Penny Dreadful S01 E05: Closer Than Sisters

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How can we not love this show? Filled with mystery, death, secrets and sensuality in nature and form, in both male and female; we are trapped in the details. Dorian Gray, although an old soul, is a beautiful man who wields his powers of desire over men and women alike. I guess we can’t really blame Miss Ives for falling under his spell, nor judge Ethan Chandler for surrendering on last week’s episode of “Penny Dreadful.” Tonight’s story is about Mina. It is Miss Ives burden to tell us. If we ask nicely, maybe she will let us see one of the letters she writes to her friend.

Letters

We learn, as Vanessa says, in an endless ribbon of words the story of her and Mina. Every day Vanessa writes a letter to Mina, seals it in an envelope, addresses it, and then places it unread inside a box. She does this every day. Before the days of Facebook, Twitter and texting, people wrote letters on beautiful sheets of paper with a fountain pen that had to be refilled with ink when empty. It was considered an art form… now lost to progress and laziness.

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As a young girl, I would often receive a box of writing notes and envelopes. It was a treasured gift even for a tomboy like me, but we were speaking about Vanessa’s letters. She and Mina (Olivia Llewellyn) grew up together. They were more than neighbors; they were sisters. Vanessa played every day with Mina and her brother Peter. The gate between their homes and land always open with Mina and Vanessa’s family often eating dinner at each other’s home. They were that close.

Sir Malcolm and Peter, Mina & Vanessa

Sir Malcolm Murray was often away on hunting trips in Africa, but when he returned he would normally shower attention on the girls, while ignoring Peter (Xavier Atkins) and Mrs. Murray. Even though his son hung onto his father’s every word, Sir Malcolm thought the boy too weak. Jerk!

I wasn’t too surprise to see the children interested in taxidermy, with a big game hunter as a father, it made sense. The hedge maze was freaking scary though. I try to avoid mazes whenever possible thanks to Stephen King and my knack for getting hopelessly lost in them.

Episode 105

Vanessa was wise beyond her age; too wise. During one of her strolls through the hedge maze she sees Sir Malcolm and her mother, Claire (Anna Chancellor) having sex. It did something to Vanessa; it opened the door to dark things and she began to change. She began to steal, and became envious of Mina finding true love first. When Peter does not return her kiss, Vanessa decides to ruin Mina’s love. The night before Mina and Captain Branson (Joseph Millson) are to be married, Vanessa seduces the Captain, and Mina walks in on them. Bad, bad, Vanessa!

Demon

Of course the marriage is off and for the first time since Vanessa can remember, the gate is locked. Vanessa is barred from Mina and her family and it drives her insane. The doctors think she suffers from epilepsy, but we know better. Vanessa needs a priest and an exorcism. Her family is Catholic so I’m surprised that they didn’t have a priest drop by with a liter of holy water.

Episode 105

I’ve read many articles on the monstrosities of early mental health care, but I still get a knot is my stomach whenever I see it, even if it’s only a show. What people do to each other is scarier than any monster movie I’ve ever seen. Vanessa is brought to a specialist named Dr. Banning (Frank McCusker), but he’s the type of doctor that believes in ice cold baths and drilling holes in a person’s head. Vanessa is left in a vegetative state, but the demon is still there. Will you idiots please send for a priest!

An older Peter stops by to say goodbye to the family. He’s leaving for Africa. Daddy finally said yes to his son. When Peter sits next to Vanessa, Vanessa asks for a kiss, before telling Peter he is going to die in Africa. How’s that for a send-off.

The demon appears to Vanessa in the persona of Sir Malcolm. Apparently, the demon is a lover of Keats and wants to recite poetry, but Vanessa knows the demon for what it is, and yet, because of her nature and curiosity for the dark side, she allows the demon to recite poetry and have sex with her. Her mother, unfortunately, picks this time to enter the room.

After her mother’s funeral… yeah, the shock killed her… Vanessa walks on the beach and sees a vision of Mina. They talk. Mina forgives her. She’s married to a lawyer named Jonathan Harker. Hmmm, sound familiar? Before Mina vanishes, Vanessa learns that Mina is under the spell of an evil creature.  Is it a vampire? But of course!

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Conclusion

Vanessa and Sir Malcolm make a deal. She’ll help him find Mina and then move on, but there is one little secret she’s withholding. Vanessa loves Mina enough to kill her.

This episode was hard to watch because we get to see a Vanessa that is not dressed in finery, every hair in place, and sipping tea with her little pinkie extended.  No, we see as envious, bratty girl who brings trouble to those who love her while allowing herself to be possessed by a demon. On the bright side, Vanessa intimately knows evil, and that knowledge will help her to destroy Mina’s monster.

See you next week, my little pennies, and if you need to contact me; write a letter.

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