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Penny Dreadful Reviews: "Above the Vaulted Sky"

         After last episode’s home invasion, “Above the Vaulted Sky” proves to be strangely a worthy follow-up, despite the lack of action and pacing matching its predecessor. This episode is much more concerned with character relationships. The way these relationships feed into each other though shows how integral they are to the overall story and where it’s heading. There are plenty of great moments that range from sweet to uncomfortable (admittedly more of the latter than the former).
          The team decide their next move after the attack is to better defend their home. Vanessa realizes the witches are making a “fetish” of her. Chandler uses a Native American genocide analogy concluding they must “defend their cliff.” Caliban actually meets Lily and tries to have a conversation with her, but she doesn’t seem at all interested in him and is in fact put off (a much more subtle reaction than in Bride of Frankenstein). Later, Frankenstein takes her to tea with Vanessa passing her off as his cousin. Dorian is confronted by folks at the ping-pong hall mocking his date, Angelique. He defends her though and the two later have a conversation in Dorian’s home about how hard it is for Angelique to fit it. Oh and while Evelyn and Sir Malcolm grow closer, Evelyn uses her powers to psychologically torture Sir Malcolm’s wife in really fucked up ways.
          One of my favourite parts of “Verbis Diablo” was the encounter between Vanessa and Caliban and it’s nice to see them reunite here. Eva Green and Rory Kinnear have good chemistry, particularly in the sequence where she teaches him to dance. Vanessa it seems, may be the only woman not to fear or judge Caliban by his appearance. The music and shot composition in their scene (which I believe gives the episode its title) really stands out too and does feel reminiscent of early Gothic films. Vanessa confides in Caliban that she believes two friends she had tea with must be in love.
          You can tell Vanessa’s thinking this all throughout that tea, which is another interesting scene. Lily is adapting rather quickly and though she doesn’t quite understand proper etiquette, her behaviour and good humour is very human. It maybe helps that she’s got a makeover that’s incredibly convincing. Especially when compared to Caliban. It’s enough to fool Vanessa, unable to recognize the woman she met with Chandler at the Grand Guignol. Lily also got a scene with Caliban earlier, and I like how their conversation is forced and awkward, like a bad date which is essentially what it is. You can tell Lily doesn’t like Caliban and despite how hard he’s trying, Caliban seems to be catching on. He needs more than poetry to woo this girl. It’s a shame he wasn’t her creator.
          Sir Malcolm is continuing to see Evelyn and I’m still not entirely behind this development, if for nothing else than that it seems to be limiting the Timothy Dalton awesomeness we could be getting. But the resurfacing of his wife as the poor object of Evelyn’s torture is a really good idea and allows the show to if inconsequentially (she wasn’t a character we knew or really cared much for) explore some horror. Evelyn’s also begun brain surgery on the doll she’s going to use for Vanessa. But it’ll probably be another episode or two before she actually uses it. Vanessa in the meantime seems to be coping alright (strange now she knows what the witches are doing). I also wonder if the show might be hinting at Vanessa developing feelings for Chandler. I don’t know if I’d be on board for that, but it makes enough sense given how often they’re on the same page. Chandler in this episode gets caught praying, and is interrogated by the Scotland Yard inspector from before in a very interesting scene for the two of them. They too are developing are relationship where the inspector can’t quite nab Chandler, and their interactions prove entertaining because of it.
          Though it’s still relatively distant from the rest of the storylines, the show is moving forward with Dorian and Angelique’s romance. This may be just so the show can explore the struggle of a trans-woman in the Victorian age or just an excuse to keep Dorian doing something, but it does work to some degree. You do legitimately feel sorry for Angelique and even though you can’t trust Dorian (or anyone else on this show to be honest), it certainly seems like she’s found a little acceptance.
          The ending of this episode is the most interesting though. Using that old Godfather tactic, we see four scenes transposed over each other to relate a certain parallel and uncomfortable irony. Everyone gets it on as three main couples: Frankenstein and Lily, Evelyn and Sir Malcolm, Dorian and Angelique have sex scenes. I like that each is shot differently. In Frankenstein and Lily’s case, an inevitable conclusion but one in which she actually seduces him, the lighting is very grim, the environment pale and dingy, signifying the depravity of the creator having sex with his creation. Dorian and Angelique’s scene on the other hand is shot very erotically, with plenty of skin on display in hedonistic bliss. Sir Malcolm’s and Evelyn’s is rougher, appropriate given our knowledge of Evelyn’s villainy, but it’s most significant in reference to the fourth scene over these, which isn’t a sex scene, but rather Sir Malcolm’s wife being tortured by hallucinations. Particularly she’s driven mad by a vision of her two children rising from the grave and coming after her. She eventually can’t bear it and slits her throat …while her husband is shagging her torturer. Yeah, this episode goes there and it’s pretty fucked up.
          Next episode’s going to have a lot of things to answer for, and no doubt a number of characters coming to terms with their actions (I especially wonder how Frankenstein’s going to react -sooner or later Caliban’s going to find out). Though not heavy on the action, the characters and their relationships are what’s driving much of the story and “Above the Vaulted Sky” put adequate focus on those. I look forward to the repercussions from this episode, and with the next titled “Glorious Horrors” I have expectations that they’ll deliver.

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