Penny Dreadful: Grand Guignol
June 29, 2014 8:14 PM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

After a vision of the Grand Guignol, Vanessa, Sir Malcolm, Ethan, Dr. Frankenstein and Sembene explore an empty theater - only to be confronted by their worst nightmares. Season finale.
posted by oh yeah! (49 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Well, I can only hope that S2 begins with resurrected Brona ripping Caliban and Frankenstein to bloody pieces. And just for good measure, she could knock off Vincent for his awful "I'd rather fire the woman you assaulted than you, dear fellow" speech to Caliban. Ugh.

All in all, it was kind of anti-climactic, since we'd had all the hints about Ethan's possible werewolf-ness, and Malcolm having to face the possibility that Mina was beyond hope of rescue. But it was still satisfying, especially with Vanessa's last scene.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:56 PM on June 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


For a brief moment I was hoping that Ethan was going to turn out to be a were-monkey. Bummer.
posted by homunculus at 10:59 PM on June 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


Well, I can only hope that S2 begins with resurrected Brona ripping Caliban and Frankenstein to bloody pieces.

Me too. That would be refreshing.
posted by homunculus at 11:00 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Goddammit, Frankenstein! When given the opportunity to put down your annoying emo multi-murdering rape monster, PULL THE FUCKING TRIGGER.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:44 AM on June 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


For a brief moment I was hoping that Ethan was going to turn out to be a were-monkey.

I also thought this.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:44 AM on June 30, 2014


I feel like I'm one obsessive fansite away from enjoying this show.

I do hope it comes back for another season, one in which, quite simply, more action happens. Mind you, the action in this show has been some of it's weakest parts so far. But listening to vague backstories and trying to sift through character motivations week after plodding week is dragging this show down. The look of the show is great, the actors are all suburb, but there is some spark -- and I'm not sure what it is -- missing. A more sympathetic character perhaps? A Mad Men-esque funhouse mirror into our own time?

I'll admit I'm a fan of the period. I think Penny Dreadful is at it's best when it delivers scenes like the seance, or the performances at the Grand Guignol. Scenes that give us a sense of the time and how odd and on the fringe of it our characters are. But to do that it has to show the normal more, perhaps by way of a character more sympathetic to the audience. Maybe give us some comic relief?
posted by Catblack at 7:09 AM on June 30, 2014


The series has been renewed for a second season, so yes, it will be back. Caliban was less annoying this episode, I almost felt sorry for him. Great last scene.
posted by Pendragon at 11:56 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I liked the theme of acceptance that ran throughout this episode - every character got to reckon with the presence of evil within themselves. External evil was basically absent in this episode, or made pointless. Sure, there was the assault on the church, but the true point of the episode was "wow we are all pretty fucking evil ... so be it!".
posted by destructive cactus at 3:14 PM on June 30, 2014


Assault on the church ? It was the Grand Guignol theatre.
posted by Pendragon at 3:17 PM on June 30, 2014


Thanks - fingers faster than brain.
posted by destructive cactus at 3:28 PM on June 30, 2014


The thing I'm wondering about is whomever opens up the theater the next morning is going to find a bunch of dead vampires in the basement. And seriously, Caliban was living down there, so he never heard or saw any vampires crawling around? Did the vampires ignore him because he's a monster too? (And if so, why didn't we see that?)

And now that Mina's dead(er) will we care about her father as a character? Seemed like that was his whole motivation, unless he's semi-officially adopting Vanessa?
posted by Catblack at 7:38 PM on June 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


or maybe since he was schtupping Vanessa's mother, he's admitting to himself that she may actually be his daughter
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:38 AM on July 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


All in all not a bad first season. I'm assuming that our unhappy crew will have another horror to deal with next season now that Mina is kaput.

Thankfully, Victor is half-crazy and Caliban a needy poetic monster, so we will get Brona as the Bride (if everything works out as expected). Will Brona get a name from Shakespeare? I vote for Miranda. "O brave new world, That has such people in't!"

And Ethan is a werewolf, as was indicated all along. But he's still incanting voluminous amounts of Latin. We haven't got an explanation for that yet.
posted by cwest at 1:30 AM on July 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


That was a come-down from the previous episode. I hate Caliban and his storyline, but I did feel that his quasi-redemptive moment at gunpoint did very nearly work for me. There's still a mismatch; his casual murder and Nice Guy rapiness way overwhelms his newly self-aware admission of his own wickedness. If his crimes were much more forgivable (and didn't conform to the "whole sexual assault is not a big deal, oh, poor misunderstand guys" bullshit) then him being sympathetic as he battles his own demons, like the other characters, would work. But the show so clearly sees him as sympathetic that it upsets me greatly.

I like the psychological (and metaphysical?) insight that a) a part of Vanessa doesn't want to give up what makes her special, and b) in that case, an exorcism would be disastrous. That's interesting.

Finally, I never mentioned this in earlier threads, but am I the only person in the world who was familiar with the term grand guignol but, before this show, had no idea of its origin? I feel stupid that I never thought to wonder and look it up.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:50 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Huh, neither was I. Wikipedia says it refers to (among other things) "any gruesome or gory drama or event" and a French puppet character. Both of those are interesting. Mina would be the puppet, I suppose? Or Vanessa? With diabolical figures pulling the strings.

I thought Maude (?) would somehow be combined with Brona to create the Bride, actually. I half-expected Caliban to murder her and bring her to Victor to experiment on, then when Brona passed away to somehow blend the two women.

Husband's comment was: "Will she have lost the ridiculous accent when she comes back?"
posted by tracicle at 4:16 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Was Caliban's "Why did you have to make me with feelings" speech taken from the book? Or from some other story? I felt like it was reminding me of something else.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:45 AM on July 1, 2014


Things I shouted/hissed/muttered at the television while watching:

'STOP TRYING TO MAKE US FEEL SORRY FOR CALIBAN. You are still the worst.'

'I FUCKING KNEW IT, I KNEW HE WAS THE ULTIMATE Nice Guy.'

'Oh, Vicky, bro. Consent is a thing.'

'CALIBAN, VICKY, CONSENT IS STILL A THING AND SHE'S ALLOWED TO NOT LIKE YOU, DAMMIT.'

'Maybe Sir Malcolm's beard has grown entwined with his chest hair, because he seems to permanently be speaking with his head tilted down.'

'Vanessa, you are Satan. Possibly the church is not the place for you.'

I agree that they almost pulled off that redemptive monologue for Caliban, but it was just too soon after his assault on Maude. If they'd let that breathe a little, perhaps the whiplash wouldn't have been so disorientating but as it was, I was too busy still thinking of him as Rapey McAsshole to buy it.

It's troubling that i'm genuinely not sure whether the people behind the show intend for us to go along with this 'Well, he's very sad so feel sorry for him' thing or whether we're supposed to be tutting the gross misogynistic streak in the society they're showing us.
posted by pseudonymph at 5:49 AM on July 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


I like the psychological (and metaphysical?) insight that a) a part of Vanessa doesn't want to give up what makes her special, and b) in that case, an exorcism would be disastrous. That's interesting.

Yes, I liked this a lot.

For the last episode of a season they sure did a whole lot of going around setting up new things. It seemed they're setting up Madam Kali (I forget what she said her real name was...something less memorable) as a possible love interest for Malcolm...in which case his lie to her about how little he sees Vanessa is going to bite him in the ass pretty much immediately. Not sure what the other ramifications of that possible relationship are.

I liked the two Pinkertons (in a "these could be interesting villains" way) so I'm a little disappointed, though not surprised, that they didn't last long.

And there's no Mina, but apparently there's still a Master out there that is trying to get Vanessa, so I expect we're not done with that plotline completely, even if next season introduces some new focus.
posted by mstokes650 at 6:49 AM on July 1, 2014


Unfortunately, I think the writers do expect us to sympathize with Caliban. I can only hope that they can take in some of the critical/fan responses and do better next season, but I'm not optimistic.

I agree that they almost pulled off that redemptive monologue for Caliban, but it was just too soon after his assault on Maude. If they'd let that breathe a little, perhaps the whiplash wouldn't have been so disorientating but as it was, I was too busy still thinking of him as Rapey McAsshole to buy it.

It was that "sorry I have to fire you, dear boy, what can I do, actresses be crazy" dialogue that was extra whiplashy for me. It would have been better if Victor had witnessed the assault and fired him right then, or if Caliban had seen his monstrosity reflected in their horror at his actions and fled in shame. I don't think I'd like him any better, or see the bridification of Brona as any less of a violation, but it would have sold the redemption arc a tiny bit.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:54 AM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh, fire Caliban into the sun already. What purpose does he even serve in the narrative? He's not doing much for Victor, and was a pretty weak hook to get them to the theatre. And fucking Victor? No, I won't shoot this dude what murdered a good friend of mine but an Irish whore who'll be dead soon anyway? Pah, pillow to face.

SERIOUSLY GUIZ.
posted by Jilder at 6:59 AM on July 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


You can do both. You can pity Caliban and you can hate him for his acts. Pity him for the situation Victor has put him in and despise him for his criminal response to his predicament. Or not. It's up to the viewer.

However, the real monster is Victor. He created Caliban and brought him into a world of pain and misery. That's his first sin. When Victor realized how angry and monstrous Caliban had become he rejected him and sent him out into the world knowing full well the havoc Caliban would wreak. That's his second sin. Victor is possessed by the idea of revivifying the dead, and despite the results he received with Caliban on he goes in his obsession. Proteus. And Brona, more than likely, after having put a pillow over her face. That's his third sin.

Victor bears the responsibility.

Now compare this little scenario with the Old Testament story of God, his creations Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, the Exile from the Garden, and Cain and Abel and you could have a field day with the analogies and interpretations.
posted by cwest at 9:10 AM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Seriously starting to hate Victor, and just after he scored some major points with me telling off the priest in the last episode. He had to freaking smother Brona? He couldn't have, you know, used some of his morphine to euthanize her so Ethan could be with her? I mean, she said she didn't want the medicine, but did that mean she wanted a pillow to the face instead? The plotline with Victor and Caliban is such an anti-woman horror story. Brona was a prostitute in life so I guess her body is fair game for whatever the Bang Bros want to do with her? They way they showed Victor revealing her corpse to Caliban was stomach-turning.

I did like Dorian Gray's bit, though. Maybe more rings would make him feel better.

The final encounter was really rushed, too. I guess vampires are easily killed by bullets in this world? Meh.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:52 AM on July 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


Was Caliban's "Why did you have to make me with feelings" speech taken from the book? Or from some other story? I felt like it was reminding me of something else.

I'm not sure about that specific line but much of the speech is paraphrasing Phantom of the Opera. It's in my soul that the true distortion lies! And so on
posted by Justinian at 12:59 PM on July 1, 2014


Dear Brona-

Welcome to your Afterlife! If you are reading this, then you were reborn while I was out. Sorry about that. Just so we are clear, you consented to this when you agreed to my Terms of Service back when I became your doctor. Don't remember that? I do - you were passed out from your illness when I reached page 45 out of 82 where the Reanimation Clause is.

Anyhoo - first thing's first. You died and I brought you back. Yay me! I've done this a few times before, so don't worry, I totes know what I'm doing.

By the way, your name is Bottom now. Don't ask, just accept it. I'm sorry the pages were stuck together.

Speaking of accepting things, learn to accept your scars. You'll have a few and since our God seems to be a carnal God, they will be in all the most awkward of places. As a favor to you, I was sure to include a scar on your vocal cords so you could take the opportunity to drop your horrible accent for a husky whisper. If we can get you up and about before those fuckers next door at HBO, we'll have stolen a march on Lady Stoneheart.

If you look up, there is probably a pale dude wearing a fedora sitting in the corner trying to read Milton and look all suave. Ignore that guy. Seriously. Any attention you give him he'll BLOW WILDLY OUT OF PROPORTION. Take it from me. I just brought the guy to life and he keeps following me around alternating between calling me Creator and trying to get me to listen to his mixtapes. Dude does not take a hint.

I'll be around eventually to check up on you. I'll also bring around your werewolf boyfriend and his immortal lover. Not because you need to see them at this point, but because the resulting chaos will help everyone forget that I sort of murdered you and brought you back into a state of tortuous unlife with only an eyelash flutter as consent.

yrs

Victor Frankenstein

ps - Sorry about the beefy left arm. Yours got kinds gnawed on in transit and all I had was this, uh, Apache buffet platter left over from Ethan and uh.. yeah.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:27 PM on July 1, 2014 [15 favorites]


I'm not sure about that specific line but much of the speech is paraphrasing Phantom of the Opera. It's in my soul that the true distortion lies! And so on

I'm not familiar enough with Phantom for that to be what it reminded me of. It was something with a creation (monster, robot, whatever) addressing its creator, but I don't think the creator was God.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:14 PM on July 1, 2014


Every time I see Caliban moping my mind goes "craaaaawling in my skiiiin" and so forth.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:46 AM on July 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Caliban had to attack Maude. He's Caliban. His attack of Maude mirrors Caliban's attempted rape of Miranda in The Tempest, which causes Prospero and Miranda, who formerly pitied him, to distrust him and look upon him with contempt.

Except that in the world of Penny Dreadful, where everyone is fundamentally flawed, his actions are apparently not nearly enough to cause the theater owner who pitied him to feel contempt. So although he sends Caliban's away, he ends up asking the creature to think kindly of them, feeling they have failed him rather than that Caliban has abused their trust.

I really wish we could have seen the discussion between Maude and the theater owner that preceded that one, though. What did she tell him happened? Did she gloss over the attack, and just say she wanted Caliban gone? Or did she actually tell him what happened? And if she did, did he also treat Maude with compassion, professing his support for her when he promised to send Caliban away? In other words, is this guy just always acting the part of the kind benefactor while talking out of his ass? Or does he really feel sympathy for Caliban, and if so, why does he feel this kinship to Caliban when presumably he has known and worked with Maude far longer?

I have mixed feelings about that attack scene, too. Many people have failed the creature. Maude is completely innocent of wrong-doing, having shown him only pity and kindness. But the theatre owner brought him in knowing nothing at all of his past. The creature refused to give him even a proper name. Caliban might have been a murderer at that point for all he knew of him. In all his mentoring of Caliban, did he never address his interactions with the actors? "Hey, you're gong to be scurrying all around here, and you'll need to respect the actors' privacy. Knock before entering a dressing room. Maude may be changing, etc. Naturally, if I have even the slightest suspicion you are spying on her or any of the other women, you are out of here," would have been a good start! I mean, even without knowing Caliban's background I would think you'd want to err on the side of caution, for the safety of others.

And Victor, at least, knows that the creature is woefully unprepared for any romantic relationship and that he is a danger to anyone he comes into contact with. The idea that Victor will just create a bride, and a beautiful one, and she will love and adore Caliban at first sight is ludicrous, and Victor knows that.

At least the creature has as an excuse in that his entire existence thus far has been informed by the books he has read and the plays he has watched, with very few actual human interactions. His perception of reality is understandably skewed. In the classics Caliban has read, when a man crosses another, what does the victim do? He seeks revenge--through murder. When a woman treats a man kindly, why is that? She must be in love with him! He hardly sees any boring, mundane (but healthy) interactions; they don't feed into tragic, comic or dramatic plotlines. Even the creature's use of makeup when he visits Maude makes sense in that he has only ever witnessed love scenes acted upon a stage.

But what is Victor's excuse? He has to know making this bride is wrong at every level. He's an adult now, and though he may originally hoped he could some day bring his mother back from the dead, he has since seen the repercussions of his actions in Caliban's monstrosity and poor Proteus's sad, short life. His initial reluctance to create another being made sense, but now it just seems like he only refused because he hates the monster and not because he saw the moral repugnance in what he was doing by resurrecting these poor people.
posted by misha at 9:54 AM on July 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


misha, that was excellent. Thank you for that.
posted by cwest at 1:11 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


In other words, is this guy just always acting the part of the kind benefactor while talking out of his ass?

Oh, he's totally talking out of his ass. The "oh well, nothing to be done, you see" and "I'd rather fire her" bits were a smokescreen to keep the proprietor from either being attacked (unlikely) or falling in Caliban's estimation. The proprietor has the same affliction as Caliban - he just wants to be liked (adored?), but he's enough of an adult to realize that having a lovesick, violent weirdo living in his basement is bad for business. Caliban understands people so poorly that he wouldn't notice the smoke being blown up his ass if he sat on a chimney.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:23 PM on July 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


For next season, I would like a credible occulty backstory for Vanessa's possession that isn't just basically sexist Victorian psychosexual hysteria ('I saw mummy and Sir Malcolm banging in a hedge maze and got the horn'). A curse brought back from Sir Malcolm's travels, perhaps as punishment for his colonial sex-rampaging, would be nice.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 7:21 PM on July 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also? 'It broke my heart. Not a young girl's heart, Vanessa. A man's heart.' Yeah, fuck you too, Sir Malcolm.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 7:22 PM on July 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


I always assumed that watching the hedge nookie was an awakening of the thing already inside, not the point where she became possessed.

I bet she is actually Malcolm's daughter, and the result of some weirdo curse from the family of whatever tribal women he's forced himself on in his travels. You have been suffering to our women, so may a woman be suffering for you.

Or somesuch.

posted by Jilder at 5:37 AM on July 3, 2014


ugh caliban plz diaf you grosso creeper
posted by elizardbits at 6:55 PM on July 6, 2014


I'm almost disappointed by the obviousness of the werewolf reveal tbh. I was hoping for something more along the lines of eldritch abomination but I still hold out hope for that with Dorian.
posted by elizardbits at 6:56 PM on July 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I hope we never ever see the picture, though. Some things need to stay in the shadows to maintain their horror.
posted by Jilder at 11:46 PM on July 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think there's been an adaptation of Dorian Gray where the Painting Reveal hasn't been some degree of embarrassment.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 7:47 AM on July 7, 2014


omg hilarious Penny Dreadful AU where Dorian Gray's elderly housekeeper notices the painting is looking a bit worn out so she tries to repaint it and ends up with Jesus Monkey Gray.
posted by elizardbits at 7:58 AM on July 7, 2014 [15 favorites]


But yes hopefully next season Brona wakes up, takes one look at Caliban and says LOL FUCK THIS SHIT and takes off for her own adventures far away from Creepy McCreepster and Dr Vicky Jerkface.
posted by elizardbits at 8:00 AM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just FYI - Netflix has added "The Bride" to InstantWatch this month. I haven't watched it since the DVD came out, and my fondness for the movie is probably mostly owed to the brainwashing effect of it having been in heavy rotation on cable years ago. But it's got a wonderful mix of good and bad casting, and the good includes the road-trip parts of the movie with Clancy Brown as the monster and the late David Rappaport as a traveling actor/con man. Oh, and a painfully gorgeous pre-Princess Bride Cary Elwes in a small role.
posted by oh yeah! at 9:16 AM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Some info about season two.
posted by MsVader at 8:25 AM on July 28, 2014


Okay, so I finally saw the last few episodes of the season. Finally.

But what is Victor's excuse? He has to know making this bride is wrong at every level. He's an adult now,

This, I think gets at what the creators were going for w Caliban. He isn't an adult, he's really a huge and powerful child. Who reads too much. Thank god Ayn Rand isn't around yet.

Caliban lacks the basic emotional control of maturity. The murder of Van Helsing (and boy do I have some things to say about that whole character, short version: Why? Did David Warner have a few days off and you figured, wtf, let's shoehorn him in somewhere?) and the attack on Maude are both examples of his emotions getting ginned up and him not knowing what to do with them and losing it. He wants to be a good and worthwhile person, and has enough going on to recognize when he's failed, but not enough to keep himself from failing in the first place. Sort of like the rest of us. Granted his failings are simpler and more operatic than ours because I mean the show is called Penny Dreadful. But I think that's what the writers want us to feel for him, a sympathy for his at his inability to live up to his ideals and his realization of his failures.

Whether they made the right choices to get that across is debatable. From the comments here, I'd say probably not. But I think that's what they were going for.
posted by Naberius at 7:01 AM on October 23, 2014


Whoa. Scrolling down in Recent Activity too quickly can be disorienting. For a moment there I thought Caliban had come to life and joined GamerGate.
posted by homunculus at 3:32 PM on October 23, 2014


Why doesn't theatre owner fire Caliban with extreme prejudice? Because he's in show business, and you never want to burn bridges with a good worker. Ugh.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:34 PM on December 26, 2014


I am sure from Victor's perspective Brona had agreed to join the demimonde. Which is weird because demimonde also refers to high-level prostitutes or companions and not the supernatural, so an interesting play of words. In any case, Brona and Victor have a conversation before he smothers her about how she can enter a half state while working on her fear of entering a punishing afterlife. I rewatched the scene and she did not really struggle when Victor smothered her. Of course, it could be because she was weak from dying. In Victor's rationalizing mind, Brona agreed to enter her reanimated future. This is infinitely better than taking just any woman to satisfy Caliban's demands in Victor's mind.

I am very puzzled by the types of vampires we are seeing. We got naked fang boy and his white-haired groupies; male transitional vampires like Fenton, Mina of full volition, and a mysterious master who is planning to procreate with Vanessa. Van Helsing said he staked and beheaded his wife, Hannah, after stuffing her mouth with garlic. We have Fenton dead from a blow to the back of the head; a lot of bullet wounded/killed white hairs and two dead fang boys with a sword. I am trying to puzzle out the vampire mythos and hierarchy of this particular universe. Van Helsing being dead robs Penny Dreadul of a lot of mythos, which is markedly different from Stoker's Dracula, where Van Helsing was the bridge into vampire lore. Our would-be Scooby Gang are very much flying in the dark against the blood sucking fiends from hell.
posted by jadepearl at 9:15 PM on April 20, 2015


This is back.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 8:36 PM on April 23, 2015


Yeah, I thought about posting the new episode, but it was so terrible I didn't have the motivation to bother.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:52 PM on April 23, 2015


I heard something about the S2 premiere being up for viewing somewhere early, but, the Showtime premiere isn't until May 3rd, and I've got too many other shows going to want to skip ahead. I'll be posting the episode then if nobody else has.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:30 AM on April 24, 2015


Oh, I didn't realize I'd seen it earlier than I ought to have. Or that I revealed myself to have done so. Oops.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:50 PM on April 24, 2015


Showtime released episode 1 of season 2 on Youtube already. It's not an "illicit" release.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 3:05 PM on April 24, 2015


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