Penny Dreadful concludes its second season with one of its most emotionally wrought episodes in memory. There is no victory here for our monstrous players, and worst of all, they find themselves alone.
Everyone pairs up in the latest episode of Penny Dreadful, “Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places.” Penny Dreadful is obviously an ensemble show, but it’s always had a problem knowing quite what to do with its plethora of characters. After last week’s series highlight episode, which slowed things down and focused on a single coherent story, the show gets back to business, with “Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places,” attempting to cram in as much information as possible relevant to season two’s main plot.
The game is afoot in “Verbis Diablo,” the second episode of Penny Dreadful’s second season. Whereas season one had a tendency to seem unfocused, introducing its ensemble rogues gallery of players, season two has its eye on the prize. That prize is Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), for whom secret witch and target-practice expert Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory) has ill intentions.
Season one of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful was a gleefully gruesome gothic experience, firmly rooted in pulpy sensibilities and clearly influenced by Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. While it was not an altogether solid season of television, it had a ghastly charm reminiscent of lurid Hammer horror films of the past.
There’s nothing like a show confident in what it’s doing. Of the dozens of pilots I watch a year, an overwhelming majority of them feel the need to explain themselves, over and over again: who their characters are, what matters to them, why the exist – and most annoyingly, why this particular story is the most epic, most original, best thing we’ve ever seen: in a world full of short attention spans, supremely critical audiences, and short-lived bombs with anemic audience draw, most pilots have to convince us that we need to be watching their show.