Posts Tagged ‘frankenstein’

… 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

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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

Season two. Episode 5

A close-up of Vanessa’s eye.  The camera pans out to showcase the profile of the doll made in her image.

Surrounded by her lifelike puppets, their faces aglow from candlelight, Mrs. Poole  nails something into the forehead of her latest (Malcolm’s wife) while chanting in the demonic tongue.

“Mother.” Hecate enters.  “Her hair.”

Mrs. Poole reaches to take the strands which Hecate has snatched from Vanessa.

“May I?” Hecate raises her chin, and her mother nods in amused pride.

The younger witch  saunters over to the doll of Vanessa, while Mrs. Poole returns to her own task.   Together, they intone over their respective works.

The chanting rises.

Gladys Murray bolts awake, screaming.

penny dreadful above the vaulted sky

Back at the manor, Ethan, Vanessa, Sir Malcolm, Ferdinand Lyle, and Sembene are gathered in the drawing room.  Realizing they know what their enemy wants, but not why, they agree to work every weapon, every superstition, every ritual to ward off the nightwalkers.

To a melodic score, the group begins to prepare the house against attack.

A witch appears in the mirror before Lyle.  He throws a black crepe over the glass.

Vanessa prays in her room, alone, until two other witches gather at her sides.   Feeling their presence, she runs to Ethan but then confesses to not being sure if they’d been real or just in her head.

“I wish I were going mad.  Then they could lock me away and cut out the madness.  Do you know the true path to freedom?  Open any vein.”

When Ethan insists she wouldn’t do that, she agrees bitterly that God has a plan.  Perhaps even to why Ethan has killed in the past.

“Whatever you’ve done,” she takes his hand. “I accept you.  We are together for a reason.”

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 5). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_205_1753

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 5). – Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: PennyDreadful_205_1753

Back at the loft, Frankenstein argues once again with his Monster.

“Enough.” John slams his hands down on the work table.  “I have lived with your evasions too long.  Don’t think I can’t look into your black heart and see the machinations laid bare!”

After the good ol’ Doctor tells him to get lost, Clare grabs him by the collar.  “Then you had a power, Frankenstein.  If you had only used it kindly, what a different story we would be telling…I will see her.”

Indeed, he goes upstairs to where Lily was busy reading.  As Frankenstein sits on the stairs, listening, John Clare tries to woo the reluctant woman.

“Ours is an exceptional history,” he tries, and there is a pitiful sadness as he recounts a false history.

“Let us start by being friends,” Lily offers.  “I can do no other.”

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During this long night, Gladys Murray continues to struggle, foam now forming at the corners of her mouth, while servants pin down her arms.  Elsewhere, Mrs Poole continues working upon her eerie doll, fresh blood running down its face.

Morning finally comes.

As Chandler makes his way down a busy London street, he is accosted by Inspector Rusk.  “Scotland Yard.  I’d like a few words if I may.”

Meanwhile, Frankenstein takes Lily out to dine where they come upon Vanessa.  Unfortunately, there is not even a flicker of recognition as Miss Ives greets the transformed woman.

lily and vanessa

Back at his office, the Inspector zooms in on the fact that Ethan had lived at the Mariner’s Inn. “There were many murders.  All guests have been accounted for.  Except for one Brona Croft, and one…Ethan Chandler.” The troubles started when Ethan arrived with his show, the Inspector notes.

“You’re a mystery.” And he wants to know Ethan’s real name…

#

While volunteering once more in the village struck by cholera, Vanessa again runs into John Clare.  “Do you know you share the name of a dead poet?”

“Yes.” He chuckles.  “Do you like poetry?”

“All sad people like poetry.  Happy people like songs,” Vanessa smiles ruefuly through one of the show’s most beautiful and elegiac lines.

“I’ve always been drawn to John Clare’s story,” he continues.  “He was only five feet tall.  Sort of freakish.  Perhaps due to this, he felt  a singular affinity with the outcasts and the unloved…the broken…” And the two continue to bond over the haunting lines of I Am.

“And how are we to navigate the waters when they are so alien?” He asks at one point.

“The sea is waiting for you.” She later offers her hand for a dance.  “Set sail.”

penny dreadful john and vanesssa

Dorian Gray paints the town with Angelique until they run into someone she stole money from in the past, and Sir Malcolm enjoys more time with Mrs Poole.

“I can honestly say I’ve never met a woman like you.”

“You have no idea.”

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“What’s damning you tonight?” Ethan teases Ferdinand back at the manor.

The older man sweeps his hand over the relics spread across the table.  “Here it is in Greek.  And in Latin.”

Lapus Dei,” Ethan reads. “The Hound of God.”

“I can’t endure dangling repetitions.  It’s like a poem waiting to be rhymed.”

#

Angelique comes to Gray in her masculine clothes, and recounts the years of pain she has suffered.

“Do you think I don’t understand what it is to feel different?”

“I think I’m tired, Dorian.  I’ve been fighting so long.”

“But you’re not fighting alone.”

Soon they are in each other’s arms as are Sir Malcolm and Mrs. Poole, and Chandler and Vanessa.

Gladys Poole awakens, grasping.  In her room are two headstones.  Upon them, the names of her children.

Hands reach out from below the floor.

Her children rise from out of the dirt.

Come.  They offer.

All goes silent in her room.

Thunder, however, pounds in Lily’s, and she runs to Victor for comfort…

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An interesting contrast can be seen between John Clare and Angelique.  Both have suffered immeasurable pains due to physical masks.  But one wallows in that pain, while the other strives to enjoy life nonetheless.

During the first season, my only real complaint was the lack of emotion.  Everything looked and sounded great, but there was a disconnect with the characters. All that has changed this season. The relationship between Gray and Angelique is the most touching in a long time.  John Clare might annoy me, but he makes me care, and I’m rooting for him to grow as a person.

Also during season one, I felt averse against what I figured was the inevitable romantic pairing of Ethan and Vanessa.  Not a fan of these two must be together for no other reason than because they are the leads- a weak plot device used on too many programs  However, as tonight Josh Harnett and Eva Green sizzled together, I am  warming to the idea of them.

Ethan’s cowboyisms, Vanessa’s craftiness, Brona back from the dead, Frankenstein vs his creation, Gray and Angelique, Malcolm and Mrs Poole, the witches…am loving this season.

Til next time.

“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*

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.

*SPOILERS MAY FOLLOW*

And we’re back! Season two of Penny Dreadful has commenced. Time to pour a glass of wine, grab some lovely rich chocolate, and curl up on the sofa.

Fresh Hell unwrapped quietly, its pace slow and thoughtful until its captivating ending. A coven of satanic witches!

We are first treated to Vanessa, who, while taking a winter wonderland stroll, is assaulted by a vision sent by Madame Kali. penny dreadful fresh hell vanessa insnow Later, as she and Ethan take a carriage ride, she is further bothered by his announcing plans to leave London. Feeling helpless over recent events he is going to find a war “somewhere” and “pick a side.”

“What about the war here?” she asks.

“Mina’s dead. We lost.”

But only the battle, she insists. And furthermore, “Do you think the dark forces that converge in our heads can be vanquished so easily?”

After she makes reference to the demons inside of her, he confesses to his violent blackouts. Yet when she offers her assistance, he backs off. “You can not change what you are. No matter who you save, or who you love.”

Before she can press upon this, their carriage is attacked and rolls over. As they struggle to sit up, the door opens and a ghastly white creature threatens Vanessa in an infernal tongue, and are saved only by Vanessa’s demonical retort.

The driver and horses are not so lucky. And as she and Ethan take in the carnage, they are watched by three witches.

Shaken by the incident, Vanessa asks of Sembene, “Do you think the past can return?”

“More than that. It never leaves us,” he replies. Penny-Dreadful-Season-2-Sembene-590

Meanwhile, Sir Malcolm meets with his estranged wife at the graves of their son and daughter.

“Putting an empty coffin in Peter’s grave…I don’t know what makes me sadder. Mina’s full coffin or Peter’s empty one,” she says.

With a face and voice painted with regret, he asks that they get back together. “We were once happy.” Yet she understandably refuses. “We have no more children for you to save. Or to kill.” And she departs, leaving him alone with his penitence.

Back in his loft, Frankestein continues working on The Bride for Caliban. The latter, who, nabs a job at a wax museum where the owner is working on creating a series of displays based on real life murders.

The doctor’s work is interrupted by Ethan who insists he come and look over Vanessa who has refused to leave her room. After a quick examination, she reveals that the language spoken between herself and one of the assaulters had been the Verbis Diablo, (a corruption of angelical speech according to lore). Furthermore, she does not actually know what she sputtered.

Sir Malcolm wants to learn more about this mysterious language to discover what Vanessa actually said. She, naturally, per usual, insists no one can help her. “This battle is one I must fight on my own.”

Which brings us to Madame Kali who enjoys a bath Elizabeth Bathory-style. “And if you kiss my cold gray lips…your days, they won’t be long,”she sings. penny dreadful fresh hell madame kali bath

After finishing her bloody ablutions, she gathers round her coven. There, she states her disillusionment over the events of the previous evening. Yet her mood swiftly changes upon learning that Ethan is a lupus die. “So our task is made yet more daunting. Meaning we shall have to be yet more ingenious. We shall have to employ strategems.”

Ethan shall be her daughter Hecate’s challenge.

She will go after Vanessa. “The Master will not be denied his prize.”

“The prize” has locked herself in the meditation room. There she cuts her finger and with the blood creates a veve-like drawing upon the floor. Hearing distorted voices, she raises her eyes toward the crucifix hanging upon the wall.

Cut to Madame Kali who smears blood upon her forehead while insisting to Lucifer, “I shall assault her days and her nights…I will not fail you.”

Helen McCrory as Evelyn Poole in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 1). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_201_4531

Helen McCrory as Evelyn Poole in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 1). – Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: PennyDreadful_201_4531

And thus ends the first episode of season two.

Hopes: That this delicious set up between Vanessa and Madame Kali has a more satisfying “last battle” than the first season ender with its too-hurried climax, and its sad waste of Mina.

Question: Will we begin to learn about Sembene’s history?

Episode Highlight: Helen McCrory’s spellbinding performance during the coven gathering scene.

criticism: Madame Kali killing one of her witches for…what? Failing a mission? Daring to ask for a second chance? Why do writers of these kind of shows so often resort to this? We know these are the baddies, or at least, the antagonists. We don’t need it shoved into our faces, “look how wicked they are! They will even kill their own!” Furthermore, why should their followers be so happy to be part of their coven/group/whatnot if they constantly have to worry about being thusly discarded for blinking the wrong way? It has often been said that no one thinks of themselves as evil. “Baddies” have their own motivations, and unless their batshit crazy, it makes no sense for them to erratically dispose of people who have joined them in their cause.

praise:

Solid acting all around.  Of the main cast, Eva Green especially continues to shine with her fire and ice performance

Directing- with so many shows employing breathless storytelling and quick shots, Penny Dreadful is a welcome change in its willingness to take its time.  It teases and entices, and it pulls you in.

art direction and fashion design:  Madame Kali’s memento mori-filled house

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.”

#

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?

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

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.”