TV Show Review

TV Review: PENNY DREADFUL: Season 2, Episode 8: Memento Mori [Showtime]

Timothy Dalton Penny Dreadful Memento Mori

Showtime’s Penny Dreadful Memento Mori TV Show ReviewPenny Dreadful: Season 2, Episode 8: Memento Mori contained so many surprises that I am scarcely capable of summing them up in a quick, snappy line that covers them all. In Memento Mori, the longest held secret in the series was revealed: the one concerning Dorian Grey (Reeve Carney) and the painting he allows no one else to see. The most delicious and succulent surprise though was the one Lily (Billie Piper) gave the viewer in this episode. Both reveals, Dorian and Lily’s, increased the scope of Penny Dreadful beyond what had previously been seen as its boundaries. Both were “wow” moments but Lily’s was incredible.

The discovery of Dorian’s secret was inevitable. How it was built up to was not. The story leading up to the painting’s reveal expanded the universe of the series. It also explained volumes about Dorian (coupled with what proceeded the painting’s unveiling). What and whom Dorian really is was “out of left field” and completely synced with what happened prior in Memento Mori and in former episodes. My interpretation of what Dorian Grey is may be completely off. He may not be one of the fallen and trapped but from the painting, it looked like he at least saw himself as the latter. For a being in bondage, Dorian is the most carefree “prisoner” the viewer has ever seen. He is “at home” in his confinement. He grabs life by the throat and takes whatever he likes or delights in, perhaps because he is everlasting. Moments to him are truly moments. He collects them, like his paintings.

Lily may be just as “everlasting” as Dorian, if the first The Creature is any indication. If the events in her Memento Mori story-line are taken at face value, Lily might actually be stronger than The Creature (unless he was just letting her throw him around, which I suspect was the case. You don’t hit or fight back against the woman whose heart you are trying to win). She is at least as strong as The Creature (there is no longer a question about that). Lily is the newest, most advanced Creature model. Enhancements may have come with advancements in the resurrection process.

Lily showed her derangement in Memento Mori, showed that she had been twisted by her past. She also showed her intelligence. She is smarter than Brona Croft ever was. She has Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) completely fooled. She has the world completely fooled. Lily has plans for the 19th-century world she lives in though, festering, bloody designs. She is the true monster, devilishly beautiful in her villainy. She is The Governor, almost. She is Darth Vader, almost. What will decide it are her next actions and if she can execute her plans.

Lily Frankenstein had been ahead the entire time. Lily is master class chess player that instantly adapted to her environment and her “opponent”, per se, without anyone taking notice. She had everyone fooled, including the viewer. Question: immediately after her resurrection, when she was sitting on a chair stupefied, not speaking, just staring at nothing and no one, was she completely aware of what was going on? Was she merely pretending so that she could observe Dr. Frankenstein and The Creature speaking frankly and undisguised in front of her?

I can’t believe Dr. Frankenstein didn’t test her mental acuity in a thorough and systematic way (the ability to speak is one thing, the ability to process and retain information at a high rate is another). Dr. Frankenstein is a complete and utter fool. I knew he was a nincompoop when it came to thoroughly studying his creations, but I had no idea that he lacked the wits to see beneath a book’s cover, a book he created. Dr. Frankenstein created something smarter than he is and he is a medial genius (if he dared to ever publish his work, that is what medical academics would call him).

When Lily’s anger flared and her old Irish brogue broke loose, her ‘mask’ was fully pulled back (it was a wonderful, brief moment). During this scene, The Creature (Rory Kinnear)’s reactions ran the gamut, showing Kinnear’s dexterity, but the three that were most common on his face were: surprise, befuddlement, and anger. He was just as surprised as the viewer was at what Lily had to say.

Saying that the writing and acting in this pivotal scene were: elegant, masterful, impactful, poetic, and frightening doesn’t do them justice. Billie Piper may get nominated for this scene alone. This was her moment and her character’s key moment on Penny Dreadful.

The completion of the Verbis Diablo translation added a new layer of darkness to the already bleak Season 2 plotline. The viewer was not expecting what was revealed (think the Sookie Stackhouse revelation in True Blood), making the revelation that much stronger. The fact that fringe story-lines were connected to the main storyline made the trivial translation process exciting. I was surprised that Sembene (Danny Sapani) didn’t speak up when Lupus Dei was mentioned (one of the best aspects of the completed translation). My thought on that was that Sembene believed Ethan Chandler’s secret was for him to tell, not his to disclose. The fact that there are two evil beings, not one, was a crucial statement and moment of the translation. I thought the being Evelyn Poole was serving and The Vampire Master were one and the same. The completed translation separated the two, forever. The heroic cadre now has war to fight on three fronts: the witches courting Lucifer, Lucifer, and The Vampire Master.

Inspector Bartholomew Rusk (Douglas Hodge) knocking on Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton)’s re-enforced steel door was a surprise, a surprise in an episode of brilliant surprises. Their conversation was brief and terse. With Sir Murray’s words, he bound himself to Ethan Chandler (and his crimes).

Watching a certain character become possessed by Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory), this person’s eyes going “black as pitch,” was the culmination of the work that had been conducted on this person all season long. I wish more had been done with the possession though. It ended far too quickly. How it ended was: beautiful, poignant, touching, making the possessed more human (figuratively and literally) the longer this particular sequence transpired but I wish more had been made of the actual possession. The same can be said about the revenge the formerly possessed tried to conduct once they had been freed. What the formerly possessed person tried to do was outright silly. Brave but silly. This person goes into the lion’s den with only one weapon, a handgun? Where was this person’s sword that they brandished with bravado in Night Work? Where was this person’s hunting rifle? A single handgun against witches? Come on. You have to be able to target them to shoot them. These weren’t the vampires from the first season that could be put down with a round to the head. I’m sure the witches could be killed that way but they have to stand still for you to shoot them. This hunter totally underestimated their prey, the expected result happened because of it, and this person was ‘relegated’ to a new purpose by the end of their ill-conceived quest. Bait.

Leave your thoughts on this review and this episode of Penny Dreadful below in the comments section. For more Penny Dreadful reviews, photos, videos, and information, visit our Penny Dreadful Page, our Penny Dreadful Google+ Page, subscribe to us by Email, “follow” us on TwitterTumblr, Google+, or “like” us on Facebook for quick updates.


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

  • Spiritus Luan

    The point of Dorian/Lily….well i don´t get it..sorry! they will have a good conversation?..

  • No. Their separate story-lines in the episode are excellent.

  • DarklingMagick

    I haven’t seen it yet but if the painting looks like a demon that may have to do with how he is becoming more and more monstrous (spiritually speaking). Some versions it’s a corpse, others it’s an old man, other depictions it’s diseased looking, ect…

    In the novel it’s meant to represent his soul and was once a beautiful young man.

  • Spiritus Luan

    I understand. Thanks. this episode will provoke the awaited “catharsis” for both characters. Sadly, because together they always win great hints.

  • One of your descriptions of the painting is accurate with an additional element as well.

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