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TV Review: Penny Dreadful: Season 2, Episode 4

05.25.2015by: Chris Bumbray

Season 2, Episode 4: Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places

SUMMARY: Vanessa (Eva Green) reveals her past with the Cut Wife to the rest of the gang, shedding new light on the Night Comers obsession with her. Meanwhile, Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale) is taken into Sir Malcolm's confidence.

REVIEW: Well, I suppose it was inevitable that following last week's amazing one-off with Patti LuPone's incredible Cut-Wife, this week's Penny Dreadful was bound to be a little ho-hum. Perhaps that's the cost of doing that kind of flashback episode that the one immediately following would have to be mostly devoted to getting viewers back into the season's major arc, meaning exposition and lots of it.

As such, this week's Penny Dreadful was easily the weakest installment since season one, if by no means fully bad. It's just that every week has had one dynamic showstopping moment, and this week didn't really have that other than a last-minute action scene where Ethan (Josh Hartnett) takes on some Night Comers, with one of them having previously tried to seduce him. Interestingly, he proves immune to their charms while Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) is still bewitched by Evelyn Poole (Helen McCroy) who's mostly absent this week save for one scene towards the end.

While it was short on chills, this week's episode did have some saving graces. For one thing, there were a few really nice character moments scattered throughout, including more of Caliban (Rory Kinnear) and his new employer's blind daughter, as well as some much needed character development for Sembene (Danny Sapani) who too often fades into the background (I'd love a stand-alone episode devoted to how he wound up in Sir Malcolm's employ).

While Penny Dreadful is never going to be known for its light touch, this week actually did have a moment of levity, with Frankenstein (Harry Treadway) getting Vanessa to help him pick out a gown for the newly regenerated Bruona (Billie Piper) aka Lily. Of course, knowing what we do about how Lily was created, to us Frankenstein's behavior seemed less boyish and charming than it did to Vanessa, but it was nice to see Eva Green get to smile as her character is so often put through the ringer.

One arc I'm still not sold on is Reeve Carney's Dorian Grey, who's still abroad. While his romance with a transvestite burlesque performer is intriguing, I'm still not seeing how it ties into what's going on back in London although I'm sure show runner John Logan has something twisted up his sleeve. Still, Gray has always struck me as the show's most extraneous character, and nothing this season has changed my mind so far.

While it's nowhere near the level of last week's hour, episode four of Penny Dreadful's season two was still pretty good even if it felt like filler. That said I hope the decision to stretch this season by a few extra episodes isn't going to effect the pacing, which has always been one of Penny Dreadful's strong points. Still, if this is the dullest it's going to get this will no doubt be a great season.

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