Penny Dreadful still very much disturbs and excites. Daniel Theophanous reviews Penny Dreadful Season 3, episode 4, 5 and 6
Penny Dreadful’s episode four is focused entirely on Vanessa Ives. Vanessa is anxious to find out what evil force is after her, after her encounter with a young vampire, who operated for Dracula, in episode three. She demands Dr Seward put her under hypnosis so as she can revert to the time in her past where she had come across this evil force. Reluctantly Dr Seward agrees and Vanessa is transported to her white padded room at Bedlam Insane Asylum, where Vanessa was kept as a patient, a scene which some viewers will remember in Season One.
The scene is wonderfully gothic; the room which Vanessa is held has white padded walls all around, a single bed with no blanket; she is confined in a straight jacket, in the throws of some deep dark depression. This is where Vanessa comes come face to face with her demon, who appears under the guise of the orderly, John Clare, aka The Creature.
At first he appears as a friendly caring face to Vanessa, but then interchanges as the human face to the demon Lucifer, who relentlessly antagonizes her, wishing to break her spirit. The episode stays in the room throughout, featuring continuous dialogue alternating between Vanessa and John Clare and sometimes Lucifer. Vanessa is punished more and more as her visions increase, endless torturous psychiatric treatments which finally include a lobotomy. In the final scenes of the episode, a skeletal Vanessa comes to face with another demon and Vanessa finds the strength to demand him to name himself, which he does, and its Dracula. Vanessa than wakes up from her hypnosis remembering his name.
Episode Five takes us back to Wild West where most of this episode takes place. Ethan Chandler is slowly sliding into the dark side, as his sidekick demon Hecate Poole, digs her claws into him further and further. As they escape the police, who were holding them captive, they become stranded in the New Mexico desert and in the delirium of thirst, Ethan gives in to Hecate sexual advances, giving her an other piece of his soul. They remain stranded without water, almost to the brink of death, but are saved at the last minute by Sir Malcolm Murray, who appears out of nowhere with a flask of water. At the same time Ethan’s father Jared Talbot and his men, ascend on to the scene and take them all back to the Talbot household.
The other highlight of the episode, is Frankenstein and Jekyll are in the lab refining their powerful potion to cure all mental illness. The cure involves injecting an electrified serum directly to the brain’s cortex inserted through the patient’s pupil. The plot for this particular strand is uncertain, as we are unclear of Jekyll and Frankenstein’s intentions with this serum, however it is promising, possibly due to all the visual fodder that the lab setting provides. Frankenstein is still unable to get over his obsession with Lily, and it is insinuated that his hatching a grand plan to get her back.
Episode Six picks up the pace greatly compared to previous two. A thoroughly engaging episode which provides great drama and turmoil. Dracula’s informant tells him that Vanessa now knows his name and she is on the hunt for him. Vanessa meets Catriona Hartdegan, through the suggestion Dr Lyle who he thinks can help her with defeating Dracula. Simultaneously at the advice of Dr. Seward, Vanessa decides to re-visit Dr Sweet, and they end up rekindling their romance, which leads to an epic passionate, sex scene towards the end.
Elsewhere we see that the army of women, Lily and Dorian are recruiting, is growing and growing. A meeting at Dorian’s house is interrupted by the love sick Frankenstein, who sneaks into the house with the intention of kidnapping Lily. Justine, Lily’s protégé, catches him in the act and brings to him to the feet of Lily and Dorian, begging them to allow her to kill him. Lily spares Frakenstein’s life, and Dorian lets Frankenstein out, saying that he is in his in debt to them.
The episode ends dramatically, after a puzzling and deadly dinner at the Talbot house. Ethan, Jared, Sir Malcolm, Ethan, Hecate all join for dinner and are bizarrely joined by the US Sheriff and the English officer, who seem to have appeared out of nowhere. After a series of heated debates, between Jared and Ethan as well as with the police officers, matters escalate into gun shot altercations. Both officers are shot dead as well Hecate who at deaths door transforms to her demonic self and dies instantly in the arms of Ethan. The episode ends in an epic fashion where Jared about to shoot his son, is shot dead instead by Sir Malcolm.
Episode Six picks up much needed speed, which the last two episodes lacked. Overall some of the plots; such as the Wild West or the Jekyll and Frankenstein, appear to be bit thin and the viewer is not given enough background detail to get a full picture of what is happening. However the series still manages to provide great visual stimulation and character intrigue and we eagerly await for episode seven.
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