In its fourth episode, Penny Dreadful does not cease to amaze in how it has drawn together and played around with, in a way that really resonates, these characters from classic horror literature (plus a few others). One of the best things about a collaboration film like The Avengers, say, is seeing favorite characters come together and interact in new and unexpected ways. And with Penny Dreadful, there’s plenty of time to explore the nuances of those relationships, as well as how they develop (or don’t), outside of the key mission. Hit the jump for why “you are fucking a skeleton every night!”
Strangeness, and a connection to the demimonde is what brings these characters together, but there are many other relational aspects developing between and among them that “Demimonde” began to explore. Dorian has become a fascination for Vanessa, and the two engaged in a very scintillating stroll through the botanical gardens. Dorian, as the orgy to star the episode showed, is bored with his Bacchanal. He’s looking for something a little different, and Vanessa offers that to him (which she does for almost everyone — she is an multi-faceted object to them that they cannot quite pin down).
Vanessa is intrigued by Dorian, too, and doesn’t know of his connection to Brona, however brief. But Brona’s discomfort with the foursome stemmed from both that and Vanessa’s light flirtation with Ethan. She has no interest in him — like Sir Malcolm, Ethan is someone who can be of use, but isn’t an item of affection. Brona though sees Vanessa as the men do, and intimidated by the conversation and a feeling of being lesser-than, takes off.
Brona parting ways from the quartet also set into motion the unexpected events that led to that final scene. To console Ethan, Dorian takes him on a quick trip to the underground, before seducing him with absinthe and Wagner. Before that, though, Vanessa is left alone, and returns to Sir Malcolm’s house to discover someone else is looking for her: the vampire creature. As Fenton died saying, Vanessa is the one this creature wants, as she is being pursued not only by men of the present, but of demons from the spirit world as well.
“Demimonde” had a cord of love and acceptance running throughout it, as manifested also between Victor and Sir Malcolm. Victor, feeling as Brona did (though more vocal about it), was jealous when Sir Malcolm invited Ethan on his upcoming journey to Africa in front of Victor. Pouting about it later, Victor was then reassured by Sir Malcolm that a lesson he learned long ago with his own son taught him who was a suitable traveller for such journeys. “Mr. Chandler means nothing to me, he is a finger on a trigger. You are not,” Malcolm reassures him, which makes Victor pleased. He’s both a creator and a child, just like his Creature is to him.
The Creature (who seemed more just like a Cure fan than ever in this episode) threatened Victor again to make him a bride so that he could experience the love and companionship that has eluded him in his second life, while also belittling Victor as a mortal. The depth and nuance with which Penny Dreadful has used in the story of the Creature and Victor remains the series’ best, getting from it so much emotion on both sides. While the scenes in the theater were fun, the best part was seeing the Creature scurry around in the rafters and beneath the stage, with the ultimate payoff being the irony at the end when he was pumping the blood machine. Here he was, “killing” a girl and covering her with blood, but it was all in good fun and part of the show, as he laughed with his benefactor downstairs.
While the characters all orbited around one another in “Demimonde,” not focusing too much on the vampire hunting at hand (although there were some cool tissue moments with the hematologist … Van Helsing … as well as Fenton’s unfortunate demise), it all went to show how varied and layered the world of Penny Dreadful is. These characters aren’t just making an entrance and then leaving to make room for the next supernatural, they’re teaming up, hooking up, and actually going deep into the emotional fabric of their personage. A scene like the one where Vanessa spoke with the young girl outside of the church illustrated perfectly the warped world in which they live. “[The dead] don’t tend to stay in the ground though, do they?” the child asked. Vanessa prickled, “where do they go?” “You know,” the girl seemed to accuse. Then she smiled, “Heaven, silly!” then she paused, her face clouding over. “Or, you know, the other place.”
Episode Rating: A
Musings and Miscellanea:
— The werewolf imagery was strong in “Demimonde,” seeming to suggest more than ever that Ethan is probably among their kind. The dog throttling and killing the rats seemed to strike him particularly hard, though he was unmoved (other than laughter) by the cartoon werewolf on stage (An American Werewolf in London, anyone?)
— I thought it was an interesting choice to not show Dorian’s portrait. I don’t know that the show ever will, but for now, the idea of it is surely more grotesque than anything that could be portrayed (then again …)
— The interaction between Victor and the Creature this time wasn’t so gothic and theatrical, it was actually just kind of funny. “I want her to be beautiful,” the Creature says. “To match her mate?” Victor says, employing some rare humor. Poor Creature …
— Dorian loves scents. “Good for you” – Ethan.
— “You’re fucking a skeleton every night. You want to watch me die? Fuck no!” – Brona. I wonder if Brona will be given a gift of immortality by Ethan at some point to save her …
— “Fuck off. Especially you, toff wanker” – Fenton.
— Another great little moment of comedy when Victor and Sir Malcolm were debating ways to get Fenton some fresh meat, and Sembene just walks up with a cat, kills it, and gives it to him. He’s so resourceful!
— “I need blood you fucking devil whore!” – Fenton in response to Vanessa’s apple.
— “Sometimes I wish Mina had been born with your cruel spirit. You are the daughter I deserve” – Sir Malcolm, father-figure to them all.
— I’m looking forward to learning more about Vanessa’s “betrayal” of Mina. I don’t know the original story well enough to think where she might fit in, or Penny Dreadful might be doing something totally new with it.