“You’re hunting for a man…you need to start hunting for a beast.” -Sir Malcolm Murray
The meat of “Séance,” this week’s excellent episode of Penny Dreadful, takes place at Lyle’s soiree, where the flamboyant egyptologist brings in a medium for party entertainment. The enigmatic Miss Ives gets pulled into the action and takes the party on an unusual turn. A device like a seance is often introduced and executed by campy means, but Penny Dreadful maintians its grounded take on its subject matter. The show also takes this opportunity to give us a few answers to questions about Vanessa we haven’t asked yet. When the medium begin to commune with the dead, she realizes there is another present with dark powers. Eva Green gives a searing performance in this extended scene, channeling Sir Malcolm’s children and airing the man’s secrets. His reactions to her taunts hint at a darker past, and Dalton endures the scene with a quiet intensity. Although we’ve seen her dealing with strange phenomenon before, Miss Ives is clearly possessed at the séance. The medium identifies the demon as Amunet, a demon with “outawrd divinity but a monster within,” something the demon denies but I’m sure we’ll be hearing more of as the season progresses.
“Séance” is also dealing with change, whether it’s rebirth, renewal, or just a shift into something entirely new. The quote above comes at the conclusion of Sir Murray’s visit to the police to offer his advisement on the Spitalfield murders. We know Malcolm’s on the trail of a mighty vampire (Dracula, anyone?), but discovers the bodies were not drained of blood, but rather dismembered with organs missing. Could this be the first hint of a werewolf? Or Mr. Hyde? Something much worse? (Please Mr. Hyde!!) It wasn’t the answer Malcolm was looking for, but he still attempts to redirect the investigation.
Malcolm meets with Lyle after the party to discuss the heiroglyphics, which contain images never recorded before. The pictures reference a union with our old friend Amunet and her male counterpart, Amun-Ra, that would mean the rise of the “Hidden Ones” to rule with perpetual life sustained by feeding on souls. It’s all a bit gradiose, but held in check again by the realism that Penny Dreadful strives for. Not too many other shows could pull off a statement like that without losing some of its audience or sounding silly.
Frankenstein and his monster attempt to find a sense of normalcy that begins with the young doctor allowing the creature to pick a name for himself from a huge volume of Shakespeare’s work. (This is also one of a few literary references in “Séance,” another being William Wordsworth’s poem ‘Lines Written in Early Spring’). Chance leads the creature to the name Proteus, from The Merchant of Venice, but the name is also used to reference the early Greek sea-god with shape changing abilities and alchemy. It’s a fitting name as Proteus begins to suffer from random bits of memories that surface after a day on the town that concludes with a run in with Ethan and his lady friend.
Josh Hartnett gets more screen time in “Séance,” first waking up on the street in a mysterious condition the morning after another murder in Spitalfield. Could he somehow be behind them? Ives has already alluded to a deeper connection between them. Ethan does bond with prostitute Brona Croft (Billie Piper), over a booze filled breakfast. Brona becomes a thread of sorts through the episode, first taking us to meet another new literary character, Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney). Gray is already in full hedonistic mode, employing Brona for some risque photos, before a sex scene that would make any germophobe cover themselves in Germ-X for days. Gray pops up again at Lyle’s party, drawn to our Miss Ives based on how differently she carries herself.
“Séance” concludes with a shocker of a sequence that woun’t be spoiled by me. Suffice it to say, the creative team behind Penny Dreadful is intent on freaking us out.
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