Penny Dreadful 1.04 Demimonde
Last week, Penny Dreadful provided a great hour of entertainment, with gripping revelations and enticing theatricality. This week, Demimonde is a more intriguing affair with a solid attempt at some decent character development... although not much else.
It begins with an orgy. That’s right, Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) is back in the picture (excuse the pun) and he’s here to shed some light on our beloved characters and cause a little confusion. From orgies to orchids, we then join Gray perusing the local botanical gardens with Vanessa Ives (Eva Green). He muses over the beauty of each flower, detailing every scent, colour and sensual feeling it evokes, only to contrast it with the plant’s hidden poison. It's a metaphor we all know and love - what may appear beautiful on the surface, is in fact toxic underneath - and even though this has been used countless times before, it is a nevertheless effective technique in opening up some extensive character development in this week’s episode.
Each of our characters possess a beauty of sorts. Whether it is Gray and his magnetism, causing Ives to go weak at the knees, Sir Malcom Murray’s (Timothy Dalton) vulnerability in his hunt for Mina, Victor Frankenstein’s (Harry Treadaway) adoration for science and literature or Brona Croft (Billie Piper) and Ethan Chandler’s (Josh Hartnett) loving companionship. Yet as we find out, beneath each veneer lays a dark secret or destructive toxicity. For all fans of gothic literature and/or the horror genre, Gray’s secret is an obvious one and the same applies for Frankenstein, who as we discovered last week, is now being blackmailed by his first creation, The Creature (Rory Kinnear), to create a mate. However a little more is revealed when it comes to Ives and Murray, who on the face of it have appeared to be victims of a heartless abduction, yet snippets of dialogue allude to a family history drowning in unhappiness and trauma.
Similarly, the all-too-sweet and sensual relationship between Croft and Chandler flies to a halt this week, as the reality of unsuitability hits. Hidden beneath the making love, dinner dates and theatre trips lay an unwell prostitute, feeling unworthy of Chandler’s affection. His affection is also thwarted however, when Chandler begins to uncover his own personal poison. Throughout he is privy to animalistic urges that quite frankly, all point to one conclusion, and I’m not talking his bizarre and steamy kiss with Gray in this episode’s climax. Rather, that Chandler is a werewolf. It’s an interesting and well executed twist indeed, which is why it’s such a shame that Josh Hartnett is undeniably dull.
Out of the flowerbeds and in to the demimonde, we carry on with the Mina debacle. The teams captive, Fenton, confirms vampiric suspicions and causes a moment of mayhem by fleeing from his restraints and assisting the orchestration of a vampire get together. Lingering in the shadows of Ives’ room, a blood-sucking fiend lurks, akin to that introduced in the first episode. Fought off by Murray, and not without struggle, the vampire escapes and Fenton is killed in the process, serving a nice, bloody set piece for horror fanatics. Suspicions are thus once again confirmed that Ives plays a far bigger and more life-threatening role in this mission, than first apprehended.
However as far as plot is concerned, that's it, and we are no closer to discovering the truth behind the Mina abduction. This leads Penny Dreadful’s to its main flaw - where is this actually going? With only four episodes left of the series, it feels we haven’t got very far. Yes we have seen some decent character development this week, in spite of a tiresome metaphor, and John Logan is doing a nice job of weaving it together, aided by the casts captivating performances. Equally his love for the genre is clear, as great care is taken to lovingly insert the odd reference here and there. Yet there is an overwhelming feeling that nothing is happening. We're stuck in our very own demimonde, causing the show to suffer.