Penny Dreadful 1.05 & 1.06
I think it is fair to say that, given my previous reviews, Penny Dreadful has been a relatively average television show. No matter how well cast and aesthetically pleasing it may be, the plot has at times felt inconsistent and a little dull. However as if from nowhere, Closer than Sisters comes along and provides an hour of brilliant storytelling, filled to the brim with drama, heartbreak and melancholia.
It’s a flashback piece, narrated by Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) as she writes a letter to Mina. We learn of their neighbouring families and blossoming friendship from an early age. We follow them through their teenage years and into adulthood, where all manners of betrayal and sensual awakening come in to play through adulterous and sinful behaviour. Their friendship crumbles, family members pass away and in the depths of despair and depression, we finally see how Ives is first drawn to the demimonde.
The drama that unfolds throughout the entirety of this episode is emotive, compelling and brilliantly executed through a distinct, aesthetic fluidity. Green is fantastic and every element of the story feels eloquent and well focused, providing a seamless sensibility not yet seen in this series. Thematically it is at times rather dark, fulfilling our macabre needs. Yet if like me, you are a little desensitised to such shocking moments (which in this case are the torture set pieces and an obvious homage to Sidney J. Furie’s The Entity), Closer than Sisters at the very least provides an hour of top quality drama, detailing the emotive back story behind Mina, Ives and Sir Malcom Murray (Timothy Dalton) that we have all been waiting for.
In the case of What Death Can Join Together, it’s a different kettle of fish although by no means less entertaining. Unfortunately we see a return to the portmanteau form and as we cut between each individual sub plot, despite consistently strong performances, the episode feels more often than not filled with philosophical musings and futile conversations (Ives and Dorian Gray, played by Reeve Carney, are the main culprits here). However throughout, there is an underlying build-up which eventually receives an impressive pay-off in the episode’s action-filled final third.
The passion between Ives and Gray reaches an all time high, in which her vulnerability enables a detrimental connection with the devil. Victor Frankenstein's (Harry Treadaway) musings on the trials of life, death and karma are effectively brought to a shocking finish, as The Creature (Rory Kinnear) murders his true friend and mentor, Van Helsing. The ever increasing sense of danger reaches its climax for Murray and Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) too, as their investigation of a quarantined ship leads to an eerie vampire lair and the death of a fair few feisty beings. Most importantly however, we finally witness Murray, Mina and the Vampire all in one room together. All in all, the last 15 minutes of What Death Can Join Together provide a much needed dose of action and suspense to ironically kick a bit of life into this supernatural show.
These past two episodes have delivered what Penny Dreadful was in need of most – well executed drama, emotive back story and a good dose of solid action. Flaws aside, what has been proved is that at the very least, when the show is good... it’s really good, and for the first time ever... an eager sense of anticipation awaits next week’s episode.