Friday, June 27, 2014

Penny Dreadful Review - Episode 2 - Seance

The next Penny Dreadful is hot off the presses. Have you got your penny?

Good. It's time for...


What Came Before? 

Well, it seems that our Dr. Frankenstein has been hard at work on his extra curricular activities. He's eager to pierce "the tissue that separates life and death." And it appears he's been inching closer and closer, until he's now finally succeeded.

"You know? Some nights it's like you're not even alive."

And there stands his creation. Bloody. Scared. Scarred. And, in need of answers.

"Daddy?I think I made a boom boom."

A Deathly Cold Opening.

But before we can see the proud papa and his boy, we turn to a quiet London street, as night overtakes the city. A young woman sits alone on a bench along a street. I don't want to judge, but I am getting a sense that she's a sex worker. If not, I'm an ass.

"You think I'm a what?!"

She partakes of an apple she had in a crumpled newspaper. She then pauses to give the paper a look and sees the looming headlines about The Ripper. (And suddenly I'm worried that I might be watching BBC America.)

Wow. So once London tabloids actually used whole words in their

She is nervous at the thought, and then she sees a figure walking up in the distance. But it's a lamplighter who's lighting the streetlamps for the night.

See? If he was a chimney sweep, he's be dancing and partying with
Mary Poppins instead. Bad life choices. 

Back in the day of gas lighting, people were hired to walk down each lit street to physically ignite each lamp. And then in the morning they would return to each light and put them out.

He passes her by, continuing to light the lamps, one by one. The young lady continues to be unsettled, becoming more aware of the London Fog that has grown quite thick around her.

Finally someone admitted it. The London Fog is a character in an of itself.

Suddenly she hears something happen to the lamplighter. He is either hit or just fell over.

Then a figure approaches her through the fog. She screams. But in the end all that is left, is an apple...

True, she didn't get to eat her apple. But, she also doesn't have to worry about keeping the doctor away.

...and a severed limb.

And Now...

The good Dr. Frankenstein still is with his creation. His creature.

It's actually goes better than I would have imagined. He's sits with him. He talks with him. He explains some aspects of his existence. Tries to help him understand concepts. He lets him pick a name.


He also helps him to remember aspects of his life before. And this is curious. It isn't clear how Proteus was created. Is he like the original tale, made of many parts from different people. Or is he supposed to...have most all of his original factory parts. Whatever the case, memories of whaling come back to him, and a family.

"Careful, Proteus. Don't touch the green screen."

He is troubled at times with parts of this, but he does seem to be doing well.

Surprisingly, again, Frankenstein seems to be handling his role quite well. He's calm. He's reassuring. He's patient. He's protective. He's very happy.

The other reason Victor created life. To have someone who'll play scrabble with him.

Enter Stage Right!

Proteus (played by Alex Price) enters the story in this episode. Frankenstein's monster, I suppose. He's different in some ways then you would imagine. Scarred, but no more than someone recently out of surgery.

In others ways he's much like the book character. He learns to speak. He can learn ideas to function in the world.

And at some moments you see call backs to Universal's Frankenstein.

Proteus is a curious soul. He's discovering/rediscovering existence. He has an eagerness to embrace life. He has a child's optimism.

Another newcomer to the show is Brona Croft. She's played by Billie Piper, who is working to pull off an Irish accent. Bless. I need to get to used to that.

She enters our tale by crossing paths with Ethan. Ethan, who's been sleeping by riverside (though not in a van), comes to a nearby inn for a morning drink. She joins and they begin a friendship.

"So the Doctor said, 'Stay right there, I'll be back in a minute.'"

She's a struggling Irish immigrant to the great metropolis. But she is having trouble getting good work. This is not helped by the fact she's suffering from the malady, Consumption.

Consumption is more commonly known today as Tuberculosis (TB). It's not a pleasant illness to be sure. In that day, it was usually quite fatal, particularly if you were poor. It was a harsh killer of staggering numbers in England and Europe. There were efforts to stamp it out. But, per the show, Brona is out of luck as it's still a decade out from scientist even understanding the cause of TB.

Thankfully she is aware and somewhat careful about her illness. She doesn't lie about it. She is also aware of where she is likely going to end up before long. She is coughing up blood.

She leads us to our other newcomer of the episode, Dorian Gray (played by Reeves Carney). Gray is a character you may know from literature. He's a creation of the renowned Oscar Wilde, for the story The Picture of Dorian Gray. I won't lie, at present I've only gotten a chapter into the book. As well,why spoil how book may influence the show?

Get it!

He's a man of wealth, and appetites. He's calling on Brona to come and pose for photographs. You know what one of the main uses of the camera was after in was invented? Porn.

Have. I summed up humanity to some way there?

(Though considering the stiffness of subjects in those long exposures in early cameras, I'm imagining images of frowning bored naked people.)

He is fascinated by Brona, particularly when he realizes she is suffering from Consumption. Later, at the party Vanessa visits, he becomes intrigued by her. He has his appetites.

Oh,great.And he's a close talker.

We don't learn much else yet about him.

To Smile and Smile, and Still...

In this episode we are also introduced to what may be our overarching threat. Maybe. The show may yet throw us for a loop on this trek.
"This one, the snake-headed one. That's Amunet...A goddess. The hidden one...despite her outward appearance she had a monster within her..."
"Amunet was the consort of Amun-Ra, one of the great gods. He was the first hidden one. The original serpent prince. So named not for any particular reptilian qualities, but the power of rebirth. Like a snake shedding his skin. Everlasting perpetual life. Sustained by feeding on the souls of others. Amunet and Amun-Ra never appear in the same incantation. It is inconceivable in pharaonic religion to conjoin them. Their narratives are kept completely separate."
"If they ever came together, Amunet would become the mother of evil. All light would end. The world would live in darkness. The hidden ones would emerge and rule. Amunet Amun-Ra conjoined. This is a spell foretelling the annihilation of man and the coming of The Beast."

Hieroglyphic porn is really tame...and metaphorical.

Amunet and Amun-Ra. What we know so far is sketchy. Dr.Lyle does discuss with Malcolm that the pair are two never meant to be together. When Lyle see's a hieroglyphic which combines the two it is very bad news. End of the World bad news.

Now, Amun-Ra (let's not even get into proper spelling across ancient languages and translations) emerged in Eyptian religion as a result of the merger of the gods Amun and Ra. Before that Amun was a hidden god, in part because amun is the word for hidden. This was his, and Amunet's, function because they represented the element of air (like in Captain Planet...Well, Amun was also a wind god.), which was deemed invisible.

Over time Amun took on different forms and names. It was a bit of a feat for one so hidden. As Amun-Ra he became a creator god, a sun god, and a fertility god. He was thought to reside in the sun. We'll have to see if that ties, metaphorically or not, into the show.

Anyway, are Amun-Ra and Amunet, in the show, in league together? Not clear.

But Amunet does make her presence known and felt at the eponymous seance, striking at Vanessa and possessing her.

"I've seen how this episode ends. I better step it up if I want anyone to remember this scene."

It seems that Amunet has unpleasant plans for Vanessa Ives. She is coming for her.

But are the pair gods? Are they something else? At a minimum, they are very bad news.

And speaking of bad news, some relatives have come to London.
"Your first born has returned, father."
Frankenstein has been holding out on us, and Proteus. Proteus has a brother. He's...kind of a monster.

Kids. Always getting schmutz on their faces.

...And Heard No More.

Proteus. Sweet Proteus. He was days old. He made a declaration to Frankenstein that he would eventually make friend after friend out in the world. And then.

"Oh yeah!"

He went right through him? He tore him in half?

...He...Kool Aid Man'd!

And so passes, Proteus. Slain by his brother. (They avoided the irony of if they had gone with Frankenstein's first thought and named him Adam.)


  • I'm not delving into sex scenes! Hey, those are the parts of the show I usually fast forward through them.  Most of the time nothing occurs during them that  affects the plot, beyond the fact sex occurred (and even then...). (Prude! Spoil sport!)
Oh, heavens me!
  • Proteus was not the first! There was another. The creature. We will have to learn his story next time. I guess we know why Frankenstein was so patient. It's his second kid.

  • Ethan has not yet come back to team up with Vanessa and Malcolm. I thought he would be committed already, but he seems to still have doubts and fears about the matter. What will it take?

  • Ethan's troubles do stem from America. His father is sending him telegraphs, begging him to return to America. He is wanted there for some serious crime, but his dad says he'll help him. His dad has actually paid off the federal marshal that is after him. But he still won't go home.
"'Join up with the main story by next episode, or your fired.' ...Crap."
  • Vanessa seems to be taking notes, or letters, which she is keeping locked away. Wonder what they are for?

  • Last episode, Vanessa took note of how Dr. Lyle was using carrion beetles to devour skin off of bones. She seems to have gotten some, and used them on our "vampires" exoskeleton.

"Sigh. How come when you invite me over, it's never for cake?"
  • Frankenstein determines that the creature's blood is largely human.

  • They will be calling in a hematologist to assist Frankenstein with studying the blood.

  • Sir Malcolm goes to the Inspector investigating the "Ripper" murders, and gets in to see the evidence. Ah, to be knighted and famous. The killer seems to be taking bits and pieces from the victims. Limbs. Organs. Also, the blood isn't being drained.
"No, Inspector. The butler didn't do it."
  • Dr. Ferdinand Lyle is still an odd one. He seems to be very enmeshed in the study of the Book of the Dead. He seems to have some idea of the dangers that may be arising. How much does he know? And why?
"But how did you even get Roger Moore to autograph these?"
  • Why does Amunet want Vanessa? It's clear, thanks to her gifts she's vulnerable to being possessed.

  • It looks like Sir Malcolm may keep the fact Amunet is actually pursuing Vanessa from her.
"Who wants to know they are being hunted by the Devil?"
  • Amunet is a dick. She taunts Vanessa and Malcolm at the seance with the fears of Mina. She makes Vanessa scream and swear, and contorts her body in a terrifying performance in front everyone in attendence. She strips Vanessa of her control and dignity. Then Amunet makes Malcolm experience, through Vanessa, the slow and horrible death of his son, Peter.
  • Malcolm's son went on an expedition with his father. He became very sick, as were others. Then was left at camp where he slowly died, terrified.


Another good episode for this show. And,based on this cast picture...

...I guess we're full up with our players. But early photos only showed the cast from the first episode. so we will see.

I still appreciate how this show is playing with expectations and forcing me to stay on my toes. Proteus was built up, and we were allowed to embrace him, like Frankenstein did. Then it was all literally torn asunder. The secret that Frankenstein was keeping would not stay unrevealed. The Creature was already about and would not wait any longer.

But now how good Frankenstein was with Proteus makes sense. Every mistake he made the first time, he is desperate to get right. He was so excited with the idea that this time he was going to get it right.

There aren't many safe assumptions. As well, new questions are emerging. What are Amunet and Amun? Are they the masterminds? Do they have Mina? And, what is the deal with Dorian Gray?

Gray has a preexisting history. They play up to it with all his portraits and his interest in mortality. But will it all be what we have seen before. Obviously the movie League of Extraordinary Gentlemen had their take and...Let's never speak of that again.

As opposed to that movie, this episode has many good actors at work. Timothy Dalton continues to be a contained ball of anger and pain,particularly when he has his mistakes and the graphic depiction of his son's death thrown in his face. He has this still fury and power. You really don't know what he will do to save his last remaining child.

And Eva Green...she is given some smorgasbord of lines and activity once the seance starts.

The effects, from shattering the mirrored table to Vanessa getting bent in half created a chilling and unnerving scene. And that amped up the very personal nature of what Amunet had to say through Vanessa.

Here's a look at filming the seance:

On top of forcing Malcolm to face the death and kidnapping of his children, Vanessa had her control stripped away. It was humiliating and terrifying. And you can see why she'd race out of that house and want to find someway to assert some control over herself, like having sex with someone. (Or I assume that was the writer's logic.)

We also have the introduction of Dorian Gray. It isn't clear what role he'll play, but he looks the role of a player in this tale. Which side though?

As to Brona, it is not too clear what will happening. The interest that Gray and Ethan have in her suggests some conflict. But in a story where eternal life is at stake, a character that is nearing death could have one likely path.

I also still loving the touches in the show that help place us in the Victorian world. Lamplighters. The open shores of the Thames in London. The effort to keep the world feeling historical is appreciated, and useful in keeping viewers in the world.

Hows Does It End?

As we saw, in blood. The Creature has come. The Creature has killed. What will he do next?

1 comment:

Blogger said...