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Penny Dreadful Episode 4 Review: “Demimonde”

Review

“Demimonde” is, in keeping with the whole “thematic title” thing Penny Dreadful‘s got going on, very much about the hidden darkness beneath the mundane selves that we present to the world. It’s also about Josh Hartnett getting as much tail as possible. I’m getting my wish every week!

First, we’ve got Vanessa, whom creepy-vamp Fenton insists on calling “Mother” — perhaps after Amunet, the mother of darkness, and the spirit so desperate to inhabit her body. Vanessa is (not-so-subtly) compared to nightshade, a beautiful and exotic flower that will kill you if you get too close. We know she’s got some Big Bad in her past – Vanessa betrayed Mina in some fashion – and now the vamps are after our Miss Ives in order to end the world. So, you know, just the usual stuff, really.

Speaking of the vampires, we finally got a look at Fenton’s “master” this episode — or did we? The creepy, Orlok-looking creature that breaks into Vanessa’s bedroom is assumed to be the great leader of the vamp cult, but I’m not convinced. Last episode, we learned that Mina was engaged to Jonathan Harker before becoming “embroiled with another man — but not entirely a man.” I would think this means that the vamp who has made Mina his thrall could pass as a charming, attractive man — or at least transform into one when the need arose. Also, I think I’m just secretly hoping for a big-name actor to suddenly surprise us all by swooping in as Dracula. Is that really too much to ask?

Ethan’s secrets are also bubbling to the surface in this episode – his refusal to donate blood means that there’s either something up with his blood (because he is a werewolf), or he has some pretty damning scars all over his arms (because he is the Ripper). By the end of the hour, there’s essentially no question that Ethan’s got something to do with those killings we’ve been seeing all over London. Even Brona’s past returns to haunt her – insecurities about her turn to prostitution and her place in Victorian society drive her away from the one man in town who doesn’t care about her gig and isn’t overly-concerned about catching consumption. Brona’s on the way to Bride of Frankenstein-ing herself more and more with every episode.

Dorian returns in “Demimonde,” and, despite my initial reservations about Reeve Carney and his characterization, did manage to grow on me a bit. Horrible leather pants and ’90s-style metal chain-necklace aside (Dorian would never), Carney gave Dorian a little more charm this week – I could almost see why Vanessa might be so enchanted by him. Dorian’s ennui and general indifference was played beautifully, and the choice to not show his famous portrait was a good one — it just serves to build the suspense for the back half of the season. I still have some issues with Dorian’s greasiness and penchant for violence, but Carney definitely took steps in the right direction this week.

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