Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Penny Dreadful, Season 3, Episode 2: Predators Far and Near

Time to catch up with Dorian and Lily who are going to extreme places where rich men get to see poor women brutalised for their amusement and for lots of money. Upon arrival they promptly murder all of the nasty rich guys and save the woman they were abusing.

Lily and Dorian, vigilantes for oppressed women!

Let’s say now that Lily is definitely leading this crusade. She has another of her awesome, amazing speeches as she reflects on her own abused, desperate history. And in between being in awe of her you also need to be very afraid:

“We will have, my dear, a monumental revenge.” Ohh this is going to be terrifying. And awesome

She also tells her stalker, Victor, to go away, he isn’t going to like where she’s going. She also, beautifully refers to his memory as a “fiction”.

To Vanessa with my continuing to love her and Dr. Seward. Her desperate hope, her vulnerability and Seward both caring and being professionally detached while refusing to let her evade the questions. Her terror of having her voice, her history, her life recorded and not being able to forget is stunningly well done and powerful. There’s so much that Vanessa would rather forget. But Seward pushes for her full story, despite Vanessa’s warning what a bad bad idea it was to hear what happened to her: especially if she believes Vanessa.

The result of this telling leaves Vanessa in tragic tears… and Seward visibly shaken and moved (can I say yet again what amazing acting we have here? Because it’s incredible)

She also tells Vanessa to do something to make herself happy. And I have to say how important this is, especially since the Vanessa is so obviously tormented, guilty and inclined to punish herself. Vanessa is not a woman, because of this, who would ever seek out happiness for herself. Telling her to seek happiness gives her permission – compels her – to see what she would never grant herself. That is so important. And it makes her smile – and I’ve become so invested in Vanessa and her horrendous story over the last two seasons that that smile is incredibly beautifully precious. It says so much about the power of this show that I value that smile as she and Dr. Sweet continue to have their scorpion and adventure themed outings.

Even being stalked by Renfield (Seward’s secretary) and Dracula’s minions can’t change that.

Henry Jekyll and Victor Frankenstein got together again this episode with Henry continuing to try and restore Victor’s health and wellness while promising to brain wash Lily into submission. Though even he makes it clear that Lily being all “calm” isn’t going to make her love him. But Henry is confident he can achieve so much with Lily and calming her “beast” – as he has seen with his experiments in Bethlehem Hospital (or Bedlam).

Bedlam has a terrible reputation for horrendous depictions of the mentally ill in fiction. And this is little different – though it does focus a lot more on the horrendous, brutal and inhuman conditions facing the inmates more than presenting them as sideshows to gawk at. Even the insane man they trot out to froth and scream at the screen to play terrifying mentally ill prop is implied to have been driven that way BY Bedlam more than anything else. It’s not great, but if you’re going to have a depiction of Bedlam with all those sideshows then this is probably a better way to do it

Henry’s serum turns a stereotypical violent, frothing insane man into an utterly calm, articulate man who is a picture of stability. Yup there are definite side effects here

Another dynamic here is Henry repeatedly referring to his race and how he is treated by polite society (including his loathed white father who abandoned his Indian mother to be abandoned and die) – he is sharp and brutal in his description. He doesn’t mince words, sometimes making Victor visibly uncomfortable – which in itself is powerful. Henry knows he is being treated like shit for being an Indian man and isn’t going to let his “polite” company pretend that isn’t happening. He’s not letting it go unsaid, or be referred to in euphemism or otherwise brushed over – he starkly lays it out in harsh, brutal honesty.

Malcolm and Kaetenay are sailing their way towards Ethan with some interesting comparisons of their relationships. Kaetenay once hated Ethan or killing his people, but that long hatred turned to anger and turned to more… it’s a direct mirror to how Malcolm regards Vanessa after he held her responsible for Mina’s disappearance and then came to see her as a daughter. It’s an interesting parallel and by drawing that parallel they stop me dismissing Kaetenay’s description out of hand because we HAVE seen that dynamic.

Kaetenay casts some woo-woo, of course he does, because Native American. This lets him enter Ethan’s brain and speak to him. There we see the relationship is more complex, since Ethan pretty much wants to kill Kaetenay as much as his actual dad… also Kaetenay calls him “Apache” despite Ethan’s denial – and seems to want to have a raving wolf man on side for some upcoming purpose. Definitely an ulterior motive

The scene has ups – with Kaetenay drawing sharp lines between different tribes and making points to establish Ethan and Kaetenay’s relationship. But it also has a whole lot of scalps and woo-woo going on here. It’s a handful of feathers and some moccasins from a full parcel of tropes. Though I do appreciate Kaetenay snarking about being enigmatic

Ethan himself has escaped the authorities (with Rust still hunting him by power of sheer arrogance since he has no authority in the US. But I kind of like him despite that, I kind of have to give points to iron-hard confidence wielded like a razor) by being kidnapped by his fathers minions. On the night of a full moon.

He doesn’t stay captured (after asking the Native American woman who says cryptically ominous things to run) and his massacre is joined by Hecate – in naked bald witch mode – to slaughter the whole room