Sunday, May 10, 2015

REVIEW: 'Penny Dreadful' - Vanessa Attempts to Find Peace in Her Life Again in 'Verbis Diablo'

Showtime's Penny Dreadful - Episode 2.02 "Verbis Diablo"

Ferdinand Lyle reveals the disturbing backstory of the Verbis Diablo.

At times, Penny Dreadful does enjoy keeping Vanessa Ives under constant torture. The evil of the word is conspiring against her to bring her pain and misery. Eva Green continues to be fantastic as the pain of these experiences weighs hard on her soul. She desperately prays to God to end some of her suffering and she is still constantly threatened by these new witches. It's a powerful narrative spine for the show. At times though, it can be too much. That's why it's important to show that Vanessa is still her own woman who wants to live a peaceful life. The events of the premiere are keeping her from living that way. She is tragically searching for peace. She finds some clarity by helping the sick of London. But by episode's end, Evelyn Poole has an even tighter grasp on Vanessa. It's a very acute threat that relishes in the anguish and pain of her life.

Even when Vanessa finds peace, it's not something she's destined to keep for very long. She doesn't know how to take back control of her life. These witches have influence over her and are capable of attacking her during every moment of her life. That constant threat is unnerving. She can't sleep because they could torment her dreams. Malcolm is the only person she turns to in this crisis. He wants to protect her from the evils of the world conspiring against her. But he also wants to help her find peace. He doesn't know how he can do that on a spiritual level. He has no knowledge of the supernatural elements attacking her. All he can do is a simple task of giving her an opportunity to do good in the community. It's not much. The citizens infected with cholera are plenty and there's very little the two of them can do to help cure them. And yet, giving back to the community is enough control over their lives to help them find peace and clarity again. Vanessa is able to pull herself together and go on this excursion in the city. She continues to serve the sick even after Malcolm has to leave. Again it's nothing much, but it's still enough for her to see the good in the world again - even though it's purely for her own selfish reasons.

It's while serving the sick that Vanessa runs into and strikes up a conversation with Frankenstein's Creature - who continues to go by John Clare out in the real world. Those two characters have never met before. They are two of the best performances on the show. It's a very dynamic conversation. The two of them have these big and grandiose thoughts on the existence that surrounds them. They don't really go together in regards to their views on life. And yet, it's a fantastic scene because they are just able to have a conversation. They don't have to worry about their own struggles that are happening to them. Vanessa cares more about his intellect than his physical appearance while John Clare has no understanding of the forces conspire against Vanessa. They are both tortured and tormented souls who desperately want peace. And yet, their experiences in this world are drastically different. Vanessa knows that there are higher powers throughout the world while John Clare knows that he is forever bound to this world. It's two wildly different approaches to the world but they are able to go hand-in-hand because of the powerful and personal details of each character. They may not meet again any time soon. But they are two characters who create a wonderful dynamic whenever the show may want to pair them up again.

This experience was very beneficial to Vanessa. She is grateful to Malcolm for bringing her there even though she has to get back to her regular life very quickly thereafter. The entire team has to learn more about the verbis diablo - aka the dead language spoken by the witches as servants of the devil. Ferdinand Lyle is able to offer further insight into it but the story then turns into a discovery mission with Ferdinand and Ethan having to track down the only known artifacts to have the language written on them. It's amusing for the sole point of Ferdinand constantly flirting with Ethan. And yet, it also deliberately offers some insight into Ethan's backstory and his history with wolves. He may have some clarity over what happens when he black outs - but it's still just suspicion for him.

Meanwhile, Evelyn Poole continues her seduction of Malcolm. They are a pair who can't be together in the eyes of society because Malcolm has to remain married to his wife. And yet, there is a spark between them. Unfortunately, it's all for a nefarious purpose so that Evelyn can exploit Malcolm's connection to Vanessa. It's tragic but it also comes out of the genuine love Malcolm has for Vanessa. He would do anything for her. But he isn't aware of how he is being manipulated by the one woman causing Vanessa all this pain and turmoil right now. It will be a crushing blow once he does learn the truth. The two of them are both skilled with weapons. However, Evelyn Poole is a much more impressive shot - plus she may have put a trance on him too.

While all of this is happening, Brona is learning how to be alive again. John Clare has to trust Victor in teaching her how to feel and speak again while building the connections between them. Victor and Brona have an intimacy with each other. He tells her that they are cousins but there is obviously something much deeper than that too. He is the one who opens the world to her. She is able to pick up speech again fairly quickly. John Clare desperately wants there to be a connection between the two creations of Victor Frankenstein. He needs to be patient a little while longer while Victor teaches her about the world. That could be very dangerous to both sides of the conversation. Victor has an influence over Brona. He gets her to believe her name is Lily and change her hair color. It's to avoid anyone recognizing her in the outside world. But she is willing to embrace everything that Victor has to say while John Clare remains a complete mystery to her. Throughout the hour, Victor and Lily are able to have conversations while things between John Clare and Lily progress only to a hand shake. That's could have devastating results later in the season. We'll just have to wait and see.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Verbis Diablo" was written by John Logan and directed by James Hawes.
  • Ferdinand calls Ethan his brother when they are almost discovered sneaking into the museum. He's not great in those high-risk situations. And yet, the episode closes with the reveal that he is working for Evelyn because she is blackmailing him with photos of him in indecent situations.
  • Dorian Gray makes his return to the show still longing after Vanessa - until he meets a drag queen who peaks his curiosity. It's great that Penny Dreadful is willing to show full frontal nudity. But this story feels like a distraction from everything else in the episode.
  • It was chilling watching Evelyn's daughter stalk a lovely couple and their baby through the London subway. It got even more painful once she finally struck and killed all of them. And yet, that's nothing compared to what Evelyn did next in ripping the baby apart to use its organs to fill a doll with a striking resemblance to Vanessa. That's dark and disturbing but also very beautiful portrayed.