PENNY DREADFUL (2014) – Episodes 4 & 5 Review
PENNY DREADFUL continues to shock and awe me with each successful episode. The manner in which it’s written, the actors’ performances and their delivery of dialogue written in such beautiful prose is stunning and breathtaking. Not adjectives one would use to describe a show of a horror / supernatural genre… but there it is. Episode 4 sees a variety of things happening, with a great reveal and a pretty odd WTF moment as well.
The episode opens with Dr. Frankenstein consulting a hematologist regarding the blood of the creature that they have caged in the basement of Sir Malcolm’s house. This guy seems to know a lot about blood and its effects, and only naturally so, given that he is Van Helsing, the even more renowned Vampire Hunter from literary circles. It doesn’t seem like he’ll play a significant part in the show, however it’s cool to see these literary characters popping up here and there. In the meantime, Frankenstein’s first creature is on his ass about his progress on making him a mate. Pressure is on, good Doctor.
There is also a lot of Dorian Gray in this episode. He meets Vanessa and has creepy and double meaning conversation with her. They meet again at the play hall, where it’s the first time that multiple characters of the show come together under one roof. Frankenstein’s creature is under the stage of the play hall, working his magic. While Vanessa, Dorian along with Chandler and his dying girlfriend all watch the play separately. While on intermission, the four get together and have a conversation, which causes Chandler’s prostitute girlfriend to feel left out among the refined and educated. So her natural reaction is to storm out, and unleash her inadequacies upon Chandler. She lets out a barrage of hurtful and just cruel and misguided insults, ultimately breaking up with him. It a great scene between Hartnett & Piper as both their anger and frustration come through radiantly. A jilted Chandler is then approached by Dorian Gray, who, upon seeing his condition, invites him for a boys’ night out on the town. This is where things get awesome & creepy.
Taking him to a dog vs. rat gambling ring, Gray figures it’ll be therapeutic for Chandler. However, seeing a little mangy dog snap and rip apart countless little rats for sport, as people cheer and scream around them, invokes something within him and he gets into a bar fight, which he assumedly wins. Back at Gray’s mansion, the two bond over music, and absinthe… which is basically the equivalent of dropping acid in those days. Their conversation is one of beautiful tension, as one never quite knows where it’s going. Both reveal bits of their personality, while being this pair of mismatched characters. Gray calls Chandler on his intentionally coy demeanor, always pretending to be less smart than he is. As things get more tense, the episode ends in a sexual climax between Chandler and Gray as they undress and…. I suppose… get it going.
Apparently Gray’s charms, which seem to me, might be supernatural in nature, works on both sexes. Chandler, however, has always been shown to have this hidden past, that’s never quite revealed to us. But, moments leading up to the sexual climax between Gray & Chandler, there is an intense montage of sequences that perfectly tells us of Chandler’s origins. Through out the show, Chandler’s been shown to have escaped something in America to wound up in London. There’s sub plot running of a family being slaughtered and literally ripped to places in one of the slums of London. This was actually the opening scene of the entire series. Chandler is shown as being on scene when the bodies were getting carted away, and he seemed affected by it. He was also quite upset when Malcolm and the others tortured the vampire-like creature chained in Malcolm’s basement. When asked to do a blood transfusion for the creature, Chandler responded with ‘that’s a bad idea’. Right before meeting his whore girlfriend, he was even shown as waking up all disheveled and lying on the street with a wound in his hand. Not to mention the weird moment he had when the group of Malcolm, Vanessa & Chandler were faced with dangerous wolves during an outing, and Chandler diffused the entire situation by approaching the leader and having this…. moment with him, which allowed them all to walk away without incident. All of this edited beautifully together tells you exactly what Ethan Chandler is: A werewolf. Well that’s my conclusion anyways.
Episode 5 is a full on origin tale about how Sir Malcolm and Vanessa came together in the first place. Vanessa & Mina, the girl they’ve been searching for, were best of friends. However, a betrayal by Vanessa separated them, initiating severe seizures and symptoms within Vanessa causing her to go ‘mad’. We’re treated to brutal images of Vanessa being treated, with cruel and barbaric ‘medical’ practices to cure her, including forced ice water baths & rudimentary brain surgery, leaving her in a catatonic state. It’s a beautiful episode with Eva Green cementing in my mind what a great actress she is. Her transformation from innocent and naive girl into the Vanessa Ives we’ve come to know is simply brilliant. Her condition is ultimately shown to be having a connection with a supernatural begin, that I can only assume is The Devil himself, or Amun-Ra. After years of being in a weird state, she normalizes after an encounter with this being itself, possible kick starting her visions, or whatever her supernatural gift is.
During a chance encounter, Vanessa is approached by Mina, who admits she has a new ‘master’; Mina implores Vanessa to help her, right before she disappears into thin air. This is what prompts Vanessa to approach Sir Malcolm, seeking his help, and thus this alliance between the two was formed. It’s a mind bumbling-ly interesting episode, just after the halfway point into Season 1 that goes back and catches us up on everything that has happened prior to we started watching. It gives that much more depth and context to the story, hopefully further emphasizing the stakes in the episodes to come. And oh is there more to come!