While episode one introduced us to the darkly gothic Victorian underworld of Penny Dreadful, episode two delves deeper into the show’s pervasive mythology and mystery. And it also gives us Billie Piper’s boobs. So generally it’s just a great time.
I would be amiss if I didn’t start this review by just straight-up worshipping Eva Green. The episode is called ”Séance” for a reason; after a medium (played by a criminally-underused Helen McCrory) begins the titular ritual, Green’s character Vanessa Ives is possessed by a series of malevolent spirits in succession. Green executes what is essentially an eight-minute monologue with creepy flawlessness; she gives us an appearance from Malcom’s dead son, Peter; a millenia-old nameless demon who implies Malcolm slept with his missing daughter, Mina; and, potentially, an evil Egyptian goddess called Amunet, who is probably stalking Vanessa and wants to end the world. It’s no joke. All of the awards for Eva Green.
On the other end of the spectrum – and while I have overwhelmingly loved the casting in Penny Dreadful on the whole – the introduction of Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray falls flat for me. Wilde’s Dorian is a beautiful, hedonistic, classy, well-mannered charmer who can win anyone over with a smile and some well-placed words; a man so irresistibly charismatic and alluring that he can convince people to do whatever he wants (like subtly dispose of a body). Carney’s Dorian is greasy, skeezy, creepy, and just so obviously evil that it’s hard to imagine him traversing London Society without someone at least questioning why he hasn’t washed his hair lately. I hope the rest of this season rounds out his character – and does away with that awful, slouchy bathrobe. Dorian would never.
As if to make up for Dorian’s casting misstep, we’re also introduced to the always-lovely Piper as quippy Brona Croft, who (despite her atrocious Irish accent) wins the audience over almost instantly with her sass and lack of class. An impoverished victim of industrialization and consumption, Brona gets a scandalous gig sexin’ Dorian on-(old-timey)-camera, and provides us with our first bit of female nudity so far. Midway through episode two? Not bad, Showtime. You held out way longer than I thought you would.
Read the rest of Sam’s review of the episode at Geekosystem.