“Things become other things. The leopard consumes the monkey and becomes leopard and monkey. The crocodile consumes the leopard and becomes crocodile, leopard and monkey,” Sambene (Danny Sapani) tells Ethan Chandler, the American werewolf crashing at his flat in London in the opening of Penny Dreadful season 2, episode 7. What Sambene is really saying is ‘Ethan Chandler, you who are Ethan Chandler, the men in that pub, some red Indians in the Wild Wild West and who knows how many other creatures you have become, don’t fucking bite me. I am not becoming one of your menagerie.’ Or, in even other words, down boy.
Sambene is a deep thinker. He knows things are much murkier than they may appear because he has looked deeper into some abyss than he should have. There is a whole spectrum of magic between black and white. He knows because he’s apparently seen a lot of red. Sapani hasn’t had enough screen time. His character is unfolding as slowly as his own leisurely speech. He seems to consider each and every word before he speaks them. Sambene’s actions speak louder than words, as we saw a few weeks ago when he tackled a witch, they certainly are quicker.
Ethan Chandler is a real wolfman. Not a werewolf. He’s Lon Chaney Jr. He’s even got his shirt. Wolfmen haven’t worn shirts and pants since Michael Landon in I Was a Teenage Werewolf, but Josh Hartnett, who’s got the body for the topless werefashion of HBO’s True Blood, goes retro. The audience can still see the man beneath the animal and the designer label on his holster.
The group is splintering under the weight of Sir Malcolm’s growing infatuation with Evelyn Poole. Vanessa (Eva Green) flees to the Cut-Wife’s lodge, while Ethan (Josh Hartnett) lodges with the fleas.
Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale) is truly worried about Vanessa Ives. In reality, he is an interloper, with a French accent when it suits him, and a spy who is helping craft her downfall. But he has deep regrets. Lyle deals out all of his emotions from the bottom of the deck. He gets to play such a conflicted character with multiple motivations, each at odds with what he wants and what he feels and he does it all without the use of the letter R.
Mr. Clair, The Creature (Rory Kinnear), is a very patient man for a monster. He sees the woman that he thinks was made for him on the arms of a dashing stranger and he doesn’t even take a finger. For a first effort, he really wasn’t that bad. He has more self-control than the doctor’s second effort and his third try is a real charmer.
Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) should get himself an Igor. Lily (Billie Piper) isn’t quite working out as she should. Victor got all the parts from Burke and Hare’s West Port Dissection Suppliers, in business in Edinburgh, Scotland, since 1828. The sorry surgeon got a good deal on a leftover from the Young Frankenstein lot. The former Brona, who Chandler can’t get over, has Abby Normal’s brain inside her skull.
And they called it puppy love. The fire scene is more electric than the thunderstorm that caused it. But just when it’s about to combust, Vanessa throws cold water on the horny hound because they are too dangerous. You can almost hear the wolfman’s erection, much less see it, screaming for and at attention. We see later that it could cut wood, as the hanging tree totters in the balance.
I know I spend a little too much time on Eva Green’s eyes, but they really do a dance of their own. She never gives anything a single look. She gives double and triple-takes, each on appearing to fathom depths deeper than Robert Louis Stevenson ever dared. Green’s eyes go from adoring to suspicious with a blink.
Ethan is obviously hurt when he is surprised by Vanessa’s retribution against the man who tarred and burned the Cut-Wife. But he’s also a little worried. If Vanessa can control dogs to attack masters, what can she get werewolves like him to do. He would already do almost everything. Vanessa is willing to give up her soul when she opens the Cut-Wife’s book of secrets and the former genocide warrior knows more about that than the devil itself.
The hound, the scorpion and the demon have been doing this dance since light was introduced onto darkness, according to the Verbis Diablo relics. Penny Dreadful delivers on the temptation and still comes up with an original sin. A very worthy entry for the Police Gazette of the time.
“Little Scorpion” was written by John Logan and directed by Brian Kirk.