Penny Dreadful: Glorious Horrors Review (S2 E6)

This week’s episode of Penny Dreadful starts the downswing of the season. Everyone is either hiding or on display this week, sometimes uncomfortably so. Early on, we find out that Dorian is throwing a party—a ball, really. He wants to throw a ball in honor of Angelique. He says she “deserves a proper coming out.”

There are all kinds of implications in that phrase and in the ball itself. Dorian’s coming out ball for Angelique works as the unifying force for most of the episode, and it works as a good metaphor for what is happening with many of the characters. (Fair warning: spoilers below.)

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But first, let’s go back a bit. Early in the episode, Ethan gets a visit from Mr. Roper, the survivor of the Mariner’s Inn Massacre and a Pinkerton agent hired to bring Ethan home. Ethan’s story is one of the few this week that doesn’t end at the ballroom. Vanessa invites him along, but he declines. More on that later.

Sir Malcolm, meanwhile, is positively giddy. When he comes home to the news that his wife has killed herself, it hardly seems to bother him at all. Instead, he sits in his room, contemplating whether or not to shave. He asks Vanessa’s advice, and she is confused by his behavior–as is everyone else. It isn’t quite like Malcolm to be so callous. Cowardly, perhaps. But not callous.

(I’m supposing that all of this behavior and gallivanting has something to do with that ring Evelyn used to draw blood during sexy-times. And it’s definitely got something to do with that fetish that Evelyn has now made of Malcolm.)

Dorian shows up at the Murray home and invites Vanessa, Frankenstein, and Lily to the ball. When Frankenstein returns home to tell Lily about the invitation, she seems glorioushorrs2excited but nervous—and Frankenstein seems just as nervous.

Ethan pays a visit to the museum, where the murder scenes have just opened as a new exhibit. He stops in for a peak at the Mariner’s Inn Massacre set-up, and Inspector Rusk is there. It’s clear that Ethan’s presence in the museum heightens Rusk’s already-high suspicions about Ethan. Also happening at the museum: Lavinia knows that John Clare isn’t alive—there’s something wrong in his touch, something too cold about him. Uh-oh.

And then it’s time for the ball. I couldn’t help thinking that it was going be a bit Episode 206disastrous, and my was it ever. Lily immediately seemed to know the ballroom—and it was, in fact, the same room where she met Dorian to take pornographic photos and have sexy-times. And speak of the devil—when Dorian is introduced to Lily, it’s clear that they are taken with one another. They gaze into one another’s eyes as they dance. And when Frankenstein tries to take back his dancing partner, she won’t be taken back. She’s also not worried about what he has to say about her drinking. The two argue quite a bit at the party—awkward.

And it’s not just Frankenstein who is upset by Dorian and Lily’s behavior. Angelique is also quite upset—understandably so, especially since it’s her party. And Elsewhere in Frankenstein Is Having a Bad Night: Vanessa reveals to him that she’s met the Creature, though she as yet knows nothing of his connection to Frankenstein.

Sir Malcolm and Evelyn show up at the ball. Turns out, he shaved his beard after all. (Bad move–maybe it’s just me being partial to beards in general, but I liked the glorioushorrors3beard better.) Evelyn re-introduces herself to Vanessa, reminding her that she met Evelyn as Madame Kali at the seance. As Sir Malcolm leaves to get drinks, Vanessa confronts Evelyn about the changes in Sir Malcolm. Later, as Vanessa is talking with Lyle, he starts to notice the change in the room, the witches staring at her—he’s clearly concerned for her safety and asks to walk her home. Vanessa agrees to go after saying goodnight to Frankenstein, but this is her undoing. As she walks across the room, Hecate moves toward her. The room starts spinning, and in Carrie-style but even worse, blood starts to rain down in the ballroom, covering the dancers and musicians and portraits while no one notices.

Vanessa faints. Frankenstein and Lyle rush to her side, the room perfectly normal, nothing like what Vanessa was seeing. And across town, we find out why Ethan was so quick to doge the invitation to the ball. It’s a full moon. Ethan goes downstairs with Sembene, who he asks him to watch but not come closer. A show-and-tell seems to be as close as Ethan is going to come to really opening up.

He howls and crumples over, his teeth lengthening and his eyes yellowing.Then he changes. Ethan is a werewolf, and Sembene knows.

It looks like next week we might return to the Cut Wife’s cottage, and perhaps those Ethan and Vanessa shippers might finally get their wish.

Penny Dreadful: Above the Vaulted Sky Review (S2 E5)

“Above the Vaulted Sky” marks the halfway point for Penny Dreadful Season 2, and the show is already preparing us for the coming battle with the witches. In some ways, it has been building that tension since Madame Kali’s first appearance last season. But we’re getting ready for a full-scale battle between Vanessa Ives & Company and Evelyn Poole & Coven. (Spoilers below!)

(image via tv.com)

                   (image via tv.com)

And we’re back in that creepy puppet room. There’s a doll of Vanessa, but there’s also another doll, a likeness of Sir Malcolm’s wife, Gladys. Hecate brings in the lock of hair she stole from Vanessa and begins to work on the Vanessa-doll. Evelyn, meanwhile, is tearing open the Gladys-doll’s head to reveal brains. (What on earth? How am I even watching this right now?!) She sticks a poker into the brain, and miles away, Gladys awakens, screaming. Oh dear.

In the Murray mansion, there’s a great scurry to protect the home against assailants. A gigantic mental door shows up and is installed; Ethan conducts a sage-burning ritual; Vanessa draws scorpions in blood to seal and protect the house; even Lyle is joining in with what looks to be a Jewish ritual for cleansing and protection. Ah yes, and “a shitload of weapons.”

Vanessa ends up in Ethan’s room, unsure whether the witches she’s seeing are really there or in her head. I like the relationship between the two of them as friends—it’s sweet, and good for them both. This is one of those moments when they work well together, Vanessa talking about her fear of the dark and Ethan talking about his relationship with images (1)redemption and religion, quite serious but a wee lighthearted, too.

There’s trouble for Ethan, though. Inspector Rusk is beginning to put some things together, like those murders that only started happening after Ethan arrived with the Wild West Show and the Mariner’s Inn Massacre occurring at Ethan’s place of residence. Ethan is appropriately vague in answering the inspector’s questions, but in the shadows of the mansion lurk the survivor of the massacre.

And inside the mansion, Ethan’s identity is also close to being revealed. Lyle is working through the Verbis Diablo. There’s a repeated phrase in various languages–we see “lupus dei,” as Ethan holds it up and translates “hound of god.” Ethan looks troubled.

Vanessa, meanwhile, is having coffee with Victor and Lily. Somehow, she doesn’t recognize her as Brona, but I suppose that she didn’t spend a lot of time with her—and the hair and the accent are so different, and she’s not dying. But I do wonder imageswhat will happen if/when Ethan meets Lily. She’s a bit awkward, throwing in stilted phrases like “the weather is challenging, but the excitement is palpable” when Vanessa asks how she likes London, but Vanessa doesn’t care—she’s just happy to see Victor happy.

But Victor brought Lily to life to be the bride of his Creature, and this is creating some (not unforeseen) complications. When the Creature bursts into Victor’s home and demands to see Lily, the two argue about how Victor is handling the situation. The Creature sits with Lily, telling her how happy they used to be. He makes me sad, a bit, even though he’s creepy and pushy. What he dreamed of, the story he told Lily, was that they were walking by some guys who were mean, who called him names because of his appearance, and she took his hand and kissed it. But Lily shies away from him, and he leaves.

He must’ve gone back to the soup kitchen, because that’s where Vanessa finds the Creature. There’s an amusing moment where he’s bemoaning the mess he made of things with Lily and Vanessa tells (ahem–Victor) who she just saw so happy with a eva-green-rory-kinnear-penny-dreadful-above-the-vaulted-sky-01-600x350woman (ahem–Lilly). There’s some poetry quoting, and then something is said about dancing. The Creature can’t dance. And so Vanessa teaches him–Frankenstein’s Creature is waltzing with a powerful medium in the middle of a soup kitchen.

Dorian and Angelique are out at the opera, meanwhile—and she is recognized by an unhappy former patron. He’s incredibly, unspeakably rude. Dorian takes Angelique’s hand in his, and he kisses it—but Angelique is ready to go. At Dorian’s home, we see Angelique in Dorian’s clothes, we hear her story. Dorian is sympathetic, is kind.

And this is about the time that suddenly almost everyone in the show is having sexy-times. Dorian and Angelique share a tryst in Dorian’s bedroom. A flash of lightning and thunderclap send Lily to Frankenstein’s bed. And Evelyn Poole takes Sir Malcolm to bed. There’s something odd with her ring–she uses it to prick his finger and the back of his neck.

Meanwhile, his wife is dying. She’s been having seizures and terrible headaches. Now, she’s also seeing things. The ghosts of Peter and Mina Murray rise, and she slits her own throat from grief and horror. Those dolls, by the way? They’re called fetishes. Vanessa refers to them as a sort of simulacra, a hollowed out copy. Yeesh.

Penny Dreadful: Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places Review (S2 E4)

And we’re back to talk about episode 4 of Penny Dreadful season 2; my apologies for the tardiness, but I quite literally forgot that yesterday was Monday. Whoops!

After the singular fixation of last week’s “Nightcomers,” with Vanessa’s past, we returned this week to the characters’ present as they try to decipher the Verbis Diablo and ferret out what the witches are up to. Ah yes, and there’s a bit of fun, too, something the show could use a bit more of. (Spoilers are lurking below—beware!)

We open with Vanessa telling the group about the nightcomers and about the Cut-Wife, relating the story that she told Ethan last week. And about time, too. Vanessa is one of my

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Harry Treadaway as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Danny Sapani as Sembene, Simon Russell Beale as Ferdinand Lyle and Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 4). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_204_1313

favorite characters, but she has a penchant for withholding information that could be both deadly and damning, information the other characters Actually Need to Know. Frankenstein, in typical scientist fashion, dismisses what she’s saying on the basis that there’s no such thing as witches. Umm, Doctor? You’ve now brought 2 people back to life and seen vampires—why’s this a stretch?

Anyway, Vanessa ends up accompanying Victor to a dress shop the next day, where he explains that he needs to buy a dress for his second cousin (emphasis on second part) who is visiting from the country. He admires Vanessa’s style, runs into a mannequin, and gets flustered when the clerk suggests that he and Vanessa are together. He blushes as Vanessa jokes about underwear and cleavage. The scene is a lovely, awkward moment underwearfor two characters who rarely get to laugh.

Back at his house, Victor has Lily try on the things he’s bought for her. And she really doesn’t like them. Or, at least, she doesn’t like how they feel. The corset is tight, the shoes uncomfortable, and Lily’s realizing that the garb she’s wearing is “for men, isn’t it.” Frankenstein agrees that she can lose the corset, but she keeps the shoes.

Meanwhile, the Creature/Caliban/John Clare is working in the basement of the wax museum. He talks with Lavinia, the owners’ daughter, who helps sculpt the wax figures. There’s a nice moment when she talks about the suffering she must inflict on some of the figures, the horrifying moments she must put them into. For our Creature, this is just the kind of thing he understands.

The Putneys are also planning something else for their wax museum—something to do with “flesh and blood freaks.” Oh hell. Why do I feel like this means our Creature? Is this what Putney meant when he said “hush woman, that face will make us our fortune?” Dman.

And we finally see Dorian again. He’s with Angelique, and they go to a bizarre club full champagneof ping pong tables and champagne. And she’s a firecracker. Unconcerned about the stares she brings, and she’s more than a match for Dorian—that’s the genius of having them play a dozen rounds of ping pong, Dorian losing every match.

And speaking of losing matches—Hecate decides to try and woo Ethan by setting a trap for him. She spooks a horse and then runs in front of the carriage it’s pulling, and Ethan must save her. They go and have tea, but she’s just not convincing enough. Lobsters live in fields, apparently, and stiletto boots are sensible shoes. Ethan is of course not convinced, but he believes she’s been employed by his father to bring him home. And across town, Inspector Rusk is still looking into the Mariner’s Inn Massacre—and he suspects magic.hecate

And at the Murray home, Lyle is still working on translating the Verbis Diablo. The artifacts that the text is written upon must be sequences: the demon spoke in various languages, telling the story of being cast from heaven. There’s some discussion over whether Vanessa’s future is told in the relics, but she’ll have none of it. She goes to her room—and we see that everyone is being watched by the witches, who are hiding in the wallpaper. *shudder* They attack, managing to steal a lock of Vanessa’s hair before she breaks in the Verbis Diablo and expels them from the house.

Next week, it looks like we’ll see more about Putney’s plans and, of course, more of those nightcomers.

Penny Dreadful: Nightcomers Review (S2 E3)

And we’re back for episode 3 of Showtime’s second season of Penny Dreadful. “Nightcomers” is a Vanessa-centric episode, the first we’ve seen this season and the second in the show’s history. We follow Vanessa as she finds a mentor who teaches her about the nightcomers and what their appearance portends. (Warning: Spoilers below!)

We start the episode in Vanessa’s room, where Ethan looks curiously at the blood-drawn scorpion on the floor. He asks for some answers, and Vanessa promises to tell him something she has yet to tell anyone—and we have a neat frame story for a flashback about Vanessa’s life.

Vanessa stands outside a cottage. She’s gone to seek the help of a rumored witch in vanessacutwifethe area, the Cut-Wife (Patti LuPone). She’s unable to pass the boundaries of the
property, marked by stones, and the old woman watches her stand there for what must be a day or two—through rain, exhaustion, and fainting, Vanessa stays.

Finally, she comes out of the cottage. It’s clear that Vanessa isn’t there for the more commonly sought love potions, abortions, or herbal cures. And after a few tests of the how’d-I-get-this-scar and choose-a-tarot-card variety, she’s accepted by the Cut-Wife. She can stay.

That card Vanessa chose? It was the devil—naturally.

Later, on a hunt, the Cut-Wife begins to explain the tarot to Vanessa. Meanings aren’t always literal, and one card can have many possible meanings. Vanessa
suggests “evil” for the devil, but is reproached—she comes up with something better, a dark but irresistible lover. The Cut-Wife admits to being both drawn to and afraid of Vanessa, her gifts and her abilities.

That night, who should show up but Madame Kali? Apparently, she’s the Cut-Wife’s sister, part of her former coven. They used to be Daywalkers, which seems to be a somethingwickedsort of soft-witchery, dabbling in herbs and healing. But Madame Kali sold her soul to the devil, becoming a nightcomer in exchange for lasting power, youth, and beauty.

And the Master wants Vanessa, so Madame Kali has come to fetch her. She almost manages to lure the Cut-Wife from her property—there’s this odd moment where it’s as though she’s compelling her both literally and metaphorically—but it’s broken by Vanessa throwing open then door and crying out.

Later, a young woman stops at the cottage. She’s there for an abortion. The scene is a tough one to watch—Vanessa clutches the girl’s hand and says “god forgives all” as the Cut-Wife methodically begins her work.

Meanwhile, Madame Kali is at work in town. She’s been sleeping with (or at least a dominatrix for—jury’s still out on the sexy-times) the owner of most of the land in the area and killing off his cattle in her spare time. She’s managed to convince him that it’s the Cut-Wife’s doing, the death of all those cattle, and he’s about to whip the town into a frenzy.

Out in the woods, he finds Vanessa and attempts to rape her, but she fends him off. It’s becoming clear that Vanessa is ready to leave and go help Mina, the vision of whom prompted Vanessa to find the Cut-Wife. And it starts to become clear to us that the Cut-Wife is dying. She’d like Vanessa to stay here on here land, help those girls in trouble. She shows Vanessa the poetry of death, a book that Vanessa is only to use as a last resort—gee, I think that’ll come back up later.

scorpionThe townspeople surround the Cut-Wife’s cottage, and she is brought forth, accused of necromancy, and sentenced to death. Vanessa is made to watch as her friend is beaten, shackled, hot tar poured onto her, and she is burned. Vanessa is then branded and left by the townspeople.

When she comes to, Vanessa can’t get out of the cottage fast enough. She packs the tarot cards and draws a scorpion in blood on the stones that mark the boundary. Scorpion–that’s what the Cut-Wife called her. Agile, deadly.

This was one of the best episode of the show I’ve seen. I’m loving all of the witchcraft this season and the female-centric storylines. Patti LuPone and Eva Green each turned in a stellar performance for this episode, and as I’ve come to expect of her on the show, Helen McCrory was delightfully wicked.

Next week, it seems as though we’ll be back with the group and perhaps even that some new characters will get to interact with each other.