Starting season one episode one of Penny Dreadful is already beginning to be super intriguing and interesting as I really enjoy the horror genre and the influences from victorian stories like Dracula and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Stories that are, on paper, so intense and almost absurd because of their fantastic nature, were well adapted to the screen. Something that caught my eye in the first episode were the spiritual elements to the storyline. In Dracula, the only person really open to that line of thinking was Dr. Van Helsing, but in Penny Dreadful the main characters we follow also rely heavily on their spirituality. Miss Vanessa Ives opens the show praying fervently and throughout the show represents a slice of darkness — from her dark clothing and her morbid facial expressions, to her emphasized sexuality that appears later on in the season (episode 5, I believe) that makes her a perverted woman.
In episode one, at 27:31, Vanessa has drawn out tarot cards and asks Ethan to pick one. She stops him before he says anything to pick one with intention, not “impulsively,” as she puts it. The manner in which she communicates is so clear, concise, and generally non whimsical that when paired with her attention to detail, Vanessa appears almost omniscient. She then tells Ethan to look into her eyes, which reminded me of the ability Vampires have to compel someone into acting however they desire. All these little things in how Vanessa carries herself makes her seem creepy, until you realize she is just well spoken and confident enough to make eye contact. In this way she has “a man’s brain,” so would Vanessa Ives be considered a ‘new woman’?
ps. I started writing this post because I wanted to talk about the tarot cards and how well thought out it was in the show. in episode one when Ethan pulls “The Lovers” card upright (which is important in Tarot because inverse cards have different meanings; similarly to Vanessa’s ‘demimonde’, there’s a shadow for every light) which emphasizes the card’s purpose in, yes, focusing on relationships, but more importantly CHOICE. It’s a bit of a scary card to pull just for the fact that whatever you’re deciding with it is going to have long lasting consequences. When pulling the card in a spread where you’re asking a question it usually means “Yes,” which is so nifty that they had it in the show like that because it was Ethan’s non-verbal, spiritual “yes” to Vanessa.
pps. that rat scene was something i wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. rip dog rats.