“Do you believe the past can return?”
“More than that. It never leaves us. It is who we are.”
Horror simply is not as effective if all we’re seeing is cheap scare after cheap scare. Horror is ultimately empty if the people involved are not well-formed or compelling, and Penny Dreadful is a show that clearly understands the importance of character. It’s a show that hinges upon mood and character, and by zeroing in on what exactly makes it so intriguing, it has the ability to draw you in and never let go; that’s the mark of good horror, and even though you may not characterize it as “scary”, there’s no denying that it’s a gripping, suspenseful, and poignant series.
Much of its examination of character revolves around the past, around the painful histories that all these individuals would like to expel. Yet, it’s simply impossible to completely rid yourself of your demons, seeing as your identity is significantly shaped by the hardships you’ve faced. Acceptance is key at this point, acceptance of who you are and who you will always be. As is said early on in this season two premiere: “You can’t change what you are, no matter who you save or who you love.” The idea is expressed later on as well by Caliban: “What is Dr. Frankenstein without his creature?” And of course, the exchange I used to open the review aptly sums up this thematic idea.
As much as the show is about acceptance of yourself, it’s also about finding acceptance, about finding somewhere that you belong. We see it in “Fresh Hell” with Caliban at the Putney museum, and as always, Rory Kinnear does a marvelous job of making the character both sympathetic and complex; it’ll be interesting to see where his storyline with Lavinia will go from here. And speaking of great acting, one of the main draws for this show is the brilliant cast: just one look from Timothy Dalton can convey so much, Josh Hartnett looks to be getting meatier stuff to bite into–now that his character’s werewolf secret is out–and Eva Green continues to blow almost everyone else on TV out of the water.
In particular, the developing Eva Green vs. Helen McCrory scene-chewing competition is something that I’m extremely excited for. Madame Kali looks to be a formidable and delightfully creepy presence, and the introduction of her coven already puts a whole season of American Horror Story to shame. The best scene of the episode is the one that closes out the hour, as we see Vanessa and Madame Kali locked in an intense, Master-induced trance of sorts. It’s a brilliant scene, and it’s only an indication of what’s to come. Bring it on, Penny Dreadful.
-The bloodbath scene. Man.
-The visuals of the show continue to be gorgeous.
-In terms of horror series on right now, this is my favorite. AHS has been pretty mediocre, The Strain was just alright, and I haven’t yet seen Bates Motel.
-I probably won’t be covering this season regularly–Mad Men has a few more weeks, I might cover a few more Game of Thrones episodes, and I might put together some thoughts on Veep and Silicon Valley–but I’ll definitely check in at some point…especially if there’s another Eva Green masterpiece like “Possession”.
Photo credit: Penny Dreadful, Showtime