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.)

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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.

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Penny Dreadful: Little Scorpion Review (S2 E7)

“Little Scorpion”, the 7th episode of Penny Dreadful Season 2, takes us back to the Cut-Wife’s cottage. The episode focuses almost entirely on Vanessa and Ethan, who make the journey together in hopes of finding a weapon–that book Vanessa was only supposed to touch in the direst of times, I would hope. Indeed, this seems the direst of times for the group, as Ethan battles the wolf inside and Frankenstein comes to terms with Lily’s growing independence. (Warning: spoilers are lurking below!)

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Despite Sir Malcolm’s reservations (and really in part because of his strong objections), Vanessa and Ethan leave without telling anyone in the group where they’re going—except Frankenstein, because of course Someone Has To Know. Prudent thing to do and whatnot.

At the cottage, Vanessa and Ethan spend a lot of time talking about monsters, redemption, and damnation. Oh yes, and she’s afraid of dolls. She doesn’t trust them, never has. Dear me. Ethan always seems to be talking about himself, and Vanessa seems quick to note that. And if that weren’t enough, Ethan bolts off into light of the full moon one evening, demanding that Vanessa bolt the door until morning.

The sexual tension that the show has been building between the two characters becomes even more obvious, though it’s also a bit confusing. In exchange for dancinglessionsshooting lessons (something she’s unsurprisingly good at), Vanessa agrees to teach Ethan to dance. After saving the cottage from a fire, the two embrace in a big, Notebook-style kiss. But Vanessa quickly pushes Ethan away. They’re dangerous, apparently.

But Ethan is still swearing to protect Vanessa. And it’s about this time that the two encounter Sir Geoffrey, the land owner who attempted to rape Vanessa and who killed the Cut-Wife. There’s a tense moment, but it passes. Back in the cottage, Vanessa vows to avenge the death of the Cut-Wife. Ethan warns her that killing isn’t something one can return from, but Vanessa doesn’t especially care.

Back at the mansion, Lyle is still trying to sort out the Verbis Diablo. That “hound of god” phrase is still troubling him. He thinks that the repetition is caused by the demon ruminating on something—probably something that represents a threat. Is this Ethan? And somehow we’re back to Amunet and Amun-Ra, immortals Lyle mentioned in season 1 who desperately loved one another but had to be kept apart because their union would bring about the apocalypse. Oh, great.

Ethan decides to go after Sir Geoffrey himself. But before he does, Vanessa reads from the Verbis Diablo. There’s lots of thrashing about and guttural sounds, and Eva Green’s fantastic ability to look like a madwoman shines as Vanessa reads a passage that makes Sir Geoffrey’s small pack of very large dogs turn on him and tear him to pieces.

Frankenstein is also dealing with the complex feelings he has for Lily when she goeslilydorian out with Dorian. She notices Putney’s Wax Museum, and since she’s never been to one before, he takes her inside. They’re looking about the museum when they stop in front of an exhibit and have a wee chat about grave-robbing. Lily looks both horrified and perplexed, and Dorian looks like he knows far more than he’s sharing.

On her way home, Lily stops for a drink. It’s an odd sort of moment—she brushes past a lot of men in the bar, finally stopping at an open stool beside an older gentleman. They chat for a few minutes, but then they’re off to the bedroom. And while they’re there—–Lily chokes him. To death. What is this?!

It looks like next week we’ll see more murdery things from Lily and perhaps some more of those pesky witches, who were mostly off the grid this week.

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.

Blogging A to Z Day 18: Penny Dreadful

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Somewhere along the way, I became Sourcerer’s resident horror blogger. I blame it on a fascination with the macabre, an odd enjoyment of things that go bump in the night—as long as they’re safely put away by the end of the show, film, or book.

And I spent a lot of time studying monsters, studying Victorian and Edwardian and Gothic literature. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw many, many changes, especially in science and medicine, and literature of the period reflects the way that science and superstition battled one another during this age of modernity and discovery.

During this era, postage stamps were introduced, making mail carriage more standardized; daguerrotypes were introduced, and by the turn of the century, so was the handheld camera; anesthetics were developed, and new understanding of disease spread led to new surgical techniques, disease treatment, and sanitation.

Enter penny dreadfuls, 19th century publications, often serialized over periods of weeks or months. An increasingly literate population and new means of production allowed for inexpensive book publication on the mass market level. Woodcut illustrations often accompanied the 8-16 page serials, lurid and dark. Titles ranged–Varney the Vampirebut this is where we first find Sweeney Todd, and it is where we find the germs of Frankenstein, Dracula, and many other monsters that have become ubiquitous since their inception.

Last year, Showtime ran the first season of John Logan’s Penny Dreadful series, a show that imagines what Victorian London would’ve been like with characters from various penny dreadfuls wandering about.

Dorian Grey (Reeve Carney), Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) and his monster (Rory Kinnear), and Mina Murray Harker (Olivia Llewellyn) are all connected by their relationships with Malcom Murray (Timothy Dalton) and the mysterious vampire-hunter-and-powerful-medium Vanessa Ives download (9)(Eva Green). Oh, and there’s Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), a werewolf sharpshooter, and his consumptive prostitute girlfriend, Brona Croft (Billie Piper).

Season one centered around the relationships between the characters—establishing how each fits into the overall story by creating a back-story in which Vanessa is Mina’s former best friend who is working with Sir Malcom to rescue his daughter from the vampire who has stolen her away. Both Ethan Chandler and Victor Frankenstein are hired as part of Malcom’s team. Dorian’s place is a little less certain–we see him with Vanessa a few times, but we don’t yet have a full connection between him and the other characters.

Some of the most stunning scenes in the first season involve The Grand Guignol. The theater was an actual theater known for producing penny dreadful style horror

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shows, though it was actually in Paris. The theater set works fantastically for meta-commentary on the show: we watch the audience’s faces, and yet—we are the audience.

In season 2, we are set to see more of Madame Kali (Helen McCrory), who will be the season’s main antagonist. The trailer for season 2 also promises that we’ll see characters who didn’t come into contact with one another last season interacting–and we’ll get to see what Brona Croft is like as the Bride of Frankenstein.

Season 2 of Penny Dreadful begins on May 3. You can catch me blogging the season here on Sourcerer again—and watch for a review of the new Penny Dreadful Clue when it’s released in July!

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This post is by @parttimemonster of Part Time Monster and Sourcerer contributor. For more A to Z geekery, check out Part Time Monster!