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Penny Dreadful Reviews: "Verbis Diablo"


        This is another episode of Penny Dreadful that mixes the incredibly goofy with the incredibly gruesome. That principal thread by the end of the episode is both disturbingly shocking and absurdly strange. That’s certainly going to make the episode stand out, but the curious developments in other areas aren’t to be ignored. 
          So apparently that visitation the previous night didn’t physically harm Vanessa but left her very shaken. To get her mind off things, Sir Malcolm takes her to an underground hospital where they help treat victims of cholera. Sir Malcolm claims he does this often. But Madame Kali, whose real name is Evelyn Poole (Kali sounds more witchy) still has plans for Vanessa. She’s also beginning to manipulate Sir Malcolm by continuing to run into him. I enjoy these scenes not only for the chemistry Timothy Dalton and Helen McCrory have, but for the fact that we get to glimpse other parts of this Victorian world. Miss Poole has a lot on her plate though, as in addition to these meetings with Malcolm and having one of her servants kidnap an infant and kill its mother, she’s also blackmailed Ferdinand Lyle into being her spy. She’s come a long way since she was merely a party psychic in “Séance”! It’s really good to see Lyle again who’s brought in to help decipher the Verbis Diablo for Vanessa. Though shocked she has actually heard it, he stands by that it exists against Frankenstein’s scepticism. The exposition he gives to the verbis diablo, relating to a monk in the early middle ages is as usual pretty cryptic and engaging. While searching his archives it also seems to be implied he may know something of werewolves which sparks the curiosity of Chandler. Lyle it seems is also interested in Chandler (who knew Brits were attracted to American accents?). And in fact it may be similar circumstances that have him in the palm of Evelyn’s hand. It’s pretty clear she has evidence of his homosexuality that she’ll make public if he doesn’t cooperate. Poor poor Lyle. But at least he still maintains some composure, insisting his hair is real. Oh and Dorian’s back -and getting over Vanessa by having an encounter with a transsexual who may also be connected to Evelyn. She’s just invading every plotline this week!
          Except perhaps one. Frankenstein and Caliban are slowly and excitedly introducing Brona, now renamed Lily to the world. What’s even better is Billie Piper’s back to her English accent and sounding credible! Though Caliban has all sorts of romantic notions (“she needs poetry” -geez Caliban, you sound like an English Major), Frankenstein is left with her more often. The relationship Frankenstein has to her could be the subject of a number of fascinating psychological papers. Both he and Caliban are attracted to her, but Caliban clearly out of romance, and Frankenstein out of lust. Even now that she’s conscious he can’t help but cop a feel of his own creation. Lily is also growing attached to him and unsure about Caliban. She like Proteus before her (who we’re reminded in this episode was killed by Caliban exactly a season ago) asks the same kind of questions Frankenstein can’t give straight answers to. Caliban on the other hand going by the name John Clare is presumably still working at the wax museum, but also visits those suffering from cholera -it must be the sympathizer in him. It’s in this that he meets Vanessa for the first time. Kinda like with Game of Thrones it comes as a surprise to me when I realize some major characters have never met others. In Caliban’s case, it’s a season in and only now does he run into someone other than Frankenstein. One of the high points of the episode is his conversation with Vanessa regarding religion, poetry, and human nature. The contrast of her worldly pessimism with his romanticized optimism makes for some very interesting discussion. And it's possible Caliban's rejuvenated attitude is rubbing off on Vanessa. I hope we see more of them together, which I don’t doubt. We also found out that one of the Pinkerton agents Chandler attacked in that bar survived (though brutally brutally mauled) and his superior has come to London asking him who did it. So while Chandler had relatively little to do this episode, my guess is he’s going to be very occupied in the near future keeping his secret.
          At the end of the episode though comes that hook of silliness and vileness. Evelyn’s probing of Lyle is interrupted when her servant arrives with a bag so she takes it to a private room full of marionettes sitting on shelves. And being marionettes of course they are naturally scary as all shit. So, remember that infant kidnapping? Well Evelyn straight up murders the child, does some dissection, and sticks what appears to be its heart in a marionette of Vanessa. We next see the real Vanessa gasp in shock before the credits roll.  …Jesus! So the pairing of infanticide with voodoo isn’t something I expected to see any time soon. But it does work for Penny Dreadful. In fact I think it’s ideal. The build-up is slow and tense and I particularly love the shocked expressions on the dolls’ faces as they watch what Evelyn is doing. Whether this means they’re sentient I don’t know, but it was a good if a little bit campy of a touch. The combination of something so shocking with something so boggling is characteristic of the pulp genre the series is named after. I’m strangely looking forward to what the series does with Vanessa being perhaps a voodoo doll of Evelyn. Hell, maybe she’ll come face to face with it. Or it’ll come alive adding to more ludicrousness. The sky’s the limit really, and because of that and how unashamed this show is to take seriously such incredibly non-serious ideas, I really respect Penny Dreadful. Bring on Annabelle!

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