Penny Dreadful - A Blade of Grass
Where to start on this one?
How about with Eva Green? I once read she is considered one of the most courageous actors on screen, large or small. Why? Because of the risks she is willing to take. I think we all can recall the "sex scene" she had with Lucifer. You know, the one where her mother walked in the room only to see Vanessa naked on the bed seemingly alone and making love to the devil.
Mom had a heart attack.
I nearly had one too. Nothing in this episode pushed beyond that shocking boundary. Yet, Eva Green managed to transcend her normal exemplary performance we expect of her and delivered a bravura treatise on acting with a minimalist performance.
Minimalist I say?
I think one of Eva Green's greatest assets as an actor is her emotive face.
The Amazing Eva
As this episode progressed I thought, "She's amazing, I'm going to capture as many images as I can and share them with my readers to prove my point."
I became so enraptured with her performance I forgot to click away. No matter, I think you all get the point. The topmost image is when she was in full on crazy and ready to kill her attendant, "The Creature." By the way, if you run closed captioning like I do, not wanting to miss anything, Rory Kinnear's character was referred to as "Creature" when he spoke. We still don't know his real name and the captioning didn't give it away. Damn!
The picture immediately above is from the "makeup" scene where Vanessa had nearly reached her nadir and for all intents and purposes, catatonic.
Above we find Eva subsequent to Vanessa's water torture. Abject wretched dejection.
Lastly, there is this one when the realization comes to Vanessa she is that one person living alone in the frozen wasteland of the Arctic. So fragile and bereft of hope. Yet, a single spark remains knowing one person in the world has love for her.
John Logan was at his best for this episode. The tie to the frozen North where Vanessa figuratively dwells to the place where the creature eventually banishes himself. It was quite poetic.
So too was the backstory to poetry itself. Previous to her White Room experience, Vanessa told her caretaker how her life was always filled with poetry. Especially from the men. The Caretaker had no poetry in his life and little use for it. He knew it important to Vanessa and eventually came to read to her. "My Shadow" was the first of such and it was very light and simple. For viewers of Penny Dreadful perhaps there was some deeper meaning in that your shadow is something dark that always follows you.
Of course, Rory Kinnear was fabulous also. Ms.Green owes a lot to her performance in opposition to his. He at once showed violence and frustration. Then bitterness and guilt. Finally, loss and love. Also a bravura performance.
I spoke to some where I work and they dismissed this episode in part because of the single setting. Too boring for them I suppose. A bottle episode to others. Perhaps, but this where true acting gets to shine. I once attended a play called "A Steady Rain" (Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig, how's that for a cast?) It featured a barren stage and was also dialog heavy. It was very impressive and I was amazed at the skill it took to fill that empty stage with just the actors presence alone.
The same was done here.
We must discuss the other character or characters that Rory Kinnear portrayed. Lucifer pays a visit to the White Room.
We did garner some information into the nature of the relationship between the Devil and Miss Ives. She wondered aloud why her attendant would be so fascinated with her. He didn't answer but Lucifer did.
"Because I love you."
Of course, we're all wondering why an unearthly being that was at one time near divine and close to God would profess love for such a mortal creature. He did reveal something very interesting in that they shared a common past.
"Before there was time there was thee and me." And, "Be what you are and always were."
So if Lucifer was one of "The Fallen" was Vanessa also? Did they really know each other before his fall from grace? When he said, "Be what you are and always were" does he mean she was once an angel instead of the mere blade of grass that she is now?
If so, does he wish to conquer her as a victory over God? He could tempt and seduce any human, but a fallen angel that still retains her grace? That would be a victory over the Almighty indeed.
Enter Dracula and....
It seems Lucifer has company, the "Father of Beasts".
Interesting that Dracula is more powerful than his "bother" Lucifer. The rending of flesh turning more of a profit than the possession of souls. I think most of us are familiar with the Devil as being the most powerful of demons. A few viewings of "The Exorcist" will convince you of that. But here Logan flips the narrative and makes Dracula the dark lord of our earthly plane.
I don't think we've heard Dracula refer to God the way Lucifer does. Lucifer is always in competition with the Almighty. His ultimate goal to defeat God and steal his throne. What is Dracula's goal? Does he fear God? Is the Earthly plane good enough for his "tastes"?
It also begs the question, why does God allow Dracula to roam the Earth?
Here's an answer. God the Almighty does have a weapon on Earth to defeat the greatest of evil. His fallen Angel that still retains her grace.
Miss Vanessa Ives.
God must be a very tolerant deity to allow Vanessa to spew the "Verbis diablo" the way she does. Not to mention her other digressions that will go unnamed here There must be something special about her. Perhaps God wants Vanessa to find her grace in defeating the fallen. I can see the final episode of Penny Dreadful with Miss Ives rejoining the choir of Seraphim in her rightful place. (Hmm, that sounds a little too romantic for this show. But maybe Logan will flip the narrative once again.)
Odds and Ends
Both sad and ironic to hear the Creature refers to Miss Ives' treatments as "science" and later, "torture". The same will soon happen to him at the hands of Victor Frankenstein.
I wonder how much was physical versus spiritual when Vanessa confronted her foes. In other words, was Vanessa's visitations all in the "Theater of the Mind"? Did she imagine their presence or was she possessed into thinking they were really there?
She did see her attendants eyes blacken when he professed his love but that could have been hallucinatory too. Lucifer is a spiritual creature but Dracula is definitely Earth bound. We've seen Dracula as Dr. Sweet and as the Master to his flock. Why take on the visage of her attendant? Still playing the long game Dracula and not wanting to appear as your true self?
There were some great camera angles and use of light for such a small stage.
Here, the use of the "vanishing point" as Vanessa sits dejectedly on her bed.
The use of a spotlight to accentuate spiritual confrontation.
The tried and true perspective of looking at one's self in the mirror. Whom do you see Vanessa?
So, another great episode. I tried to get a hashtag going for Eva Green the next day on Twitter, "#EmmyforEva" but it didn't take. I checked later and it reappeared under a slightly different iteration. Hmm, thanks Twitterverse.
Next episode we head out West again so we'll have to wait to see how this episode pans out. There is one thing we know as does Vanessa when she confided to Dr. Seward.
"His name is Dracula."