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Penny Dreadful Reviews: "Glorious Horrors"

          “Glorious Horrors”. There’s a name that can describe ideally this entire series. Also, it’s about time we had a bloodbath on this show!
          Now this is a really eventful episode, as storylines and characters begin to intersect, tensions are raised, relationships furthered, and we get a very classically terrifying night for Vanessa as well as Sembene. This episode poses new threats, and has a number of memorable well-executed moments that I think makes it the best of the season so far.
          It’s the morning after for most of our characters. Dorian and Angelique are particularly pleased and Dorian in fact decides to throw a coming out ball for her, inviting all his friends including the main cast (and I like how he notes Vanessa won’t address him by his first name after their last experience together). Vanessa asks Chandler to be her date but he’s unable to. Chandler has his own problems, like meeting the man he injured who’s still adamant to bring him back to America. Sir Malcolm too is falling further down the rabbit hole with Evelyn and it begins to make Vanessa suspicious. Caliban has an encounter with the blind girl who’s disturbed after touching his hand. At the ball, Dorian meets and appears to recognize Lily but doesn’t let on. She too seems to remember him from her past life. As Frankenstein grows concerned over this and Lyle attempts to escort Vanessa home early, Vanessa falls under another hallucination caused by the witches in the room. At the same time Chandler who may not quite know the nature of his transformation, has Sembene chain him to the wall and transforms in front of him.
          This episode reminds me of last season’s “Demimonde”, which similarly for the first time drew most of the major characters together in one location with the presumption that shit would go down. It didn’t really in that episode (the big stuff happened outside the Grand Guignol) but here it kind of did, at least for Vanessa.
          But lets start with Sir Malcolm. His reaction to learning his wife was dead was one of nonchalance. He was more curious as to why, rather than emotional over the loss of someone who at least for a time had been very important to him. It’s a real indictment of Evelyn’s control over him that he seemingly forgets by the next scene and is going so far as to shave his beard for her. It understandably makes Vanessa unnerved. Sembene too who says “it’s not him”. And as we see it’s for good reason. Evelyn has snipped off some of Sir Malcolm’s hair and is making a puppet of him that’s even creepier than Vanessa’s.
          Frankenstein seems to have few regrets, though he does seem to be considering what he’s done when he first wakes up. That soon leaves him after Lily appears though. He and Vanessa have a discussion about his romantic feelings at one point and there is one great reaction on Harry Treadaway’s part when Frankenstein realizes that Vanessa’s met Caliban. It should also be noted that though Frankenstein’s passing Lily off as his cousin, Vanessa doesn’t find his feelings odd (it wasn’t uncommon circumstances back then). Dorian and Angelique have much more of the forbidden relationship as Dorian insists on throwing a ball for her. It’s a nice gesture, though you can clearly tell it’s being done for Dorian’s own hedonism rather than a celebration of Angelique. The way he talks about celebrating the unusual, he’s obviously getting pleasure out of Angelique’s “abnormality”. Caliban’s abnormality is not being celebrated though, as the blind girl who till now has been seemingly fond of him, touches his hand and is incredibly disturbed by how lifeless it feels. And shit, just when Caliban had a decent job he’s gonna have to leave it. Is he going to be discovered for what he is? For the first time this season, I feel like his story has stakes.
          Chandler it seems is partially unaware of his werewolf nature, but he knows he’s responsible for the attacks he’s being tailed for. There’s a good scene where the man he disfigured visits him and even threatens Vanessa unless he returns to America, but Chandler still refuses and is given a few days. “There’s no door that can keep out the devil” his pursuer says and also suggests selling Chandler to a freak show. I really like that he’s being haunted by this moment from the end of last season and I can’t wait to see how he gets out of it. There’s another scene at the wax emporium where the inspector shows up again but has no evidence to implicate Chandler with. Though he does bring up wolves... Knowing a transformation was coming was probably the reason our American turned down Vanessa and though the events at the ball are the more interesting, his talk with and revelation to Sembene are quite gripping too. Especially by the final moments when he transforms in the moonlight chained to the basement. Danny Sapani manages a great response too as Sembene witnesses this horror first-hand. The lighting in that final scene was really moody and effective too.
          But the ball is the episode’s centrepiece. First off, with Frankenstein and Lily in attendance I was waiting for someone to recognize the former Brona Croft (Frankenstein’s damn lucky Chandler wasn't there). Sure enough Dorian came along but didn’t let on or ask questions. And Lily vaguely recognized him. As they danced we got to see Frankenstein pretty jealous, as well as Angelique. I wonder if they’re going to do anymore with Dorian and Lily because of the effect it has on their respective lovers. We got a glimpse of Frankenstein telling her off which seems indicative of obsession and over-protection on his part. Dorian and Lily had an interesting conversation -I particularly liked the in-joke of Lily presumably being from the Lake District. The music throughout the sequence was very gothic and at times it legitimately felt like something out of The Picture of Dorian Gray.
          Vanessa’s night was significantly more interesting though. For the first time this season she met Evelyn face to face and their mutual distrust is plainly evident. Their speech to each other is layered with a lot of subtext as is Lyle’s and Hecate’s, each it seems are trying to prove their solidarity over the other. Lyle is regretting his alliance with the witches clearly, when he tries to get Vanessa out of the ball. Her hallucination when she sees the witches is of course the episode’s high point as well as the season’s thus far. Taking a cue from the likes of Carrie and The Shining she sees a blood shower engulf the room. The pace and cinematography of the sequence is really well done and horrifying. It’s just a tremendous, disorienting visual to see all these characters happily dancing covered in blood. It’s something out of any good horror movie and really leaves an impression.
          So with some visually marvellous scenes, and important character and story development, “Glorious Horrors” is easily the height of the season at this point. As I said it’s a great title, and suitable considering the effect of Vanessa’s hallucination and Chandler’s transformation. After last episode’s ending, I’m glad to see this one’s topped it. I’m really excited where it’s going from here in multiple storylines. What’s Sembene going to think of Chandler’s secret? Is Caliban going to be discovered? How will Frankenstein confront Lily’s relationship with Dorian? How will the gang react to Vanessa’s breakdown? And most importantly, what glorious horrors await in the coming episodes?

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