Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Penny Dreadful - Under the Vaulted Sky



Like a moth to the flame I am drawn to shows like Penny Dreadful.  Anything that examines the human condition.

Penny Dreadful is in a unique position to study this condition because not all of their characters are exactly human.  "Being Human" and "Almost Human" tread upon similar ground.  "Helix" and "Lost" excelled at the existential crisis while "Orphan Black" and "Fringe" take a hard look at the family dynamic.

Penny Dreadful has a family of sorts.  It consists of those bound by a common cause and those caught up by this effort in an ever tightening circle.

Nothing better exemplifies the human struggle than the growing friendship between Miss Ives and Caliban.  Two lost souls adrift across the waking sea of living dreams.  (I have a theory where Caliban untainted by the machinations of Madame Kali will be the season's final hero.)


I could spend an entire episode listening to these two espouse their personal philosophies and wax poetic.  Their trysts have even taken on the air of the confessional. 

How sad and yet touching these two have found such common ground in search of love and peace.  And despite their suffering they still remain unshaken in their faith in God. 

The high point of this particular meeting was the recital of "I Am!" by John Clare.  (You can find the full version at the highlighted link.) as started by Caliban and finished by Miss Ives.  It was a bittersweet moment and it led to such gems as Vanessa acknowledging "All the sad people like poetry" and "Happy people love songs."

Caliban, for his part, noted the importance of the human touch and how clumsy his efforts were into the simple wooing of a lady.

The Human Touch


That's all Miss Ives needed to hear.  By virtue of her station in life, dance was an integral part of her upbringing and she was more than willing to show Caliban some simple steps.  The Creature was a bit hesitant to accept this invitation but eventually agreed to be taken into her charitable arms.


Penny Dreadful once again shared a wonderful moment with us.  I like to characterize this show as, "Horror with a heart."  It's respites such as these that allow us to take a breath from the terror that exists in it's world.  It also shows us a side of the characters we normally wouldn't see as the fight against evil is an ongoing struggle.


It was Caliban that originally introduced the concept of the human touch when he spun a story to Lily in order to win her heart.  He recounted a fictional tale where Lily shared her love with him when a group of ruffians challenged the sincerity of their relationship.  As he told it, Lily brought his hands to her lips and gently kissed him.


Another thing that Penny Dreadful does well is continue its themes.  Lily's fictional act was replicated by Dorian when Angelique was similarly accosted by brigands.


However, the narrative tables began to turn when Madame Kali kissed the hand of the always gallant Sir Malcolm.  The value of the human touch began to slip away when the hand of Lucifer was felt.

The Seduction


They call Lucifer "The Deceiver" because he preys upon the frailty of humans especially when it is weakness of the flesh.  Madame Kali began her seduction of Sir Malcolm on the dance floor but it wasn't long before the act was completed in the bedroom.

As she drove Sir Malcolm's wife insane with grief she used her magic to entice Malcolm into her bed.


Across town a similar scene played out between Dorian and Angelique.  Their motives are perhaps a little more innocent although you can never be certain with Dorian.  Angelique is damaged and was hurt to the core back at the opera.  She shed her persona in order to test Dorian and as with matters of the flesh Dorian is always willing.  Oh Angelique if you only knew what all those portraits around you represent.


The seduction of Lily was consummated against the better judgement of Victor.  He should have known better than allow Lily into his bed.  The flesh proved weak but in some sense I see this as an act against Caliban.  The vitriol between those two was on display once again as the Creature had a choke hold on Victor earlier in the episode.  I do think Victor loves Lily, even Vanessa noted it earlier, but this act will further estrange Lily from Caliban and Victor must realize this.

I also hope he realizes Lily will confront Caliban with her affection for Victor and attempt to nip their nascent courtship in the bud.  I can also see Caliban venting his frustration to Miss Ives during one of their confessionals and her knowledge of Victor coming to light.  In turn, Vanessa will divulge she knows the original identity of Lily as Brona and it shouldn't be long before Mr. Chandler learns her fate.

What a mess.


Speaking of Mr. Chandler.

Of all the couples that would become seduced by the weakness of the flesh you'd think it would be Vanessa and Ethan.

They even acknowledged that God has a plan and that plan is for them to be together!  Instead, their affection was limited to a soulful glance and touch to the cheek.  Well, at least the human touch had it's day again.

I've predicted in the past these two will find a way to be together.  I don't doubt part of the season finale will be Vanessa announcing her pregnancy.  (Part of Lucifer's plan especially if he takes possession of Ethan.)  I guess we'll have to wait and see about that. 

Odds and Ends


God's plan also extend to Mr. Chandler's role as Lupus Dei.  Mr. Lyle came tantalizingly close to the identity of the Hound of God or God's wolf.  Certainly the opposition already knows who it is.  Put it together Mr. Chandler your role is going to expand exponentially.

 
Do you think Victor felt imprisoned by his affection for Lily and his obligation to Caliban?  Here he looks longingly at Lily as he leaves her to The Creature.  I think the seeds of his revenge upon Caliban germinated here.




Did anyone else wonder how the Gladys doll actually had a little brain in it?  Did it grow one due to some voodoo Lucifer fetish thing? 

Speaking of Gladys


She definitely owned the spookiest part of the episode.


Her torture reached such an extreme that she thought she saw the tombstones of her dead children before her.


Even worse, Peter and Mina rose from the dead and marched towards their completely unhinged mother.  (I had a "Thriller" flashback.)


So terrified and bereaved , she cut her own throat.  Why did Kali drive her to this?  So Sir Malcolm would be no longer rooted in family and rely solely on her?  Probably.


It was interesting to watch everyone make an effort to protect the manse by any means possible to them.  It looked like Mr. Chandler borrowed his incantation from the Indians he once fought.  BTW, he told a story how his small group under the cover of night went in and massacred that small tribe of Apaches.  Do we believe him?  Perhaps it was a night of a full moon and he went in alone and gave them the Mariner's Inn treatment?


Mr. Lyle still hides his Jewish heritage from the rest.  No doubt in Victorian London being Jewish kept you from certain places in society.  Too bad.  I do think some Old Testament theology is in order to defeat Lucifer. The devil dates quite a bit longer than any  New Testament belief system. 


Our little Scorpion returns next week and may be the belle of the ball.  Dorian is going to throw a party and that should tie in everyone together. 

What could possibly happen?


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