Sunday, 12 October 2014

Penny Dreadful: Season One, Episode 5 (Closer Than Sisters)

"I tried to pray that night. God wouldn't answer- but another did..."

Well, this is unexpected; an episode, told entirely in flashback and with many regular characters absent, filling in the backstory for Vanessa and explaining so many things about her. It's also interesting to get an impression of Mina, who appears in a scene which, I think, takes place during Dracula. Jonathan Harker even gets a mention.

She and Mina were, ahem, "closer than sisters" as children, until Vanessa became possessed by a malevolent entity and betrayed her friend by sleeping with her fiancé on the night before her wedding, as you do. Cue loads of scenes of straitjackets and Victorian mental health treatments.

Things are fleshed out; Mina is a Catholic in an Anglican world, presumably an old recusant rather than Irish, interesting in a Victorian context. Much of the second half of the episode strongly echoes The Exorcist. Except her treatment is horrifying; a shaven head, being shackled and hosed down, even trepanning. Her low point surely comes when her mother dies of shock, seeing her possessed and levitating daughter being raped by some kind of demon. This episode is very, very dark, and Eva Green is very, very good.

We end with her reconciliation with Sir Malcolm and the revelation that, every day, this devout, damned, guilt-ridden Catholic writes a letter to Mina and files it away with the others. She loves her childhood friend very much, "enough to kill" her...

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