Penny Dreadful: Ebb Tide Review

The war may be over, but the battle's just begin. Day is night on Penny Dreadful.

Penny Dreadful season 3 episode 7.

This Penny Dreadful review contains spoilers.

In the darkest depths of my black heart, I think Penny Dreadful’s “Ebb Tide” episode ends with where I’d like to see the series conclude. Vanessa Ives is in the embrace of the only man who truly understands her. Who gets her. Who will allow her to be who she is. I want that for all the monsters and so does he. The night creatures who are shunned and forgotten are loved, cared for and celebrated. Isn’t that what Penny Dreadful is all about?

Penny Dreadful is the home to all our favorite monsters. It is House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and women, and Mad Monster Party on a suitably suspenseful set. The music is perfect. The lighting is perfect. The dark corners are populated. Tonight, Vanessa finds a good man, a mighty mighty good man, who’s got enough bad boy in him to love the monsters. We have to enjoy this while it lasts because, as in all horror entertainment, good will ultimately triumph over evil. We know this is true because, SPOILER ALERT, the world didn’t end in the 1890s. But tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1899.

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I love the monsters. I think it is a beautiful thing that John Clare, the former kindly orderly at the Bannings Institute, finds his family and is not rejected. That scene is heartbreakingly heartwarming and ultimately a joyous reminder that every monster can be happy. The scene that precedes it, the meeting between the creature and the scorpion lady, is also breathtakingly hopeful and undeathaffirming. Eva Green and Rory Kinnear have a wonderful, tangible chemistry. Hell, if Clare wasn’t married and Dracula wasn’t the perfect guy, Vanessa and John would make a great couple. It feels good that Vanessa is happy for him and I swear, if the writers do anything to spoil the Creature’s happiness I’m going to go after them and put a pitchfork in their ass. Let the monsters be happy.

But Sir Malcolm, Ethan Chandler and Kaetenay (Wes Studi) will not let them be happy. What’s up with that? They learn of an ancient being who has adapted and survived for thousands of years and they immediately decide they have to kill him. What gives them the right, as human beings with a lifespan of maybe 90 years at the most, whose every lifetime is a mere blip in time and whose morality is a whim of their age, to kill something that spans history? That is arrogance. Although, we might expect that kind of insolence from Sir Malcom and his colonial contempt.

Speaking of arrogance, Dr. Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) takes it upon himself to decide what’s best for Lily? He wants to drill the monster out of her and we shouldn’t be encouraging this kind of behavior. Victor is already one of the most morally depraved characters on the show, and I applaud him for it, but he has no regard. I understand he’s a man in love and there is nothing more self-centered and self-important than that. As Joe Jackson once sang, there are no creatures more pathetic than fools in love, but to take away her sadness, madness and badness is a crime against horror.

Ethan is a monster in repose. He’s done with regret. He’s done with remorse. He is not going to end up like Lon Chaney Jr.’s whiney oh-it’s-a-full-moon-tonight Abbott and Costello sidekick. Hell, and he’s seen it, he barely gives a second thought to Hecate’s death. His first thought seems to be that it was a wakeup call.

I have no idea what Josh Hartnett puts into his mind to internalize his characters, but there’s a kind of narcotics anonymous vibe coming through on his spiritual retreat. It is easy to understand why Ethan is done with fighting the battles of good and evil. He’s spent an eternity as Lupus Dei and it’s time to take a nap and just chase his tail for a while. He’s earned it. He sidestepped a big bullet and he’s going to his new home to the one person who always got him and they’re going to take the twelve steps to heaven. His sins are paid for and she’s the resident expert.

Ethan reenters the fray for love. Vanessa may be Showtime’s occult themed answer to Carrie Bradshaw on HBO’s Sex and the City, but he’ll be damned if he’s going to let Dracula get cast as Mr. Big. Ethan is more of a Luke from Gilmore Girls so he’s going to cross the pond, ring the old bloodsucker’s doorbell, punch him in the nose and snack on his innards. It really has nothing to do with the endless night predictions of the Apache warrior, Chandler can deal with that. He’s got natural night goggles. It’s the alpha male wolf bringing his mate back to the pack with a stop in the sack.

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Good luck with all that, Catriona Hartdegen (Perdita Weeks) tells Vanessa. She bows out of danger so graciously that we’re all filled with gratitude.  The apache says it’s too late but swears his loyalty to the last drop of Sir Malcolm’s money.

We get a glimpse into the person behind the revolutionary when we see the gravestone for Sarah Croft 1890-1891. It would take both Drs. Jekyll (Shazad Latif) and Steward (Patti Lupone) to explain why Lily remembers Brona but the Creature has no clue about his orderly past. Ultimately, Renfield will have last licks.

“Ebb Tide” is emo gold. It is filled with dark delights that stretch out with delicious richness into an orgasm of fulfilled nightmares. Friends and fiends will reconvene next week, unless the RSS Umbria gets blown way off course into the other Devil’s Triangle.


5 out of 5