TV Show Review

TV Review: PENNY DREADFUL: Season 1, Episode 5: Closer Than Sisters

Anna Chancellor Eva Green Penny Dreadful Closer Than Sisters

Showtime’s Penny Dreadful Closer Than Sisters TV Show Review. Penny Dreadful: Season 1, Episode 5: Closer Than Sisters was the clarifying event that the viewer has been waiting for since Séance aired. The mundane at the beginning of the episode lulled the viewer even though relationship explanations had been harbingered throughout promotional materials for this episode. When Closer Than Sisters‘ second act began, and then the third, the viewer doesn’t want the episode to end. Event after event happened, like tidal waves crack, crack, cracking against the unsuspecting yet grateful. Ideal lives were destroyed and then the destroyers found oblivion as well.

Is it possible that this is The Walking DeadThe Grove episode for Penny Dreadful? Can this episode be emotionally or dramatically topped?

Eva Green pulled off the younger yet domineering version of Vanessa Ives wonderfully. There are numerous times where she materialized a child in her demeanor and her visage, especially when in the presence of adults or authority figures.

The kiss in the maze was a confounding moment for its participants and the viewer. How could a man, most-likely a virgin yet in the bloom of his prime, refuse such an audacious physically advance? It was not as if the pursuer was not comely or charming (though not nearly as charming as she is now). Peter Murray (Graham Butler) had been described as a sickly child. Had that propensity for being under-the-weather and skinny somehow corrupted or impaired his libido when he grew into manhood? Perhaps he simply saw his pursuer as a friend and was able to subjugate his physical desire. If that was the case though, why that expression on his face as he walked away? It was vexing, the opposite of the car love scene in Cameron’s Titanic.

The coitus between the two unexpected parties in the taxidermy room could be seen coming the moment the two parties entered the room as the rest of the house slept. The room that it happened in might have been unique (for that type of activity) but the inevitable hung in the macabre setting like a chandler waiting to be lit. The act itself was…ahem…interesting but the dialogue leading up to it about the mirrors behind the eyes made it that much more meaningful for: a.) the scene, b.) the character that spoke the words, and c.) for the series. The initial thrust the virgin (an educated guess) in the scene endured did not have the physically upsetting effect it had on Rachel Weisz‘s character in Annaud’s Enemy at the Gates but its emotional ripples had immediate and long-lasting repercussions.

The ongoing act’s sole witness had their heart ripped out as one its participants was ripped open, the world soon to become as upside down as the scene’s conclusion. It was a betrayal on two fronts that had no impetus, no reason, rendering it that much more devastating. When the betrayed most-likely asked themselves: “What have I done to deserve this?”, the answer they would receive could only have been silence.

Where Vanessa Ives ended up and how she got there are why this episode of Penny Dreadful was so resplendent. These circumstances brought to the viewer’s mind many films and televisions shows. It was a blending of many, like some of the key scenes from NBC’s Hannibal (i.e. the show deriving dialogue and scenarios from all three Hannibal Lecter films and novels). The admission scene was where two outside influences could be felt: 1.) Friedkin’s The Exorcist and 2.) Verhoeven’s Total Recall. When these two moments popped up, one almost immediately after the other, it was shocking and unnerving, especially for the only other person in the room.

What followed was straight out of Johnston’s The Wolfman, Scorsese‘s Shutter Island, and Emmy Rossum‘s emotionally grueling scene from the Iron City episode of Shameless. Human horror is so much more interesting to watch than the supernatural variety. During these Closer Than Sisters scenes,  the viewer felt Vanessa’s peril, pain, and agony. The music for the series kicked into high gear during these scenes, making them that much more horrific and momentous (these were defining days, months, years in Vanessa Ives’ life). When ‘the ultimate solution’ was delivered, there was no precursor to it. This is what Leonardo DiCaprio‘s character was walking off to endure at the end of Shutter Island. Director Coky Giedroyc placed the viewer as close as possible while it transpired so that none of its archaic barbarism was missed.

Like the Wolf / Zoo scene in Resurrection, the reversal of ‘the ultimate solution’ went unexplained. How could something that was physically destroyed inside someone’s skull suddenly be fully restored? Once again, aggravation compounded by frustration. Why have that procedure in the episode in such graphic detail if your: a.) going to reverse its irreversible effects with no explanation, and b.) have everyone afterward act as though it never occurred.

Did the voices or Amun-ra send Vanessa Ives’ brain to a supernatural repair shop? Is she a mutant that has the ability to regenerate brain cells? Does being a spiritual conduit give the person a undefeatable rejuvenation-factor, like Wolverine? In one scene after the procedure, Vanessa Ives was nearly comatose, awakened momentarily by the physical presence of one person and then the mental presence of another. Two scenes later she was walking and talking as if the drill bit had never met her temple. No one remarked on it. No one found it extraordinary. It was so inexplicable it was almost laughable.

Leaving that hilarity behind, the circumstances surrounding the drop dead moment were unique, strange, and completely gratifying. The viewer ‘didn’t see it coming,’ literally (think Rhona Mitra‘s deleted scene Verhoeven’s Hollow Man).

The concluding moments of the episode brought everything full circle – especially the narrator’s finale words – but the episode couldn’t repair its self-inflected wounds (unlike X-Men Vanessa Ives). The Grove? No. Closer Than Sisters‘ initial trajectory had zeroed in on that excellence but it missed the mark. Dangling, unexplained plot points will do that to a narrative.

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About the author

Rollo Tomasi

A Political Science and MBA grad who started FilmBook during an eCommerce B-School course in 2008. Cinema and TV addict. Former writer at Empire Movies, Blogcritics, and Alternative Film Guide. In addition to writing for FilmBook, he also edits the copy published on the website, manages its writing staff, manages the back-end operations, site finances, its social network accounts, and works with publicists, actors, and companies on press coverage and promotions. He has also created and Trending

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