Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Last Sunday's episode of Penny Dreadful

penny dreadful

My goodness . . . how about that Eva Green? She was basically that whole episode. I've said before that she has an amazing ability to play the tortured soul better than most actors today and she showed it last night. Incredible.

We learned last week that there was much more intertwining of the character's lives than we had imagined as Dr. Seward is in fact related to the witch that mentored Ms. Ives in her early years. We also find out that John Clare, Dr. Frankenstein's original monster, was also the orderly who watched over Ms. Ives when she was in the mental hospital following the loss of her childhood friend Mina to the vampires.

Last night's episode centered totally on her stay in her padded cell in the asylum. She revisits this time via hypnosis by Dr. Seward but gets trapped in the reverie and must run it to its conclusion to escape. We see the torment she undergoes as she struggles to blame herself for the evil that touched her earlier in her life and Clare's tender compassion for the fragile beauty trapped in the living hell.

In my comments on last year's episodes, I remarked that the monster had some of the most moving soliloquies in any television series. I don't know if this series earns any end-of-year awards, but this episode should get something. As should Rory Kinnear who plays the monster. I'm not overly familiar with his work, but his work on this show and all the writing and performances are positively Shakespearean in their sublime pathos. Perhaps instead of awarding dreck like Girls or Veep, these award guilds might want to recognize some truly amazing writing and performances in a pretty daring show.

In last week's episode, we learn not only that Dracula is one of two angels defeated in the war in heaven and cast to earth, but that he visited Ms. Ives while she was in the "white room." Kinnear as Clare plays both Satan and Dracula (and the orderly) and in an interesting twist, we see Satan cowering before Dracula who supposedly is more powerful because he rules/inhabits the physical as opposed to the spiritual world. I'm sure we'll get protests from the Satanists over this portrayal. Lolz.

Vanessa refuses to pretend to be normal despite the dire warnings from Clare as he breaks asylum protocols by warning her of the horrors of the upcoming and then eventual "cure" for her condition.

Vanessa triumphs on at least one point as she is able to drive away both Satan and Dracula by evoking that hellspeak or whatever it was she used last season to drive away the vampires that attacked her. Though in the end of her reverie we see her, head shaven, waiting for the final "treatment" which has been described to her by Clare as primitive brain surgery that will leave her a vegetable.

Are we to believe she's had this surgery? Hard to imagine. Clare states he is leaving the asylum, unable to see what becomes of Vanessa after the surgery. Does he spirit her away somehow? I'm curious to see how this plays out.

Also this relationship with Dr. Seward. Surely after all she's seen, she must believe Vanessa's tale. I'm hoping this won't turn into a Scully-like situation where despite overwhelming evidence to prove what Ives says, the doctor simply thinks this is some imaginary fantasy of Vanessa's.

We got a bit more in last week's episode with Ethan and Hecate (Evelyn Poole's eldest daughter from season 2). On the surface it appears Hecate simply wants to join with Ethan, the Wolf of God, and use both of their powers to rule or do terrible things or simply just be dominant beings on the planet. I'm wondering if she's in league with Dracula or even still serving Satan in some way. Hoping to bring Ethan back to one or the other to earn a place at their side.

We also got another hint that Kaetenay may not be what he seems as it appeared he deliberately deceived Sir Malcolm about the deaths of two settlers that Ethan and Hecate took horses from. Hecate brutally killed both, but Kaetenay implied that it was Ethan, though Sir Malcolm doubted it, saying it was an indication that Ethan was losing control. Given the twists and turns of this show, I'm interested to see where this goes.

A word about the writing and themes here. When writers create stories about times in the past, it is sometimes difficult to keep what are considered our more evolved current morals out of a less evolved time period. Two instances --

On the train riding to the west, a couple of gruff cowboy types take exception to indian Kaetenay riding in the white folks car on the train. This despite the fact he's obviously with Sir Malcolm. While there was plenty of racial hatred between Indians and Whites back then, it was also not totally uncommon for whites, whether military or men of means, to have indian manservants. It fits the current social mores to have these guys act as ugly racists and have Sir Malcolm, a Brit, stand up and defend Kaetenay by humiliating the cowboys with a threat of a brutal beating. We often forget that England and most of Europe at that time were perfectly happy to employ indentured servitude (aka slavery) to staff their wealthy citizens homes. The world was an unpleasant place back then. No one was above reproach in the totality of their human rights record.

The other thing involves the tedious Inspector Rusk. A Scotland Yard inspector, Rusk was taking Ethan back to stand trial when his father engineered Ethan's escape. Rusk blows into some dusty town, starts browbeating a federal marshal and basically throwing his weigh around invoking the Crown and all that. Yeah. This is the 1890's folks. A letter mailed from California would probably take 6 months to get to England. You get some mouthy Brit, who remember we fought for our independence just 100 years prior, popping off to a marshal in the old west. That marshal would ride out of town with that guy, blow him our of his saddle, and leave his body to feed the coyotes. It would be a year before anyone arrived looking for this Inspector and by then . . . what? Who's going to remember what happened? this isn't CSI here, you could get away with murder pretty easily in those days. Point is, we view the past through our current thoughts on police inter-agency cooperation and the notion of our small world connectivity, and forget it simply wasn't the same back then.

I'm not complaining about the show mind you, just pointing out something that tends to bug me in general about telling stories about the past. It's tempting to put our current morality over top of those events, but it really isn't honest of fair to the era in question.

Oh yeah, almost forgot . . . I was totally wrong about Brona/Lily and Dorien's plans for their little revolt. They are planning to create an army of former prostitutes and unfortunates to wreak havoc on society. Got that one completely wrong. And that was some squirm worthy sequence with the little girl they rescued cutting the throat of the man who abused her and then she, Dorien and Lily bathing in his blood and having a three-some.

They dialed the lurid up to eleven in that sequence to be sure. It makes you squirm from time to time, but all in all a pretty amazing show. I still recommend it highly.

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