Hey, it’s Ryne from The Moon is a Dead World back for another set of DEADtime TV reviews. Slow week for horror television this time. Salem and Penny Dreadful are the only active shows, but I’ll be tackling Lifetime’s sequel to Flowers in the Attic, Petals on the Wind. Shawn resumes his review of Penny Dreadful!
Salem: “The Red Rose and the Briar” – Sunday, May 25 at 10 PM
“The Red Rose and the Briar” takes time out of Salem‘s running plot to share Mary Sibley’s past. We know that she was separated from John Alden in the throes of love because he was sent off to war, and she struggled with her pregnancy until Tituba helped her to abort it by offering it to Satan. But Mary tells her new pledge Mercy a story about an ashen woman (this is Mary) who was led to George Sibley’s estate, given the opportunity to be his wife, and then forced her way into power by giving up the love in her heart.
What Salem shows us is the actions taken, because the audience can already probably guess what happened even though we weren’t shown it. Mary and Tituba force-fed George a frog, making him a slave, and then Mary was allowed to make all of the decisions, giving rise to the witches and the hunts that are now going on in Salem. While it’s not much of a surprise, it is nice to see Salem recognizing that a little humanity for Mary would go a long way. It’s not exactly a success once the story ends and Mary opens up a straight razor looking to slice Mercy’s neck, but the idea is there all the same.
But the show still doesn’t know how to treat her character. Rose, the witch that John and Cotton Mather caught in the previous episode, is taken to a tree out by the dead body crag and tied up so that she can speak truths when Saturn aligns in the sky (something crazy like that – Cotton holds all these weird superstitions that are kind of strange for a man of the cloth), and she reveals to Mary that she sees love in her heart for John, and that John will always love Mary. How sweet, sort of; but Salem has yet to reveal to the audience that this romance is even worth pursuing, because what point would her Grand Rite be if she can’t be truly evil?
Salem has these good ideas, but its execution is faulty. Rose’s moments in the woods are quite forced, and her final witch act – biting her wrists, spouting blood over the land, and raising zombies from the ground – indicates that she’s never as helpless as she seems. That overwhelming power severely limits John and Cotton’s ability to stop witches, because they should be able to wriggle out of any situation mortals put them in. But their powers are also messily developed, and it’s not clear what a Grand Rite will actually do for them that they don’t already have.
While “The Red Rose and the Briar” is an eventful episode, it’s feels forced on the viewer. There’s a sense that Salem continually rewrites its rules, and that makes it near-impossible for the show to surprise the viewer. When the witches can do whatever they want, the unexpected becomes expected.
Penny Dreadful: “Resurrection” – Sunday, May 25 at 10 PM
In the last episode of Penny Dreadful, Doctor Frankenstein’s newest reanimation was torn to shreds by Frankenstein’s REAL monster, the first corpse he brought back to life. Quickly after the beginning of the new episode, we pick up exactly from that moment, and are told a tragic tale about how he brought his monster to life, and then abandoned him never to return. Born into pure agony, the monster remains in the laboratory, a shut-in, and educates himself with the materials abandoned by his creator. Now he’s left the nest, tracked down Frankenstein, and alerts him to his complete disregard for human life. His back-story also introduces us to the Penny Dreadful/Sweeney Todd stage production, where Frankenstein’s monster found a modicum of acceptance, as he worked the machinery behind the scenes. Also, if you’ve ever fantasized about Josh Hartnett’s pasty white non-ass thrusting into you, this episodes offers a little something sexy for you.
Based solely on the ending of this episode, I’m assuming things are about to get interesting with the next episode. Even if the past couple haven’t exactly been the most exciting bit of television I’ve watched this year, it has certainly kept my attention, and left me wanting for more. The introduction of the Sweeney Todd stage production has me intrigued, and wondering if we’ll be introduced for more concerning that story-line. Josh Hartnett’s character continues to get more and more interesting, as he lets some of his mask down, and reveals a little bit about his personality. His love affair with a dying woman is making for some really hot and dirty love scenes, and actually lend a bit of the injured puppy vibe to his on-screen persona.
I’ll admit to being a little put-off by the pace of this show. They did a disservice to the viewers, I think, by opening the show to such an action-packed beginning. I understand having to separate the faster paced scenes with scenes of exposition and drama, but it just feels like it started off with a bang, then come to a complete crawl. It’s still a really good representation of what I would consider go be a higher budget Hammer horror, and we get to check back in every week. We don’t get a lot of gothic horror these days, so I am certainly appreciative for a little something different. I just hope the next episode gets a little more exciting. As far as atmosphere goes, this show has it and then some. The acting and special effects have all exceeded expectations, and the set designs are of an extremely high quality as well. All-in-all, I’d say Showtime’s return to the horror genre has been fairly successful.
Petals on the Wind – Monday, May 26 at 9 PM
In the first scene of Lifetime’s sequel to Flowers in the Attic, Petals on the Wind, the Sheffield children attend the funeral of a man who took them in after they ran away from their evil mother and wicked grandmother; while walking away, the youngest daughter Carrie takes the petals of flowers and allows the wind to take them away. That’s about the strongest metaphor the TV movie has to offer, and it’s telling that what we’re about to get is a watered-down mess of the ideas of the original novel.
While Flowers in the Attic also suffered quite a few cuts due to the lack of running time, it was less noticeable than Petals on the Wind because most of that movie was confined to one setting: the attic. In this film, Kayla Alpert’s teleplay is forced to cram tons of settings, expositions, character developments, and and plot points into an hour and a half. It’s not a confined story anymore, and Alpert’s adaptation cannot refine the most important parts.
That means that the audience is left with a lot of scenes that the movie just doesn’t know what to do with. Cathy and Christopher struggle to find their own lives after loving each other as more than siblings for so long, and Petals on the Wind tries to capture each of their stories the best it can. But there’s always a give and take; for every scenario Petals on the Wind presents, it leaves most of it just protruding like an awkward mass.
The themes deal with sexual identity, death, incest, and captivity, just to name a few, yet there’s so much to cover that all of those are vaguely skimmed. It’s revealed, super abruptly, that Cathy’s boyfriend/father of her baby dies in a car accident. There’s no mourning, no real discussion about that incident – just a jump ahead 10 months to get around that sort of racket. Carrie meets a boy, and then she’s about to married before committing suicide via the same rat poison doughnut recipe her mother used on her twin brother. This is also insanely fast, to the point where the movie must show the rat poison next to the freshly made doughnuts to explain how the siblings put 2 and 2 together.
It’s technically not director Karen Moncrieff’s fault, and she does the best she can to put the pieces together. But it certainly was a bad choice to condense Petals on the Wind to 90 minutes when it clearly needs more to effectively tell its long-winded story. What’s left is a roller coaster ride of ideas with little emotion or definition to the events.
We’re still working on a truncated schedule next week with Salem and Penny Dreadful, but we’re close to some new premieres!