It’s not exactly subtle, but one of the key takeaways from Penny Dreadful is that monsters aren’t always monstrous and that the dividing lines between good and evil aren’t so much lines as they are porous borders that offer you little resistance as you walk back and forth from one side to the other. Every week, characters struggle with their inner-darkness, struggle against it, and try to prove to themselves more than anyone that they are not evil creatures meant to be shunned by society. For two main characters this week, finding that proof meant diving back into memories that they didn’t know they had, and it meant revealing something of a stunning new connection between the two.
First of all, thanks to John Logan for benching Frankenstein and Jekyll for the most part this week. I do find Jekyll’s work, using his serum to treat the mentally insane, to be an interesting in to the character, but Logan couldn’t let even one scene with the character go by without jackhammering in a Mr. Hyde reference. And since when did Frankenstein get so cool. It seems like last week he was still a mess of an addict despite the renewed spirits in working with Jekyll, but here he was this week telling Jekyll to relax. Not to mention being all gangsta telling Jekyll that he can solve what he couldn’t and being kind of a dick about it. “You’ve were always myopic when it comes to your discipline,” Frankenstein tells him.
In more compelling Frankenstein news, the Creature returns to London this week, armed with more insight into his previous life. He discovers his old apartment, and then he manages to find his family, including his sickly son, in a tenement near the mill. Of course, we presume that the current circumstances of the former Mrs. Creature and Creature Jr. are because of the Creature’s untimely death (and subsequent harvesting by Frankenstein), but we haven’t gotten into those details yet. Instead, we see that the Creature is racked with feelings of guilt, he’s unable to help the family he’s lost.
This is were the talents of Rory Kinnear come into play. The Creature turns to crime, robbing a wealthy man for his money and a fancy watch, and while one can’t doubt the Creature’s power or his menace, there’s such a look of shame and desperation on Kinnear’s face after the Creature breaks the law. For too long, the Creature has been the victim – Remember when the owner of the wax museum tried to capture him and force him to be a part of his sideshow? – but here he was being the victimizer, and it stung him more than any of the indignities visited upon him. Still, there was then elation for the Creature in being able to do some small bit for his family, even if he doesn’t yet know the full story. And how long does he intend to watch them from the attic?
Another nice moment for the Creature, and for Kinnear, is when he sees Vanessa at the street fair and Dr. Sweet appears to meet her. Although the Creature is at first disappointed that he couldn’t reconnect with an old friend, he’s also pleased that she’s met someone and seems to be happy. Of course, this is Vanessa, and happiness is always short-lived, so when she goes into a hall of mirrors and is accosted by the vampire “Eraserhead” she’s suddenly confronted again with the fact that she feels like she’s tainted. Little does she know that the night didn’t go according to how Dr. Sweet planned either.
We got to see Christian Camargo in full Dracula mode this week, and admittedly I can keep the both sides of his personality in mind while seeing him on screen. Yes, he is the prince of darkness, but he’s also the perfectly named Dr. Sweet, a mild-mannered zoologist that’s getting a new taste for living following the death of his wife (?) one year earlier. That should be an interesting story, but as for his courtship with Vanessa it’s clear that unlike the romantic overtures of the Devil, Dracula doesn’t want to drive his bride into a paranoid frightened mess before claiming her. He’s trying to woo her. Hence, Dracula feeding Eraserhead to the rest of his brood.
As for Vanessa, the chance encounter with Eraserhead lead to a reveal she had no memory of, a previous meeting with Dracula during her insane asylum days. Dr. Seward keeps dishing the hard medicine, it seems that despite last week’s confessional she doesn’t believe Vanessa so much as believe that she believes, which made Vanessa fairly adversarial towards Seward. Like Frankenstein, Vanessa has seemed to overcome her depression of the first couple of episodes to be the petulant one quite suddenly, but we learn something at the end of the episode that may it quite worth it: Vanessa had met the Creature before his death and rebirth. He was orderly at the asylum. Still, I’d hate to think that this is leading to Vanessa being in someway responsible for the death of the Creature. That seems rather obvious.
Less obvious though is where Lily’s story is going. Her education of Justine, the unfortunate that Lily and Dorian rescued from the slaughterhouse, continued but it was unclear whether Lily is plotting actual war against the men of the world or whether it’s something a little more subtle that she’s going after. It was interesting juxtaposing Lily’s plotting with protesting suffragettes getting attacked by the police; “our enemies are the same, but they seek equality,” Lily said implying that she seeks domination, “by craft, by stealth, and by poison.” How long this will all take though is an interesting conundrum, because if every new recruit has to go through a gauntlet of murder of blood-soaked threesomes this may take a while.
Before wrapping up, let’s take a minute to appreciate how well shot the Old West scenes are. The landscape, the sunshine, it’s all beautiful, and has become quite the contrast between them and the London scenes. As for poor Mr. Chandler, Inspector Rusk is hot on his trail, and his only help is Hecate who seems all too willing to kill anyone, even the innocent, if it means getting between her and the “wolf of God.” Is there something else going on with Rusk? He seemed to be enjoying the pursuit a little too much tonight even though as a Scotland Yard man he remains unarmed in the American West. Kudos though go to Sir Malcolm and Kaetenay for catching up so fast, and another kudos go to Sir Malcolm for smacking down two racist cowboys without ever drawing a gun.
Next week it looks like it’s time for another Vanessa Ives flashback, which is almost a standard every season for the show and a chance for Eva Green to put on a clinic acting-wise speaking. I would hate to think that Vanessa’s hypnotic regression reveals Dr. Sweet’s ruse too fast because that cat and mouse game is one of the most compelling developments this season, and seeing Camargo play both the charming Sweet and the scary Dracula is the show’s real, and more fascinating, Jekyll and Hyde act.