Series Issues: Penny Dreadful 1×07 Possession

(Source: Showtime)

(Source: Showtime)

Spoilers might be lurking about.

In the words of Mr. Ethan Chandler, well fuck me. In the episode right before the finale, Miss Vanessa Ives has to deal once more with an unwanted inhabitant trying to take complete custody of her very body and soul. The result is this week’s episode of Penny Dreadful 1×07: Possession. The more a show can create moments of complete and utter doom like this one the less I want to reveal.

In the beginning, it seems like a simple task – for them. Keep Miss Ives alive, sedate her when she gets violent, wait out the demon until Vanessa finally gets some firm footing. Vanessa is the one doing all the work. Sir Malcolm is the first to face the viperous tongue of the devil inside with memories and words of Mina. Then he gets his studio trashed poltergeist style.

(Source: Showtime)

(Source: Showtime)

Miss Ives is hardly a damsel in distress. She’s the only one in battle here, the rest of the cast resigned to play support tasks. The possession means that the entity inhabiting poor Vanessa gets to spill the secrets for a stoic Sir Malcolm Murray, a morphine-using Dr. Frankenstein and hired gun with a mysterious past Ethan Chandler. I must admit Josh Hartnett is finally closing in on the rest of the cast. He’s worthy of much praise this episode.

No less critical is Victor Frankestein. The doctor is trying to ignore his own demon outside and used his mastery of science to determine what’s wrong with Vanessa. But the creature seemingly knows Victor’s deeds intimately to the point in which he fears his worst kept secret might become a part of this battle. It doesn’t take long after his first encounter for Victor to engage in a private addiction to morphine. First in secret and then finally out in the open.

Ethan Chandler seems to fare a little better, if at all because he’s adamant in saving Vanessa. That would sound obvious, but he’s the only character that seems to empathize enough with her situation to consider putting her out of her suffering. He too becomes the target of the tongue of the demon when his brief affair with Dorian (his name is not mentioned) is revealed through poor Miss Ives.

(Source: Showtime)

(Source: Showtime)

Vanessa has her moments in which she seems herself again. In one of those she seems to awake to find a comforting Ethan, but it turns to be the demon in disguise. Follow the scene as the camera flies past Sembene and downstairs and you’ll see it focus once again on the real Ethan in the studio. The demon might not be even taking shape, it’s just an illusion for Vanessa’s weakened state of mind. It wants her to become the “mother of all evil” and rule a dead world. Pass.

I loved the shadows gently growing as the light of the sun travels from dawn to dusk to indicate a passage of time. It takes several weeks of the gang dealing with the outward consequences of Vanessa’s battle. There’s finally something of a rapport between Ethan and Victor. The gunslinger tells him of the time he witnessed the US Army pacify a tribe of native americans. They cut off their hair, they educated them to forget their own language and for the ones that escaped and try to make it back to their own people, there was no welcoming back. They didn’t belong to either world anymore. When Victor asks what they did then, Ethan just replies: “They roam”. He seems to be talking about himself here.

(Source: Showtime)

(Source: Showtime)

Victor asks a favor of Ethan. He wants to learn to shoot. Of course, he’s thinking about his own devil, Caliban, and the possibility that he might have to come up with a different solution to get rid of him. The two adoptive sons manage to blow some steam shooting at some bottles until Sembene relays Sir Malcolm’s complaints about the noise. Ethan’s reaction speaks volumes, “we’re in trouble with Dad.”

But when it finally comes down to it, it’s the real Sir Malcolm Murray that comes down as the worst threat against Vanessa. As he asks for her to travel down that road between worlds and find Mina, you can hear the pain in Miss Ives voice as she denounces his cruelty. Did Sir Malcolm actually extend Vanessa’s suffering by not allowing a priest any sooner for a chance to find his daughter…? Does the pope wear a funny hat?

But Sir Malcolm is found as Ethan has heard every word and casts him out of the room. Enter the less prepared priest in the world, Father Matthews, as he learns he’s expected to perform more than the last rites. Stating that exorcism has long been banned by the Church and permissible only by direct word from Rome, he declares he will perform the last rites and nothing more. Victor’s reaction is priceless, although I believe he’s only cursing because everyone else is doing the same at this point.

(Source: Showtime)

(Source: Showtime)

To say that doesn’t go as planned is an understatement. The priest ends up with his neck torn from a bite as Vanessa flies to the ceiling, casting everyone out. Just Ethan remains, aiming a gun at Vanessa. At this point, you almost feel like it might be the only solution. As he clasps the medal of St. Judas that Brona Croft gave him, he thinks of another way. Suddenly, Ethan is performing an improvised exorcism ritual himself. He leaves a rather peaceful Vanessa sleeping it off as he walks out and leaves the house without a word.

The morning or several mornings after, a rather startled Vanessa Ives gets up and walks over to Sir Malcolm to let him know she knows Mina’s location.

Highs: Of course, a lot of praise for Eva Green as she once more scares the living crap out of everyone as a possessed Miss Ives. Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, shines as the man with a conscience and a real purpose and he’s finally fleshed out. He’s also a big brother figure to Victor and stands up against the mighty Sir Malcolm as the father figure. His only miss is he can’t seem to get anything out of Sembene except for the fact that Sir Malcolm may owe him his life (had it being the other way around it would be lame). Great lines by Ethan and a even some cool ones by Victor too. Also, Sir Malcolm cements his status as the anti-father of the turn of the century when he reveals he never named a mountain after his son which was Peter’s dying wish. Instead he named a series of mountains after himself. I know that sounds like a low, but it really speaks volumes about his character.

Lows: There’s one episode left.

With the story about the native americans that lost their identity, I’m more inclined to believe that Ethan is a shaman of some sort. The words in latin he reads aloud comes from the medal (“apostole” was in there for sure, referring to St. Judas). This shows you need more heart and devotion than ceremony to actually cast a demon out (that is just AMAZING). As a shaman, he would also be more in tune with animals (hence the wolves). Then again that doesn’t discount the idea that he could also be a werewolf on top of it all.

That will do for now.

Coming up!

(Sources: Showtime)

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