Penny Dreadful: “Glorious Horrors” Review
With a title like “Glorious Horrors,” fans expected all hell to break loose. What we got was merely heck, and some amazing camerawork.
I don’t mind saying that this week’s Penny Dreadful wrote a few checks it just couldn’t cash. Dorian Gray decided to throw a coming out ball for Angelique, back when coming out meant something entirely different. We expect all manner of crazy shenanigans when Ethan, Lily/Brona, Dorian, and Frankenstein all end up in the same room together—not to mention Vanessa surrounded by the Poole family. Instead we got Victor being a sober jerk, Malcolm acting like a lovesick fool, and Ethan declining to attend all together in favor of some moonlight time with Sembene. Still, I found plenty to like about these “Glorious Horrors.” Spoilers for Season Two Episode Six follow.
“Glorious Horrors” is an awesome name for this episode. Indeed, it might have even been a better name for the show. Either way, it’s a great banner to hang outside Putnam’s, and one I wouldn’t mind having in my living room. “Glorious Horrors” begins with Ser Malcolm taking a carriage home in the 19th century-male-equivalent of the walk of shame. That’s what they call it when someone slinks home early in the morning, still wearing dress-up clothes from the night before. Malcolm is in an uncharacteristically grand mood. We may think it’s just because he got his giggity on. But no, he’s under a massive bewitching thanks to Evelyn Poole and her incredibly lifelike curse fetishes. This is already awkward enough, but then Van and Ethan give him the news that Malcolm’s wife, Gladys, is dead by her own hand. But when Malcolm hears that she cut her own throat with his straight-razor, his primary concern is about the carpet. Even if I heard that someone I casually knew did such an awful thing, I’d have been more upset at the tragedy than concerned about the flooring.
Victor wakes up with his lover-slash-cousin, barely seeming to notice how inappropriate all of this is. But dammit, they’re obviously in love with each other. Well, at least, he’s in love with her and she’s happy to be the apple of someone’s eye. At the Gray home, Dorian and Angelique discuss boundaries, discretion, and how Dorian refuses to hide anything from anybody. To cement his commitment to celebrating the unusual, Dorian decides to throw Angelique a ball. Perhaps, like the great Bon Scott, it’s Dorian’s belief that his big balls should be held every night. Hahahahaha. At Putman’s waxworks, Lavinia is unnerved to learn that “John Clare” has the cold lifeless hands of a corpse. Unlike us, she has no idea why that might be. When she tells her father, he seems interested, but not concerned. I think Mr. Putnam has something very bad planned for Caliban…something he probably thinks is a “Glorious Horror.”
At the Murray home, Ser Malcolm continues behaving like a giddy teen. Sembene in particular, knows that something is seriously amiss. Before they can discuss it fully, Ethan receives a visitor. I was pretty sure it would be Inspector Rusk. But no, it’s Roper—intent on taking Chandler back home to his father. Ethan isn’t having it, and can’t imagine what motivation he has to comply. When Roper threatens to kill Vanessa and everyone in the Murray home, we have to wonder if he knows whom he’s messing with. Roper leaves empty-handed, while Ethan is left in a rather bad mood.
Victor and Van are working on the Verbis Diablo translations, Vanessa talks about her friend, John Clare. This should shock Victor, unnerve him, remind him that London isn’t so big after all. Instead, he’s focused on being happy, wearing a flower, and being more ordinary than he ever thought possible. There’s talk of gears and mechanisms. I never knew that watch works were called “complications,” but it makes sense. Dorian Gray shows up with party invites for Vanessa and Sir Malcolm. When he meets Victor, Dorian invites him too. This is what we’ve been waiting for—Lily/Brona to meet someone she knew before she was killed by a combination of consumption and pillow-to-the-face. We presume Vanessa will invite Ethan, which will be even more crazy. Meanwhile, Sir Malcolm decides to shave his beard.
“The time comes when the spider must touch the fly,” says Evelyn Poole. Lyle’s reply is curious. When the hell does a fly ever eat a spider? Even Jeff Goldblum didn’t do that, and he’s the biggest fly ever. Poole speaks of women who slowly kill themselves for beauty, which makes us wonder if she’s also talking about herself. We get the vibe this week that Dorian isn’t the only Penny Dreadful character to suffer the burden of immortality. A sad prize indeed. At chez Frankenstein, Victor tells Lily about the ball. She’s stoked, but afraid she’ll embarrass him. Unthinkable—he says, she could never do that. It’s a ball, what’s the worst that can happen? Indeed. Victor and Lily are already behaving like a married couple. Adorable and a little creepy.
Ethan checks out Putnam’s new exhibit, the Mariner’s Inn Massacre! Inspector Rusk is there too, sure of Ethan’s involvement in the crimes. He is, but we can’t imagine how Rusk will prove it. I mean, he’d have to admit to the existence of lycanthropy—which is the kind of nonsense that could get him booted out of Scotland Yard. Also, why is it called Scotland Yard if it’s London’s police force? (According to Wikipedia, it’s named for the street the rear entrance was on. #TheMoreYouKnow) Anyway, Vanessa does invite Chandler to the ball, but he declines. We later learn that it’s the night of the full moon. Dang, I was so hoping he’d encounter Lily/Brona at long last.
The ball is a smashing event replete with fashionable gowns, live music, synchronized dancing, and Ferdinand Lyle uncomfortably turning down Hecate Poole for a dance. In their conversation, we’re given hints that Evelyn Poole’s downfall might well come by the hand of her own daughters. Hecate wears scarabs, which have been rumored to bring about immortality. Angelique makes a grand entrance to enthusiastic applause. I was pleased to see an utter lack of disdain and judgment, not that I thought Gray’s guests would be haters. Lily and Victor arrive, and she is entranced by the beauty and riches of the place—and also with a touch of déjà vu. Before long, Vic is jealous of how much attention Lily is receiving. He shouldn’t be. “I have the strangest sense we’ve met before,” is not a nice thing to say to someone you’ve had a bunch of sex with. Watch for Victor to say “I don’t drink spirits,” the way the rest of us might say “go fuck your mother.” Dorian suggests that people live many lifetimes. Ironically, Lily does not agree. Before long, we see Victor chastising Lily, accusing her of the thing she was most afraid of—embarrassing him. Jerkass!
Back at the Murray home, Ethan requests Sembene’s help. We know exactly what’s up, but poor Sembene is clueless. The ball, however, is a big bust. Dorian doesn’t recognize Lily as Brona. Evelyn fails to get her mitts on Vanessa, even with all three of her daughters helping. There is a marvelous segment where the girls stalk Vanessa through the lines of dancers. It sort of reminds me of Eyes Wide Shut. Finally, Lyle approaches Vanessa and implores her to let him take her home. He can’t reveal why, but he knows it’s not safe for her there. When she has visions of blood falling from the sky and passes out, Frankenstein and Lyle rush to her aid. I’m still not clear as to why Van doesn’t recognize the Poole’s from their appearance at the home of the Cut-Wife. They have a whole conversation that focuses more on Malcolm than them.
In the basement of the Murray home, the full moon works its magic on Ethan, turning him into the Wolfman we know he is. Sembene is shocked, but we don’t think he’s in any real danger. Oddly, Sembene has no follow up questions when he’s asked to shackle Ethan to the floor. Still, Ethan should have armed him. Otherwise, what’s the point of making Sembene observe the transformation at all?
“Glorious Horrors” was a fun episode, and one that def sets up drama for the approaching season climax. But honestly, I felt we were set up for far more than we got. Four eps remain in Penny Dreadful Season Two, so plenty more can happen. Will Ethan be forced back to America, or even into prison? What, if anything, will bring down the evil Evelyn Poole? It seems like either she or Hecate will have to die. What will happen with Caliban/John Clare? Will he find out about Victor and Lily? And what will he do if he does? Does Putman have something more awful in mind for him? Who else will end up immortal before this is done?
See you’s next week!