Penny Dreadful S:1 E:2 'Seance'

Before you start read the review of last weeks episode.

Last Week On Penny Dreadful: Ethan Chandler (Josh Harnett) trick shot his way on to Vanessa Ives' radar. She recruits him to aid her and Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) in finding his missing daughter. Unbeknownst to him, the search leads to 1891s London underworld populated by the undead...and worse. They vanquish their foe but fail to find Sir Malcolms daughter. They do however acquire a dead vampire and bring it to Dr. Victor Frankenstein, who has a whole other situation developing in his laboratory...

This Week On Penny Dreadful:We meet up with a hooker sitting on a a bench. All she really wants to do is eat an apple and read the paper, but she keeps getting interrupted. First by the man who lights the street lamps. Then by whatever kills him. Then by whatever kills her. Pity it looked like a good apple - and a pretty decent article about Jack the Ripper. This whole deal brings us to....The Opening Credit Sequence!

Post creepy credits, Ethan wakes up alone on a beach covered in rats, the beach that is...not Ethan,
he's rat free. He quickly finds the closest sleazy hotel, makes his way to the bar and orders breakfast - one bottle of whiskey. Interestingly, Cheerios used to be called Whiskey-os. It's time for a healthy breakfast! Before Ethan downs his fourth shot, he's joined by sassy Irish hooker Brona Croft (Billie Piper). They trade some witty repartee and smooth operator he is, Ethan asks her out. She agrees of course - after all she is a hooker and saying "no" is not her strong point. But before the date can take place, she goes looking for some "honest" work.

"Honest" work to a sassy Irish hooker means going to a strangers home to take some rather salacious photographs. The stranger in this case is none other than Dorian Gray, noted man about town. He uses this opportunity, as men are wont to do with whores, to have sex with Ms. Croft, but only after he learns that Brona has a fatal disease that causes her to cough up blood. That there is pretty high on the fucked up fetish scale if you ask me.

Post fucked up sexual experience, Mr. Gray stops by a party thrown by everyone's favorite metro sexual Egyptologist, Vincent Brandt. Tonight's a special night, Mr. Brand has invited noted medium Madame Kali (Helen McCrory) to ply her trade and speak with the dead. Also invited to the party - Sir Malcolm and Vanessa Ives. Dorian and Vanessa hit it off - and by hitting it off I mean they eye fuck the hell out of each other long enough for both of them to cum twice. Before they can hit that all important third climax - it's time for the seance to begin, and that's as the kids would say - shit gets fucked up.

We get to the perceived center piece of the episode: Madame Kali connects with a spirit...but not the spirit she's looking for (nor are they the droids she was looking for, but that's a different film all together). The spirit possesses Vanessa and that spirit is very angry, it's angry at Madame Kali, it's angry at Vincent Brand, but most importantly the spirit is really fucking pissed at Sir Malcolm. The spirit addresses Sir Malcolm first as his dead son...then as his missing daughter. Eva Green does her best Linda Blair impression. She writhes around on the seance table, she throws shit, she says "cunt" - a lot. She certainly knows how to clear a room. On the way home she bumps into a random stranger and decides it would be a good time to fuck said random stranger in an alley. Good for him. Dorian, who followed her like a good stalker, takes a perverse pleasure in watching her get down.

In true Penny Dreadful fashion Dorian Gray isn't the only classic literary character that shows up. Last week when we left Victor Frankenstein his creature had just come alive, like Peter Frampton but without the extended guitar solos. This week he is trying to teach his creature the simple things in life. He lets the creature choose his own name - by randomly pointing in a copy of Shakespeares' "The Two Gentlemen of Verona." His finger lands on Proteus, so Proteus it is. The newly christened Proteus stuns Victor when he says his own name. Victor realizes quickly that there is much more to Proteus than just a walking bag of reanimated tissue. Victor dives deeper into Proteus' mind and he uncovers that Proteus has an affinity for ship related knowledge. They journey to the docks, and Proteus is able to identify all the ships in the harbor (he's such a smart boy!) They run into Ethan and Brona on their date. Proteus is rather taken with Billie Piper... as a red blooded male, let me just say, it happens. Frankie Frank and Proteus return from their boardwalk date and settle in for a good nights sleep. All is well...until...hands bust through Proteus' chest and tear him in half. Proteus drops to the ground dead. Victor weeps and the killer reveals himself to be Dr. Frankenstein's "first born." End Episode.

Reaction: Well, it's hooked me. No, not just because there were two hookers in it, but because the episode was really damn good. It moved away from the straight forward Bram Stoker vampire story line to show that there are many more layers to the story. Which is good, I think having just a straight vampire hunting story would have been terribly boring, let alone something that's been done ad nauseum over the last decade or so. They haven't abandoned the idea of finding Sir Malcolms daughter, but after a first episode that was a bit hit and miss, the show took a step back and let us see a bit more of what is going on in London circa 1891. It was a bold move, and one that worked out really well.

I used the phrase "perceived centerpiece" when I spoke about Eva Green's possession scene, because I think that's what the writers and producers wanted everyone to grab onto, and while it works, Green is certainly fabulous, the real highlight of the episode was the interaction between Victor and Proteus. Here is the heart that the first episode was lacking. In less than an hour a character was introduced, given a back story, developed a meaningful relationship and is killed off. It's heart wrenching and genius.

The other thing that the show did that I appreciated was the use of Josh Hartnett. Like I said last review - nothing against Hartnett, but as a lead in a dramatic series, I don't buy it. As good looking, funny, charming, side character - I'm in. And that's exactly where we were in this episode, right in my Josh Hartnett sweet spot.

Read about episode 3 HERE.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich."

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