Penny Dreadful: 107 “Possession” Review
By Thomas Firth.
The show is primarily constructed in a very methodical and gradual way. It takes time to grow and concentrates mainly on building its characters before making any forward movement. Somehow, for this week’s episode, that works well. It was mainly characters exchanging thoughts with each other and developing a relationship. Vanessa’s illness, however, does put barriers in place which pits them against each other. This is a clever way of showing that the devil is among them.
Situated in Sir Malcolm’s home, the episode appears isolated and constricted to keeping to one storyline, but actually succeeds in being dynamic at the same time. Vanessa’s illness maybe a repeat of what happened in the fifth episode, but the concept remains a powerful one. Sir Malcolm continues to feel guilt for his past and the other characters soon turn on him for his negligence. Doctor Frankenstein has had a terrible time throughout the series, and he feels as though this a detour for him to escape the horrors outside. The fact that he avoids the waiting Caliban outside, is evidence of that. Ethan also joins the cast, his mind still on Brona, but also of his past. He even shows signs of affection towards Vanessa and does not want to kill her – the only explanation for this is that he has been amazed by her world and her sheer strength and feels she deserves a second chance.
The interesting addition to the illness is Vanessa’s power to see through the feelings of people around her. Inadvertently, the episode has somehow tied all the threads of the story into one (except for Dorian Gray, whose story is for some reason ignored altogether). Most terrifying is the account of Sir Malcolm’s travels in Africa, which has clearly had a massive impact on his life. There are some particularly poignant stories from his part and the guilt that he feels for the loss of his son, and now daughter. Also, the close relationship that Vanessa and Sir Malcolm have has been questioned, to the point of Sir Malcolm being accused of using Vanessa in her time of illness.
Sembene thankfully plays a more thorough role in the episode, and it’s also an excuse to delve into deeper themes. Their belief in God comes into question to each and every character. Frankenstein has always believed, Chandler has never believed, and Sembene believes in everything. The fact that Sir Malcolm is reluctant to call for a priest, shows his lack of commitment, but his reasons are perhaps based on something else.
Writer, John Logan, continues to succeed in identifying the era of Penny Dreadful and the consideration for religion is very detailed. The nod to exorcism just reminds us that their doings are something beyond the world of men and also something that brings out the darkness in the show. One thing that does seem out of context, however, is the use of swearing. For the characters in their age, especially Doctor Frankenstein, it sounds far too primitive.
Ultimately, the penultimate episode doesn’t cover a lot of ground, but it does reinforce the characters with enough background. Take Frankenstein, for example, his determination to learn how to use a gun is a show of freedom that he has always wanted. His character has always been about life and death and the gun can definitely symbolise that inevitable bridge. His outburst towards the priest is perhaps evidence of his scepticism for other approaches to science. As we learned in the previous episode, he needs his praise to be confident. Perhaps he can show that in the final episode as he reasserts himself with Caliban.
Not the best of the first season so far, but Possession is another example that the show has a totally different way of telling a story. Eva Green continues to show her skills as an actress and the other characters bounce off her character as well. There were restrictions in this type of portrayal and it’s best if the show explodes in the final episode into something massive, just to make the hard work, of fitting the characters together, seem worthwhile. Nonetheless, the show has been consistently strong, and I fail to see anything that could ruin it in the finale.