Penny Dreadful - Glorious Horrors

Last week I read some reviews of Penny Dreadful and mostly the show was criticized for being predictable and a bit mundane at times.

I was surprised and saddened to see this because I thought last week's episode was a moving study of the human condition.  A grand look at the existential crises of man and an examination of the human spirit.

Perhaps I am looking too deeply at Penny Dreadful.  Perhaps I'm picking out the things I find fascinating and applying Penny Dreadful as my template.

I'm afraid I'm going to be guilty of that again this week.

My first impression of "Glorious Horrors" was that this was somewhat what of a vapid episode.

Fortunately, I snapped out of my intellectual doldrums and came to realize that Penny Dreadful had given us an insightful look at human vanity and the frailty of the ego.

Youth and Beauty

Over and over we were given looks at what it is to be narcissistic and utterly self absorbed.

There is no greater champion of narcissism than Dorian Gray and despite his adoration for Angelique his only solution for their secret is to throw a grand ball and flaunt themselves before society.

Angelique, despite her courage still can't bring herself to be seen in the morning without a touch of makeup.

To see and be seen was the solution of Victor Frankenstein also.  He cast caution to the wind so he could rationalize his relationship with Lily.  It was if dancing in a room full of society would dispel the completely taboo nature of his creation.  And I mean that literally for Lilly and his relationship with her.

Leave it to Dorian (after suspecting he's seen Lily before) to raise the question of other lifetimes to which Lily innocently responds, "I don't know that there are other lifetimes."  She is, of course, proof they do exist.

Even Sir Malcolm wasn't without his brush with vanity.  (In his defense, Madame Kali has him under her thrall.)

Where to Find God

Mostly, it was the words of Madame Kali as she prepared for the ball in the company of Mr. Lyle that set me on this course of "youth and beauty."

She seemed embittered as she readied herself.  It was a confessional of sorts as the conversation turned to the existence of God.  She told Lyle that she didn't turn her back on God, rather, it was the other way around.  "You tell me" she challenged Lyle, "where is he?"

Lyle correctly responded, "Some say he's found within."

Kali denies Lyle's belief and retorted to "go on" meant to "Earn our reward from the Master.  To live forever while the world suffers."

It was at this point I realized the deal Madame Kali made with the Devil.  She had traded her soul away for eternal youth.

"To live forever while the world suffers."

For her, Hell really is other people.  She recognizes the suffering of humanity and she bears witness to it as the years pass her by.  Yet, she is content to be a witness only instead of sharing the trials of her fellow man as long as she continues to live on eternally.

This saddens her, but because she can see nothing beyond the mirror's reflection she can't grasp what Lyle is trying to tell her.

In stark contrast to this bankrupt philosophy of Kali's is the outlook of Vanessa Ives.

Truly Miss Ives knows the suffering of humanity and bears the cross of her own burden every day.  Yet she perseveres that God has a plan and finds joy in her relations with others.

This has always been on display with her relationship with Mr. Clare and as she watched Victor and Lily from afar.

Yet, there was no greater example of finding "God within" than her interaction with Mr. Chandler than when she asked him to the Ball.

You could she the delight in her face as she summoned the courage to ask Ethan out and she equally crestfallen when he rejected her advance.  (Bad timing, Friday is Werewolf night.)

The pain that Vanessa felt is the sadness you experience when you take the risk of sharing yourself.  It's felt by living through other people and heartache felt when left alone.

Ironically, it is that pain this causes us to try and try again.  The reward for which is life everlasting in paradise instead of being damned to watch man's suffering for eternity.  (Hopefully.)

If only Madame Kali could hear the words of Mr. Lyle and look within.

(I had originally delayed posting this blog entry in search of a video of the conversation between Madame Kali and Mr. Lyle.  I felt it that important as it revealed the overall impetus between the forces of good and evil for this show.  Sorry for the delay but I felt the "confessional" between the two that important.  Here it finally is although the audio is only fair.)

Odds and Ends

I've seen a "Red Wedding" on TV and now this.

One can only imagine the expense they went through to recreate a Victorian age Ball and then drench it in blood.

 A "Danse Macabre" if there ever was one.

I wonder what it was like to be a participant in this event? And can you imagine approaching the distinguished actor Timothy Dalton and tell him you were going to pour buckets of fake blood on him.  "Just act like nothing is happening Tim.  Enjoy the dance."

I thought they pulled it off splendidly.  Although all that grandeur was spoiled for the sake of the horror of it all.  At first I thought it might be a digital effect but no, this was very much a practical one.  Now I wish I was a participant!

You have to wonder about the motivations of the sisters for staging this event.  I think we know they aren't exactly in line with Madame Kali's.  Hecate definitely has a plan of her own and I don't doubt it means usurping her mother's authority.  

I like the juxtaposition of the suffering saint portrait in the background.  I think it is meant to represent the suffering of humanity in the face of great evil.  (See above.)

I also took note of portraits behind Vanessa and Victor.  They seem to offer a contrast between the savage and the civilized.  Perhaps they are symbolic of the tug of war that goes on within our subconscious.

At last we get to see Ethan in all his hirsute glory.  Poor Sembene thought he had seen it all.  I'm a little surprised Ethan isn't a little more monstrous.  I mean, I thought he was going to tear through all his clothing and truly "Hulk out."  I'm fine with this,  I do want to see the claws though.  Especially in the aftermath of the Mariner's Inn massacre.

So, once again, apologies for the late posting.  I hope you found it worth it.  I was puting my shoes on this morning and thinking of skipping it entirely.  But, no, I love the show too much.  I was going to post this come hell or high water.

Maybe I should say "heck."  I don't want a late night visit from Hecate with or without her sensible shoes!


  1. Great write-up Dave! I just caught up on this season and am really enjoying it. I'm happy to see Timothy Dalton getting more to do, the storyline with Ethan is finally breaking the surface, and I agree that the "big bad" is much more interesting this season. I'm also enjoying those little moments - like the unexpected friendship between Vanessa and Mr. Clare. The acting all around is superb - I have been especially surprised about how much I've enjoyed the actor who plays Mr. Lyle. At first he seemed so over-the-top, but has proven to deliver a really layered performance. Thanks for taking the time to review this great show. Keep it up!!

  2. Thanks AlternaKat, good to hear from you.

    Timothy Dalton is great in this series. Such gravitas! I know that word is over used but it applies to him! The Ethan story has been a real slow burn but after this past episode (the one referred to here) it is bound to explode.

    The Vanessa and Mr. Clare friendship has been a real treat. Two kindred souls in search of the same things in life. I hope the finally find the peace they are looking for. (I have a theory Mr. Clare will come to Vanessa's rescue by the end of the season. That's if he isn't too busy tearing Victor apart.)

    I fear for Mr. Lyle, I've grown fond of him and despite his treachery I know he wants to do the right thing.

    Will do "Kat, check back soon!


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