Mania Grade: B-
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- Episode: Demimonde (Season One Episode 4)
- Starring: Reeve Carney, Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Billie Piper, Josh Hartnett
- Written By: John Logan (creator), John Logan
- Directed By: Dearbhla Walsh
- Network: Showtime
- Studio: Desert Wolf Productions, Neal Street Productions
PENNY DREADFUL: Demimonde Review
A mesh fiction and non-fiction
By Jarrett Kruse
June 03, 2014
PENNY DREADFUL: Demimonde Review
Penny Dreadful continues down the wretched streets of Victorian England that are covered with blood. Seriously. There is blood everywhere in this show. I mean buckets of the red stuff coming out of people, rats, freaks—you name it. While I am not sold on the show at the halfway point of its maiden season, it is hard not to say that it has not been an interesting effort. While I am still fuzzy on just when this super-team of misfits will gel, things do seem to be coming together. It is most definitely a watchable show but it is tough to give it the high marks with so much being murky this far in to the first season.
The interlaced storyline is interesting to see as they mesh fiction and non-fiction into a blood soaked narrative. It is in a word, daring. If the story can pick up just a little more, it will match the amazing production design of the sets and locations on the show. Dorian Gray as played by Reeve Carney as like a Ziggy Stardust rock God of his time. He is a boot clad Bowie sauntering around London using his wealth on art, music and the flesh of both men and women. When he and Vanessa meet at the botanical gardens, it is a treat to see these professional flirts talking about flowers blooming when they are so obviously talking about sex. Dorian goes on about a rare orchid from Borneo that takes 15 years to bloom. Basically we are just waiting for these two get a room.
Dr. Frankenstein has enlisted the aid of an elderly professor colleague by the name of Van Helsing. Yes, the same Van Helsing that failed to become a franchise movie. Stoker’s Helsing is a nice tip of the cap to the classics and a grand gesture for the larger overall plot. When the two generations of medicine begin discussing the oddities of blood on a slide, Van Helsing begins to disclose that he knows of these matters intimately. It was a fun scene despite its sincerity but it was a nice passing of the torch for the two scientists. Dr. Frankenstein is still dealing with his first monster that is now the stagehand at the theater. However the monster wants a mate and threatens the doctor if his demands are not met. Rory Kinnear as the monster is quite convincing in his torment and immunity to death. He desperately wants to be accepted but knows that it is impossible even in these extreme circumstances.
We check in on that super freaky cat Fenton who is chained up in Sir Malcolm’s cell requiring blood. A lot, like now. For a guy that can’t be more than a buck twenty, Fenton packs a scary wallop. Its hard to explain but he is just something that would terrify anyone if he was to jump at you in full makeup. While they attempt to transfuse Fenton, Ethan refuses and Sir Malcolm volunteers his arm. I found it strange that the seasoned gunfighter refused and then it got me thinking about what we are dealing with. Could Ethan Chandler be a….werewolf? A Lycan? It would certainly make sense considering his waking up in strange places and the Ripper still killing whores. Or is it him killing said whores? Either way that’s a lot of whores.
When Ethan takes his prostitute/girlfriend Brona to the theater, she is dazzled by the spectacle. Brona is like a kid on their first trip to DisneyWorld. It is overwhelming for her; an orgiastic feast for the senses. While Ethan is used to being around stage and circus folk, Brona’s honest reaction is incredibly sweet. Despite suffering from consumption and being a prostitute, Ethan has a real nice catch in Brona. However after the show is over, Ethan & Brona collide with Vanessa and Dorian. When Dorian recognizes Brona as having done some work for him, she rescinds into the night embarrassed at her profession. Its sad really considering how she has a finally met a man that is not abusive. Ethan’s best efforts to reconcile on the street are rejected but Dorian Gray is there to swoop in. Dorian seems to dazzle Ethan with his highbrow manor and bravado. He too is taken in by the charms of Mr. Gray and they set off on the town together.
When Sir Malcolm and Dr. Frankenstein begin chatting, their seems to be a real father and son thing going on. Malcolm even makes the young doctor feel important and needed which is something he desperately wanted to hear. After a crashing sound, the men ascend upstairs to where Fenton has escaped only to run in to a full fledged demon that flies out the window. It moved fast and I had to go super-slow on my DVR. Fenton is killed during the ruckus but maybe this is a good lead for the group, to do an autopsy on the body I mean.
When Ethan and Dorian arrive at an underground game where a dog kills rats, Ethan again cannot take all the blood. The flashes in his mind of blood are overwhelming and he makes a beeline for the bar and a bottle of whiskey. It is no surprise that he gets in a brawl with three Englishmen. Dorian and Ethan are back at the former’s palatial pad when they begin to down the absinthe. The green liquid is flowing and soon Dorian and Ethan are ripping off each others clothes and going at it. Did not see that coming. I thought Vanessa was going to be Gray’s next notch on his bedpost.
Overall I am pleased with the episode but to me, there is no spare time on these hour long dramas. It feels like we get so wound up worrying about the second season before the first one is done. I do believe that PD will find its footing with the right crowd but it is still suffering from some growing pains. For some reason I keep thinking of the 80’s kitsch cult hit THE MONSTER SQUAD when I watch this show. I am waiting for these classic villains to appear and breathe more life into the main plot line.