Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Penny Dreadful - The Day Tennyson Died




Beat, happy stars, timing with things below,

Beat with my heart more blest than heart can tell.

Blest, but for some dark undercurrent woe

That seems to draw—but it shall not be so:
Let all be well, be well.


What a wonderful sentiment.  What a wonderful scene.

Here is our evening star ascendant once again.  Full of hope renewed.  The dismal gravity of dust removed. The ennui shaken like so many draped sheets.  The pallor of sin given to rosy cheeks.

Of course this is but the penultimate scene to the season three premier of Penny Dreadful.  What was to follow was the darkness that always lingers like an alleyway best not looked upon.

As usual, I'm eager to discuss the stunning ending of an episode.  It's happened recently with Orphan Black and to Game of Thrones too.  This particular ending brought me off the couch with arms raised skyward.  It was if the Red Sox had won a hard fought victory.  (Which they did that same night.)

But, no, no.  Let's not be hasty.  It would be a disservice to our hardy band if I were to dismiss their sacrifice and various trials.   Let's see what they've been up to.




Vanessa Ives




We open with Miss Ives and we find her at her nadir.

She haunts the manse like some destitute vapor.  Listless, feral and bored.  She lives by charity and literally hand to mouth.  Without her support group she has sunk to the depths of her own personal hell.

And this from the person that defeated Satan on his own turf.

Her protector and champion hauled away in chains.  Her father tasked with the internment of another soul in the farthest reaches of a distant continent.  Her unlikely brother given to the needle.  Her soulmate in poetry languishing in a icy prison of his own design.

Isn't there one last angel to light the way?






Of course there is.

We have the cherubic Mr. Lyle.  Always handy in providing decorating advice, beauty tips and rescuing damsels in distress.  The last remaining lion at the gate.  Truly a fan favorite.  I watched this scene hoping for an embrace.



Of course there was.

Despite the depths to which she has sunk there is still love in her heart for her family.  (No matter how dysfunctional they are.) 

Lyle was to prove instrumental in the introduction (re-introduction?) of another character but let's catch up with the rest first.


Ethan Chandler




Ethan is bound for New Mexico Territory.  Quite literally.

He finds himself still in chains on his way to stand trial as a fugitive from the law.  He is taciturn and circumspect.  Despite his predicament he still manages to toss a few bon mots at his captors.

It wasn't long before he exchanges one set of jailers for another as his father's henchmen dispatch the lawmen with ruthless efficiency.  Good thing it was tea time for Rusk and his man.

I have no doubt Ethan's father has a bit of the wolf in him much like his son.  I'm guessing Ethan decided to break from the pack which is a transgression not to be tolerated.  Given some of the stories Chandler has enumerated, he was tired of the blood letting.  





Like Vanessa has Mr. Lyle, Ethan has Hecate Poole.  He just doesn't know it yet.  Ms. Poole wants something from Mr. Chandler.  Whether it is to remove him as "Lupus dei" or to have him as a creature of her own, and I am betting it is the latter, their paths will soon cross.

You had to like how Hecate played the innocent female aboard the train when faced with a gun.  If there ever was a wolf in sheep's clothing it is her.


Sir Malcolm Murray 


 

Sir Malcolm looks as nearly as disheveled as Vanessa did at the start.  (If only Mr. Lyle was there to suggest a bath.)  He's worn from travel and the sad deed of burying his man servant.  Sembene was a former slave trader but he was the closest thing to a best friend Malcolm had.  And he had his throat torn out by another man who could have stood in as Malcolm's son.  

Sir Malcolm laments the lack of adventure in the dark continent as the modern world encroaches upon it. 

If only the Siren's call pulled him close to the rocky shore of a new enterprise.




Pretty convenient for most of our major players to have someone watching their backs isn't it?

Wes Studi will always be Magua from "The Last of the Mochicans" to me.  I wish he could be Joe Leaphorn but his portrayal as the ruthless native american is seared in to my consciousness.  

Studi plays Kaetenay and he appeals to Sir Malcolm's fatherly instinct in respect to Ethan.  Something Kaetenay shares.  If memory serves, Ethan may have slautered many Indians in service to the Army or government.  Why would Kaetenay be sympathetic to Ethan?  Is he of his own pack?  Or better, does he possess the skills to calm the inner beast that torments Ethan.  I'm betting on the latter here also.


John Clare


 
Who has "The Creature's" back?  No one it seems as he has deliberately set himself apart from most of humanity.   





Mr. Clare is having his "Shackelton" moment and it is reminiscent of how Shelly's book came to it's conclusion.





Perhaps someone does have the Creature's back and it is the ghost of his former self.  In a very intriguing moment, Mr. Clare has a flashback to the person he used to be.  It was triggered by his own singing of a lullaby to soothe the dying boy.

Like the monster in the book or classic movie, he dispatches the boy with blithe indifference.  It was better the child did not suffer.  If only the children met the same fate from Peter Boyle's monster in "Young Frankenstein" and landed in a comfy bed.  Alas, no.

We are getting near the end of our cast of characters and there is only three or, ahem, four that need to be introduced.


Victor Frankenstein


 


Victor has nearly gone fully over to the needle.  His desire to defeat death is killing him.

If that wasn't ironic enough, he's brought aboard an old classmate in the form of Dr. Jekyll.   Jekyll's expertise is in "Taming the beast within" by manipulating the "Neurologic chemical reactions of the brain."  Not something someone with a serious opioid dependency needs to hear.

Victor suffers as much from a broken heart as he does from his addiction.  His solution to Lily's rejection is to murder her.  Which would make the second time he's attempted to do so.  He still hasn't been held accountable to the court of law embodied by Ethan Chandler for that act.  A serious shortcoming to the end of the last season.  One of which I hope will be addressed this year.

 

Jekyll for his part, tells Victor exactly what he wants to hear.  To bring Lily back into his arms.  It seems chemical manipulation is not his only skill.



It was fascinating to hear the two men converse.  They were brothers in arms once and obviously hold a deep affection for each other.  There was something homoerotic about their conversation and most of it came from Jekyll.  He seemed rejected or displaced.

It will be interesting to see if that homo-eroticism will be made manifest tenfold once Jekyll gives over to the beast within.    Suppressed sexuality was a feature of Victorian England and it may have been Jekyll's entreaties towards Frankenstein that split them up five years ago. 

Now with Jekyll back in Victor's life he may have new power over Frankenstein.  He already has the leverage of Lily but how far will he be willing to take this new bestial influence.


The Other Significant Players


The Cut Wife is back!

When I first saw Patti Lupone's new character I immediately wondered if Penny Dreadful would add a supernatural aspect to the relationship between Dr. Seward and Vanessa.



Judging by Vanessa's reaction she seemed to agree.


 
But it wasn't long before Seward's Alienism thoroughly deconstructed Miss Ives.  Only time will tell if taking on Vanessa as a patient will prove to be Seward's folly.



I suppose there is hope Vanessa can build a real and lasting relationship with someone.  A faint hope.  All right, a distant hope.  If there was anyone ever fitted for the Victorian version of a "Redshirt" it is Dr. Alexander Sweet.

Poor man.  This cannot end well.  You are better off appreciating all the broken and shunned creatures through their glass enclosures instead of adding your name to the inglorious roll call of sheep that have come in contact with Vanessa and her troupe Dr. Sweet.

(Hmm, I suppose the good Doctor's last name is to supposed to elicit the confectionery nature of his personality.  But I rather think it is more to the nature of one's palate after he is consumed.)


The Final Player

I didn't recognize the significance of the Renfield character at first which was all the better for me.  I do now, but I'm glad I didn't have an inkling what was to come next.

Here is how it played out.



 
 
 We knew Dr. Jekyll would make his appearance this season but Dracula?  So happy.
I can only assume he is one of the Fallen that was expelled from Heaven along with Satan.   That remains to be seen.   Is he really Dr. Sweet in the daytime?  He would have to have an aversion to daylight but he is sequestered to the confines of a museum so maybe that is his secret.  

Also, why would Dracula task Renfield with finding out all he can about Miss Ives?  Just date her and find out!

Let's hope Sweet and Dracula are separate beings.  Sweet will make a nice snack for Dracula and Dracula can put him under his thrall in order to get to Vanessa.  So evil.

Finally, I wonder if we will actually get to see Dracula.  Will he be confined to the shadows and darkness?

We'll have to keep our eyes peeled on the mirrors and predators far and near.



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