Ryne from The Moon is a Dead World here; it’s a short week for DEADtime TV and we’re still late with it, so sorry about that. But I’ve got a Salem review for you and Shawn’s got Penny Dreadful.
DEADtime TV is pretty late this week! It’s my fault for being the world’s most prolific procrastinators, and possibly masturbators.
Salem: “Our Own Private America” – Sunday, June 1 at 10 PM
Our own private America, according to Cotton Mather, is our dreams. We choose to forget them or act upon them, he says, and in Salem, that means casting a spell to infiltrate John Alden’s dreams, lusting over him, and eventually uncovering where he hid the Malum so it can be stolen back. Mary Sibley is a woman who has been defined by her evilness, but at times Salem attempts to cast a light on her choices; perhaps she followed her own dreams to her private America, but the darkness she was forced to traipse through doesn’t excuse her actions so far.
But John Alden can forgive her, and even though she’s changed a lot since the last time he laid with her, there’s still lust in his heart and dreams. Though she’s manipulated him, cast spells on him, hurt him, and then married an older man, he still returns to her. The devotion has been apparent; Salem works in mysterious ways, and many of its characters are either blatantly good (John Alden, despite all the ways the show tries to make the viewer question him) or blatantly bad (Mary Sibley, who started out this show too wicked for her own good). So it’s no surprise that Alden welcomes Mary with opening arms and a rising tent in his pants; that Mary is also sort of kind of feeling bad about tricking Alden is a different thing entirely.
It’s about time that Salem showed us exactly how John and Mary’s relationship works. Though there’s not a lot here besides lots and lots of sexual fervor, there’s at least a sense of what was before John went off to war and Mary became the frigid witch that she is now. So the dream sequences do work, even if they feel somewhat forced.
What makes for a better time, though, is the new angle of witches Salem is throwing at us. Mary has created a monster in Mercy Lewis, a girl who has been so cowed throughout her life that, given witch powers, she lashes out at those she feels deserve it. Mary recognizes her powers, coaxes them out, but doesn’t realize that Mercy is sort of uncontrollable – instead of just scaring a woman, she kills her, the kind of thing that causes a lot of outrage in the community.
It leads to some faux-witch burning, and more uproar in Salem now that witches have appeared again. But “Our Own Private America” stifles this concept with a new character in the Salem universe: Increase Mather (Stephen Lang), Cotton Mather’s father and a very strict religious man. Not much is known about Increase, and he doesn’t get a ton of screentime besides his terrorizing of some shipgoers and a quick convo with Mary at the end. It’s clear he will become some sort of driving force soon, but right now his development is somewhat stilted.
But Salem‘s got more cooking than it has in the past, and it’s really starting to find a unique voice under all of that talk about magic that was less defined when the show began. Now that there’s a semblance of plotting about the Grand Rites, it’ll be interesting to see how they play out, especially with Witchhunter General Increase Mather in town.
Penny Dreadful: “Demimonde” – Sunday, June 1 at 10 PM
Another week, and another episode of Penny Dreadful. Was this another slower, more drama-focused episode, or are things going to pick up the pace and resemble the pilot episode more closely? This week’s episode begins with a Dorian Gray-hosted orgy, segued into a random encounter between Gray and Vanessa, where he shows her the seductive nature of all things living, by way of a stroll through a botanical garden. Frankenstein’s original monster is back, and growing impatient as he awaits the Doctor’s creation of an immortal life-mate, Bride of Frankenstein, if you will. Meanwhile, Frankenstein, Sir Malcolm and Ethan are visiting the creature they have captured in the basement, as they try to figure out what exactly it/he is, and he makes the desperate plea to be fed blood and flesh of the rodent kind. Ethan has also decided to take his cancer-consumed love interest for a night out on the town, which turns out to be a trip to the theater where a great deal of the most important characters in the show wind up. Dorian and Vanessa, gazing at each other from opposite sides of the theater, and Ethan’s damaged love, in-awe of her very first trip to a theatrical production. Also on-location, is Frankenstein’s monster, which as we learned when he was introduced, manages the behind-the-scenes mechanics and pyrotechnics for the show.
Again, this episode is of the slow persuasion, focusing more on the drama of the characters within this particular horror story, than the actual horror itself. Though, it is becoming clearer and clearer that some macabre shit is about to happen, so I don’t mind the slow build-up. As long as they don’t drop the ball on the payoff, then I may be able to say soon that this show is worthy of the time that you’ll have to invest in it. There is a rather unsettling scene towards the latter part of the show, where the creature that Frankenstein and Sir Malcolm have been experimenting on, chews through the flesh on his arms until he can slip his restraints off, and roams the house in a sort of spider-walk. When the two find him freely flopping throughout the hallways of the house, there is also a beast of another kind, lurking in the shadows. This beast is much fiercer, and much more intimidating than the one that they have in their capture, but makes an escape before they can figure out who or what it is. This also leads to the accidental death of their prisoner, which would seem to send their research back to the drawing board.
In the last act of this week’s episode, whilst mingling with other theater patrons, Ethan and Brona run into Vanessa and Dorian. Brona begins to realize that her relationship with Ethan is somewhat doomed, due to the fact that she will probably be dead soon, and she takes off into the night. Dorian offers to take Ethan out so that he can “be somebody else” for a while, which lands them at a seedy underground “sporting” event, where a dog is poked and prodded and thrown into a pit full of rats, which patrons gamble on the amount of rats he can kill before time runs out. Ethan is clearly rattled by the experience, as he darts off to the bar to get a drink rather than stick around for a result, which of course ends with him in a bar fight with a gaggle of feminine preppy fucks, which he knocks around to the point that it takes all 4 of them ganging up on him to even get a hit in.
The episode closes, with Dorian and Ethan, in a little more private location, sharing sips of homemade absinthe, which leads to Ethan remembering back to the recent horrors he has witnessed, and ends with the two embraced in a kiss, and disrobing. I suppose Dorian really did show him how to be somebody else for a short amount of time. Overall, as I stated above, this episode is again more drama-focused than the pilot episode, but there are plenty of jarring little scenes peppered throughout to keep those of you that are tuning in for JUST the horror entertained. The strength of this show, is that it is expertly crafted, from the writing, to the remarkably interesting characters, the photography and the sound design, even without a non-stop barrage of horror action, Penny Dreadful manages to be interesting enough for me to look forward to each new episode from week-to-week. I’ll be back next week with a recap of episode 5, and I promise to not procrastinate so badly this time around.
Pretty soon we’ll begin to cover The Last Ship, The Strain, and Under the Dome, so stay tuned!