Showtime’s Penny Dreadful And Hell Itself My Only Foe TV Show Review. Penny Dreadful: Season 2, Episode 9: And Hell Itself My Only Foe featured one of the best fight scene the viewer has seen on TV in some time and I have seen every episode of Game of Thrones, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Deadwood, Justified, and Lights Out. It was brutal, well-choreographed, busy fisticuffs.
There were four oddities during the scene though, three before the fight began and one after it.
The oddities before the fight began:
Oddity 1: How does Warren Roper (Stephen Lord) know that Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) can’t turn into the beast that scarred his face at will? Like I mentioned in Glorious Horrors, Roper is an idiot for being in the same room with Chandler if Chandler was not restrained (and he should have known better). It was a foolhardy, stupid act on Roper’s part but seeing “the Devil” light a cigarette, supremely confident, did add something to the scene that would not have been possible if Roper was: intelligent, thoughtful, fully respected his pray, or thought three steps ahead of his opponent. On the latter point, throwing your opponent’s guns out the window does not count when your opponent can transform into a monster.
Oddity 2: The villainization of Mr. Roper did not go unnoticed. If Mr. Roper had tried to take Chandler back to America and then Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and Chandler killed him, they two of them would have been seen as murders. Because of that, the writers had Mr. Roper threaten Ms. Ives with rape then they killed him, making Mr. Roper’s death an act of self-defense. It was a clever bit of writing but transparent.
Oddity 3: It was revealed in this episode that Chandler’s real last name was Talbert (or Talbot). Knowing this (Ethan’s father hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to bring Ethan back to America), why did Mr. Roper continuously call Ethan by his false pseudonym? This was an instance of bad writing not only in And Hell Itself My Only Foe but in all the other episodes where Mr. Roper spoke to Ethan Chandler.
The oddity after the fight had concluded:
Oddity 4: Vanessa Ives was hit in the face with a gun and had her face slammed into a wood table during the fight and only had a busted lip the next day.
I understand that Penny Dreadful‘s producers want to keep Ms. Ives beautiful for the viewer all episode long but that was bizarre, a bizarre as when Jon Snow had his head slammed against an metal anvil by the Thenn leader in The Watchers on the Wall and then hours later had absolutely no bruising on his head or on his face from the impact.
It was the magic of television over the normal consequence of punches and violent impacts on human flesh and tissue. Ethan Chandler’s quick healing hilt-deep, knife stab wound was an even more egregious magic act.
These decisions hurt the aftermath of the battle and the reality of Penny Dreadful. Are Ethan and Vanessa both mutants? Do they both possess Wolverine’s healing factor?
Hecate Poole (Sarah Greene) said the emblems and so forth that the hero cadre had spread throughout Sir Murray’s home had no power over her because the witches didn’t believe in them. That statement by Hecate made absolutely no sense. Just because you don’t believe in something does not dimension its power. If Hecate didn’t believe in breathing, she would still die if she taped her mouth and nose shut. If Hecate didn’t believe in guns or bullets, they could still kill her. Her explanation was juvenile and was akin to saying she didn’t believe in the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. It was another instance of bad writing in And Hell Itself My Only Foe. A more credible explanation should have been created as to why the holy sayings, spells, and totems that the hero cadre had spread throughout the house had no effect on her.
What I found puzzling during the Hecate Poole / Ethan Chandler scene was why Chandler gave her a chance to speak in the first place. Hecate and her sinister cabal have been trying to capture and trade Vanessa Ives for their own ends since the season began. Why give her a chance to speak? Why give her the chance to cast a spell?
Perhaps certain truths spoken out loud for the first time supplanted Chandler’s gut reaction. He was shocked but he had to listen to someone, the most unlikely person, as they spoke the thoughts that he had been harboring since he found out what he truly was. Ferdinand Lyle was not the only person that had been playing both sides. Through this revelation, Chandler became even more multidimensional. What Hecate prophesied was unnerving. Chandler response to it was disquieting. What sealed their “potential partnership” was something most would have thought Chandler would have reared away from in disgust.
Vanessa trying to free Sir Murray single-handed was to be expected. What was foolish was that Ms. Ives had no plan (except to bargain for Sir Murray’s freedom), only the will to confront head on what had been chasing her from the shadows for so long. What made this foolhardy gesture worth-while was not the other-worldly voice that eventually spoke to her. It was the sacrificing of one life for another, a sacrifice that would have never happened if Ms. Ives had waited twenty-four hours as her friends had requested.
Seeing Chandler turn his gun on himself and pull the trigger all to save the life of someone he now called “friend” was exhilarating to see but was not as rewarding as Sembene (Danny Sapani)’s entreatment. Chandler was forced to except one truth about himself earlier in the season. In And Hell Itself My Only Foe he was forced to confront and except another but this time at a mortal cost. It was a great moment in the episode.
Hecate’s dinosaur speech to Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory) was glorious. Does Hecate believe she can brow-beat her mother into submission? Hecate continuously goaded her mother but the result she was looking for from the goading was unclear. Did Hecate believe that her mother, enraged, would step down and relinquish the witch crown? Her impertinence during And Hell Itself My Only Foe was highly entertaining though e.g. “Welcome to my home.”
Lily (Billie Piper) and Dorian Grey (Reeve Carney)’s time together in his parlor was the invention of the new threat in Season 3 of Penny Dreadful and possibly Season 4. That threat, growing in the background of the series (possibly during part of Season 3) will eventually burst into the forefront of show, thus the hero cadre will have to confront it. Chandler will have to confront Lily. Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) will have to disclose the creation of his Creatures.
That is the future.
The present in And Hell Itself My Only Foe between Dorian and Lily was one of disclosure, courting (“Kneel boy”), a show of power, and the building of a new union. It was also made clear that Brona Croft / Lily had indeed been playing possum from the moment she first spoke after resurrection, perhaps since she stood up naked in the resurrection tube in front of Dr. Frankenstein and The Creature.
The Creature (Rory Kinnear) was faced with two dilemmas in And Hell Itself My Only Foe: one dilemma was mental, the other was physical. The first dilemma was stated beautifully by The Creature in a reflective moment. The woman of his dreams was at his finger tips but he would have to sell his soul to be with her since her evil is not part of his personality. The Creature doesn’t want to help her or her vision for the future but he does not want to walk the Earth alone anymore either.
The second dilemma was the best surprise of the episode, laid out perfectly in front of the viewer’s eyes the moment The Creature stepped foot in Oscar Putney (David Haig)’s establishment. It was a masterful hoodwink all season long, making the viewer believe one thing while something else completely different was going on. The small surprise within the big surprise was Lavinia Putney (Tamsin Topolski). Previously, the viewer believed she was the flower amongst thorns. In And Hell Itself My Only Foe, her true nature showed itself for the first time. Of all the villains in The Creature’s life, Lavinia is the worst. Lily pretended timidness and ignorance before revealing her true nature. Lavinia’s pretense was friendship and kindness, two things that The Creature craved and hungered for after the abandonment of his creator following his resurrection. The viewer couldn’t believe it when Lavinia pulled off her mask and the Putney scheme was fully revealed.
The situation The Creature now finds himself in is going to harden his feelings towards humanity. He already suffered once at the hands of one human being and now he is being made to suffer again but this time: imprisonment, indignity, cruelty, and betrayal have been added to the mixture. When The Creature gets free, he will be severely jaded when it comes to mankind and kindness. He will be a misanthrope, or as near to it as a lover of poetry can be. He will be closed off emotionally, damaged. He will be no body’s fool next time. He will be like Daniel Craig‘s James Bond: he will trust no one.
I foresee Lily and Dorian Grey visiting the new Putney attraction and seeing The Creature locked away in his cage. Will he ask Lily for help? Will she help him even if he asks or see the whole situation as amusing and move on the next ” freak” in the dungeon zoo?
The Creature will get out. It’s inevitable. He has two undisclosed weapons: intelligence and abnormal strength (far superior than a normal human being). The Putneys do not know about either of these weapons. Can The Creature rip the cage door off of its hinges? Can he repeatedly punch the cage door at its locking point until the lock breaks free? We will see. We will also see what The Creature does to the Putneys once he is free. The viewer has seen what The Creature is capable of when angered (reference Proteus and Dr. Van Helsing). My guess is that when The Creature gets his hands on the Putneys, he will get very “creative” and create new attractions for the dungeon freak zoo. Or he will kill them all.
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