Penny Dreadful: Closer Than Sisters Review -

Penny Dreadful Review

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  • Episode: Closer Than Sisters (Season 1, Episode 5)
  • Starring: Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Billie Piper, Timothy Dalton, Reeve Carney
  • Written By: John Logan (creator), John Logan
  • Directed By: Coky Giedroyc
  • Network: Showtime
  • Studio: Desert Wolf Productions, Neal Street Productions
  • Series:

Penny Dreadful: Closer Than Sisters Review

Somber and missing conversations

By Jarrett Kruse     June 09, 2014

Penny Dreadful: Closer Than Sisters Review
© Showtime

So PENNY DREADFUL scored a renewal order for a second season this week. While I think they are jumping the gun early, I am still not completely sold on the series. It has the pedigree and potential to be a big hit for SHOWTIME but there are still a lot of issues to address before moving on to a sophomore season in my opinion. I do think it was pretty interesting to give Ms. Vanessa Ives a detailed origin story that explains some of the things in the present and the current problems she is facing. The production design continues to excel with glorious looking sets and a foot firmly placed in Victorian England. Still I was pretty bummed that with only three episodes left that this particular episode starts the race to the finish of their rookie season.

We open in the present with Vanessa writing letters to the missing Mina, her best friend and confidant. Clearly by her prose she is somber and missing conversations with her dear friend. Vanessa writes profusely trying to rid herself of the guilt of the past. As the present becomes the past, Vanessa narrates her letter over flashback scenes of her childhood and young womanhood with Mina. While when they were children, Vanessa seemed to be the more outgoing and funone of the pair. When Sir Malcolm returns from an expedition, we are shown a warm and caring father that has love for his daughter but also young Vanessa. While it is nice to see Sir Malcolm happy as compared with his current state of obsession and craziness of finding Mina. I should note that as Vanessa walks through the maze of bushes, she witnesses her mother and Malcolm making love which intrigues her but keeps how it affected her to herself.

As we meet Malcolms son Peter, we know that he will not make it back from his planned journey with his father to Africa. Peter sees himself as a disappointment and someone that clearly is looking for acceptance and recognition on any level from Sir Malcolm. While Mina meets and prepares to marry a mustached military man, Vanessa narrates how jealous she was and how it should have been her. Her love for Mina is real but so is her hate. It is a complex dichotomy for the Vanessa character. With Minas wedding to be the next day after a rehearsal dinnerof sorts, Vanessa seduces her fiancee and gets it on with the groom in gratuitous fashion as Mina unwittingly walks in on them. It devastates Mina and puts a big rift between the two families from there on in. However the bond between the two girls still seems to be there somehow. Needless to say they called the wedding off.

After passing out on the grounds, Vanessa is now under the care of a doctor that does not seem to know what is wrong with the young woman. She gets worse and soon her parents have her committed to a womans asylum and we see just what hell Ms. Ives goes through. She is put in a straight jacket and is performed on in Medieval fashion to try to fix her. It culminates it her hair being methodically cut and head shaved so that the doctors can literally make a hole in her head. Must have been one hell of a co-pay for this procedure. After a strange scene where Vanessa flails in a sexual manner, her mother walks in on her naked daughter and dies on the spot. 

Now this is where I got a little confused. While attending the funeral of her mother, Vanessa walks on the beach and encounters Mina standing in the stand. She explains that she is now married to a lawyer and the two begin to talk about Peters death in Africa. After Mina discloses that Vanessa should have gone after Peter in the maze which was shown earlier. The rub is that Mina would not know of that conversation; there was no one else around. After Minas eyes go black and she talks about the master and begs to be saved from this ominous being. Just then she is, well it looked like being transported and she disappears. What did I miss?? What happened to Mina besides marrying? A little strange. However this is an opening for Malcolm and Vanessa to form a partnership to help Minawherever she is.

So that was pretty much the end and I was definitely a little perplexed to whether or not Mina is alive or dead. After Vanessa and Minas fiancee got it on, you dont see much of the latter for the rest of the episode. It was most definitely a very interesting character piece that explains a great deal about the lovely Ms. Ives. When we see her finish writing her letter to Mina, she puts it away into a box filled to the brim with correspondence. The episode was very good but I think it was a little early to be going into full episodes about just one character. Hopefully next week will be a mixed bag of new things for the rest of the cast. At least I hope so 


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TheSilentKiller 6/9/2014 2:05:27 PM

 I was thinking about last week's discussion. You guys are spot on - all signs point to Hartnett being a werewolf/wendigo. I am looking forward to the revelation. 

batkruse 6/9/2014 2:12:28 PM

Yeah I am hoping that this ragtag group forms a cool team over the next three episodes. After I heard that SHOWTIME picked up for a second season, I think they have a possible flagship show esp. since DEXTER is over. This has a good deal of blood too. I am hopeful for the future of the property.

blankczech 6/9/2014 4:55:20 PM

 This was my favorite episode.  I liked it more than last night's GoT and the Spurs / Heat game. I needed to know the connection between Vanessa Ives, Sir Malcolm Murray, and Mina Murray.  Eva Green was absolutely fantastic.  The realization of how easy it was in Victorian times to have a woman locked away and tortured  in a asylum  is truly frightening.  

Jarrett Kruse either missed one of the most important parts of this episode or forgot to write about it. When Vanessa is visited by the vision of Mina on the Beach (no she wasn't really there).  Mina tells Vanessa that she married a man name Johnathan Harker.  Now where have we heard the name Mina Murray Harker before (you may want to google her name).  When you remember / realize who Mina is you'll also know the Master,

batkruse 6/10/2014 10:38:50 AM

@blankczech How was Mina on the beach? When did she disappear and where did she go? The Harker thing relates to Stoker's Dracula right? I'm confused!

blankczech 6/10/2014 4:43:32 PM

 Mina was with Vanessa on the beach the same way Sir Malcolm was in Vanessa's bedroom (of course when Mom looked in there was just Vanessa there bouncing up and down naked on the bed alone).  If someone saw Ms Ives at the beach I'm sure they would have thought she was standing there talking to herself.  Let's not forget Vanessa's special gifts or is it a devil's curse...her take on things isn't quite the same as the average person's (remember her shocking performance at the seance?) I think much of this episode was based on Vanessa's letters...Bram Stoker's Dracula is told in a similar manner.  I suspected Dracula would eventually show up when they introduced us to Abraham Van Helsing.  I had forgotten the name of Jonathan Harker's wife in the book but when Mina said the name of her husband it came back to me, now I'm sure Drac is coming.  I hope they have a super cool guy to play the part, the Frankenstein monster was a bit of a disappointment visually (though the guy playing him is a talented actor).

Moz72 6/11/2014 12:12:17 PM

Jarret, you forgot to mention that Vanessa was possessed when her mother walked into the room. Vanessa wasn't just flailing sexually, she was getting it on with the Devil

ElBaz13 6/11/2014 8:32:20 PM

It's been pretty obvious Mina is the Mina Harker from Dracula from episode 1.


ElBaz13 6/11/2014 8:33:16 PM

Mina on the beach is the what's helping Vanessa see her. I believe it was in episode 3 that she saw her like that, begging for help.  So now, Drac wants Vanessa, no doubt because she is possessed by pure evil.

Hartnett is a werewolf. They are going with all classic monsters here. Frankenstein, Dracula and the Werewolf.

TheSilentKiller 6/12/2014 3:59:45 AM

 At first I assumed with Mina that they just lifts the name, as shitty fiction is wont to do, but they dropped the Jonathan Harker thing in a couple of episodes ago.

ElBaz13 6/12/2014 5:21:59 AM

I just put two and two together in episode 1 based on my knowledge of Dracula. When Sir Malcolm said his daughter was missing, then said she was named Mina. It all made sense because in Dracula, her maiden name is Mina Murray.

Jarrett, from what I understand, Vanessa seduced Mina's financee because it was the beginning of her possession. The scene right before, she is praying and says another voice answered.


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