Tuesday, 30 June 2015

PENNY DREADFUL, 2.9 – 'And Hell Itself My Only Foe'

Tuesday, 30 June 2015


There were things to enjoy about this penultimate episode, and it tee'd up next week's finale very well by the end, but I was very disappointed John Logan's rushed various aspects of the story. The disfigured American looking to bring wolfman Ethan (Josh Hartnett) to justice back in the U.S? He somehow found Ethan and Vanessa (Eva Green) at the Cut-Wife's cottage, and was swiftly knifed to death pre-credits. In London, Dorian (Reeve Carney) somehow realised Lily (Billie Piper) is the Irish prostitute Brona he once had sex with, so I can only assume a temporary amnesia was affecting him.

And how did Lily suddenly make the crazy leap to suspect Dorian is immortal? Then Mr Lyle's (Simon Russell Beale) betrayal with the witches, which should have been a huge dramatic reveal, was glossed over after he'd made a full confession off-screen! And the groundwork for Caliban (Rory Kinnear) becoming imprisoned beneath the waxworks by his employers, who want to create a living freaks exhibit, was almost non-existence, so his predicament felt like it came out of nowhere. Oh, and suddenly Vanessa knew that Evelyn (Helen McCrory) was the witch involved with her mentor's hanging? Did I miss something? I didn't get the impression, at any point, that Vanessa realised there was a connection between the Cut-Wife's sister and Evelyn.

These things all helped make "And Hell Itself My Only Foe" feel unimpressive, because it's evidence Logan's forte isn't with long-form storytelling on television. The best episodes of both seasons have been the hours that stand apart from the present-day narrative, and this hour felt like it was in a mad rush to get everything into place. That several things haven't been allowed to click, naturally, fills me with disappointment because season 2 was building quite nicely until now. I can only hope the finale's a satisfying spectacle, now most of the characters find themselves in Evelyn's spooky Gothic mansion. It was a definite surprise that Ethan 'wolfed out' and killed Sembene (Danny Sapani) because they were trapped in a stairwell, too, although perhaps I should have guessed it would happen because their sudden bromance hasn't felt earned. For the most part, I suspect Logan has privately admitted Sembene is a superfluous character who isn't evolving into anything special after two whole seasons, so best to terminate him when the opportunity presents itself.

One part of the season that has worked well, rather surprisingly, is the investigation into the Mariner's Inn Massacre. I like dour Detective Rusk (Douglas Hodge) and his polite antagonism towards Ethan, as the two men dance around each other with words, although there are times when I don't understand how Ethan's supposedly being tracked by Scotland Yard and yet manages to regularly unite with Vanessa and Victor (Harry Treadaway) to go on nighttime missions. Still, this storyline has progressed well compared to many others this season, and I'm interested to see where the chips fall next week.

Can poor Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) be rescued from madness; curled in a ball, haunted by hallucinations of his dead family? Is Victor going to escape a similar fate, now his own "family" (Caliban, Lily, Proteus) have appeared in the same room to taunt him? And how will the real Caliban and Lily, plus Dorian, factor into the finale's events? They're in very separate stories that can't easily converge with the witches, and I'm unsure what kind of climax is on the cards for either. Then again, something has to be left over for the already-commissioned third season.

written by John Logan • directed by Brian Kirk • 28 June 2015 • Showtime