Penny Dreadful Season 1 Ep 7 (TV Show Review)

One thing that Showtime’s latest, Penny Dreadful, has been really good at is delivering on the scares and thrills and mysteries of a horror show steeped in the classics of the genre: Frankenstein and his monster, Dracula and Mina Murray, Dorian Gray and more besides. And when you mix in talent like Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton and Eva Green, excellence is what you expect, and thankfully the showrunners have maintained that from the very first episode through to the seven episodes to date. The characters, the actors, the story, everything has come together really well.

Titled “Possession“, this week’s episode is set some time after the events of the previous episode’s cliffhanger, where we saw Vanessa Ives return to Sir Malcolm’s estate and then put on a startling display of her powers. This week, we see how the devil who has been germinating inside her all these years (reference to the flashback fifth episode) begins to manifest itself ever more strongly and in doing so John Logan writes the most character-heavy episode of the show’s debut season, one where director James Hawes delivers an absolutely astounding horror experience that hearkens back to the best of the original The Exorcist.

Penny Dreadful Logo 0001

Possession is a most terrifying thing indeed to watch on the screen. I remember watching the original The Exorcist back in the day and being severely creeped out by the scene in which a little girl manifests her inner demon when faced by a Roman Catholic Priest. While I can usually stand horror pretty well, that particular scene still creeps me out after all these years. In this week’s episode of Penny Dreadful, I was reminded of The Exorcist once again and both John Logan and James Hawes make “Possession” a worthy successor to that particular movie. In fact, I’d say that this is something that Logan has been building on from the start and that he pretty much reaches a crescendo with this penultimate episode of the show’s debut season.

Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives has been one of the most amazing characters in this show, which in part has to do with how she deals with the various situations around her and her backstory as well, which ties into that of Sir Malcolm, and ends up affecting the actions of the Penny Dreadful group put together by Sir Malcolm and by writer John Logan himself. Through episode 5 we know well what kind of trauma Vanessa suffered as a child and as a young woman. We know what kind of history she’s had with Sir Malcolm and his daughter, what kind of relationship she’d had with both of them. All of them is what has germinated into the story of the present day, with Sir Malcolm’s driven quest to free his daughter from the clutches of Dracula and Vanessa’s own quest to save her friend, through death if necessary. It all means is that the tension in the show has been kicked up several notches and “Possession” pretty much lays out the whole story, bit by bit, tying into all of what the Egyptologist told Sir Malcolm in the first three episodes of the show, that Vanessa is haunted by someone who wants her to be the new “mother of evil” and usher in a new age of darkness in the world.

Eva Green’s performance as Vanessa Ives is one of the cornerstones of this episode in particular and this show in general, and she manages to impress once again. Her portrayal of a woman suffering possession, her mannerisms, her dialogue, everything was on the spot and it did the job in really creeping the hell out of me in ever scene that she was in. That’s the kind of realistic stuff I’d like to see more of in Penny Dreadful because it is always something that is handled very well. Right from the start of the episode, we get the feeling that whatever is happening to Vaness is quite debilitating and that she just might not survive what is to come.

And this is what leads into the larger story and we see some really deep character stuff as Sir Malcolm begins to finally open up to both Doctor Frankenstein and to Ethan Chandler, all three played by Timothy Dalton, Harry Treadway and Josh Hartnett respectively. Easily the best sequence of the entire episode, after all the scenes with Eva Green, is the subplot featuring Hartnett’s Ethan Chandler, a brash rogue and a gunslinger from America. We’ve seen some interesting build-up recently that hints at a far larger role for Ethan Chandler than what we’ve seen so far, perhaps even that he is the Wolf Man himself, which would account for an earlier episode in which he stared down several wolves in London Zoo.

Hartnett has never exactly been one of y favourite actors but he has certainly been one of those that I enjoy more than others. With Penny Dreadful he has really come out of the woodwork it seems and in “Possession” he proves just why he is so damn good at what he does. This episode really ratcheted up the tension of the ongoing story and Hartnett did an amazing amount of justice to both his role and to the overall plot, especially in the final minutes when he confronts the demon inside Vanessa Ives in a really startling visual sequence that leaves you grasping for breath (as it did for me).

Ethan Chandler has been one of the more mysterious characters for me on the show since I know nothing about him other than what I’ve seen on the show, whereas for Vanessa, Sir Malcolm, Dorian Gray and Victor Frankenstein I am partially familiar with their histories in literature and genre fiction. “Possession” is the episode where Ethan Chandler really blooms as a powerful force on the show and where he shows that he is indeed far more critical and powerful than anyone ever realised. Hartnett’s final scenes are both badass and emotional, and the showrunners really couldn’t have picked a better actor for the role, for Josh Hartnett has truly made this his own.

All of this doesn’t mean that the other characters and actors come off as inferior. Far from it. It is just that the performances by both Evan Green and Josh Hartnett were just spectacular, something I’d love to see again as it happens.

Penny Dreadful Cast 0001

Penny Dreadful has had a format where each director is brought on for two consecutive episodes. This has been quite beneficial in that these “linked” episodes have been very consistent to date, even if the material they’ve dealt with is quite dissimilar such as Coky Giedroc’s mind-blowing work with episodes 5 and 6. With this new episode we have James Hawes on the hot seat and he delivers an experience that is creepy, full of horror, and that absolutely makes you want to run away at times. The way that he captures the expressions on Eva Green’s face when she’s in the full throes of possession, and the way that he films the intimate personal scenes between her and Timothy Dalton or her and Josh Hartnett really makes everything come alive. You really get pulled into the mood of moment and that’s where the show really excels.

Now, given how the episode ends, and with the season finale due in a few days, things have really ramped up and I’m really anxious to see how it all plays out. More than anything, I want to see Josh Hartnett’s Ethan Chandler revealed as the Wolf Man and to go up against Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster, Caliban. Possibly at the same time. That would rock immensely!

More Penny Dreadful: Eps 1-3, Ep 4, Ep 5, #6.


Posted on June 26, 2014, in Penny Dreadful, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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