Penny Dreadful “What Death Can Join Together” Review

Everyone’s back this week! Dorian and Vanessa finally have their moment; Murray, Chandler, and Sembene (who finally gets more than one line at a time) go after the vampire (a word the characters finally use), Frankenstein has another run-in with Caliban, and Brona is looking more like Caliban’s bride each time we see her. We’ve reached the sixth of our eight episodes, and “What Death Has Joined Together” clearly marks the upturn of the season toward a climax and finale.

Everyone--including this guy

Everyone–including this guy

This episode marks the first time that there hasn’t been a prologue before the credits—instead there is a “previously on” section. That’s a small thing, but it’s important indicator that yes, the plot threads are moving towards one another, to the aforementioned climax and finale. It’s also, of course, to put us back on track after last week’s foray into the past in “Closer Than Sisters.”

First, we see Murray and Vanessa looking into her room. In “Demimonde,” we saw the vampire break into her room. Murray and Vanessa exchange some terse conversation about the room’s (lack of) safety, summoning evil, and Mina. Meanwhile, Ethan tries to comfort Brona, who managed Episode 106somehow to make her way off of the streets and into the inn, and it’s clear that she’s only getting worse. I’d hoped that, even if we weren’t going to see more sexy-times between Dorian and Ethan that we would at least see some kind of aftermath. Evidently not.

And then we’re back with Vanessa, who is trying to sift through the demimonde and find Mina. As she pulls cards from her tarot deck, she hears Mina’s voice ask for help. She also hears screams and growls amid what sounds like bells and sea sounds. After conferring with Murray, the two decide that Mina must be in the Port of London. But who should show up, just then, but Dorian? Apparently, Dorian realized he’d been rude when he ditched Vanessa at the theater to
go with Ethan, and he stopped by to apologize. He asks Vanessa to go out with him, and the two leave after Murray pressures Vanessa to go and enjoy herself. (Of course we know that it’s so he can go and find the creatures without Vanessa in tow. Despite their alliance, he knows what we discovered last week–that Vanessa loves Mina enough to kill her if she is one of the vampires.)

We then return to the theater, where we see Caliban at home. Maud (Hannah Tointon), the female lead from The Transformed Beast, has brought him the clogged tubing that carries the fake blood which spills over her in the play, and he fixes it for her. As he works, she is struck by his unwillingness to look at her and his reluctance to even speak. She is kind to him. Maud 10441474_10203794521080636_6292434503088807812_ntalks about her brother, Lucifer, who stopped looking at her family after he was scarred badly. And not for the first time, I get the feeling that this is who Caliban would choose if he could choose his bride. I get that Phantom of the Opera tingling every time they interact.

Meanwhile, at the Murray mansion, Victor Frankenstein has stopped by to say hello and report on Fenton’s autopsy reports, but Murray is busy looking at port information and logs. When Frankenstein notices and asks about them, Murray rebuffs his questions and gives him the “your presence will not be required” speech. After his exit, we finally, finally get to hear Sembene speak more than just a few lines. He asks Murray what will happen if Mina is found but cannot be saved. Murray, who we already know would “murder the whole world to save” Mina, replies with the typical “if I find her, she will be saved.” But Sembene is having none of that. Not only does he remind Murray that she might be beyond download (7)what any of them can do, he reminds Murray of his essential difference: “For all the blood we have shed, for all the miles we have walked, Malcolm, we are not the same. Where I come from, we know that some people cannot be saved.” And then he mostly stops talking, so I’m left wondering all sorts of things about Sembene, perhaps even more than before–where did he come from, how he met Murray, why does he speak so rarely? (I’m trying to steer clear of racially critiquing the show, but it’s difficult, guys. The one black character almost never speaks. Come on, writers! Hey, Mr. Logan? Are we going to Africa next season where Sembene will figure heavily in our story?)

Anyway, we cut from Sembene’s warning to Dorian and Vanessa. They’re in Dorian’s home, Episode 106and Vanessa is having her photograph taken for the first time. Vanessa mentions a tribal belief about photographs—that they steal a part of your soul. She is photographed, much like Brona was during the second episode of the season, but the poses are as different as the women. Dorian of course prefers portraiture, but he appears also to enjoy dabbling in photography, or at least dabbling in photographs of beautiful women. The two make dinner plans, and Vanessa returns to “ruminate” at home.

We then return to Caliban, who is watching through a grate in the wall as Maud picks up a present he left her, a book with an image of Lucifer on the front page. I really think this is a copy of Paradise Lost, but it’s difficult to tell. Either way, Maud is accompanied by a gentleman—her gentleman. When he asks what she’s got, she says it’s a “love token” but categorically denies that the man who gave it to her is any threat. The two then laugh about her admirer. Caliban is crushed; his agonized cry set hairs up my spine. And of course, I thought of Raoul and Christine as the couple in PotO, the Phantom watching their courtship.

download (9)

Victor Frankenstein, meanwhile, is actually working on Caliban’s bride, watching a ballet class of prototypes, sketching musculature and anatomy. After sketching a pretty girl, he writes “subject??” beside her face. Yeesh. He’s interrupted from this by Van Helsing, who sits down beside him. The two spend the afternoon together, talking about work and life, with Van Helsing encouraging Frankenstein to relax and look up from his work. This is where we get the title of our episode, as a pensive, morose Victor quotes a line from Percy Bysshe Shelley, “no more let life divide what death can join together.” Nice nod, there, and a line that works well not only for Caliban and his mate but the rest of the cast as well. A troubled Van Helsing leaves Victor.

And then we work up to the climax of the show: Vanessa readies to meet Dorian for dinner, wearing a fabulous dress, I must say. The moment she leaves, Murray and Sembene leave to
Varney the Vampiremeet Chandler and to go into the Port of London. Chandler says goodbye to Brona, who is concerned she will infect him. She seems to have completely given up—I wonder if when he “loves who she becomes” it will be as a reanimation? Van Helsing has gone to see Frankenstein, and he reveals the truth of his wife’s death. Hannah was a vampire. Van Helsing cut off her head and staked her. Van Helsing pulls out a copy of Varney the Vampire, a penny dreadful that was extremely popular during the Victorian age and might have inspired parts of Stoker’s Dracula.  Van Helsing teaches Frankenstein the word “vampire,” which marks its first use in the show. Meanwhile, Dorian and Vanessa go out for dinner and then return to his home.

We come back to the Port, and Murray, Sembene, and Ethan enter a ship quarantined as a plague ship and marked by Egyptian symbols. They find a nest of female vampires, who they believe to be sleeping, and begin looking for Mina. An arm reaches toward Murray…And cut to Van Helsing’s conversation with Frankenstein, which is ending. The two walk outside, and just as Van pennydreadful106-1Helsing is leaving, Caliban walks up and snaps his neck. Aw, damnit!

Cut back the ship, where the whole nest is waking. The Master is there, but hiding. A lantern is knocked over, and we see the Master, holding Mina (damn, the creepy looking guy, really?). The others have to pull Murray away as flames are leaping and structures are collapsing, and the Master escapes with Mina.

Meanwhile, Dorian and Vanessa are still together, and they’ve decided to make a night of it. The two have rather dangerous, dark natures, and the sex scene between them highlights that—blood is drawn. We already know that sex and possession seem to walk hand in hand for penny-dreadful-ep-6Vanessa, darkness and pleasure. (I still think it’s a shame to replay that trope, but at least it’s getting more interesting) When Vanessa leaves, we see Dorian once again go to his painting and stand looking at it. We’re shown the way the gouges on his chest and back heal, but once again we don’t see the portrait. What we do see, though, is Vanessa returning home, walking in the door, and then levitating in a circle.


Next week’s episode looks like we’ll see the characters driven together again, and we’ll see much more of Possessed Vanessa.

Penny Dreadful - Episode 1.06 - What Death Can Join Together - Promotional Photos (10)

So long Van Helsing…We barely knew you!

4 thoughts on “Penny Dreadful “What Death Can Join Together” Review

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