Penny Dreadful: And Hell Itself My Only Foe Review (S2 E9)

Sunday night’s penultimate episode of Penny Dreadful Season Two left a lot of questions going into the finale, though many of them are well-answerable by the end of the season. A few hunches from earlier in the season were confirmed, and there were a few truly shocking moments as the show laid the framework for closing out season 2. (Warning: Spoilers lurk below!)


Roper, the survivor of Ethan’s werewolf attack on the Mariner’s Inn, has tracked Ethan and Vanessa to the Cut-Wife’s cottage. He barges in on them, ordering Vanessa to cuff Ethan. When he threatens her, though, Vanessa grabs a knife; in the scuffle, Ethan is stabbed in the shoulder and Vanessa pulls out the knife, using it to kill Roper.

Well, there’s that neatly wrapped, though there is still the Inspector to worry about. (Apparently, he’s traced down Ethan’s real name–Ethan Lawrence Talbot—and his military record. He seems on the cusp of realizing something supernatural, but using phantom limb to explain it was really bizarre.)

Anyway, Victor Frankenstein suddenly arrives in a coach, come to fetch Vanessa and Ethan to help Sir Malcolm. Lyle recounts his treachery, vowing to help the group in any way he can. Vanessa is ready to go into the witches’ den, insisting that they go that evening. Ethan protests because He Has a Thing (the kind that happens on the full moon, and guess what—the moon’s full!). Also, Ethan points out that the witches are stronger during the nighttime. I’m not sure if this is true, but I’m sure they aren’t called “nightcomers” because they do their best work in the daytime. It’s a sound enough theory, and everyone appears to agree.


Across town, Evelyn looks exhausted as she stands and listens to Sir Malcolm’s screaming. She’s leaning on the wall in the puppet room, but she still seems winded, and her skin has a clammy look to it. Hecate is more openly disdainful than before, more transparent about her feelings: her mother is old, and she is young; youth is everything. It’s only what she’s been taught.

Hecate decides to pay Ethan a bedroom visit. She’s still quite bent on corrupting him, and it just might work. It’d seem that Ethan would understand “wolf of God” as a good thing, but his fears about himself are sometimes what brings out the worst in him.

And speaking of the worst in Ethan…Everyone’s going to see it. Because suddenly, everyone notices that Vanessa is gone to rescue Sir Malcolm. And that’s exactly what the witches want. Ethan refuses to stay behind, chained up. He asks Sembene to do what must be done if the time comes.


Meanwhile, Lily and Dorian are chatting in Dorian’s portrait room. They’re both being a bit coy, figuring one another out. And then Dorian (who I’ve though this whole time must recognize her) calls Lily “Brona.” He does know, indeed. And Lily knows something, too. “How old ARE you” she purrs. She demands that he tell her what he is—-insists by biting off his ear and asking him to heal himself. And Dorian does. There are sexy-times, of course.

Across town, the Creature is not having nearly the day that Lily and Dorian are having. When Lavinia Putney asks him to take her to see the new wing of the museum that is under construction, he reluctantly does so. He sees rows and rows of cages, makes a joke about a zoo. All I can think is “run.” But he doesn’t. And in return, Lavinia locks him in one of the cages. The Putneys are, in fact, creating a zoo—only it’s a human one, and the Creature is their first capture. Oh, Mr. Clare. Oh, Caliban.

And finally, we’re back at the witches’ castle. The group splits up when they arrive: Sembene and Ethan go one way, while Lyle and Victor go another. It’s Victor and Lyle who find Sir Malcolm. When Victor goes into the room, he’s locked in by one of the witches. At first, Frankenstein’s mind is clear; he’s speaking with Sir Malcolm to try to get him to return home. But suddenly, he’s also talking to the Creature, and to Lily, and to…Proteus. Oh, Proteus.

Sembene and Ethan aren’t have much luck, either. A trap door closes, and they’re stuck, stuck in a tiny space with a full moon rising. Ethan is panicked; he tries to kill himself. Sembene intervenes, though. “I’m just a man,” he says. “You have been chosen by God, my friend.” A few moments later, a werewolf version of Ethan lunges at Sembene. Nooooo!

Upstairs, Vanessa walks into the puppet room. She sees the doll like her. But then—it opens its eyes. Eep! And oh, it starts speaking. “Murderer,” it says.


Next week, it looks like we’ll see the final battle with the witches. I’m also hoping we’re going to get a teaser introduction to Dracula, since we’ve now learned that he’s Lucifer’s other half/brother/hell-spawn-compatriot.

Penny Dreadful: Memento Mori Review (S2 E8)

We’re back this week with more Penny Dreadful Season 2–and I’m delighted to say that there will be a season 3 of the show and that we’ll be blogging it here again! Now, on to this week’s episode, the 8th of this 10-episode season. And my, what an episode it was. We *finally* see the picture of Dorian Grey; Lily goes on a feminist rant; and Lyle deciphers the Verbis Diablo. (Warning: This post is dark, and full of spoilers.)


We open with Lily, and she’s pretty much where we left her last week—in bed with the corpse of a man she’s just strangled. On the way out, she knocks over a rather tall house of cards the man had been building—and one can’t help but see it as a symbol of all sorts of things that Lily would like to knock over.

The Creature, meanwhile, is tearing up Frankenstein’s lab and terrorizing his maker. He wants to make sure that Frankenstein remembers why he’s made Lily. Lily isn’t for Dorian or for Victor or for anyone else—she “belongs” to the Creature. I can’t help wondering what Lily is going to think of that, how she’s going to handle “belonging” to someone and being “created for” them.

When Lily does return home, Victor is eager to get her out of the city. He proposes a holiday away from London. Lily, though, says there’s more to teach her. More to do. It’s her new home, at any rate, and not one she’s keen to move on from. This is the first time I notice that Lily is talking without any impediment, without any strange diction, but I think it’s actually been happening since Dorian’s party.

Victor goes out to see Sir Malcolm. He’s worried about what love has done to him, mementomori3how it has changed him. Sir Malcolm is surprisingly close to the mark when he claims that love is an enchantment.

Lyle is making his way to the Murray house after an awful meeting with the witches. They’re concerned about where his loyalties lie and whether he’s telling the truth. It’s glaringly obvious now that Hecate has plans to overthrow Evelyn; she corners Lyle on his way out of the house to try and get more information about Vanessa and Ethan.

Back at Frankenstein’s home, the Creature visits Lily, stops by her room, and we get an idea of why Lily isn’t ready to leave London. She’s tired of being told what to do and when–she’s tired of corsets and high heels and so many of the restrictive mementomori1gender norms that marked her in life and now hold sway in death. She gives the best speech about it, and I remember again why I adore Billie Piper. Now beyond death, Lily is Something Else. She’s someone never to be used again.

And Lily has a completely developed sense of what she is, knows that Frankenstein has created her and that he created the Creature–I wonder how long she has known, how much of her relationship with Victor has been an act. Now, she swears men will bow to her—and she offers the Creature a place by her side.

Detective Rusk is also sniffing about. He discovers Sir Malcolm’s past visits to Scotland Yard and makes a visit to the Murray home in an attempt to discover why those visits stopped and how Mina Murray died. Sir Malcolm claims that the circumstances of her death were embarrassing to the family, and he absolutely denies knowing Ethan Chandler. Rusk is unconvinced but leaves anyway.


And Lyle has finished translating the Verbis Diablo. He reads the story aloud to Frankenstein, Sembene, and Murray, who are all stand around the table where the various artifacts that make up the Verbis Diablo are gathered. Murray is having trouble concentrating—perhaps because Evelyn is whispering devilish language into the ears of his fetish puppet.

Lyle reads the story aloud from the translated artifacts. It is the story of a fallen angel, yes—but it is also the story of his brother. When the rebellion had ended, God cleaved the brothers in two, throwing one into Hell to feed on souls (Lucifer) and sending the other to Earth to feed on blood. Only the Mother of Evil can reunite them. There’s some chatter about vampires, about why Vanessa is the chosen one, about why there’s always a woman as the evil conduit.

Helen McCrory as Evelyn Poole in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 6). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_206_0270

Sir Malcolm points out that the repeated phrase is “wolf” not “hound” of God right about the time that the enchantment of Evelyn is able to break through. Sir Malcolm’s eyes turn black and he upends the table, shouting and breaking the artifacts. Sembene is quick to his aid, though. He wrestles Murray out of the room and into an empty, dusty room. “Know who you are,” he shouts. And suddenly, Sir Malcolm has a vision and is able to break Evelyn’s enchantment.

Across town, Angelique is less-than-thrilled at being left home while Dorian is going out with Lily yet again. As he leaves, she she sees a draft of air, and she finds the portrait. Upon his return, he realizes what she’s done. There’s a bit of chatter, and despite Dorian’s kind demeanor, I’m on edge as he and Angelique talk about the portrait. And apparently, I was right to be. Right after saying she can accept him as mementomorihe is, as he truly is, the two share a toast—and then it’s goodbye Angelique, as she falls to the ground. The camera pans, and I’m worried it’s going to stop, but then—-we finally see The Picture. Dorian is old, disfigured. His skin is flayed off in spots; he is chained by the hands and feet, crouching like an animal. He’s hideous and sad.

But oh, now Sir Malcolm realizes that he’s been enchanted and is mad, mad, mad. He sneaks from the house alone with lots of ammo and a big gun. But of course, those things are virtually useless. He’s quickly captured by one of the younger witches and brought to Evelyn. She’s underestimated him, though. The tears she cries and her efforts to get him to join her are entirely unsuccessful.

She leaves him locked in a room with his hallucinations: three coffins for the members of his family. The lids creak open, and just as his family rises from their coffins, we cut away.

Next week, in the season’s penultimate episode, it looks as though we’ll see Vanessa and Ethan make their return to London and the characters readying for a final battle with the witches.

Penny Dreadful: Verbis Diablo Review (S2 E2)

Aaaaand we’re back for episode 2 of Penny Dreadful‘s second season. This week’s “Verbis Diablo” gave us our first view of Dorian Grey in the second season and, of course, told us more about the Night Comers. Also up this week: Vanessa meets Caliban, we find out what Brona’s life-after-death looks like, and Madame Kali gets witchy. And oh my, is this show’s second season a lot of fun so far! (Warning: Spoilers lurk beneath!)


We start with Vanessa going to Sir Malcolm for comfort and peace. Malcolm takes her right into a cholera-infested shanty-town, where to two don masks to serve soup to the poor and sick. Sir Malcolm confesses to finding peace in service, atonement in helping.

And while we’re down there, oh, hooray, Vanessa has a tete-a-tete with our Creature, who is now calling himself John Clare. (Clare was an actual British poet pd2who died in 1864–interesting to move from a Shakespearean name to a poet’s.) Vanessa chats with Clare a bit about religion–she’s “not on the best of terms with the Almighty” and he has allowed Wordsworth to supplant the Bible for him. I’m surprised at his capacity to see such beauty there, given his past (and his rant last week when he was looking for a job and unable to find work)—but perhaps it makes sense that he sees the most beauty in the tragedies. Vanessa is so kind—and it’s obvious that Clare finds that surprising.

Back at the Murray home, the Egyptologist, Lyle stops by to chat about the Verbis Diablo, and We Learn Some Things. The language has only been written down once: in the 11th century, a monk called Brother Gregory was possessed. He was pd1eventually burned at the stake, but not before he etched it into anything he could find.

Ethan goes with Lyle to the British Museum to retrieve the items. There’s a fun bit of flirting, and a wee bit of faux intrigue. It’s going to be a puzzle, putting together a cypher from the array of items.

And Dorian is back. He’s at a cafe, mooning over a picture of Vanessa. But along stops a lady for a chat. She slides him a card—and later, we see Dorian at the brothel. She’s not shy about showing Dorian what he’s buying—and Dorian doesn’t look shy about the buying. Let’s not forget how we met him, or who he is.

Frankenstein, meanwhile, is working with the newly-revived Brona. He asks Clare to leave, and it’s evident that there’s already brewing tension between them. New-Brona doesn’t quite have language yet–but it begins to return to her quickly, and with apd5 whole-new accent. Frankenstein names her Lily and gives her a back-story: she was his cousin, and Clare was his intended. We still don’t know if her memories will return, so it’s difficult to say if this story is going to work–and what difficulties Frankenstein’s obvious affection for her is going to cause.

Speaking of difficulties…There was a survivor of Ethan’s attack at the Mariner’s Inn. He’s not in much shape to talk—possibly ever–but it still seems as thought his might cause trouble for Ethan: the police are still interested.

And finally, we turn to the Witchery of the Week. And my, my, are these witches bad. Madame Kali sees Malcolm–she’s buying perfume and asks for advice. She uses the moment for a bit of demonic whispering in his ear, which he doesn’t seem to notice at all. Later, the two go shooting together on a date-but-not-a-date. Madame pd3Kali is a sharp shot. Hmm. Madame Kali is also holding some “indiscreet” photos over Lyle’s head, threatening to release them if he doesn’t comply with her wishes–an interesting development.

Hecate is on the London Underground, stalking a small, young family. She attacks when they’re alone on the car, killing the two parents and stealing their infant. We at least don’t see her kill it, but we do see her give it to Madame Kali. And then, in something that was almost to squicky for me, we see her take the baby’s heart and put it into a wooden puppet of Vanessa. Queue Vanessa, across town, drawing a large, gasping breath.


Penny Dreadful: Season 2, Episode 1 “Fresh Hell” Review

And we’re back for another season of Penny Dreadful. You’ll be seeing reviews from me on Tuesdays after the show runs on Sunday. This week, with “Fresh Hell” the show stepped up its game again after the rather disappointing end to an excellent first season. This week we’re re-introduced to Madame Kali, to new ends—she is our new villainness–and we know it from the beginning. (Warning: Spoilers below!)

The show opens with Vanessa walking through the snow in one of the London pd1.2parks. Madame Kali is across the park, chanting an incantation and looking a little bit creepy.

And then we’re back to Ethan, who…Ah, yes, Ethan is a werewolf. He’s made a mess of things and massacred everyone in the Mariner’s Inn, his former boarding house. This’ll be a problem later–let’s not forget last season’s opening and the Jack the Ripper comparison. That was probably Ethan, too.

So of course he’s off to find Miss Ives, who ostensibly he’s come to say goodbye to. Vanessa and Ethan are in her carriage; Dracula and Mina are dead, but Miss Ives is still concerned about the idea of Ethan leaving. And suddenly, we see why–there’s something awful after her, still. The creature has human-like features but is clearly pd1.5Something else. And oh, there are three of them. And they can look like regular human women. Charming.

The creatures overturn the carriage, but Vanessa somehow manages to speak whatever language they’re speaking and frighten them away. It’s not Latin—that much is clear. And Ethan Chandler looks scared shitless. There’s a great moment when the two climb out atop the overturned carriage and survey the carnage the creatures left behind—it’s a beautiful grotesque scene of blood spread across the snow.

And across town, Frankenstein and Caliban are working on bringing Brona back to life. We see a quite lot of Billie Piper in this episode—but mostly she’s motionless, a naked corpse submerged in a tank. In same ways, this reinforces the idea of her pd1.3switch from Brona to the bride, from life to the next.

Back at Murray’s house, Vanessa is obviously distraught. Sembene and Ethan stand by, unsure what to do. Vanessa won’t reveal anything about the creatures to Ethan, but she clearly knows what they are. Sembene, who unfortunately still doesn’t get much talking time, is left to care for Vanessa until Malcolm gets home. He does at least get to tell us that the past never leaves us because it is who we are. Sage advice, Sembene.

We get a shot of Ethan leaving Murray’s home. One of the creatures stands atop a building, watching him walk across the snow-covered ground alone. Lots of long shots of characters from across deserted, snow-covered ground in this episode.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Murray and his wife are visiting Peter’s and Mina’s graves. Malcolm suggests that he’ll come home. His wife doesn’t want him there, blames him for the death of the children, but is clear that she won’t grant him a divorce.

Back in London, Caliban wanders the streets, looking for work. And oh, wonder of
pd1.4wonders—he stumbles upon a wax museum! If anything could work as well as the stage for Caliban, it’s this. Look at those period clothes! Those rooms! Oooo, a HALL OF HORRORS! OH A CHAMBER OF CRIMES EVEN BETTER!!!!!!

Caliban decides, actively, not to hide his face–a conscious effort toward honesty. The owner is kind to Caliban, offers him a job. He needs to meet the family though, apparently. He’s concerned, but our owner is not. He seems confident. And then he shows Caliban a new crime in his “chamber of crimes” exhibit. Could it be—oh, it is “The Mariner’s Inn Massacre.”

Cut to the actual scene of the massacre, which looks fairly close to that in the wax museum. And now we’re in CSI: Penny Dreadful, a detective in gloves looking about the crime scene. Apparently, there is a survivor, which doesn’t bode well for Mr. Chandler. We shall see.

Ethan, meanwhile, has returned to the Murray house. Vanessa is hiding upstairs, pacing and smoking, clearly very frightened. Across town, Frankenstein is in his lab, apparently in the middle of a weird, weird moment with Brona’s corpse–he’s touching a woman who will be his next creation. But Sembene shows up and requires Frankenstein’s assistance, interrupting his reverie.

Caliban returns to the wax museum at night to meet the owner’s family. His wife is brusque. Caliban introduces himself as “John Clare” (who was actually a poet). The couple has a daughter, Lavinia. She’s blind—he allows her to touch his face, though he’s clearly uncomfortable, but the wife and husband give one another knowing looks. The daughter is kind—when she gets to his scars she moves slowly, gently,
and she just says how good it is to meet him. Sweet Caliban. After Caliban leaves, the owner’s wife expresses displeasure—but the husband says “that face will make our fortune.” What’s all this then?

At the Murray home, Vanessa sits on the steps, waiting. She throws herself into Murray’s arms when he gets home. Sembene, Frankenstein, and Ethan are all there, pd1.6too. The group tells Murray what has happened, and Vanessa begins to reveal more details about what they are facing. Those creatures are called night-comers, witches in the service of the devil. They’ve been marked by his claws. The language they were speaking was the Verbus Diablo: Satan’s version of god’s language, turned inside out. Vanessa wants to fight on her own, but the crew won’t let her.

Now we’re in a spooky house, and there’s a low spooky singing. Lady Kali bathes in blood. She puts her cigarette out in it, and it’s obviously thick. Shudder.

She steps out in her dressing gown. There are 4 witches in the room, one of whom calls her mother–could be an expression of her as the coven mother or she could the mother of one or more of the girls. She’s clearly displeased with them after their failure to get Vanessa and Ethan; they’re worried about Ethan as a potential roadblock. One of the witches asks for another chance, tells Lady Kali that they failed because Vanessa spoke the devil’s language. But Lady Kali doesn’t take her failure to note what Vanessa said well, and we bid farewell to one of the witches already.

And now we’re in the middle of a storm! Oh, there’s a storm! Frankenstein and Caliban run to the lab, get everything ready for the charge that will activate Brona’s re-awakening. Lots of screaming and stuff—the two have a weird “let her live” moment. Then there’s a bolt, and everything is live with electric sparks.

And then, a hand, a face. A bride.

Cut to Vanessa in her room. She’s clearly preparing to do magic. Blood magic, at that. In her own home, Madame Kali is doing blood magic, too. They are pitted PD1.1against one another in the storm, chanting. The witches are in Vanessa’s room in a flash of lightning, gone the next.

And an episode end.

–Best line of the episode goes to Caliban for “what is Doctor Frankenstein without his creature?”
–Episode Grade: B+
A strong start to the season with some interesting villains, but Sembene needs lines, and I’d have liked to at least peak at Dorian Grey in the season opener. I’m sure he’ll be around next week.