Series Issues: Penny Dreadful skillfully cuts a Blade of Grass

Spoilers will stay a while and listen.

I must confess this is one of those series that gives me what I want when I need it. In this case, we are not treated to several story threads but one, simplistic and powerful. Every time we think we know Vanessa Ives a new layer emerges. She’s undoubtedly the most powerful character in the show, not in actual magical power but in depth and complexity. Of course, she might also happen to be the most powerful in magic as well, but that is incidental. What really attracts us is the richness of her personality. Insightful, vulnerable, sinister, charming, deranged and innocent. You can’t really describe her with any of those words and yet you’d need them all to even come close.

(Source: Showtime)

(Source: Showtime)

Eva Green doesn’t act out a character as much as creates a world for everyone else to recoil in. You’re not watching Vanessa Ives, you’re experiencing her. The entire episode takes place in one room, with only Vanessa and the orderly, a pre-Caliban regular everyman played by Rory Kinnear. The surprise twist, which I really can’t spoil is that there were two demons that visited Vanessa at the Banning Clinic. One was Lucifer, one was Dracula. That’s not a spoiler. You have to see this episode to learn how that is done. You’ll also be surprised to find out which one comes out on top.

Okey, I can’t keep that one in the dark. None. Vanessa comes out on top, but although both demons seem banished from her presence it’s now obvious that Lucifer came back. This season, it’s Dracula’s turn. This means in the mythology of the show we’re talking about demons. We’ve chosen to call Dracula’s followers “vampires” when they’re just basically victims of a different demon. A different master. However, Lucifer’s recoiling at Dracula’s presence also suggest that Miss Ives will be facing a no less threat than before. Only Dreadful could somehow create a world in which Drak feels like a larger threat.

There’s another subtle feel built into the revisited story of Vanessa’s torturous stay. In her conversation with the orderly, she’s told to fake sanity, to hide her differences, her alternative personality, what makes her different than everyone else. It’s almost a subtle message of independence. It’s how Vanessa – an independent and empowered female – seems too different to Banning to consider sane. When the orderly tells her to just pretend to “be like everyone else” there’s a message of conformity in a society that is more restrictive than hours. And yet, that message also feels updated and current. Do we suppress everything that we don’t understand and is too different in our society that same way that they did in Victorian times? No, and then sometimes we do. There’s a message of acceptance hidden not too well in this week’s episode.

So now Vanessa knows his name. How long until she finds out he has a familiar face?

Highs/Lows/YouMustEatMiss

  • We don’t know the name of the orderly, the man who would be the Creature. He was possessed by both Lucifer and Dracula. Then he ends up in Frankenstein’s operating table. Poor soul, whoever he is.
  • I got shivers when Vanessa asks Dr. Seward to bring her out and she replies that she has been trying to get her out but she can’t. The urgency of getting out of that room suddenly became paramount tenfold.
  • Dr. Seward’s presence felt like the only real thing at first. By the second half, Vanessa was actually living in her past again and Dr. Seward was the illusion.
  • Vanessa Ives always has the most intricate and interesting storyline because as a character she’s both vulnerable and indestructible. Actually, it’s the one character that is strongly defined as being the most lucid and the one closer to madness all the time. Madness was considered closer to demonic possession at the time. Vanessa is the reverse case, but she’s not spared the anguish of madness either.
  • Eva Green can scare the crap out of me and yet inspire compassion and empathy the next scene. This episode once again illustrates that she can out-scare every horror movie out there nowadays.
  • Rory Kinnear would have outshined most actors with his performance of the orderly. As good as he was, Eva Green is almost supernaturally superior. It’s almost unfair to cast anybody along Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives at this point. She IS the show. She could do the entire series by herself and I’d still be looking forward to every episode.
  • This week’s episode was so good that I dread the next. I loved the focus on Vanessa Ives, but now I fear that we’ll shift the focus off her for the next episode.

Coming up on the Calendar:

  • Tuesday, May 24: The Flash (season finale)
  • Wednesday, May 25: Arrow (season finale)

That will do for now.

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