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.

Penny Dreadful: Episode 4

This episode begins in the daylight. A rare occurrence, and this time it’s not a flash back. Dorian Gray and Vanessa are out at a garden and flirt with each other. I find the topic of them becoming a couple to be rather boring. 

Lots happened and I will discuss them in no particular order: Sir Malcolm accuses Vanessa of betraying Mina, Vanessa retorts that he betrayed Mina her whole life. Which makes further clear that malcolm was abusing his daughter. He’s supposed to be the leader of this group of monster hunters fighting against the darkness and I could not be less sympathetic towards him. Dr. Frankenstein hopes to run away to Africa to help with the mummy, but Sir Malcolm declines.

Ethan on the other hand is stealing my heart. As previously established: I love Josh Hartnett. I loved him in Black Dahlia. I loved him in 30 Days of Night. I loved him in Wicker Park. His voice alone melts my vanilla… anyway, Dr Frankenstein performs a transfusion on the young imprisoned vampire Fenton. Ethan declines. Suspicious. Further evidence he’s a werewolf? Malcolm donates blood, it doesn’t work. But more on Ethan. He takes Brona to the theater (to see a play about a werewolf, no less), it happens to be the same theater company that employs Caliban. At the end of the play Ethan and Brona run into Vanessa and Dorian (who made goo goo eyes across the balcony throughout the show), Vanessa compliments Ethan more than was really needed (perhaps to play up his prowess for Brona’s behalf? Make him look like more of a catch?) but things are more awkward since Dorian has paid Brona for sex and insulted her. Brona abruptly runs off, Ethan goes to confront her and she screams at him “Don’t you realize you’re fucking a skeleton?” and then tells him that if he wants her he has to pay for it like everyone else. 

Elsewhere, the master comes for Fenton and they get the drop on Sir Malcolm. The Master is dastardly looking, yellowish white skin, bloodshot eyes and a mouth full of pointed teeth. He looks sort of like the Master from Buffy. Sir Malcolm flails the fiends off of him and Fenton ends up impaled, bleeding from the head. 

Brona slaps Ethan, races off and collapses in a coughing fit, sputtering blood. Meanwhile, Dorian comes to collect Ethan. Ethan.. rather… ummm… no one talks like this, but he asks Dorian if he ever just wants to be someone else. He says he does and he takes Ethan out for drinks and gambling (on how many rats can a dog kill) Ethan gets freaked out and ends up slamming back whiskey, some blokes pick a fight and he handles it quick. Dorian apologizes and brings Ethan back to his own mansion, with floor to ceiling framed pictures adorning every inch of wall. Ethan says “I saw some pictures I liked before” (People really think Americans are this uncultured.. they aren’t wrong) and described Native American paintings that he saw in a dwelling carved into a cliff. Animals, the sun, the moon. No people. Dorian asks why he liked those. First he says they were “primitive” then he visibly shakes himself and says that they were honest and focussed on what was important. Dorian asks if art can ever be honest. He thinks only music can be, and he plays a recording on a wax cylinder. The song causes Ethan to reflect on his time in London. Monsters, murders, Brona, waking up under the bridge (with what looks like claw marks from clenching his fist into his palm)  and then this…

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And I about climbed into my TV

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I am thoroughly enjoying this show, for the human connections as well as the monsters. But this one was rather soap operatic. I hope we get to some more blood and adventure next week, but it looks as though Vanessa is stealing center stage and we get more backstory on Vanessa and Mina. 

I wonder if Ethan and Dorian are going to wake up together. I wonder what their relationship will be going forward. 

Penny Dreadful- episode 3

So pumped to figure out why that Creature climbed through Proteus last episode.

But we flashback to Vic’s childhood. His dog died, Victor found him with maggots crawling out of hollowed out eyes.his mother comforts him then suddenly falls ill, choking on blood and spattering it onto him. Hauntingly soft and white he agrees, “Death is not serene.” His mother dies soon after.

Then we appear in the moment that ended last weeks episode. Most this week’s episode centered around Victor Frankenstein and his first creation, Callaban. When the Creature came to life, Frankenstein was scared and left his monster all alone. The Creature was terrified and in agony. Slowly, he watched out the window at home humans interacted and concluded that he was less than, that he was an animal. We get a slowpaced story (recounted while Callaban threatens Victor and they’re both covered in blood, this show is so committed to atmosphere).

Brona and Ethan are having sex, and we get to see as much of his bare ass as we do hers (thanks Showtime!) It was sort of sweet and sexy. Maybe just for me. I’ve crushed on Hartnett for a while. There’s this moment when she almost pushes him away from kissing her (because she has consumption) but he kisses her anyway, choosing to be close with her instead. When she gets out of bed she’s coughing and he asks if she has any medicine, she replies, “Who has money for that when there’s eating to be done, lad.” and smiles it off. But he doesn’t. And he goes to see Sir Malcolm and Vanessa and join in for the monster hunting again.

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They at first believe that he intends to take this job so he can travel back home, but Vanessa finds out that this is about a woman. It doesn’t really matter, of course, because they are desperate. They think that they have found where “The Master” maybe and that Mina might be there as well. They’re rather desperate for the help. Which is great, since Ethan is more desperate for the money. 

Meanwhile we get to the heat of it that Callaban’s angry at Frankenstein for creating and then abandoning him, and vows to see that Victor ends up as alone as he has been… unless Victor makes him a wife doomed to the same misery he is.

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Out with Sir Malcolm, Vanessa and Ethan they encounter some wolves, which I thought for sure would be werewolves, but they don’t appear to be or reveal themselves to be anyway. I’m not committed to them being regular wolves yet. -More on that later.

Ethan lets the aforementioned wolves sniff his hand and they retreat. Vanessa and Sir Malcolm share a look that clearly says *what the hell was that about* and moments after they find a young vampire chewing on some raw flesh. He tries to attack Vanessa, They wind up chaining him up, Sir Malcolm beats him while shouting ‘where is your Master?” and asking Victor over to concoct a treatment. Ethan remarks that the vampire is still a child and that torturing and experimenting on children isn’t something he wants to be party to.

Victor says “Oh, killing Redskins and wiping an entire race into oblivion is more your style.” Ethan doesn’t deny and says “How did you know I was in the Indian Wars?” and Victor gives him a *haha tricked you* I didn’t. Which would have made the Englishmen there seem morally superior IF they didn’t have an African servant who doesn’t speak or contribute to the story in any manner leaving the audience to conclude that when he isn’t waiting on Sir Malcolm he’s doing nothing of his own. 

Vanessa finds that Sir Malcolm used her as bait, he knew Mina had been moved but he wanted to draw out the Master and isn’t entirely pissed off enough. At some point, Vanessa had also counted to Ethan that Mina was supposed to marry Jonathan Harker but that she took up with “another man, if he is a man at all.” You know he’s not. You know he’s a vampire… why would you say that? But it has me wondering if Van Helsing will cross paths with them at some point.

So now here are my predictions: (and unfortunately- I don’t like some of them) Ethan has some weird mojo with wildlife and/or is a werewolf. I think it is more likely to be the former than the latter, I think that it will tie in to some Native American friends he made after some convoluted story that has him riding the redemption train for his misdeeds against the Native Americans. Also, that Brona is going to be near death from consumption soon and that Victor will resurrect her to be Callaban’s wife. I would put money on both of those. 

Penny Dreadful- Episode 2

Seance.

Ethan wakes up (under a pier in the dirt), heads to the nearest bar and gets right to the sauce, he’s well in his cups when Billie Piper- I mean Brona enters. She’s Irish and recently came to London after her position in a factory was eliminated by machines, while she finds London to have the same issues, she says: “There’s always a way to make a living when you’ve got a bit of flesh isn’t there?” Ethan: “I can’t say.” Brona: “I bet you can.” (recurring theme over here, but many occupations involve “selling your body” or “degrading yourself” and sex work is just work) “I’m off to look for work that a machine can’t do. Yet. Anyway.”

Victor Frankenstein, who has taught his creature to eat helps him choose a name. Proteus. Then he goes off to see Sir Malcolm and Vanessa and the mummy. Universal monsters everywhere.

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Brona’s job search leads her to the decadent residence of Dorian Gray -a character created by Oscar Wilde who owns a painting that gets uglier everytime he sins who sold his soul for eternal youth. He asks Brona to undress and she coughs up blood. She expects to be sent out, but Gray approaches her. He undresses as well and they have sex standing up while someone photographs, “I never fucked I dying creature before. Do you feel things more deeply, do you feel pain?” Startled, she asks him, “Do you?” and she tears into her back with fingernails.

Brona suffering from consumption references early vampire mythos.

In Dr. Frank’s basement, Proteus cries for the whale in a book. Frankenstein hypothesizes that Proteus had been a whaler and sets to find out who he is. 

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Gray attends a party that the Egyptologist Niles is hosting where Vanessa is a guest as well. He profiles Vanessa concluding that she thought it would be a wasted frivolous evening, and that she is not a frivolous person. He grabs her hand and acknowledges that she is the only ungloved woman and that she wants to touch while her head wants to appraise. For some reason this is romantic? They almost kiss. It seems out of character for the reserved and BUSY Vanessa (and Dorian is supposed to be gay). They are moved to another room and Madame Kali enters, Vanessa say skeptically “I believe we’re about to convene with a spirit” -really? that blase about it? You have telekinetic powers and hunt vampires. Madame Kali starts the ritual and Vanessa reaches for Gray’s hand. She channels a young child and at times seems mocking, telling of how he went on an adventure with father (Sir Malcolm is impacted by the rant, apparently this was his son) and got dysentery. Sir Malcolm starts crying. Then Vanessa lets her hair down. Cracks the table and says cunt a lot. Basically. Sir Malcolm’s son caught him having sex with Mina in the hallway and Vanessa says “When did you know you wanted to fuck her?” And then bends herself like the Last Exorcism 2.

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Then she has sex with a man in the street. While Malcolm sits at the cracked table, shaken.

The next morning Brona and Ethan are inside the same bar again. She tells him that now she’s a model. “For the calendars and such?” he asks. She replies, “If you keep your calendar in a whorehouse.” He offers to buy her a proper breakfast, when she declines he asks for dinner. She questions his motives “You like things back alley?” and he replies, “I like things to be what they are.” Normally, I’d be annoyed at the stereotype that a sex worker (particularly one as frank as Brona) must see herself as less than, but since the day before she’d been referred to as “a creature” by someone who had the power to dictate whether or not she would have money for food -I’ll allow it. Ethan’s no peach either, he’s an alcoholic and a fugitive. He’s a fuck up with questionable employment.

Niles is mad his party was ruined. His wife was mortified. 

But none the less he translates the hieroglyphs for Sir Malcolm. He references the hidden goddess with a monster within her. And then decides “You must forget you ever saw it.” Perpetual life by feeding on the souls of others. Amunet and Amun-Ra conjoined means the annihilation of man and coming of the Beast. 

Victor takes Proteus outside. He gets overwhelmed at first, but as they journey the fear turns to amazement. They see Brona and Ethan on the street and Proteus is taken with Brona, he offers her a chestnut and they introduce rather awkwardly. Later Victor explains “friends” and Proteus decides he will have many friends WHEN SOMETHING CLIMBS OUT OF HIS BODY HOLY WHAT?! With a “Your first born has returned, father.”

Well that’s baffling.

My favorite parts of this episode had nothing to do with the supernatural happenings. Weird. I like Brona and I like her portrayal. I like her with Ethan. I like them as equals. 

There is a lot going on.

If Sir Malcolm molested his daughter Mina, if it wasn’t the ramblings of a demon… it would be insanely irresponsible to make him a sympathetic character. That’s fucking gross. No wonder she ran off with Dracula. I don’t care how much I love 007 and Timothy Dalton, axe him. Sir Malcolm Murray is not the good guy.

I want to like this show… and I do… but there’s so much happening and getting the ball rolling on all at once is… a little much. I think that’s why I liked Ethan and Brona’s less intense plotline. Her tie in with Dorian was wonderful, while Vanessa’s was a little much. And why a mummy? There are Catholic elements: demonic possession and a deal with the devil. There are vampires. Reanimated corpses. Jack the Ripper. If you think that there’s any reason to have a Egyptian mythos thrown in along with that other than “to hit a Universal Monsters trifecta” I would love to hear it. Why not a fucking swamp monster at that point?

Not that there’s not time for that.

Penny Dreadful- Episode 1

The cast list reads like a who’s who in the action and/or horror and/or fantasy TV and cinema realm. Former Bond Timothy Dalton, former Bond girl (much later) Eva Green (also coming soon in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) my longtime crush Josh Hartnett (Sin City, Black Dahlia, 30 days of Night), Billie Piper (“Doctor Who”), Rory Kinnear (plays the Creature, also Bond alumni circa Blonde Bond).

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The set design, costumes and cinematography is lush… and set in victorian London. I’m concerned already since a production in the same genre set in the same atmosphere with less (but substantial) star power just got cancelled. I’m talking about NBC’s “Dracula”, new of it’s cancellation was announced yesterday. 

This show is expensive. But I’m not sure they are paying for new ideas… 

Josh Hartnett plays an alcoholic gunslinger who despite the trembling in his hand is seen fit by Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) to take on monsters that are terrorizing London. Even though he’s crashed and burned and is putting on a travelling side show. Vanessa and Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) bring Hartnett’s Ethan Chandler to the vampires’ nest. After some struggle, the vamps are defeated (we get a glimpse of Vanessa’s telekinetic powers, Ethan’s skill and Sir Malcolm’s bravado) and they bring a carcass to a scientific type (Frankenstein) played by Harry Treadaway (Cockneys versus Zombies, Lone Ranger)

The next day, Ethan is to meet Sir Malcolm at his home. A Black servant answers the door. WTF TV execs?Think we can suspend disbelief for vampires, but believe that we cannot stretch our imaginations that black people could be anything more than servants on these shows?.  

“Who the fuck are you people?”

Sir Malcolm’s daughter has been taken by a “creature” and Vanessa’s reasons for pursuing the monsters are “her own.” Secretive. Grizzly crime scenes are popping up all around, people are whispering about Jack the Ripper (likening this series again to “Dracula” AND to “Ripper Street”) Ethan wants to bail. He’s in over his head. Performing isn’t so bad. It’s better than messing with creatures of the night. But he is intrigued. And he interlopes on the investigation of a disgusting murder of a family.

Mina pays a visit to Sir Malcolm. Mina Harker, that’s right. Although these vampires bear a stronger resemblance to Nosferatu than any version of Dracula. sir Malcolm says that he will find her, Vanessa goes to pray, but candles levitate and bad omens present themselves in interesting and stunning ways.

It’s the small touches, Dr. Frankenstein asking Ethan about advancements in electric power in America, crosses turning upside down and exploding with arachnids and full frontal nudity that make this for me. Maybe Shotime can pull off what NBC could not, maybe a subscription channel can carry the weight of all these actors and scenarios.

At the end of the episode Victor Frankenstein accidentally reanimates “the Creature” and they have a touching and bizarre encounter. 

I am optimistic about this series. But the budget must be immense: it’s gorgeous. Mishmash of big name monsters also reminds me of “Hemlock Grove” (although this makes more sense already). Timothy Dalton is pulling his best (also former Bond) Sean Connery in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and my gosh, is it good to see Josh Hartnett taking on vamps again.

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But there’s not much to add, elements of plot are emergent but there’s not much to speculate over all about the dynamics of characters in upcoming episodes.

Tuesday Nerd-Newsday!

Since all my TV shows are ending (except Agents of SHIELD, which has 7 more episodes and Lady Sif guest starring tonight) here’s some new movie trailers from the Horror/Scifi/Superhero realm that will help keep me entertained.

Stage Fright

Minnie Driver’s character is the catalyst for this film that looks a little Friday the 13th meets Phantom of the Opera. 4/3/14

Under the Skin

Bizarrely atmospheric thriller adapted from Michel Faber’s 2000 novel of the same name, about an alien sent to Earth by a rich corporation to prey on unwary hitchhikers. 4/13

13 Sins

If this tale of an economically disparate man who is driven to commit crimes for cash doesn’t seem wholly original, it’s because it isn’t. This is a remake of a 2006 Thai horror film. True Blood’s Rutina Wesley plays main character Elliot (Mark Webber)’s soon to be wife and Ron Perlman is the detective pursuing him. It looks.. interesting enough. 4/18.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Eva Green is the Dame to Kill For, back in another Frank Miller ultra far apart comic book sequel. The 300 movies were 7 years apart. The character she played recently in 300: Rise of an Empire got some less than favorable views because of Artemesia’s rape-revenge backstory. Hopefully the upcoming flick won’t be so trope ridden. Jessica Alba is still a total fox. I’m looking forward to this immensely. August 22nd.

Amazing Spiderman 2

It looks great. Also, total crush on Peter Parker. Spiderman does the Iron Man thing and creates his own villains.

Captain America: the Winter Soldier

I know pretty much the entire world has seen this. And knows ScarJo is pregnant. But I just wanted to point out that the first Captain America was pretty mediocre, and Marvel tossed in Black Widow because Cap couldn’t carry a movie on his own. I’m so pumped. And I wanted an excuse to link an article that stresses how much Scarlett trained for the stunt work in the Marvel movies. Because that’s badass. May 4, 2014

What are you most looking forward to?