Penny Dreadful season 3 episode 3.
This Penny Dreadful review contains spoilers.
Penny Dreadful continues to close the gap between the lone wolf and his family while widening the expanse that separates the gang from Vanessa Ives. “Good and Evil Braided Be” offers a kind of gift of the magi that trades in a gold watch for some combs.
Hecate (Sarah Greene) starts this episode with one of beast lines of the series. “I’ll follow you to hell,” she tells Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett). “I’ll lead the way.” The wayward witch of the west thinks she can bring the wolf of god to heel. He’s not a bad dog, really. Although he’s not exactly the kind you want to bring home to mama unless you’re looking for a speedy inheritance. Not that Hecate is the best house guest. She can barely get past the foyer without getting all stabby.
That doesn’t escape the eye of the intrepid Inspector Rusk (Douglas Hodge). The former soldier in the British army is perfectly suited to the wilds of the west. He can even teach a thing or two to the frontier Marshalls. They only know the evils that men do. The inspector’s intuition says this isn’t just a man, or woman’s evil. It is something other.
Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) and Kaetenay (Wes Studi) are on a cross country cock block expedition. They want to save Ethan from himself so he can save the world from some unimaginable evil. Mal is pretty magnanimous for a colonialist. Standing up for the rights of aborigines isn’t usually in the cold British temperament. I love how Malcolm keeps up with the latest in local fashions, donning a dark cowboy hat at a jaunty angle. It really adds class to the old adventurer that he cares enough to update his wardrobe. I actually wish they’d shown him shopping. None of that looks off-the-rack.
Lily (Billie Piper) is setting Justine (Jessica Barden) straight about the world. Men are cruel to women. The former Brona only knew one man who was kind, and even he turned into an animal at least once a month. The pair gets a living example when a women’s suffragette protest is broken up with the same cracked skulls usually reserved for striking workers. If the women want equality, the long arm of the law wants them to feel it on their throats. Justine goes straight for the jugular when she is being inducted into her own justice league with Lily and Dorian.
The sets are so extravagant throughout the series, but Dr. Jekyll’s lab in the mental institution is a particular wonder. So many secrets are held in those vials and notebooks. You can see how it could drive someone mad and Dr. Jekyll is barely holding onto the brakes.
Even the craziest of characters get truly poetic lines. The lunatic that Dr. Jekyll (Shazad Latif) and Dr. Frankenstein’s (Harry Treadaway) are interrogating explains that he only has an “apparition of memories” of his dementia, “like a ghost walked in the room.” Surrounded by the bedlam of Bedlam, the two doctors come to a clear understanding of the imbalances that corrupt the mind. Between the chemical expertise of the outcast and the physical knowledge of the castoff, they set out to cure the deranged, one lover at a time.
Once again the Chemistry between Vanessa and Dr. Seward (Patti LuPone) is palpable. Two great actors sinking to the depths of despair on misery’s gravity. Stage and screen veteran Lupone reveals her emotions as she covers them up and when she lets her guard down, in solitude, she expands with small brush strokes from a darkly colored palette. Vanessa wants so much for the doctor to see who she is and what their relationship is that she paces back and forth in the doctor’s office like an animal in a cage.
The doctor acknowledges the family connection with as much professional detachment as she can muster, but she’s not fooling anyone. Especially not Vanessa, who can read minds and bodies the way scholars pore over books.
Renfield is so insect-like, the way his fingers scatter over the ledgers at Dr. Seward’s office. The whole motif of flies and rats is actually done quite well throughout this season. The way Dracula’s filleted minions pick up the master’s table scraps is skin crawlingly delicious.
I wish Vanessa would wipe her neck after the gets licked by the igor. There are a lot of truly colon-squishing special effects and makeup on Penny Dreadful, but because this is a simple slip of the tongue, no tricks, no makeup, just saliva, it is up there with the blood in the eyes on the dancefloor and the branding, for me, as far as ugh moments. I swear, I wiped my throat for her. I knew Eva Green wanted to. It was so apparent in her face it evoked empathic disgust.
John Clair’s story is so sad and Rory Kinnear brings such a measured understanding to his almost every line you get truly surprised when he is moved to violence. But that only makes him more human. Lost in his own thoughts, you can see the creature is genuinely confused when someone pays him the smallest of kindnesses. The mere mention of a casual interest in his life from a fellow traveler is a gift to him and Kinnear lets it all play out so luxuriously. It doesn’t matter if it’s pain or pleasure, you can see a very real love of discovery in this dead man’s eyes. So close to being reunited with his family, you forgive him for getting his hairline back after death.
I loved the look the Creature gave to Vanessa and her new beau when he spotted them. He really wishes Vanessa well. His appreciation glides out of his eyes he’s blowing a kiss. We’d always suspected Clair lived some kind of mariner’s life, but it appears he wasn’t fishing for meals, he was diving for pearls.
So many surprises are in store for our heroes and anti-heroes. Dracula is charming as the mild-mannered entomologist. Dr. Sweet (Christian Camargo) can’t possibly be that sweet. I find myself worried that Vanessa is isolated from all her friends. I predict the wolf of god will be saved by the end of the season with enough time to track his mistress’s voice in the nick of time.
“Good and Evil Braided Be” was directed by Damon Thomas and written by John Logan.