Penny Dreadful A Blade of Grass Review
Showtime’s Penny Dreadful: Season 3, Episode 4: A Blade of Grass provided the viewer with a tough choice. Because of the quality of Penny Dreadful’s stage-craft, narrative, and acting, it is difficult to pick a best episode out of all of them. Séance would be one such episode. A Blade of Grass is another.
One-room plays do not get much better than A Blade of Grass, as the imagination of the viewer went above and beyond the confines of the room, hand-and-hand with the protagonist as they dreamed and reminisced about another world, the previous world, before they entered their current predicament.
This was the journey that the viewer went on with Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) in The Banning Clinic’s White Room during A Blade of Grass.
Vanessa was both a casual viewer and an unwilling participant in the events during her intra-mind journey, upping the ante she thought she placed on the table by entering hypnosis.
Reliving the horrors of the past was not what Vanessa bargained for nor was being trapped in them. It did have the effect of raising the tension and the stakes for Vanessa, Dr. Seward (Patti LuPone), and the episode. It was good narrative decision by John Logan.
The structure of the episode was also a good decision. What was done in this episode of Penny Dreadful doesn’t usually occur on a TV series. The viewer is rarely shown different segments of a previous situation that happened across different season (Arrow does this). This was what happened with A Blade of Grass concerning the previous events in Closer Than Sisters. These episodes could actually be watched back-to-back for clarity’s sake (the former before the latter), giving the viewer a clear glimpse of what happened in-between Vanessa’s ‘therapy sessions.’
The most intriguing elements in those in-between moments was The Creature (Rory Kinnear), whose true name was cleverly kept from the viewer’s ears. The Creature was actually the most important character in The White Room. It was he that the viewer wanted to and got to learn more about during A Blade of Grass. Though The Creature was the most important character, he was not the central character of the episode. That distinction belonged to Vanessa Ives. It was she around whom all The White Room ‘visitors,’ those pressing their suit, eventually spun and twirled.
The current The Creature has had a large portion of his humanity driven out of him by circumstances beyond his control. The Man that became The Creature abounded with humanity. He showed more of that to a purported crazy person than possibly any other orderly would have, especially after being attacked.
The feeding tube scene was another torture that Vanessa endured at The Banning Clinic. Unlike the other tortures she underwent, this one was beneficial. It allowed Vanessa to keep her strength up, which helped her survive the escalating ‘therapies’ at the Clinic. There was no malice or ill-intent in putting Vanessa through it though the procedure itself was horrific, similar in grade to the feeding tube / electroshock scene in Requiem for a Dream.
The best aspect of A Blade of Grass was the friendship that sprung to life between Vanessa Ives and The Man. It was sumptuous in its scope (they traveled a long way together in that room) and endearing in its authenticity. The Man actually denied himself the pleasure of ‘being’ with Vanessa, finding the resolve, triumphantly not taking advantage of the situation that they found themselves in. As I said, The Man was no ordinary orderly. This was a human being with a soul and a conscience.
That soul, like the stain of Satan, touched Vanessa and brought her back out of her melancholy state. The Man’s unflinching friendship and words gave Vanessa the will to fight, to not forget who she was, and imbued her with the reality that she was worth fighting for. Just because she had been touched by Satan did not mean she was forsaken by God. By realizing that fact and making a worthwhile friend, her time at The Banning Clinic was not completely fruitless.
The fact that Lucifer and Dracula took the form of The Man said that The Man had become one the most important people in Vanessa’s life and that his visage could be possibly used to manipulate Vanessa. They were right, initially.
This scenario introduced the second most important aspect of A Blade of Grass. Seeing Rory Kinnear speak in two different cadences, tempter on one hand, bravado on the other, really illustrated the difference between Lucifer and Dracula (not only in temperament but in the power and influence that each possessed).
When Vanessa showed the power and influence she possessed, speaking the Verbose Diablo, levitating herself, she redefined herself in her adversaries eyes. She coterminous made herself even more desirable, potent, and dangerous a foe. She reset the chessboard, made the first move, and then was brain damaged to the point where she forgot everything, much to the advantage of those that were chasing her and had begun to fear her.
This, the climax of the episode, before the solidification of friendship (and the finality of farewell), was authentically climatic.
Now that Vanessa remembers everything, including the names of her adversaries, what will she do with that knowledge? Dis she realize that male orderly was The Creature?
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