Penny Dreadful S1E4, “Demimonde”

Penny Dreadful - London

Look.  We all knew it was only a matter of time before an episode opened with a Dorian Gray orgy.  And it didn’t disappoint.  You know what they say: ain’t no orgy like a Dorian Gray orgy cuz a Dorian Gray orgy don’t stop.
Except, eventually it does, and Dorian is able to grab a drink and head down to take a look at his portrait.  We don’t see it, but I can imagine what it looks like at this point.

Beats New York in the 80s
Beats New York in the 80s

After witnessing Dorian looking vaguely bored at all the carnal delights laid out in front of him, we see Vanessa Ives, hanging out on a bench outside of a church.  A little girl by the name of Lucy (Westenra?) comes up to have a chat with her.  It’s a sweet little scene, and we get a chance to see Eva Green play Vanessa as something other than an aloof mystic.  She smiles.  She laughs.  She seems to be enjoying the company of this little girl who has recently lost her mother.
Until little Lucy drops this line: “We put mother under the ground, but I don’t think she’ll stay there.  They never stay, do they?”  Lucy was speaking of Heaven (or Hell.  Lucy can’t judge the eternal soul of her mother, and my views on the matter will have to wait for a larger space), but Vanessa immediately thought of the undead creatures she finds herself at war with.  A sweet scene turned mysterious in an instant.  It’s the Vanessa Ives way.

We got a chance to see Frankenstein (of steady hand) and Van Helsing (of steady heart) working side-by-side.  Their time together is cut short when Caliban appears, once more demanding a mate.  Apparently immortals can be every bit as impatient as mortals.  When Caliban demands a beautiful bride, Frankenstein replies sarcastically with “To match its mate?”  I expected Frankenstein to give himself a high-five after that comeback.  Although throwing shade at an undead creature of your own creation probably isn’t the best idea.  Caliban is strong and has a bit of an anger issue.  In the future, it would be smart to keep your quips to yourself, Doctor.

Fenton (aka Renfield) is still chained up at Malcolm Murray’s house.  The gang tries to cure him with a blood transfusion, but it doesn’t take.
This was an interesting scene.  Frankenstein initially asks Ethan for some of his blood, but Ethan refuses.  “Trust me, you don’t want [my blood].”  Is it because he doesn’t want his werewolf blood inside of an already deranged man?  We don’t have a definitive take on the matter, but I’ll give it a wholehearted “yes”.

Not long afterwards, Ethan leaves, disgusted with their treatment of Fenton.  On his way out, he asks Vanessa, “How far do we go?”  But he has his answer before Vanessa even opens her mouth.  In the previous episode, Malcolm said, “Pledge to go as far as your soul will allow.”  Is Ethan trying to atone for the darkness in his past (as well as his Ripperwolf present) by distancing himself from this?  Is this a last-ditch effort to save his soul?

Fenton eventually escapes the only way he knows how: by gnawing at his wrists until he can slip out of his shackles.  Free (and full on his own wrist meat), Fenton roams about house on all fours, quiet as a recently devoured cat (his appetite is insatiable).  As it turns out, Fenton isn’t the only creature stalking the house that night.  A vampire (Dracula?) shows up, and immediately retreats.
He escapes, but Fenton does not, and is eventually killed by having his head jammed onto a piece of glass.  His final word – “Mother?” – was absolutely devastating.
I’m going to miss Fenton.  He was played by Olly Alexander, who did a terrific job.  His portrayal of Renfield was right up there with Tom Waits in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

PD - Fenton

Ethan takes Brona out to the Grand Guinol theater to watch a werewolf play called “The Transformed Man.”  I loved Billie Piper in this scene.  She was full of wonder and excitement.  Her happiness was infectious, and I found myself smiling every time she was on the screen.

19th century prom pic
19th century prom pic

It didn’t last long, though.  They ran into Vanessa and Dorian (“Didn’t you recently cough up blood on me in the throes of passion?”) after the play.  Brona felt out of place, left quickly, and ended up curled up on the side of the road, coughing up blood while people stepped past her without a glance.  It was heartbreaking.

Ethan was upset, so he dealt with it as best as he knew how: by hitting the town with his new buddy Dorian.  Watching dogs kill rats in an underground club.  Getting in fights.  Drinking lots of absinthe.  And eventually making out while listening to Wagner.  All-in-all, a pretty good first date.  I wanted it to be a medley set to Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True,” but, unlike Dorian, we can’t all get what we want.

Oh, the things Dorian could do with these fellas
Oh, the things Dorian could do with these fellas

I really liked this episode.  Still, I can’t shake the feeling that we’re now halfway through the season and seem to be stuck in the beginning of the story.  We’re piling up more questions than answers.  They need to start answering some of those questions soon, lest the last couple episodes be filled with nothing but answers.

There are a few reasons I love this show.  The set design is a big one, but the language is at the top of the list.  It’s a beautifully written show.  My notes for each episode include quite a few quotes, but I can’t fit them all in.  It’s poetic without feeling pretentious.  I love it dearly, and can’t believe there are only 4 episodes left.

Your line to work into casual conversation this week: “We can lose every battle except the last.”  Pretty sure I said that at work today.