Sunday, 12 July 2015
Penny Dreadful: Verbis Diablo
"Is this what it's like to go mad? Your darkest fears made manifest before your eyes?"
More of the same superbly stylish horror-tinged Victoriana, then, as the focus shifts away from Mrs Poole and her witch underlings' psychic war against Vanessa to the careful simmering of other incipient plotlines.
First we have Caliban and his bride, named Lily by Frankenstein, as her creator shows her how to use language. Yet there are hints that she is becoming much closer to her creator than to her "betrothed". A surprising emphasis is placed on Sir Malcolm introducing Vanessa to the experience of charity work he performs to soothe his soul, but the main function of this scene is probably to engineer a meeting, and an interesting philosophical chat, between Caliban and Vanessa. The two do not agree on religion, but they seem to find a mutual affection and understanding.
Dorian Gray still pines for Vanessa, but is accosted by a prostitute, Veronique, who is bold enough to tell him that she fancies the pants off him, or Victorian words to that effect. Upon visiting her at her brother (she needs a firm hand, apparently!), of course, he is both unsurprised and unbothered to see that she is transgender, as the Victorians would certainly not have said, and genitally male.
There is also an erotic frisson between Sir Malcolm and Mrs Poole, mich though he may insist that, although separated, he is married and thus unavailable: the principled Victorian gentleman.
Mrs Poole is, of course, extremely nasty, calling Vanessa the c word and blackmailing poor Mr Lyle, who has the misfortune of being born at a bad time to be gay. Mr Lyke is extremely likeable, both for his endearing mannerisms in flirting with Ethan ("American! I am undone!") and for his knowledge of the eponymous Verbis Diablo, a demonic and little-known tongue which Vanessa has been speaking. But the history is ominous; the writer of the sole extant text was burned at the stake.
We end with some quite disturbing scenes as Mrs Poole, surrounded by some extremely freaky dolls, proceeds to vivisect a recently-kidnapped baby, which isn't very nice but is a triumph of direction on the part of James Hawes. This is a most effectively freaky scene.
And Mrs Poole has a freaky dummy of Vanessa...