New Show Recap

New Show Recap: Penny Dreadful, 1×08, “Grand Guignol”

When last we left Penny Dreadful, Vanessa had just undergone a mini-exorcism, administered by Ethan. The demon appeared to be in remission, and Malcolm’s outrageously selfish desire that Vanessa’s possession would result in an answer to Mina’s whereabouts turned out to be true: Mina is at the theater where they saw the play (the one where Caliban works).

When Vanessa delivers this information to Malcolm, he says he has prepared himself to kill Mina if he can’t save her. Vanessa asks him, rather disingenuously, if that will bring him peace. Malcolm sneers that Vanessa should drop the naive act — it doesn’t suit her. It’s a gratuitous meanness that I don’t quite understand. Later in the episode, he tells Vanessa that he would gladly kill her except that he needs her right now. Why so mean, Malcolm? I mean, Vanessa slept with Mina’s fiancé, but really, is that anything compared to the kind of parent that Malcolm was?

Our good buddy Dorian Gray comes to visit Vanessa. While she was gone and he was denied access, he went to Italy, and got some manuscripts. (Knowing Dorian, “getting some manuscripts” probably involved a lot of decadent sex.) Vanessa is polite, but dismisses him. Later, though, she meets him at the arboretum where they met before, and Vanessa explains that although they have an uncommon connection, he releases something very dangerous in her, and she must end their relationship. Dorian clearly doesn’t understand what is happening, and Vanessa experiences a moment of pity and explains that the emotion he is feeling, for the first time, is rejection. (It’s true: Dorian has already had sex with three of the show’s six lead characters. He clearly has a very full dance card.) She walks away, and Dorian looks after her. He touches his face, confused, to find he is crying. Meanwhile, I continue to be pleased that Dorian is not some sort of cut-rate hedonism-bot.

Hedonism Bot
Ethan is less Hedonism-Bot, and more one of the Lost Boys, thank goodness. (Photo credit: Futurama Wiki)

Brona is at the end. Ethan goes to fetch Doctor Frankenstein. When he leaves, several American thugs watch him and debate whether to snatch him in broad daylight. They decide to hold off. One of the men appears to be an Americanized Native American — considering that Ethan just brought up these people’s plight last week, the man’s presence must be significant in some way. It’s too much of a coincidence.

At the theater, Caliban is getting a verbal beatdown from one of the actors, Simon, who calls him a monster when he can’t get one of the props to work. The actress who is the actor’s girlfriend comes to Caliban later and is nice to him. They talk about poetry. She gives him an affectionate, but not romantic, kiss goodbye at the end of the conversation. He, of course, falls in love. Typical man. I mean, typical monster, amirite?

Later, a besotted Caliban covers his face with stage makeup and shows up at the actress’s dressing room. She is nervous and tells him to leave. He protests and this turns into a physical struggle. Caliban is clearly enraged and pushes her up against a wall, but then realizes what he is doing and calms himself. It’s too late, of course; he is fired and ends up at Victor’s door with nowhere else to go.

Victor doesn’t want to let him stay there, and Caliban is in a different, contemplative headspace and seems to understand that his dream of a bride was futile. He now feels he is a monster on the inside, too. He puzzles through it aloud as Victor advances behind him, with a gun in his hand. Caliban senses what Victor is going to do, and urges him on. Victor, who clearly has pity on Caliban for the first time, refuses to do so. He tentatively touches his creature’s shoulder. This intimate moment is interrupted by Ethan, who has come to summon Dr. Frankenstein to Brona’s side.

Victor arrives, sees that Brona is at the end, and sends Ethan to get a basin of water. While Ethan is out of the room, he talks to Brona about a place after life, and asks Brona if she wants to go there. She nods. There is a price he says, as he presses a pillow to her face.  Ethan returns to the room to find a dead Brona and is a complete mess, of course. Victor comforts him, saying that her passing was a thing of grace. He tells Ethan to spend some time with her, and not to worry — he’ll take care of the body. (Yeah, I’ll bet he will.)

Penny Dreadful main cast
The Penny Dreadful Scooby Gang, ready for action. (Photo credit: Farfarawaysite)

Later that day, Vanessa, Malcolm, Victor, Sembene and Ethan  make their way through the darkened theater. When Malcolm takes aim at one of the creatures curled up in a rafter, Ethan falls through trap door. A huge fight follows, and Victor gets to use his newly-acquired gun skills. (It just goes to show — if you teach someone to shoot a gun, they’ll end up using it.) The group is outnumbered and Ethan, Victor and Sembene are about to get eaten by the creatures who have encircled them. Fortunately, Malcolm kills the lead creature, causing the others to shriek and pull away, leaving only Mina. Mina announces that the master is planning to take all of them. She seizes Vanessa, and Malcolm shoots Mina in the shoulder, allowing Vanessa to scramble away. She protests that she is his daughter, but Malcolm shoots again and kills her, saying, “I already have a daughter.”

Mina and Eva
Mina and Eva wait for Malcolm to shoot one of them, or both of them, or none of them. Who knows with this guy? (Photo credit: Farfarawaysite)

Later that evening Malcolm is looking at his room and gathering up his Mina-finding equipment and maps. Vanessa enters and he comments how empty the room is going to be. Teary-eyed, he says, “We should have a Christmas tree.” Vanessa agrees, saying that they could have the boys (Ethan, Victor and Sembene, presumably) over for a tree-decorating party. It is such a beautifully twisted, funny exchange from two characters who aren’t exactly known for it. They hug. (I don’t get this quick turnaround on Malcolm’s part. Did he realize that he was too hard on Vanessa? Or did it occur to him that Vanessa could actually be his daughter?  Or is this just inconsistent writing on the show’s part?)

"For me? You shouldn't have.
“For me? You shouldn’t have. Oh, wait, that’s pretty much all I’ve been asking for. In that case, it’s about time.” (Photo credit: Farfarawaysite)

And it’s over but the shouting, or in our case, the quick ending shots.

  • We cut to Victor, who unveils the corpse of Brona to an overwhelmed Caliban. Caliban watches as Victor begins the process of reviving her.
  • Then on to Malcolm, whose pursuers have tracked him down in a bar. They are asking if they need to chain him up like a monkey. Ethan, who hasn’t bothered to look at them yet, says ominously that he is not a monkey. (I am NEVER successful in delivering that particular response ominously, so that is clearly why they pay Josh Hartnett the big bucks because he totally sells it.) To the surprise of the Pinkertons, but not of anyone watching the series, he turns into a werewolf and slaughters them. (Also, remember that Americanized Native American tie-in I was looking for? Nope. Nothing.)
  • Her demon still on hiatus, Vanessa enters a church and talks to the priest there. She confides that she has frightened herself with what she has done and what she is capable of. She asks the sympathetic priest if he will exorcise her. He tells her of an exorcism he knew of in Wales where everyone died, none in a state of grace. He tells Vanessa that the process could take years and could never happen. He explains that being possessed by a demon is being like touched by the back hand of God, and he asks her to decide if she really wants to be normal. (Puh-lease. Vanessa normal? I don’t think so.)
Vanessa's collar
I am including this picture in the hopes that you can see how beautiful the collar is on this jacket. Vanessa’s clothes are TDF. (Photo credit: Farfarawaysite)

Wow — this show crammed a LOT into eight episodes, and I, for one, am eager to see this crazy makeshift family of ragtag characters return.


By Moretta

Moretta will take that applause. Her Twitter is

One reply on “New Show Recap: Penny Dreadful, 1×08, “Grand Guignol””

Good job! I think we’re going to see more in the next season. I think the interaction between Madame Kali and Malcolm means something, too, since Madame Kali was there at the séance that triggered Vanessa’s demons. I think we’ll see more nods to H. Ryder Haggard in the future, since Sir Malcolm is a lot like Allen Quatermain; Ryder wrote a crossover novel with Quatermain and his other famous character Ayesha from She. Or else Madame Kali could be totally benign and a helpmeet for Vanessa.

Dorian’s manuscripts could come in handy next season.

I thought Ethan was an Americanized Native American, but I’m thinking maybe, like Stands with a Fist in Dancing with Wolves and the little girl in The Searchers, he could have been captured and adopted by a Native American tribe and later rescued by his father. And Ethan is going to lose his shit when he finds out about Brona.

Also, “Chain you up like a monkey” = Murders in the Rue Morgue!

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