Penny Dreadful- Episode 5

“Closer Than Sisters”

The pace slowed down considerably with this episode. 

The entirety of the episode takes place in flashbacks to Vanessa’s childhood. The ENTIRETY. For a show with as large a main cast as Penny Dreadful has this is quite bizarre. No monsters. No vampires, no werewolves. No love triangles. No Dorian Gray.

Which means that I have to wait and see what happens with Dorian and Ethan. This show has sucked my in. As soon as I watch; I want more. This show is typically intense with multiple plotlines and motivations intermingling.

So this Vanessa-centric, nostalgic exposition was… different.

Vanessa and Mina were neighbors who grew up separated by only an open gate and a hedge maze. We see them first as children imagining who they will marry, frolicking on the coastline and brushing each other’s hair. Vanessa’s crush on Peter. Until one fateful night. The young Vanessa was out in the hedge maze and she caught her mother having sex with Mina’s father, Sir Malcolm. This breech of her innocence causes her to act out in other ways, stealing and other instances of “girlish mischief.” 

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As they grow older Mina meets the kind of man that they dreamed of growing up while Vanessa’s budding relationship never blooms. He tells Vanessa he is going off to Africa. Vanessa knows he’s too weak, but she loves him for his weakness. Peter pushes her away. Just before Mina and her officer with the grand mustache are to be married, Vanessa encounters him in the halls and they flirt over taxidermy. Then they have sex. Mina finds the pair while her soon to be husband is pounding away at her BFF and she casts both of them out of her life. 

Vanessa confronts her mother about her infidelity with Sir Malcolm but when Vanessa gets to Mina’s yard she is faced with Sir Malcolm. He doesn’t let her pass and slams the gate. Vanessa collapses.

She treated first for what appears to be epilepsy and then she is taken in for psychiatric treatment for psychosexual fits. Treatments like ice baths and heavy narcotics… but nothing seems to work. The possession continues. Her mother finds her humping the air (Vanessa envisions Sir Malcolm) and faints. Peter comes to visit just before a trip to Africa and Vanessa predicts his death. 

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Years later, Vanessa is visited by Mina on a beach. Mina says that she forgives Vanessa saying that her suffering has been penance enough. Mina tells Vanessa about her new husband, Jonathan Harker. But once she lets it slip that Vanessa saw her father being unfaithful, Mina reveals that the Master has told her a lot. And then Vanessa visits Sir malcolm and tells him what Mina has revealed to her.

So let’s talk about it: Women’s sexuality demonized. Literally.

The loss of Vanessa’s innocence leads to her morality spiraling down the drain. Which isn’t supernatural mumbo jumbo. The young Vanessa sees that the adults around her are hypocritical in their religious and pious appearance, that they are sinning and she youthfully acts out. But then as an adult she is jealous of her friend and so she seduces her fiance. This act leaves her open for demonic possession. 

Slut shaming at it’s finest that Vanessa’s betrayal leaves her the property of Satan.

Other than that? 

I’m glad I have incorrectly assumed that Sir Malcolm raped Mina. It appears as though at the seance it was a young Mina’s essence who inhabited Vanessa (or possibly still Peter) but that the “her” was Vanessa’s mother. I hope. Possession is very confusing. 

This episode was comparatively slower to all the other episodes thus far, but it was so bizarre and captivating that it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of it. Eva Green can easily carry a scene and I have to give her props for some of the insane things that she pulled off there. 

I am concerned.

What I am concerned about is this:

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Now, I wouldn’t be bothered if Vanessa’s love for Mina is romantic more than platonic. But I will be bothered if Vanessa had sex with Mina’s fiance not because Vanessa was jealous of Mina for having what she envisioned but that she was jealous because she wanted Mina. I don’t need a “conniving lesbian homewrecker” plot. It’s preposterous.Hopefully I am just being paranoid. Tropes make me suspicious. Also, I hate to say it -because I don’t mind a “strong female character would do anything for true love” plot, which this would be if Vanessa had an interest in Mina that was romantic, but can girls just be down for their friends sometimes? I hope.

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