Penny Dreadful

Season 1 Episode 5

Closer Than Sisters

Aired Sunday 10:00 PM Jun 08, 2014 on Showtime
out of 10
User Rating
107 votes

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Episode Summary


Vanessa recalls her past and the events that led to Mina's disappearance.

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  • One of the best

    In the top three of this season. In the top ten about everything that is brilliant on TV. All characters are most interesting, but Eva Green gives life to hers in the most visceral way.
  • Tough one

    This episode was.. brilliantly written, masterfully shot yet something was severely lacking.

    The thing that brought the episode down was the fact that it was simply the wrong time. They had gotten the ball rolling on the main plot, all the characters had an intriguing situation ahead of them and then we got an origin story that occupied a whole episode. Don't get me wrong, Vanessa is a very interesting character but it simply felt out of place. The only thing we really learned from the episode as well was more about who Peter was and what Vanessa's end goal is. The rest could've been deduced.

    The really difficult thing about having a 8-episode season is that even though you have so much to tell, you don't have the time. Had this been 12 episodes, even 10, I would've welcomed this edition.moreless
  • Wow...

    Eve Green... The story... The darkness. Simply amazing. Watch it.
  • Cease from self-pollution instanter, Madam!

    While I am spellbound before Eva Green's performance, not just in this episode but in the entire series (her seance scene DOES deserve an Emmy!), I was underwhelmed by the psychology evinced by the writer, John Logan. I think the problem, for him, is this. Do I write Victorian psychology as portrayed in the novels of the period or shall I use what we know to be the truth about Victorian sexuality?

    The novels are codified and heavily self-censored (except for the unbridled porn of magazines like THE PEARL which were very underground) and it is believable that witnessing your mother having sex with your best friend's father might make you go mad in a typically overwrought bodice-ripper of the period. However, here it didn't as it wouldn't in reality. Vanessa LIKED watching. Let's not even go into how a Victorian novel could handle a scene like that and not cause outrage.

    Then she decides to seduce her best friend's fiance in order, so far as I could work out, to beat Mina in the non-virgin stakes, like a sulky Hollywood brat with severe entitlement issues. Then she goes mad, as you do. Then she has sex with a demon who looks like Timothy Dalton (lots of good God-fearing folk having a problem with that choice this morning) and witnessing her daughter writhing in the nude causes her mother to die.. That's a hell of a leap in logic when the reality of upper-class sexuality of the period was "anything goes". A real Victorian mother would simply have closed the door discreetly or bought her daughter a marital aid (available by mail, plain wrappers only).

    In other words, Vanessa's journey was severely under-supplied in the backstory department. My understanding of demonology (there's a sentence to drop casually into a conversation for you but the truth is I write this sort of stuff myself) is that demons are attracted to certain talents and personalities. Are we to assume that the barbaric treatment meted out by Dr. Banning (especially the trepanation) unlocked some sort of wild talent that was always there or just caused it? Not clear and it should be.

    Then we have to assume all the events of DRACULA have occurred while Vanessa was out of her mind and Mina is in the fiend's clutches already. In other words, Vanessa is directly responsible for Mina marrying Jonathan Harker by preventing the first marriage to Captain Branson. Too much guilt, already.

    That said, a stunning episode from the performance point of view. Eva Green has to get an award for the bravest actress of the year for the punishment and self-revelation she was asked to suffer in this episode which got close to PASSION OF THE CHRIST flagellatory levels. Anna Chancellor did well with an underwritten character with confused and confusing motivations and Tim Dalton glowered satisfactorily.

    What I would like to see, now that the second season is safe, is for this excellent production to start focusing down. Right now there are too many plotlines blundering around in the Basil Rathbone pea-souper fogs. Victorian fog is good for mood. It is not good for satisfactory story-telling.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Vanessa: I don't remember clouds when we were young. Were there any, my dearest Mina? Just beyond the horizon, perhaps. Or was it all seashore and sand castles? Such a thought is naive, I know, but aren't memories always that?

    • Vanessa: I've always felt you have to name a thing before it comes alive. Like a witch's spell. His name is Ariel. The most challenging bit is the eyes. They're glass, of course. As by nature they're dead and dull. But that wouldn't do for my great predator. So I put mirrors behind the glass eyes so they would spark. You see?
      Branson: It's like they're alive.
      Vanessa: They are. I would put mirrors behind the entire world if I could.

    • Peter: Van. Oh, Van. Will she die?
      Claire: If there is a God.

    • The Demon: You could have shut the door at any time. You still can. Right now. Will you?
      Vanessa: Yes.
      The Demon: And give up everything we could have together? The true knowledge of man's virtue as well as his sin? The power? The sight beyond this world?
      Vanessa: I want nothing beyond this world.
      The Demon: Don't lie to me. You've always been drawn to the deep ocean. To the dark whisper. The mirror behind the glass eyes. To life with its fullest. Will you close that door now?

    • Vanessa: I know you do not credit it.
      Malcolm: You know nothing of me. Do you know how many men I've killed? In Africa we walked in blood every step. There was a time I would have gladly killed you. And there may come a time when I gladly shall. But for now I can make use of you.
      Vanessa: And no more?
      Malcolm: What else? Forgiveness? Go to your Roman Church for that, you'll find none here.
      Vanessa: Have you imagined for one moment what this has been for me? An unforgivable transgression that has marked me for life. You think you've suffered? You think you know blood? You think you've walked on corpses? Spread them from here to the horizon, and I have walked further. You weak, foul, lustful, vainglorious man. How dare you speak to me of death?

  • NOTES (2)


    • Young Vanessa: This is Ariel, from Shakespeare.
      Referencing the magical creature from Shakespeare's The Tempest. Ariel is a winged spirit imprisoned and then freed by Prospero. In return for its freedom, Ariel serves Prospero and is granted its freedom at the end of the play.