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: 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: “Possession” Review

download (14)“Possession” marks the penultimate hour of Penny Dreadful‘s first season, and it’s an aptly titled episode. In another phenomenal performance by Eva Green, Possessed Vanessa returns. Victor Frankenstein, Malcolm Muray, Ethan Chandler, and Sembene sit vigil with Vanessa, watching her try to fight the demonic force that took hold after last week’s tryst with Dorian. He and Brona are notably absent from this week’s episode, and Caliban is only seen momentarily, but the episode benefits from its claustrophobic insistence on maintaining the focus inside the Murray mansion. (Fair warning: spoilers below photo!)


We begin with Vanessa on Murray’s downstairs couch not long after her return from Dorian Grey’s home. She’s talking in a voice that doesn’t sound quite like her own, is harsher somehow, about pornographic photos of dead women. This doesn’t seem to be Vanessa, so when Murray asks if she can hear him, it’s no surprise that the subject is quickly changed. She seems to be Mina for a moment, calling him “father” and talking about his explorations, before mocking his wife and reminding Murray of his infidelities. He’s accused, at least, of making his son have sex with these women, too, tribeswomen from his journeys to Africa. I’m wondering if the writers are going to keep giving us this story in snippets, or if we’ll get it all from a flashback at a later time.

The voice starts listing the name of the tribes that the women were from, and the room slowly starts to come alive. The scene begins to vibrate. First, it’s a cup and saucer. Then it’s books on the shelves. Soon, the cup explodes, papers and then books go flying, the furniture is moving. Sembene steps in and knocks Vanessa unconscious then carries her upstairs silently. Murray decides that at least Victor needs to be called in, and the doctor is fetched.

Frankenstein examines a mostly normal Vanessa, who apologizes for the way she looks and winces at the coldness of the stethoscope he uses. The demon in her reveals itself, though, penny-dreadful2quoting the Shelley line from “Adonais” from “What Death Can Join Together” that Frankenstein quoted, remarking upon Frankenstein’s lack of sexual experience. He’s surprised and horrified by her condition, and he leaves the room before she can speak anymore. Green and Treadaway aren’t often in scenes together, and that’s quite a shame. They do well together, here, the characters’ complete differences juxtaposing neatly.

Frankenstein returns to speak to Murray about Vanessa’s condition. He diagnoses it as perhaps relating to past sexual trauma (of course). Murray mentions her date with Dorian, and the two seem to agree that it prompted her current condition (of course). As they talk, Frankenstein absent-mindedly plays with a tarot card. Suddenly, a spider appears, and just as soon as there’s one, the whole deck begins to move and shake, revealing spiders beneath. They swarm over and off the table just as we hear Vanessa scream from upstairs, and Murray and Frankenstein hurry from the room. We’ve seen this before—the spiders are indicative of what’s inside Vanessa—and their squick factor still works.

Ethan shows up at Murray’s home about this time, and Murray convinces him to stay and help the group as they help Vanessa in the only way they know how–by taking care of her as she penny-dreadful-1x07-promo-possession-video-preview-season-1-episode-7fights the demon that has taken her. Ethan sees Vanessa, and she is momentarily lucid before the demon returns. The demon taunts Ethan about his sexual connection to Dorian, and Vanessa has to be sedated before the group leaves the room to talk. Murray is finally honest about what might be possessing Vanessa, telling the group about the Egyptol0gist’s Amunet theory. Now if we can just get them all to say “vampire.”

We then see a passage of time, and it appears to have been a week or so since Vanessa was first possessed. The men keep watch over her, trying to keep her from harming herself as much as they can. Then one afternoon, she wakes, talking to Ethan of his kindness and about the way the demon inside her feels. She loves Ethan, and we finally hear her say so, just before she asks him to kill her if it becomes necessary. But then we see that it isn’t really Ethan she’s talking to—much like the night that the demon took on the guise of Murray, the demon has taken Ethan’s appearance. She asks what it wants, and we finally hear a real reply—for her to be the mother of darkness and rule a broken, ruined Earth next to him after overthrowing god anddownload (15) killing everyone.Vanessa fights, but it’s clear that she finds the demon’s voice seductive, the idea of giving in to the darkness a relief. And Green turns in one of the best possessed-woman performances I’ve ever seen here, her ambivalence and emotional distress so clear.

Meanwhile, the real Ethan and Murray are discussing the possibility of a trip to Africa; Murray really wants Ethan to go with him. Ethan is suspicious, though, of Murray’s intentions and of the journey. The two don’t get much further into conversation before they have to go upstairs to help Frankenstein and Sembene sedate Vanessa, who is clawing at her wrists and chest, which seem (at least to her) to have engorged veins and what looks like it might be a hieroglyphic.

Victor goes downstairs, where we begin to see his morphine addiction in earnest for the first time. I am really interested in this turn, especially given his later admission that he was given a cocaine derivative as a child. I hope we’ll see more of boy-Frankenstein. He glances out the window to see Caliban watching, but there is nothing to be done. He turns to Ethan, and the two discuss Vanessa. They both seem to agree, but for different reasons, that letting Vanessa Episode 107die might be the best thing to do given the situation. Ethan continues to show his suspicions of Murray, questioning why he is so desperate to keep Vanessa alive. Frankenstein and Ethan go to the basement, where Ethan begins to teach Frankenstein to shoot (he’s a quick study, evidently).

A little later, Ethan takes Sembene some food, and we finally get to hear him speak a little more, though he’s hardly forthcoming. He claims to have “no past,” and even when Ethan continues to question him, he reveals little except that we all have our debts to pay, our responsibilities to shoulder. I’m still hoping to see him get a lot more use as a character in a season 2 partially set in Africa. (Please, writers?) Anyway, while they talk, Murray is in Vanessa’s room, urging her to try to use the possession (and Dalton is truly frightening here), the state she’s in, to contact Mina. She’s enraged, and so is Ethan, who hears part of the conversation.

Ethan orders Murray out of the room, and the two converse with Victor about what to do for Vanessa. They agree upon a priest for last rites—and an exorcism. When he arrives, though, the priest refuses to perform the exorcism, a rite that must be Vatican approved before its images (9)performance. He goes upstairs to perform last rites; he approaches the bed cautiously, frightened by Vanessa’s appearance. When he identifies himself as father Matthew, the demon react, telling the story of Matthew nailed upside down to a cross “to come to me faster” before biting a chunk out of the priest’s face.

Vanessa breaks her restraints and jumps to the ceiling, where she perches before pouncing on Sir Malcolm. Ethan manages to tear her away, and Sembene gets Murray out of the room. Ethan readies his gun as he faces off with Vanessa, crying out for her to wake up. He grabs her head, pushes her against a wall, still pleading for her to fight the demon and return. She comes back long enough to ask him to kill her, knowing she doesn’t have much time before the demon returns.

And then, Ethan does something wondrously strange. He pulls out Brona’s St Jude necklace, presses it to Vanessa’s forehead, and begins chanting in Latin, his gun pressed against her neck. The chant works, Vanessa falls, ridden of the demon, and Ethan leaves the house. Murray and Sembene go upstairs to see Vanessa peacefully sleeping, her face full of color and life for the first time in weeks.

Then we get the final punch of the episode—-Vanessa is dreaming, seeing snippets of Mina interspersed with scenes from The Transformed Beast, the play from The Guignol, all of this against the lines: “there cannot be a happy end / the claw will slash and tooth will rend.” She awakens, goes downstairs, and informs Murray “I know where Mina is.”

I think it’s clear, from that ending and from the last episode’s title, that Mina is in The Guiginol. I’m wondering, though, when we’ll hear more about that thing that Ethan just did. How did he know what to say? Did something tell him? Has he done this before? What is he?

Looks like next week we might see a wrap-up of the Mina story-line as the season closes, and Brona and Dorian will be back, too.

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.)

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