Spoilers may arise.
In this week’s episode of Penny Dreadful 1×06: What Death Can Join Together the haunted cast continue to battle their own demons, some of them being literally of a demonic nature. The more the series dwells into the dark nature of each character, the more I like this series. Deranged, wicked and sinful, each storyline has its appeal and its beautiful damnation but one thing’s for sure. We’re deep into the woods, there’s no campyness about it.
We start off in Vanessa Ives’ own room where the broken window signals the last appearance of Fenton. Sir Malcolm insists on Vanessa trying to sense something from the atmosphere but all she wants is to leave the room. At his request, she ends up drawing the cards. She starts hearing Mina in the distance, pleading for help. More important she hears the sounds of the ocean, a ship’s bell, people screaming and the tearing of flesh. You really won’t envy being in Miss Ives’ shoes. You’ll envy it even less before the episode is through.
I couldn’t help but to think about the Demeter, the ship in Bram Stoker’s novel that brings Dracula to England. Hopefully nobody condemns me for spoiling a book published back in 1897. However, when Sir Malcolm is scanning the newspaper for ships that have come into the harbor he’s already on the letter E. Dr. Frankenstein has been analyzing the corpse of the former Fenton, but he has found nothing but malnutrition. Whatever possessed the body is now gone.
It’s the first time we hear from Sembene as he speaks to Sir Malcolm about the possibility that Mina can’t be saved even when found. “Know what you are going to do,” he tells the explorer.
Vanessa Ives goes out on an outing with Dorian Grey, encouraged by Sir Malcolm. For all the hatred that Sir Malcolm once had for Vanessa, it seems closer now to a father-daughter relationship sometimes. In reality, he’s trying to get her out of the way to hunt down the ship. Dorian Grey’s idea of a good time is getting a photograph of her. He, of course, prefers portraits. When he later drops her off, she invites him to dinner.
Professor Abraham Van Helsing takes Victor to a secluded library where he finally mentions the word vampire. He then proceeds to lecture him on the basics of killing vampires. He should know, he actually killed his beloved Hannah by driving a stake through her heart and cutting off her head. And they say love is dead. Anyway, he shows him a Penny Dreadful. This one actually existed: Varney the Vampire, a lengthy vampire story that pre-dates Bram Stoker’s own novel. He also tells him one basic rule of vampires straight from Bram Stoker’s book: The dead travel fast.
Brona Croft is in bed and apparently over her rage at Ethan Chandler. I’m not sure where this couple is going to end up. I kind of expect Brona to end up on Victor’s operating table, but perhaps that honor will be bestowed on a young theater actress instead. Ethan joins up with Sir Malcolm and Sembene and they walk towards a ship coming from El Cairo that has been quarantined due to a plague.
The plague at the ship of course ends up being vampires, mostly women actually. Sir Malcolm searches every face but doesn’t find Mina. As the master vampire wakes up, so do the brides of Dr- I mean, the female vampires. Carnage ensues. A fire breaks out. Sir Malcolm’s team survives but so does the master vampire who reveals he had Mina by his side. Or is it a cruel illusion he creates? Could it be Mina no longer exists and this is just a ploy to grab Vanessa? Actually, I think Mina or not, Vanessa is seeked out by forces both external and internal.
Unbeknownst to Victor, Caliban has been harboring feelings for the lead actress at the Theater Guignol, who came to visit him to get the tube that they use so simulate blood spurting fix for her next performance. He promptly decides to give her a book as a gift. Unfortunately, as he spies her for the reaction he also witnesses her encounter with her suitor. In this state of rage, he goes back to see Victor talking to Professor Van Helsing and snaps his neck. RIP Professor, you will be missed. Victor mourns in full shock over the death of someone he saw as a mentor as Caliban exhorts him to go back to create him a bride.
After dinner, Dorian Grey takes Miss Ives back to his bachelor pad. It’s very obvious both are attracted to each other, but Vanessa is holding back. “There are things within us that can never be unleashed,” Vanessa proclaims. “They would consume us.” But she does give in, and they make love in a very dramatic fashion. Vanessa is obviously in control even when Dorian produces a knife. Miss Ives simply takes it and cuts him, licking his blood. As she’s in complete ecstasy (have I mentioned this show is not for kids?) she is overtaken and time stops. She hears the otherworldly voice of the entity that seems to dwell within her and knows she’s let her guard down far too much. “Hello my child,” says the demonic voice, “I’ve been waiting.” She takes her clothes and bolts away from Dorian. The young man goes back to look at the mystery portrait as his wounds heal instantly. Still, we are not allowed to see what he sees.
Back at his house, Sir Malcolm has been given a stern lecture by the likes of Ethan about trusting people, specifically Miss Ives. He’s been left alone in his study, pondering what he should do. As he hears the door, he correctly guesses it’s her and starts to tell her that he’s been keeping stuff from her. Here’s a good rule of thumb, never start talking to a person without turning around to look at them first. When he does, he sees a disheveled Vanessa Ives, who puts her head back and lifts up from the ground. As she levitates, she starts to turn slowly, obviously possessed. It’s not like I was meaning to get any sleep tonight.
Highs: This was a very meta episode. Victor Frankenstein explains he might have created “a sin that is everlasting” which is a quote from Percy Shelley, a romantic poet. Percy’s second wife, Mary Shelley is the author of the novel Frankenstein. Caliban still has the best lines of the show and the second best delivery. The first one belongs to Vanessa Ives. I don’t want to sound perverted but the lovemaking scene with all its freakyness is rather amazing.
Lows: The Ethan and Brona thing I kinda get. They’re broken and belong to each other. The prelude to the ship raid (can we say it’s the Demeter even if it’s not?) was good, but once the vampire killing starts it loses its effect. Dorian Grey seems to be catching up, although he’s still a douche but I’m willing to forgive him if he makes Vanessa smile. There are two episodes left in the season and we still don’t know if Ethan is a werewolf or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brona turns out to be the werewolf instead.
That will do for now.