Episode 302: “Predators Far and Near”
Written by John Logan
Director: Damon Thomas
“Please don’t come here again. You will not like what I’m becoming.”
The second installment of season 3 starts off with the wondrous depravity of Lily (Billie Piper) and Dorian Grey (Reeve Carney). I’m sure that I’m not the only person who noticed their absence from the premiere and was slightly disappointed. The last time we saw them they were dancing gaily in their white tuxedo and ballgown as the blood poured from bullet holes in their chests. I couldn’t wait to see what the delightfully morbid couple were going to do next and I must say, their first appearance this season was well worth waiting for.
Last season Dorian and Lily’s story had been much more subtle, almost outside the intensity of the story, that consumed the remainder of our players. Theirs was an experiment in immortality, the conclusion, of which, has yet to be seen. Watching Lily traverse choices that brought her to that final moment with Victor (Harry Treadaway) in the ballroom was fascinating. Billie Piper took Lily through such an emotional and manipulative evolution, reminding us exactly how talented she is. Mr. Carney tempted her along this journey with perfectly placid amusement.
Our story starts in those same streets in which we watched Renfield be so violently spirited away. This time, however, we’re given an aerial shot instead of Renfield’s urgent shuffle. With a wider view of the marketplace, we can make out the Chinese characters on the paper lanterns, that illuminate the stalls and pedestrians. A lone cab parts the foot traffic before turning down a narrow lane and stopping. An expensively adorned hand reaches out from the curtains and is followed by Dorian Grey who turns to give the same hand to Lily as she steps down from the cab.
A brief glance between Lily and Dorian gives us the impression they are up to something unwholesome and find it slightly amusing. A few steps from the cab they step into a poster covered alcove and knock on a door.
Next, they’re in a basement, where their guide is telling them that what they’re paying for is illegal and there will be butchery. Has Dorian and Lily’s attitude toward humanity sunk so much lower since we last saw them that they’re attending a snuff show in a dirt floored basement? Perhaps it’s unfair to suggest that they are any more depraved than the tuxedo aristocrats who occupy the several other wooden chairs.
A tiny girl, naked and blindfolded, is brought to the center of the assembled audience, where a hooded man awaits in front of multiple racks of torture devices. The men lean forward in their seats, smirking and glaring at the elf-like body of the nude victim in front of them. The masked man strips off her blindfold and drags her around the audience by the hair before turning her to face him and encircling her throat with his hand. This is the first clear look we get of her face, her eyes appear timid at first glance but if you look a little deeper you can see the repressed hatred and rebellion barely hidden by the surface. Just as you catch a glimpse of that danger she spits in the masked man’s face. Lily and Dorian share an amused glance; they appear to be expecting a very good show.
The masked man strikes the girl to the ground and walks over to his tools, where he selects a riding crop. He raises it above his head, ready to bring it down across the girl’s back with all the force of his body. The men who paid for the show are watching with perverse hunger, licking their lips through malicious grins.
As the masked man begins his downswing, Dorian stands and puts a bullet in the man’s chest as Lily stabs the voyeur sitting beside her. The whole room erupts in a lovely bit of carnage, while the two go about slashing, stabbing and shooting everyone in the room. When they’re finished, Lily kneels down beside the girl and in a voice overflowing with euphoria claims the girl as hers.
This is our first introduction to Justine, played by the talented and enchanting Jessica Barden. Her eyes as Justine are mesmerizing and I’m not talking about the shade of them. She seems to layer so many emotions with her eyes alone. Each time she was on screen in this episode, I was transfixed by her performance.
Justine is awakened the next morning by distant music. She appears disoriented by the strange house and the luxurious night clothes she’s wearing. She follows music down a grand staircase and discovers Dorian and Lily dancing in the ballroom. She steps into the ballroom with timidity and wonder, yet, underneath, we can see anger and distrust. When she curtly refuses Lily’s invitation to sit, the camera switches to a wider shot and we see just how tiny this fierce woman is.
Lily and Dorian reveal that they plan to kill a lot more like those from the previous night, monsters who parade themselves as men, and they want Justine to join them.
This scene is so masterfully done, from the production to the acting. Everyone involved created something that is seething with so many different emotions. Carney and Piper have been magnificent together; however, the chemistry between these three actors is palpable and I can’t wait to see their story progress.
“We shall have, my dear, a monumental revenge.”
Marshall Franklin Ostow (Sean Glider) doesn’t much like photographs being taken of the corpses of his men, or being talked back to by Scotland Yard inspectors, but that is going to be his day today. Inspector Bartholomew Rusk (Douglas Hodge) is more than just a little perturbed that the US Marshals lost Ethan Chandler/Talbot (Josh Hartnett) when he stepped away for tea. We see the two meet in the La Alameda Sheriff’s office.
Inspector Rusk does not let his handicap diminish his confidence in any way, to the chagrin of Marshall Ostow. When Ostow tries telling Rusk to head back to London, Rusk’s refusal puts the US Marshal quite neatly in his place. The Inspector even shows Ostow the courtesy of sharing that he’s already figured out where Ethan is heading. Home, of course, it’s elementary.
So far, we’ve seen that Rusk has a tenacity to his investigation technique and indomitable patience. In this scene we get to watch Mr. Hodge put some steel into Inspector Rusk we haven’t yet witnessed. He does not disappoint.
Hecate Poole (Sarah Greene) has been sitting outside the sheriff’s office listening in on the two lawmen’s conversation, presumably to get to Ethan before they do.
We find Sir Malcolm and Kaetenay on a ship bound for the Americas. Even though Sir Malcolm is a seasoned traveler, it seems he’s never quite gotten used to ships. Once Sir Malcolm has stumbled through the pitching ship to his chair, Kaetenay begins setting up a ritual that includes several stones and a smoking pipe.
“Hunting a man is no great thing, they’re slow and predictable.”
While Kaetenay is setting up the ritual, we learn that Ethan at one time slaughtered many of Kaetenay’s people. Following the massacre, Ethan came to Kaetenay and begged him to kill him. Through the next few moments, we get a brilliantly written comparison of the similarities between love and hate, emotions that evoke the same extremes of passion.
“Have you ever hated a man so much you wanted him to suffer alongside you for all his days, so you could watch it? Such was the anger for what they had done to you and your family?”
What follows next is a scene that reminds us we’re not as close to understanding Ethan as we thought. When Kaetenay contacts Ethan in the dream world, Ethan’s first reaction is to attempt to kill him. Their conversation brings more mystery to this story line than it explains.
My theory, since Kaetenay and Sir Malcolm sat down for a drink, has been that Kaetenay was the one who first bit/clawed Ethan and cursed him with his affliction. While I can’t say that’s not what is going on, this scene has me question that theory and wonder what revelations are coming.
“In time, we stopped wounding each other. The anger became something else, equally powerful.”
-Sir Malcolm Murray
In the real world, Ethan’s captors have dragged him, shackled, into town on their supply run. This seems a little odd to me. Fortunately, we get a very nice exchange between the chained Ethan and the Old Native American woman (Tantoo Cardinal). It’s a very intimate moment, in which we learn that she is one of Kaetenay’s family and the “others” have gone off to the reservations or are gone. Other werewolves — or perhaps Kaetenay and these “others” — visited a curse upon him as retribution for the slaughter of their people. I say this because it would fit neatly into an old Dime Western, the American counterpart to the Victorian Penny Dreadful, and Ethan’s story seems to be moving along that parallel.
As the clouds covering the full moon are blown away, Ethan asks the woman to leave immediately. Once the woman is out of the trading post Ethan begins to change. In an instant, he’s broken his chains and is ripping people’s throats out. Scarman (Cokey Falkow) is far enough away from the origin of the carnage to draw his gun and take aim at the transformed Ethan. Unfortunately for him, when he cocks back the hammer, Hecate in full witch form appears behind him and breaks his arm before throwing him through the bar. Next, she snaps the neck of the establishment’s proprietor before coming face to face with our favorite werewolf. She seems to have some kind of control over Ethan in this form because he does not attack her.
We find Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) and Dr. Henry Jekyll (Shazad Latif) having breakfast in a tea room. Here we get a little backstory on Dr. Jekyll, and we learn where the rage Victor spoke of in the previous episode has its roots. It seems that Henry’s father is a landed and titled man, and Henry stands to inherit all when he dies. However, it isn’t the title and money that makes Henry eager for his father’s early demise, it is vengeance. Vengeance, for discarding Henry’s mother when he was done with her, leaving her labeled an Untouchable in a caste society, shunned, even by her own family. As Jekyll explains how his mother died of leprosy, we are given a glimpse of the calm rage inside of him. Just as we all couldn’t wait to catch a glimpse of Dorian’s portrait, I think we’re all waiting to see Jekyll crack this season.
It appears that, with Henry’s encouragement, Victor is making an effort to end his heroin dependency. Perhaps the work they have planned is also having an influence.
As their breakfast comes to an end, we also learn that Dr. Jekyll’s lab is located in the infamous Bedlam Hospital. Since his first introduction, Dr. Jekyll’s “half-breed” status has been prominently referenced, and within this episode, it is that status that has relegated a brilliant chemist to work in the bowels of Bedlam. Even the orderlies who bring in the demonstration subject, Mr. Balfour (Jamie Ballard), have to be reminded to address him as “Doctor”.
With Mr. Balfour bound in Dr. Jekyll’s modified barber’s chair, we get to witness the serum at work. The raving, thrashing lunatic who’s been brought into the laboratory is almost immediately subdued. There is a great bit of dialogue between the two doctors about what monsters look like, before the serum has been administered, that makes me laugh every time.
In this scene, we get the demonstration of Henry’s serum, but we also see the doubt Victor has about bringing his beloved Lily into the den of insanity that is Bedlam Hospital. Contrary to that earlier scene, in which Lily’s will was irrelevant to his own, we now see a little clarity of thought in Victor. There’s a brief moment where he doubts his intentions. Unfortunately, Victor is too arrogant to let that stop him for too long and Henry’s temptations make it easier for him to reconcile their plans. For all his talk of horrors and monsters, much to the theme of the show, he demonstrates repeatedly that he’s the real monstrosity that came out of his laboratory.
The next time we see Victor, he’s sitting in the cold on a park bench outside of Dorian’s looking up at Lily’s window hoping to be noticed. Treadaway plays the rejected lover and lost puppy with such a perfect balance in this scene that you can’t help feeling a tinge of pity for his circumstance. When Lily comes downstairs to confront him we’re shown that despite how she treated him at the end of last season, there is still a trace of compassion in her.
“Take your romance and your memories, which are most kind fiction, and go.”
When Vanessa (Eva Green) comes in for her session with Dr. Seward (Patti Lupone), we see that Renfield is starting to exhibit the fidgety madness we are accustomed to from other incarnations of the character. I would like to say that this scene in the reception area before Vanessa goes into sit with Dr. Seward is visually stunning. From the balance, to the colors and the lighting, it is just beautiful. I could hang a print of Vanessa sitting in the second chair (or third depending on your perspective) in my living room. The imagery throughout this episode is almost like walking through a gallery filled with exquisite photography.
Oh yes, there are other things going on.
I do enjoy watching the dynamic between these two characters; Patti Lupone’s Dr. Seward disarms Vanessa every time,with her no b.s. attitude. Something else in this scene makes Vanessa uneasy, being recorded. I can’t quite tell if it is Vanessa fearing her tale being brought to life in her own voice or if this is meant to show societal unease at a new technology that the viewer accepts as a part of everyday life now. Perhaps it’s both.
By the end of their session, several canisters for the wax recording cylinders sit open on the desk. Vanessa is in tears and Dr. Seward appears to be shocked into silence by what she has heard.
“If you credit my story, if you believe the things I tell you, you’ll never sleep quietly again.”
Vanessa makes her way to the Natural History Museum in an attempt to do something that might make her happy. She sits for one of Dr. Alexander Sweet’s (Christian Camargo) lectures and proceeds to play the amusing part of an audience plant. Following the lecture, the two walk through the museum discussing their heroes and Ms. Vanessa Ives looks happy for the first time in quite a while.
Vanessa invites Dr. Sweet out for a magic lantern showing of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, where they both marvel at the projected imagery. After the showing, Vanessa is visibly upset when Dr. Sweet declines her invitation to continue the evening at a nearby coffee shop. They depart with some vague assurances that they will meet at the next lecture and Vanessa seems just a little more confident than the moment before. From the shadows, the Lead Familiar (Jack Greenlees) stalks her as she goes.
While Vanessa has been out having a splendid evening with Dr. Sweet, Renfield has been sitting in the dark of Dr. Seward’s office listening to the recordings of her session.
Renfield returns to the building where we first learned of Dracula’s presence, to deliver his report on Vanessa Ives. The lead familiar plays the violin as the rest of the creatures around him stare at Renfield with the alertness of hungry predators. Again, we hear the disembodied voice of Dracula as he probes into what Renfield has learned. Just when you think that they’re going to hold off revealing Dracula’s face, the camera rises from the wrist, which Renfield is lapping blood from, up to the big reveal.
Highlight for spoiler: * Dr. Sweet? Seriously?! I did not see that coming at all! *
I watch these episodes several times during the writing of my recaps and with each new watching I’m amazed at the skills of the cast and crew. Each episode shows a mastery of storytelling that has become so rare in modern television. There have been shows that have pulled me in like Penny Dreadful but they usually peter out around the third season. Penny Dreadful has kept that momentum into this season, and put it in overdrive. The habitual binge watcher in me is going nuts waiting for the next episode and already dreading the hiatus between seasons.
Penny Dreadful airs Sunday nights at 10/9c on Showtime