[Review] - Penny Dreadful, Season 1 Episode 6, "What Death Can Join Together"

Courtesy of Neal Street Productions
After last week's sojourn to the past, this episode picks up the morning after the events of episode four. Despite a sighting of the elusive Master and some steep emotional events having occurred, this episode began with a slight reprieve for everyone. Some down time to devote to study, be it to corpses, ship manifests, or the allure of a stranger. But by episode's end, they were all battered and bloodied and for every step forward their mission seems to take, they are forced to take two steps back by distraction. With only two episodes to go this season, there is certainly no sign that things will be waning again anytime soon.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that miss the facts, but found the truth.

I'm more than a little disappointed in how Logan ultimately decided to use the character of Van Helsing. I had hopes, two episodes ago when he was introduced, that this might be a new design on a very over used character, and casting David Warner was a master stroke. However, all Logan seemed fit to use him for was the standard information dump on vampires, same as nearly every other adaptation of the character, including the original. In fact, the only truly original thing Logan did do with the character was kill him, which was shocking, but limiting. Of course, by Logan's own design he has crafted his Frankenstein to be a loner, which makes Caliban's need to terrorise him that much more difficult from a writing perspective. Still and all, I wished for something better from the elder vampire hunter.

Speaking of which, the "v" word was uttered for the first time here. The moon-risen "w" word has yet to make an appearance, and the brutal, primitive, animialistic version of the vampire has yet to be named, but the creature has been established. And did so in a way that wonderfully skirts the line between fiction and reality. Van Helsing uses the penny dreadful Varney the Vampire to illustrate his hypothesis to Frankenstein. Varney was a real tale, consider the first "modern" vampire, and a direct influence on Stoker's Dracula. If you know anything about vampires, it probably originated in Varney. Not to be outdone, Frankenstein quotes Shelley. Aside from instances of Sherlock Holmes interacting with Conan Doyle, I can think of no other such bold instance of creation calling upon creator (or, step-creator, in this case). Personally, as the world of Penny Dreadful is allowed to expand in season two, I'd like to see more of this sort of thing. At a time when the likes of Jules Verne and Doyle were active, their potential involvement alongside their own creations is a fun prospect, if handled deftly and seriously.

Now that we are aware of their backstory, the hints of a mournful father-daughter relationship between Sir Malcolm and Ives is all the more sad. Made doubly so by the fact that her feelings are genuine, and his are almost certainly and entirely a facade. She is his means to an end, the retrieval of Mina. Sembene warns that not everyone can be saved, and last week Ives claimed better ready to kill Mina should she need to, but only Sir Malcolm has shown himself willing to sacrifice any and everyone to meet his goal. Ives is bait, Chandler a hired gun. Even Sembene, with whom he has the longest relationship and connection, seems disposable. There are hints of Malcolm's morality, like when he offered to put Croft up in a private sanitarium, but I feel like that was less the product of compassion, and more of winning Chandler's continued support.

Ives meanwhile, is smitten with Dorian Gray. I've not been persuaded from my opinion that Gray is there only to serve as a distraction to each member of the team, and apparently in turn. For his part, he is drawn to Ives because he senses in her a kindred spirit. Someone who has allowed a piece of their soul to flee, and had the space filled by the unquenchable. Gray has embraced it, and it has left him cold, distant, and pure. Ives fears letting go, because she knows that there is already something inside her willing to fill in the void once she herself goes. And that is exactly what happens when she allows herself to slip. By episode's end, Ives is gone and replaced by the demon that we glimpsed last week. I suspect that Gray's interests area all the more peaked now, because the look on his face as Ives bounded off, freshly possessed, was one of a man having felt something, the first something in a long time.

Heading into the final two episodes, the characters have all seemed to come to a place of desperation and loss. Frankenstein has been reminded of his promise in a brutal way, and Caliban can no longer stomach his isolation. Gray's comments about seeking out an equal, about uniqueness taking second place to loneliness is pretty much the entire imputis behind Caliban's story. Ives has been hijacked, Chandler has to watch his unexpected love die. And Malcolm came within a hair's breadth of saving Mina, only to have opportunity snatched from his grasp. The trail was never so hot, and now has never been so cold. The characters are going into next week in their worst conditions yet.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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