Penny Dreadful / Screen

Penny Dreadful: “Above the Vaulted Sky”

I guess this episode could count as the most exciting one of the season so far. Not much in the way of the Nightcomers vs. Heroes happens, but lots of people have sex, and that’s enough sometimes. 

First on the agenda are Ethan and Vanessa. They don’t actually have sex this episode. They don’t even kiss. There’s just some face touching and meaningful looks. Penny Dreadful does romance terribly, if Ethan and Brona are any indication. And Victor and Lily aren’t doing them any favors either, but we’ll get there later.  Ethan and Vanessa at least have the benefit of us having seen them grow closer to one another. Vanessa’s confided in him about her fears and her past, which is a lot for a person as guarded as Vanessa, and though Ethan’s been careful not to tell anyone about his wolfy nature, Vanessa’s likely to be the first to find out. The first season looked like it may have been moving in the  direction  of Ethan/ Vanessa before Brona appeared, and now it seems to be preparing to follow through, though how it’ll manage when Ethan finds out about Brona/Lily we can only guess.

Victor and Lily are still gross for a lot of reasons, all rooted in Victor being trash. It’s hard to feel romantically invested in the relationship when I just keep wanting Lily to run away. The last episode had Brona musing over gender roles in Victorian society, which was weird enough given the show’s poor reputation in those matters, a reputation it seems determined to maintain with Lily. It’s impossible to separate how she got there with where she is. Did Victor give her a better life by killing her and bringing her back?  That’s debatable I suppose, especially when making Brona’s life better was far from Victor’s intention when he smothered her with that pillow. And now he’s in love with her, listening anxiously as The Creature tries to convince her they were once in love, the two eventually having sex as a thunderstorm rages outside.

I’m mainly annoyed that the show pretends that Vanessa’s never met Brona before. Because she did meet her, and Vanessa isn’t a dummy and she doesn’t strike me as the type with a short memory either (not with those two flashback episode from her point of view!). But whether the show is pretending that Brona and Vanessa never met, and Vanessa wouldn’t be at all curious about how Brona’s now Lily and apparently Victor’s cousin or if it just forgot, we’ll have to wait and see. But if it did forget, which wouldn’t surprise me given the show’s other issues, I’d be very disappointed.

Also doing the do are Angelique and Dorian, who manage to have the most genuinely sweet scenes of the episode. Out and about, Angelique is spit on by some asshole and when they return to Dorian’s, she dresses herself in male  clothes and resigns herself to being normal in order to protect herself. Dorian’s surprise that she chooses to do this is surprising to me, but then again Dorian has the privilege of not only being wealthy and admired but also able to hide his differences in a painting we haven’t even seen yet. That Angelique gets to call him out on this is a highlight of the episode, and Dorian telling her he cares for her and not just what she wears was the kind of uncreepy sweetness that doesn’t make its way into this show very often.

But because things have to be kind of creepy, we have Malcolm and Evelyn going at it, Malcolm apparently driven into a sexual frenzy  by Evelyn’s magic. What Evelyn wants from Malcolm is unknown at this point. We can assume she’s trying to whittle down Vanessa’s protection, just like Hecate made such an attempt last week, but why do they even need to to that? Neither Malcolm nor Ethan was much of a threat in the attack, and Malcolm doesn’t have Ethan’s lupus dai thing going on either. And when Evelyn has Vanessa’s hair and has sewn it into a doll, what exactly is the point of doing anything else? The dolls are obviously pretty effective, if Mrs. Harker’s madness and subsequent suicide, are any indication. These questions aren’t compelling so much as irritating, as if the show’s ignoring logic just to give itself something to do. For a main arc, it’s surprisingly unmoored. Even Victor’s back and forth with the Creature, and now his and Lily’s relationship, has something more concrete behind it.  But like last season’s unspecific Dracula/Mina story, this season’s big bads just seem like a collection of creepy images and mythology.


Stray Observations

  • “Let me tell you for I was there.” Okay, Creature, whatever no you weren’t. It’s kind of sad how he makes up this whole story about him and Lily being ridiculed by the public because of her superior attractiveness and her loving him anyway. It’s even sadder that he’s so set on making her believe it as if it really did happen.
  • The Creature really just does not know how to act, but he’s so decent when he’s around Vanessa it’s tragic when it goes away whenever he meets someone else.
  • In the last episode Lily made a speech about how women do everything for me but then she was telling the Creature how much she liked the dress because Victor picked it out. That can go both ways I suppose, maybe she just likes it because Victor, who she cares about, gave it to her. Or maybe this show sucks. We’ll have to wait and see.
  • You all can follow Channel Chelsea on Twitter now where I will be tweeting shows as I watch. The ones I write official reviews for probably won’t be covered very often but the shows I don’t will be. It’s a new thing I’m trying. Bear with me.

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