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'Penny Dreadful' recap: 'Memento Mori'

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Jonathan Hession/Showtime

Penny Dreadful

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
2
run date:
05/11/14
performer:
Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton
broadcaster:
Showtime Networks Inc.
genre:
Suspense, Thriller, Drama

You don’t need a literal inner demon to be possessed on Penny Dreadful. There are other possessive forces, less obvious but no less insidious: love, sexual politics, the fear of death. If there’s a line between heroes and villains on this show, it’s that our heroes fight their possession. Vanessa refuses to let the demon take her, Ethan resists his werewolf tendencies, and Sir Malcolm tries to shake off the romance that robs him of his senses. By contrast, Dorian lets fear take over, putting him on the wrong side of the equation this week—and possibly for good. But where does Lily fall?

After choking a man to death in the throes of passion, Lily cuddles with his corpse, then returns home to play the innocent flower. She finds Victor eager to take her out of the city, having already been accosted by the Creature for trying to keep Lily to himself—and for letting her go out on her own. Men. It’s no wonder that she’s tired of letting them use her. “Never again will I kneel to any man,” she tells the Creature when she catches him in her room. “Now they shall kneel to me.” Lily berates him for assuming that she’s there to make him feel better about himself. She knows that they’re both back from the dead—has she always known?—and she has a much grander plan in mind than hanging on his arm like a trophy.

But the Creature can be a part of that plan if he wants. Lily offers him the chance to kill Victor with her and rule over mankind: “We are the conquerors; we are the pure blood; we are steel and sinew both. We are the next thousand years. We are the dead.” As if an eloquent offer to murder weren’t seductive enough, Lily mounts the Creature and kisses him, insisting that no one will ever love him as she does. I’m not sure that she’s in a place to understand what love is, but the Creature isn’t, either. At any rate, they understand each other—though, knowing the Creature, he’ll probably fancy his rage to be more justified than hers and run off to tweet something about how feminism makes everyone a murderer.

While his creations contemplate a new life, Victor is off worrying that love has started to control him. He takes his concern to Sir Malcolm, who knows the feeling: “On the day of my wife’s funeral, I was dancing at a ball. Who is that man?” Sir Malcolm has no idea how right he is when he calls love an enchantment, and it’s one that he no longer has the patience for—he wants his true nature back, even if that nature is cruel and angry. But Evelyn is out to strengthen her hold on him, whispering the Verbis Diablo into his puppet’s ear, making it impossible for him to concentrate on an important debriefing from Lyle: Brother Gregory’s notes have all been translated.

The narrative written in the Verbis Diablo tells of two fallen angels—one brother, the vampire Master, was banished to earth, and the other, Lucifer, was sent to hell. Only the “mother of evil” can release them, giving one of them a chance to conquer heaven. The apocalypse really does rest on Vanessa’s shoulders. Sir Malcolm fights Evelyn’s spell long enough to point out that it’s not “hound” of God—it’s “wolf,” at least in Arabic—but the floor shakes and his eyes go black. “You children, meet your master,” he growls, flipping the table of artifacts.

NEXT: A portrait of the artist as a young murderer[pagebreak]

Not wasting any time, Sembene throws Sir Malcolm into an old dusty room and tells him to know who he is. Is the fact that Sembene doesn’t speak very often what gives his words so much power, or does he have some other power that we haven’t fully explored yet? In any case, Sir Malcolm has a vision of his wife and children dancing (a manifestation of his guilt for going to the ball, probably) and releases himself from Evelyn’s enchantment—but now that he’s himself again, he wants revenge. Evelyn sits back and waits as Sir Malcolm sneaks into her estate, then uses her coven to attack him and bring him to her.

With nothing to lose, Evelyn tells Sir Malcolm the truth about her plan to deliver Vanessa to the Master. She tries to convince him to join her, crying that she doesn’t want to be lonely, but she’s underestimated his devotion to Vanessa. Sir Malcolm is unmoved. (“My humanity, such as it is, is colder than this house.”) He does, however, offer to walk with her “to the end of time” if she’ll spare Vanessa’s life, prompting Evelyn to hint that Vanessa is actually Sir Malcolm’s daughter. She locks him in the room with a scorpion and three hallucinatory coffins—one for his wife, and one for each of his children. They rise from their graves, just as they did when Mrs. Murray took her own life. Evelyn really needs to learn some new tricks.

So does Dorian, apparently. He’s left Angelique home alone again, unable to resist another dinner with the mysterious Lily. But Angelique is no wallflower, and by the time Dorian returns home, she’s found his secret: his portrait. “Don’t we all want to paint ourselves into something better than we are?” he asks. For some reason, Angelique doesn’t immediately abandon him for the pun. She says that she can still accept him as he is, but he never gives her the chance to prove herself, maybe because he’s never accepted anyone who can’t give him something in return. They clink champagne glasses, and Angelique falls to the ground. The Dorian in the portrait—an old, disfigured man who crouches like an animal—moves to stare at him, judging him for protecting his secret at the expense of someone’s life. He’ll never be happy if he keeps moving from one shiny thing to the next, but maybe he’s cursed to do just that.

Bits and pieces:

  • The hallway to and from the portrait is lined with mirrors—a great, unspoken testament to Dorian’s vanity on the part of the set designers.
  • This week in Rusk’s investigation: He knows Sir Malcolm has something to hide, but Sir Malcolm won’t even admit to knowing Ethan. Rusk has to learn an investigative method that doesn’t rely on interrogation, because these people are never going to break.
  • “Whatever she promises you is a lie. Whatever I promise you is a lie, but you live longer with me.”
  • Who’s ready to watch Billie Piper bulldoze every man in her way? I AM.
  • “Shall we wander the pastures and recite your f—ing poetry to the f—ing cows?”
  • Anyone else hear a touch of an Irish accent in Lily when her rant turns to the subject of unwanted sex? Is there a bit of Brona in her still?
  • Eva Green deserved a week off. I hope she slept.

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