It’s impossible for anyone to steal the spotlight with Eva Green around. Johnny Depp couldn’t do it in Dark Shadows, Rodrigo Santoro in 300: Rise of an Empire, or Josh Brolin in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Eva Green is magnetic on screen, whether she’s craning her neck in subtle flirtation or whispering the sad words of a dead son.
As the nightmarish intrigue slowly unfolds on the disappearance of Sir Malcolm’s daughter Mina and the strange non-monster pseudo-child of Frankenstein, Vanessa reveals her proclivity for possession — and we’re loving every second of it!
If the first episode was just a first taste of the nightmarish horrors of Penny Dreadful, this episode is the main course with all its roster of sex, drama, violence, and murder. The highlight of the episode is the immersive seance scene in Sir Ferdinand Lyle’s mansion. We meet the intriguing Madame Kali played by the wonderful Helen McCrory. But no, the spotlight is not on her. This is an Eva Green show and the seance scene is a full six minutes of Eva Green; talking in wild whispers, harsh non-voices uttered with difficulty, unresting eyes, severe ticks, and a truly unnerving back bend. This moment was a terrific exposition, revealing so much more about Vanessa Ives and Sir Malcolm Murray, both who have plenty of skeletons in the closet.
Meanwhile, a physical representation of “monsters hidden” is Proteus, Frankenstein’s undead invention who, as it turns out, isn’t quite the mad monster the books have cut him out to be. In fact, he is a child exploring all the wonderful smells and sights of the vivid London city around him. It’s a poignant scene for us and Victor, watching this non-child creature absorb everything around him.
And that’s when Showtime pulls the rug from under us, laughing as they’re all “Had you believing, didn’t we?” Just as we’re able to empathize with Victor, we realize that the threat he’s terrified of has managed to catch up with him in the form of his true “monster”, who viciously ends the innocent Proteus in one stroke. Harry Treadaway is close to stealing the attention from Eva Green; his ambition and dedication to his work obviously leading down a dark dark tunnel from which there was no return. Meanwhile, Ethan Chandler has yet to sink his teeth on his role, whether it’s because showrunners are saving his character up for something bigger or because Josh Hartnett can’t meet his persona half way.
Dorian Gray, played by Reeve Carney, makes for a smooth-talking eye candy, but nothing more. He exhibits a certain kind of charm, yes, but nothing in his eyes or manner makes me think that he has truly immersed himself in the role of a conflicted man who carries all the weight of the decades he’s managed to elude.
Overall, Seance is a terrific new addition to the slowly growing world of Penny Dreadful; London at its most menacing and seductive.