Friday, July 19, 2024

Penny Dreadful 1×03/1×04, a Recap

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Who doesn’t love a lost cause?

The first entries into Penny Dreadfuls three season career gave us lots of things to ponder. Who is this beast that is tearing apart people in London? What happened to Malcolm’s daughter Mina and why is the creature using her against Malcolm and Vanessa? Who and what killed poor Proteus and is calling Victor, Father? Most of these and other smaller questions take the entire series length to understand but in the third episode “Resurrection” we are given as many answers as we are more questions. This episode is not singularly focused on the Frankenstein plot line but most of it is dedicated to it and we are given a lot of parallels to the source material.

At the start we are shown what we can easily guess is a young Frankenstein and his mother. The two seem to be very close, in a sort of uncomfortable way, yet through her we can see why he loves poetry so much. The scene switches back and forth from mother and son in bed to Victors discovery of his dead dog. His inner poet is further shown as he wonders why death is not as serene and beautiful as in his stories. His mother then has a coughing fit that brings up blood. Not long after Victor sees her ugly demise and at her funeral he realizes death is not what he thought. Thus, like his novel counter part we begin to see the start of his obsession with life and death. Then the picture opens as we left off in the previous episode, with the untimely demise of Victors creature, Proteus.

Victor is utterly terrified by the ordeal, as the creature forces himself upon victor surprised that the doctor did not know he would be found. The creatures speech is also like that of a poet, an easy association of Victor. As he begins to reveal who he is we are thrust back into flash back, to this creatures birth. He was born the same as Proteus, brought back from the dead by Victor. Yet unlike the latter, Victor was mortified by his creation as he came back to the living, screaming, confused, and afraid. Victor fled in terror and as the creature learned loathing in the first interaction he ever experiences. From then on then on creature hid himself away in the attic. He learned words from Victor’s mounds of poetry and what the world was through a window. To himself he was the icon of modernity, as the sub-title of Mary Shelly’s novel points out: a modern prometheus.

Victor and Caliban
Victor and Caliban

As our creature moved from his solidarity and into the streets he learned what cruelty was. As he walked the streets of London, he was ridiculed and beaten for the ghastly look of his face and scars. Yet in his darkest hours he also learned what pure kindness was at the hands of a local actor. It is beautiful to witness this kind of character who helps our creature to his feet and goes so far as to buy him dinner and even offer him employment at his theatre as a stage hand. Both share a love for poetry and him without a name dubs our creature as Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Caliban is a natural at the job he is given, preparing settings and special effects on the stage. Thanks to Victors experiments he is tireless and never without stamina.

We then move back to the present as Caliban bids Victor to rise and walk with, calling him only by ‘creator’. Between this and the eventuality of what Caliban seeks of Victor we are shown Ethan and Brona falling deeper for one another, yet to fund his relationship with her needs work and decides to take Malcolm and Vanessa’s offer for employment. With his loyalty assured, Malcolm and Vanessa finally reveal their motives. Apparently Malcolm’s daughter Mina was married to a certain Jonathan Harker, (wink wink to those who have read Bram Stoker’s Dracula.) This was against Malcolm’s wishes so father and daughter parted on angry terms. Not long after she was seduced by another and taken as his slave, not a man but a creature.

The gloominess of London returns to us as Victor and Caliban walk the misty and grey cobblestone markets. Caliban makes it clear with beautiful prose that what he wants is love. Not from his creator, but from a woman in his likeness. An immortal mate. Victor quickly sees the implication in what Caliban is asking. He would need to take a body or life from someone to give to Caliban. It would also cost money that Victor does not currently have. Yet the situation becomes more severe when Caliban tells him that should he not do as he is bid, he shall strike down all those that Victor holds dear. Suddenly the plot becomes more and more like the novel.

“Don’t test me Frankenstein. You have not known horror until I have show it to you.”

That is the last we see of Caliban for this episode but were are given so much exposition and massive amounts of detail about him that we only yearn for more. In later episodes we will be allowed to satiate our hunger. For now we return to our team of Vampire hunters as they explore the London Zoo for information that Malcolm had received. In the midst of their journey they are confronted with a group of feral wolves who are oddly docile around Ethan. He allows one of them to rest a biting grip on his hand but the teeth do not sink in. They depart quickly yet our imaginations are left to wonder why did this pack of wolves behave so calmly with Ethan. If you have read Dracula you would know that wolves are often the servants of Vampires, yet they behaved as if Ethan was one of them.

Ethan and a feral wolf
Ethan and a feral wolf

The scene becomes even more strange as they happen upon a young boy inside a birdcage, eating the birds in a lustful way. Clearly the boy is afflicted and Sambene, badass that he is, knocks him out before he can set upon the group. Victor is summoned as the boy is chained up to a wall in the Murray mansion basement. While they interrogate the young Vampire he begins to repeat the prophecy that Lyle had told Malcolm. The torture becomes more severe as the boy continues to speak with mad incoherence until Ethan begins to be sickened by it. Tempers rise as Victor and Ethan go at one another, throwing accusations and insults of weakness at one another. When its cooled down the entire group makes a pact to do whatever is necessary to defeat this creature and to find a cure for the affliction. We end this episode by Ethan only making the pact for Vanessa and revealing to her his relationship with Brona. There is still a connection between Ethan and Vanessa, yet neither betrays what sick Brona means between them. After all, who doesn’t love a lost cause?

“We here have been brutalized with loss. It has made us brutal in return. There is no going back from this moment.”

I like to see one extraordinary thing everyday.

In the following episode “Demimonde” we get more screen time with a character who haven’t learned overly much about. Though if you’ve read the novel The Picture of Dorian Grey, you can safely predict what his alternate persona in this series will be like. With the first scene we are given just that.
Dorian is a man who does not know the meaning of excess or depravity. He is shown in his mansion in the midst of an orgy, men and women are sprawled around his portrait room having at one another while he sits being pleasured by both a woman and a man. Afterward he is seen alone, walking through a door hidden behind one of his hundreds of portraits. As he walks to a secret room he pulls a cover off a massive painting and stands staring, lost in thought. Unlucky for us that we do get to see what the portrait is, yet another mystery added to our list.

He draws a certain charisma to him, a mysterious aura that gives Vanessa a rapture like obsession with him. So much that she begins to follow him; first from a church and then to a botanical garden where he finally catches on to her. A group stands around a certain flower that takes decades to bloom yet only lives for a few short weeks. There is beauty in this scene, an implication that nothing beautiful is meant to last nor is without its own deadliness. His aura and careful dialogue only woo Vanessa further to him as he describes her as deadly nightshade. Beautiful took look upon, yet so inherently deadly.

Vanessa and Dorian
Vanessa and Dorian

“Is it poisonous?”
“Like all beautiful things, I hope so.”

Now enter a familiar name. Though in this rendition of his character he is less a hunter and more a doctor, a hematologist name Dr. Van Helsing. He and Victor both examine blood samples take from the Vampire currently chained in Malcolm’s basement. Apparently the good doctor has seen this malediction in blood, which should come as obvious. In nearly every version in which Van Helsing is shown, he is always an expert on something to do with Vampires. Under the microscope he shows Victor the blood with a solution he made himself. We see that this curse cause that when the infected blood touches normal blood it stops coagulation completely. This is to make it easier for the creatures to feed. He tells Victor that Sir Malcolm is searching in vain for a cure to something he does not understand. Upon Victors exit he is confronted with Caliban who is growing impatient in waiting for his wife. Victor tries to explain that to make another creature would require money he does not yet have and a life that he is unwilling to take.

Ethan and Brona seem to be at it like bunnies these days. Yet something is stirring in Ethan that you can tell he does not understand. She relives her past, an abusive ex husband who would have killed her. Ethan reveals little about his past but it is more than we have known so far. He is running from something back in America, something that he did. He returns to the mansion to further learn more about this creature as Victor begins to take more sample. He has not fed in days and is growing quite hysterical, calling Vanessa mother and clawing towards them. Victor tries to experiment with a blood transfusion into the creature, ultimately it fails and nothing changes except its madness. Tempers continue to rise between Ethan and Victor as Ethan’s conscience is still being eaten away at. He gets especially defensive when talk of this murderer who is still at large becomes the topic.

A splendid night at the local theatre seems to be a respite for all of our emotionally weary characters, or is it? Ethan takes Brona to the play and she is more happy than we could imagine. It’s a sweet and tender moment for the two but it is quite a shame that it will not last. Vanessa and Dorian are also present, though not together. She is stalking the young man again, making sure to be sitting across the balcony where he could easily see her. Even Caliban is present working ever tirelessly behind the stage. Though his employer is fond of him it seems not much of the actors are. Save one of the female leads who seems to at least treat him decently. We can obviously see that Caliban has taken fancy to her.

Ethan and Brona
Ethan and Brona

Meanwhile back at the mansion, Malcolm begins to play favorites. Victor is doubting that he is not much more than a tool. Malcolm reveals the contrary, Victor is like a son to him, like the one he lost in Africa. Mr. Chandler is only a gun to him, he says without hesitation. Can we truly believe him though? As these two share in their moment, below the Vampire is being whispered too by something. He begins to gruesomely chew away at his own arm until it fits through his manacles. As a ruckus is heard in Vanessa’s room the two go investigate. This creature, a twin of the body they brought Victor in the very first episode appears before them. It bares his teeth and realizes what it is after is not there, quickly it flees as the young Vampire attacks them from behind. The poor creature is thrown into the shattered window left in his masters wake and is impaled through the throat, dying slowly.

Back at the theatre, the play is at intermission and the four of our characters are united at the bar. The tension brought upon Brona’s jealousy of Vanessa and fear of Ethan finding out about her sexual encounter with Dorian become too much for her to handle and she flees the theatre in panic. Poor Brona is so afraid of life when Ethan comes to see what is wrong with her and she unleashes a horrifying fury on him. She tells him that he needs to wake up and realize that he’s, in her words, fucking a skeleton. Before storming away she screams at him saying that he has to pay like every other man now. In the distance she disappears into the crowds, a coughing fit upon her as she falls to a corner and passes out on the ground with bloody lips. Ethan left alone until Dorian comes to tell him the play was resuming.

Dorian offers him a place to release his emotion. Yet it was not what he expected. It’s and underground club where the rich snobs of London go to do illegal things. Illegal things such as watch a dog rip rats to pieces for bets. Ethan becomes uncomfortable when the dog tears rats and throws their bloody corpses around the small arena. The bar is no help as he gets picked on by drunk men. The ensuing bar fight is lost and Dorian brings him back to his home. They seem slightly kindred at these moments but are they truly that similar. Ethan looks like he wants to try new things and Dorian offers him absinthe in the old way with spoon and sugar. He flies high as a kite.

In the finality of this episode we return to Vanessa coming home from her evening to find what had happened while she was gone. They finally realize than Mina is beyond saving, that she is actually manipulating the two right to the creature. Yet when the time comes can Malcolm truly be able to do what needs to be done? The final scene is one of those that I felt had no purpose, as beyond this point, Ethan and Dorian would have no more scenes together. While high they enjoy music and talk of art. Ethan speaks so passionately about native American art, so much that it nearly brings him to tears. A hallucination of recent memories and emotion floods Ethan as he moves to Dorian and the two embrace and take one another. Not the best ending to an episode but the rest of episode revealed so much about our character. What drives them, what scares them, and most importantly: what they have to lose.

The Master
The Master

“We’ll carry on with this fight. We can lose every battle, except the last.”

Images courtesy of Showtime

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