at realizng four years have passed.

the returned- camille and lena

After the initial shock wears off, her parents (Claire and Jerome) set aside any reservations and embrace the miracle of her return. Yet they cannot let the outside world know. Forced to hide inside the house, a house filled with pictures of Lena growing up, Camille grows more and more angry at the years she has lost. All the things that she and Lena were supposed to experience together. Now her sister is a young womman, while she is really still a kid.

While Camille struggles to find a new place for herself in this world, the show turns to depict how the other les Revenants are faring.

A motely crew, there seems to be no rhyme or reason on who has been given a second chance at life.

Amongst others, the main characters include:

Adele, now happily married to Thomas, must deal with the return of Simon, who died on their wedding day. Never having had any closure, it is little wonder that Adele is drawn back to the first man she was going to marry, and the father of her child. Simon must deal with the fact that she later wed another, and that he missed out on watching his daughter grow into adolesence. Thomas, well-aware of his wife’s affair, has to deal with literally competing with a ghost from the past, while fearing losing the girl he has raised and loved as his own.

LES REVENANTS

There is Toni, the bar owner who buried his brother alive several years ago upon discovering he was the serial killer attacking the towns women. Now Serge has returned. Unable to bring himself to kill his brother again, Toni lives in fear that the murders will begin anew…

A former victim of Serge, Julie (perhaps the soul of the show) who survived the attack with deep scars all over her stomach and an even more wounded psyche, lives a mostly isolated existance until a mysterious little boy enters her life. A boy who died 35 years ago and claims she is his “fairy protector”. A boy who is able to drive people into committing suicide by showing them visions of their sins…

returned- julie and victor

While the living try to hide the fact that their dead ones have returned, secrets can never be kept in tiny, remote towns. It is not long after the Returned find out about each other, that the other townsfolks do as well. While some consider it a miracle that confirms their faith in the afterlife, others are filled with fear and resentment. Why are you able to hug your child again, and not me? Why were you so blessed? And as more and more strange incidents occur, it is not long before The Returned are blamed. They’re not supposed to be here, so surely they must be guilty. As they become the scapegoats, the new witches of an unofficial Inquisition, their loved ones must try to protect them from the others who are more than willing to sacrifice them to a mysterious horde forming outside.

 

* The Returned can be viewed in the US and elsewhere on Netflix.  (original French language with English subs)

*not to be confused with the US show, Resurrection, which has a similar premise but is unrelated to the French series)

the returned- the horde

Angelique’s Descent by Lara Parker

angelique descent

In 1997, when Lara Parker was approached to write a novel based on the show, Dark Shadows, she revealed her interest in writing a backstory of how her character became the twisted Witch- lover, nemesis, eternal foil to the monstrous, yet humanly conflicted, Barnabas.

Hence the title, the novel plays on the myth of the Sumerian Goddess, Inanna, who relinquished her earthly possessions to be initiated into the mysteries of the underworld.

A fun romp through Angelique’s beginnings as a child of the sea in Madinina, to her discovery of Voodoo while imprisoned by her father, to her love-stricken meeting with Barnabas in Martinique to his cruel forsaking of her when fate brings them together once again in that infamous mansion of Collinwood.

While forced by her father to partake in fake Voodoo rituals in order to frighten both his slaves and his free enemies, Angelique discovers she truly holds an affinity to the ancient African religion. Spells she tries out for mere amusement come true. While pretending to be possessed during one of the rites, Erzulie, the loa of love and beauty, overtakes her for real. This incident has a profound affect on the young girl, leading her to admit, “I want the goddess to come to me. If she thinks i am pretending to be her, then maybe she will come into my head, and I will know her.”

Continuing her studies into the religion and magical practices of Voodoo, Erzulie does indeed become her patron loa. The “master of her head”.

However, at the same time, a mysterious “devil” figure has also set his sight on Angelique, and is determined to make her one of his disciples. Unlike Inanna who journeyed out of her own free will seeking knowledge and enlightenment, Angelique is to be drawn- broken- into his lair. To achieve that goal, he must destroy everything she holds dear, so he remains all she has.

The novel is a well-written account- vividly drawn with a lyricism reminiscent of the sea that Angelique loves so much. Her character’s descent from sweet child to a woman maddened by grief is believably told.

The disadvantage is that since one knows exactly where this is going, the story lacks suspense. There is no question that the devil is going to beat Erzulie in their struggle over Angelique’s heart and soul. You know that anyone she befriends (platonically or romantically) is going to meet a tragic end. Therefore, the narrative does drag at times as you wait for the day that she sets that eternal curse upon Barnabas.

A bit uneven, yet fun and rewarding read.
Recommended for fans of the show, andd those who enjoy modern-style Gothics.