Chased By Demons.
Season 1, Episode 2
Air Date: Sunday, May 18, 2014, 10PM E/P on Showtime
“My mother taught me many things; among the most useful is one must always have Shakespeare close to hand.” – Dr. Victor Frankenstein
“Séance” is a powerful, revealing, and shocking second episode that will leave you wanting more of the perverse and macabre plot. If you haven’t started watching and you’re not “faint of heart,” then you’ll fall madly in love with Penny Dreadful, too.
In the aptly titled “Séance,” there is an actual séance; however, we’ll get into that shortly. First, we meet a few more characters and are reintroduced to one we met briefly in “Night Work.” The latter is the endearingly quirky Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale), the curator at the British Museum. We met Mr. Lyle briefly when Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) brought him some unique photographs of Egyptian carvings. I absolutely adore Mr. Lyle! He’s a slightly narcissistic, yet obliging fellow, who loves to show off interesting acquaintances. I chuckle each and every time he says, “my wife,” because I know she’s just his ‘beard.’ The way he rolls his tongue on certain words, I can’t tell if he’s mimicking a French or Belgian accent—perhaps a combination of both.
Throughout “Séance,” the audience is privy to some disturbing yet intriguing scenes that make it difficult for you to turn away, in spite of every fiber of your being telling you to do so. One such scene involves Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) and Brona Croft (Billie Piper). Brona is an Irish gal trying to make her way in London but, she’s not well. By all appearances, she seems brazenly strong, yet beneath it all, she is hiding a contagious illness. What captivates me about both Dorian and Brona is their individual determination—Dorian’s fixation with the limits of his immortality and Brona wants simply to live.
If you haven’t heard the story about Dorian Gray, the abbreviated version is he’s immortal, to a point. His soul is trapped in a self portrait, keeping him forever young and immune to disease, ailments, and many other things that would kill the rest of us. Dorian tests the boundaries of his immortality. With Brona unexpectedly coming into his life, presenting him with an irresistible challenge – a highly contagious illness – he cannot resist the urge to push the envelope. As these two collide in an impromptu, passionate liaison, Brona is not only aroused by Dorian’s fearless actions, she is shocked. In spite of their connection, I don’t see a real romance brewing between these two.
I have a feeling Brona’s romantic adventure will be with our American sharp shooter Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett). Brona’s had a brief encounter with the dashing American and they share a love of whisky for breakfast. But you can sense Brona’s reluctance to be with him because she knows she’s not too long for this world.
As for Dorian, I think he’s fascinated with Vanessa (Eva Green), especially after the exciting and revealing séance at Mr. Lyle’s party. The way Dorian approaches Vanessa, reading her like a book—just as she’s done with so many others—alarms and excites her. I’m dying to see more between these two. Dorian is such an alluring man; his striking good looks are almost too pretty, yet you cannot take your eyes off him. Carney really sells it and I’m buying every lock, stock, and barrel.
During the séance, the resident guest medium, Madame Kali (guest star Helen McCrory) says something that links what Mr. Lyle tells Sir Malcolm later, after the party is over. She says “There is someone else here…Amunet.” What happens during the séance is shocking and the revelations oozing from Vanessa’s mouth leave Sir Malcolm in a fit of confusion and fear. Mr. Lyle explains about Amunet to Sir Malcolm but it doesn’t explain why Vanessa is so affected. I’m very anxious to learn more about Vanessa’s clairvoyant abilities and the history between her and Sir Malcolm. She lives in his home but stays in a separate room. Are they merely colleagues or are they more familiar? My hat goes off to Green for her compelling performance during the séance because it is frightening and unabashed. Beware, vulgarity is plentiful.
Finally, we meet Victor Frankenstein’s (Harry Treadaway) creation, the newly named Proteus (Alex Price), chosen from Two Gentleman of Verona by William Shakespeare. The way Victor interacts with Proteus is quite beautiful. It’s as though he’s given birth to a full grown man and is teaching Proteus how to eat and speak. Price gives a brilliant and convincing performance as the newborn creature. He desperately wants to go out and feel the sun on his face, yet becomes frightened by the number of people on the street.
The writers toy with us, allowing us to latch on to characters, making us empathize, even care about them, only to rip them away from us, literally. The surprising end to “Séance” leaves me saddened, confused, and shocked. But more importantly, anxious for more Penny Dreadful.
Let me know what you thought of “Séance.” Leave me a comment below or tweet me at @judybopp. Looking forward to hearing from you!
Tune in to Penny Dreadful, Sundays at 10PM E/P, only on Showtime.