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TV Review: Penny Dreadful: Season 1, Episode 2

05.19.2014by: Chris Bumbray

Episode 2: Séance

SUMMARY: Vanessa (Eva Green) and Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) acquaint themselves with the mysterious Dorian Gray. Meanwhile, Ethan (Josh Hartnett) checks into a brothel and starts to make the most of his new home.

REVIEW: “He's here...unbutton the top of your dress.” So says the always insightful Timothy Dalton to Eva Green, or rather Sir Malcolm to Vanessa. He's talking about making an impression on Dr. Frankenstein, but one wonders if he's actually talking about PENNY DREADFUL's male audience, all of whom not doubt appreciate Green's umm...vivaciousness. While Frankenstein doesn't really notice (he's too busy with his new pet creature), I'm sure the rest of us are appreciative even if Green stays clothed this week. Sigh.

Enough of the flesh report. How is this week's episode? Promising I'd say. Like last week's episode, this one is directed by J.A Bayona, and to a certain extent, this feels like part two of a pilot, with major elements being unveiled this week. Chief among these is Dorian Gray, who seems to be a regular here, as played by SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK's Reeve Carney. An early scene where Gray seduces a sick-prostitute, while scored by Wagner's “Tristan & Isolde” is stunningly stylish, while Gray's “I never f**ked a dying creature” line hints at the character's ambiguity. We'll probably have to wait a few weeks to discover whether or not Gray is one of the good guys, although in the source novel he's decidedly not. I'm guessing not. Carney suits the part, looking young and gothically handsome in a somewhat androgynous way. Tha said, his chemistry with Green isn't as strong as what she shares with Hartnett, although the beginning of a love triangle is hinted it.

Frankenstein's monster is given time this week, with him already depicted as intelligent and capable of talking. Yeah, don't get too attached to him. Apropos of a show being run by John Logan, the SKYFALL references continue, with Helen McCrory showing up as a medium, who hosts the titular seance. The seance reveals more about Vanessa's dalliance with the underworld, with her acting as a defacto medium, albeit an unwilling one. Green's portrayal of a possibly doomed and damned heroine is the show's strongest point so far besides the always great Dalton. The episode's centerpiece, where she seems to be possessed by Malcolm's daughter Mina and a monstrous Egyptian goddess, is unsettling thanks to Green's amazing performance and Bayona's stylish direction. This biggest clue to her fate is given when Malcolm learns from Egytologist Ferdinand Lyle that Vanessa is being sought as a conduit by an evil goddess who wishes to devour her soul and use her as a way of bringing about the end of days. And there, ladies and gents, is no doubt the season's major conflict, saving Vanessa from her fate.

As for Hartnett, he's mostly offscreen this episode, with only three brief scenes, where he encounters (and possibly falls for) the prostitute used by Gray, while another reveals slightly more about his life back in the States as the disgraced child of privilege.

The episode ends with a total shocker, with Frankenstein's sweet monster being torn apart by yet another monster, played by Rory Kinnear of SKYFALL and SOUTHCLIFFE, who appears to have been Frankenstein's first creation, and a much more evil one. This is intriguing, but I hope Victor stitches monster two back up again as he's so likable. Heck, even Hartnett's taciturn Ethan seemed to enjoy him. Something tells me he's only the first of many characters in this to meet a violent demise.

Overall, this was an excellent episode, and builds well upon the somewhat uneven pilot. While it's still too early to tell if this season will work as a whole it's off to a great start and I'm eager for episode three.



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