TV Recap/Review: Penny Dreadful – Glorious Horrors – S02 E06

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@HellingsOnFilm finds this episode of Penny Dreadful a marked improvement…


A maid finds the dead body of Sir Malcolm’s estranged wife Gladys, throat cut, after her Madame Kali induced suicide last week.

Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) awakes to see Lily (Billie Piper) making breakfast after their night of lovemaking and there is a rare sense of happiness in the doctor that they have united.

At the hotel, Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) sleeps (exhausted after his session last week, no doubt); unaware of Madame Kali (Helen McCrory) cutting off a lock of his hair (never a good sign when witches are involved).

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At Dorian Gray’s (Reeve Carney), he announces to Angelique (Jonny Beauchamp) that he’s going to throw a ball for anybody who’s anybody, a proper ‘coming out’ for his current love interest.

At Sir Malcolm’s, the man himself arrives home to find Vanessa (Eva Green), Ethan (Josh Hartnett) and Sembene (Danny Sapani) waiting with the tragic news of Glady’s suicide. Sir Malcolm seems more concerned that he will have to get the bedroom carpet at Gladys’ house replaced due to the blood. Upstairs, still unaffected by the news, he changes clothes, the bloody mark on the back of his neck clearly present. At Madame Kali’s, she adds the lock of Sir Malcolm’s hair to a mannequin in his appearance and makes its heart beat, before kissing its lips.

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At the Putney’s waxworks, Lavinia (Tamsin Topolski) is working on a model as The Creature (Rory Kinnear) watches. She takes his hand, frightened by how cold it is, how ‘without life’. The Creature is aware that he is hiding the truth, but avoids the truth as Mr. Putney (David Haig) enters the room, announcing that there will be a new exhibit in the basement, but not saying what it will be. He and The Creature depart, leaving a still worried Angelique alone.

At Sir Malcolm’s, Ethan, Vanessa and Sembene are concerned at Sir Malcolm’s seeming lack of concern at the news of Gladys’ death. Sembene gets it right when he observes of Sir Malcolm: “This is not him”. Ethan has an unwelcome visitor: Warren Roper (Stephen Lord). The Pinkerton detective makes it clear that Ethan is to return to America or the rest of the household, including Vanessa, will receive a nighttime visit from Roper.

At the Putney’s dinner table, Lavinia tells her father and mother (Octavia, played by Ruth Gemmell) that: “there’s something wrong with Mr. Clare” (a nominee for understatement of the century if she could see The Creature). “It’s like he’s not really alive”. A statement that proves most interesting to Mr. Putney.

At Sir Malcolm’s, the examination of the relics from the British Museum continues (it is something of a part time event, so it’s not surprising that it’s dragging on). Vanessa and Victor work to decipher the meanings, but the work stops when Vanessa mentions a man called Mr. Clare that she’s met, much to Victor’s immediate unease, his mood only lightening at the discussion about Lily and how the situation has ‘complications’, but he is genuinely happy. Dorian Gray arrives (finally he gets to interact with the rest of the main cast!), bearing invites to his ball. After an uneasy interchange with Vanessa, he is gone again. Vanessa takes Sir Malcolm’s invitation up to his room and becomes even more concerned when he is only concerned about getting rid of his beard rather than his late wife. But, he’s more than happy to go to the ball, and it’s Evelyn Poole (aka Madame Kali) who will be his escort.

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Meanwhile, said Madame Kali is in discussion with her spy Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale). It’s the first time we’re supposed to be sympathetic towards her as she says that she didn’t turn from God, he turned from her (oh, that’s alright then). In return for her actions, the Devil will give her immortality. “Such a sad prize, isn’t it?” She says. It’s the best scene she’s been given all season.

Victor returns home to find Lily making Shepherd’s Pie (a useful skill for a reanimated corpse). Victor has the news of the ball. Despite her concerns that she’ll embarrass him, Victor agrees that they will attend.

At Putney’s waxworks, the first day of the new show has arrived. Ethan is studying the Mariner’s Inn tragedy depiction. As is the dogged Inspector Rusk (Douglas Hodge), who informs Ethan that he knows he is responsible for the deaths at the Inn and will prove it. Ethan leaves, a man struggling with his conscience and the sense that he is being hunted.

At Sir Malcolm’s, Ethan returns to receive an invitation from Vanessa to be her escort to Dorian’s ball on Friday evening. To her disappointment, he says no. Friday he’s unavailable and we’ll soon discover why.

Come the night of the ball, the guests arrive, including Ferdinand Lyle, and also Hecate Poole (Sarah Greene) who is there with her own agenda. Dorian and Angelique make the grand entrance and dance, happiness within the two. Victor and Lily arrive. She has the sense of having being in the room before (Brona’s memory). There is an exchange of recognition between Dorian and Lily before they dance, much to Victor’s unease. Dorian senses that she and Lily perhaps knew each other before. They are drawn to each other. Victor watches, his lack of confidence growing.

At Sir Malcolm’s, a worried Ethan asks Sembene to help him “with something”. A ‘something’ Sembene has the impression will not be light in nature.

At Dorian’s Ball, Vanessa arrives, watched by Hecate and Lyle. Miss Ives meets Victor and Angelique, neither at ease at the fast bonding between Dorian and Lily. A now shaved Sir Malcolm arrives with Evelyn Poole. Vanessa attempts without success to reassure Victor regarding Lily, before Miss Ives senses something in the room. It is the arrival of an upbeat Sir Malcolm and Mrs. Poole (the latter clearly not to Vanessa’s liking). Miss Ives warns Evelyn that she is a friend of Sir Malcolm’s and has noted the change in him since he became acquainted with Evelyn. It’s nicely played as the two enemies finally come face to face. Across the room, Hecate and her two sisters watch darkly.

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At Sir Malcolm’s: Sembene and Ethan go to the basement, where Ethan is chained.

At the ball, Victor castigates Lily for embarrassing him. Mr. Lyle converses with Miss Ives, before he nervously notes the presence of Hecate and her sisters. He insists on seeing Vanessa home as the ‘stakes are too high’. As Vanessa prepares to say her goodbyes, she sees Hecate and her sisters moving threateningly towards her. Vanessa feels dizzy, seeing blood raining down upon the room and the guests (an excellently staged scene) before she faints.

In the basement at Sir Malcolm’s, much to Sembene’s shock, Ethan transforms into a werewolf.

Glorious Horrors was a marked improvement upon last week’s episode. Dorian came into play with the other characters; Sir Malcolm is in real danger; Ethan’s own problems are coming to the fore; Victor’s creation of Lily is already bringing problems he didn’t expect; Madame Kali’s plans are coming together; The Creature’s attempts to fit in are slowly becoming of suspicion; and Vanessa is becoming aware of the growing forces that threaten them all.

The episode showed that when done right, it’s a very watchable series. The characters had room to breathe and the slow build up throughout the series is slowly starting to entwine the various plot threads. Dorian’s interaction with the others has been long awaited this season. Next week will surely up the ante and tighten the screw on our heroes.

David Paul Hellings

Twitter: @HellingsOnFilm

Images provided by author

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