With so much constantly at stake in the world of Penny Dreadful, sometimes you just have to let characters discover their little slice of peace and quiet: their sexy time, if you will.
Let’s bitch it out…
As the series hits the mid-season mark, there’s a slightly pervasive feeling that Penny Dreadful is spinning its wheels. There were a few episodes in the first season that felt the same way, so it’s a little disappointing that the show hasn’t entirely learned its plotting lesson yet. At the same time, however, it’s hard to fault a slightly languid episode that contains beautiful moments such as the long shot of Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and John Clare (Rory Kinnear) dancing in the cholera pits beneath London.
At the end of the day, ‘Above A Vaulted Sky’ is very much a set-up episode. Characters and situations are being shuffled around for when the action picks back up as the season inches towards its conclusion. For now, however, there’s a bit of piece and quiet. After sprucing up the house in the wake of the Nightcomer invasion last episode, the majority of the episode is spent rekindling relationships with friends and lovers. There’s a bit more of a focus on the latter, particularly near episode’s end as a storm brews (metaphorically in the narrative and literally as rain, thunder and lightning lash the city). Storms are great for creating a sense of impending danger and passion and the result is a dynamic closing montage of lovers in various states of coitus (AV TV Club amusingly highlights that the more the character is at-ease with themselves, the more flesh they bare).
By the end of the hour, two new couples have taken their relationship to the next level, while Angelique (Jonny Beauchamp) and Dorian (Reeve Carney) have committed themselves beyond simple physical attraction. Now that our couples are in place, the second half of the season will likely be spent pulling them apart.
- Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale) identifies a repetitive piece of the devil’s narrative as “The Hound of God”. Gee, I wonder who this refers to?
- Inspector Rusk (Douglas Hodge) latches onto Ethan as one of two unaccounted individuals from the Mariner massacre, but he’s unable to prove anything. The same restrictions don’t apply to the masked man (Stephen Lord), who clearly remembers more than he has let on and has now followed Ethan home. I’m interested to see how this escalates.
- The grotesque imagery award of the episode goes to Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory), who spends a substantial amount of time (and glee) sticking red hot pokers into her fetish simulacrum of Malcolm’s (Timothy Dalton) wife’s head. It’s not clear why Poole’s so desperate to procure Malcolm, but between his wife’s suicide and Evelyn’s trusty poisoned ring/dagger, she’s got her hooks deep into him now.
- In love triangle-ville, Clare and Lily (Billie Piper) don’t hit it off (expected) because she’s too busy climbing into Frankenstein’s (Harry Treadaway) bed (also expected). There’s nothing unexpected happening in this story line and that’s really disappointing.
- Finally, I did enjoy how rehearsed Lily’s luncheon with Victor and Vanessa is. That is some stilted line delivery!
- Ethan (with a wary smile, when Inspector Rusk suggests that his office might be more comfortable): “For whom?”
- Lily (delivered a very rehearsed line): “The weather is challenging, but the excitement is palpable”
- Vanessa (to Clare): “All sad people like poetry. Happy people like songs.”
Your turn: did this episode feel like more than a place-setting to you? Whose coupling were you most excited for? Was the brain puncturing too nasty for your tastes? Do you care about the Frankenstein/Lily/Clare triangle? And when are Vanessa and Ethan finally going to act on their impulses?! Sound off below.
Penny Dreadful airs Sundays at 10pm EST on Showtime. Next week: old acquaintances are refreshed when Vanessa and Poole meet again and Ethan meets the survivor of his attack. Here’s a preview: