Showtime’s ‘Penny Dreadful’ is turning into quite a monster mash. This week’s episode introduces another famous character from classic horror literature and hints at a big secret from one of our existing heroes.
Episode ‘Demimonde’ also opens right off the bat with a bounty of naked flesh at an orgy hosted by the Dorian Gray character. This is one of the great privileges of airing on premium cable. The scene is completely gratuitous and serves little narrative purpose (other than to show that Gray has grown disaffected with his hedonism and his immortality), but it sure did perk up my attention.
Toward the goal of curing their captive Fenton of his vampirism, Sir Malcolm enlists renowned hematologist Prof. Van Helsing (David Warner) to assist Dr. Frankenstein. Van Helsing discovers something he has named “Hanna’s Wink,” which prevents blood from coagulating and makes it easier for a vampire to eat. Working under the theory that transfusing normal blood into the patient will remove this supernatural agent and quell his hunger, Malcolm volunteers to let his blood be used. Unfortunately, the transfusion has no effect at all. Fenton still screams to be fed. There’s more to vampirism than just a blood disorder.
Later, Fenton attempts to chew his own hand off to free himself from his shackles. Malcolm is forced to kill Fenton when his “Master” (presumably Dracula) invades the house. However, the vampire did not come to rescue Fenton, but rather to find Vanessa. It flees into the night before Malcolm can attack it. Malcolm believes that Fenton’s capture may have all been a ruse to lead his master to Vanessa.
Elsewhere, Ethan is clearly falling in love with Brona. He attempts to take her on a proper date to the Grand Guignol theater (where Frankenstein’s monster Calaban works, unbeknownst to them). Brona is very taken by the first half of the play, a werewolf tale called ‘The Transformed Beast’. At the intermission, Ethan runs into Vanessa and Dorian (who have been flirting relentlessly since she first met him). Brona suddenly feels inadequate next to Ethan’s high-society friends, has a spat with him and runs off.
In an attempt to console him, Dorian brings Ethan to one of his distractions, an underground animal fighting ring where tuxedoed men bet on how many rats an attack dog can kill. Ethan is disgusted by the animal abuse and picks a fight with three of the patrons. Dorian drags him out of there and brings him to his home, where they drink a lot of absinthe, strip off their clothes and make out while listening to a Wagner opera.
That part is unexpected, certainly. Even more so are half-hallucinated, almost subliminal flashes of imagery which suggest that Ethan might be a werewolf, and may be (perhaps unwittingly) responsible for killing many victims (including that whore at the start of the second episode) whose deaths have been referenced in the background of scenes.
Aside from that revelation, this is not a particularly eventful episode in terms of plot or action. A few of my friends who watch the show are already growing impatient with it. I, on the other hand, am still fascinated by its growing mythology and atmospheric storytelling. I rather enjoyed the scene at the Grand Guignol and am intrigued to see where Ethan’s story goes.