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Penny Dreadful Review: More Than Mischief

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More was finally learned about Vanessa’s sordid past on Penny Dreadful Season 1 Episode 5.

We’ve been waiting patiently - or perhaps not-so-patiently - for more information about exactly how Sir Malcolm and Vanessa came to be in the position that they are in now. It wasn’t a real shock to discover that their past was one full of trauma and turmoil.

Mina's Disappearance

As soon as I saw little Vanessa and little Mina running down the beach as happy little girls, I knew we were going to see something truly awful. Even if I hadn’t known that Mina was currently being held captive between worlds by a malevolent spirit, I would have figured it out.

You have to give them names or they’ll never come to life.


Nothing that sweet and innocent is destined to last long on this show and soon we saw signs that things weren’t right between the two families. Vanessa saw her mother screwing her best friend’s father, but rather than being shocked and frightened, she admitted that she liked it.

There were a few times in this episode that Vanessa wondered if the evilness had been inside of her the whole time and I’m going to vote a great, big “yes” on that one. It seemed to only need a little bit of nudging before she was connecting to that darker world.

Perhaps it has always been there, this thing, this demon inside me.


That fact was never more evident than when Vanessa seduced her best friend’s fiance and ruined their marriage the day before the wedding. It was almost tempting to feel sorry for Vanessa and wonder if somehow the Master was controlling her at that time, but I don’t think so. Maybe jealousy and the desire to keep Mina around were behind it, but those actions were all Vanessa.

Though I don’t believe she deserved what followed and I think that Vanessa’s story is now one of redemption. Whether or not she will actually succeed in getting that redemption, I don’t know, but I do know that she will try.

Your father loves you very much and would do anything to save you. But I love you in a different way. I love you enough to kill you.


Another question nagging at me now is the last line of the episode when Vanessa admitted that she loved Mina enough to kill her. Does that mean that she knows the only way to save Mina is to kill her? Or is Vanessa simply preparing herself for that possibility if the Master won’t give Mina up and there is no other way to end her suffering?

Freakiest bits:

  • Vanessa hearing voices in her mirror as she prayed.
  • Vanessa walking through the maze and singing to herself.
  • Vanessa talking about putting mirrors behind her bird’s eyes.
  • Mina watching as her fiancé took her best friend in front of a bunch of dead animals. I wasn’t sure which was worse.
  • Vanessa asking her mother to let her die.
  • Vanessa talking about seeing a hundred men drowned.
  • Vanessa turning to the doctor and asking, “Who is Vanessa?”
  • Watching the “treatments” they tried on Vanessa. Awful. Simply awful. I literally had to stop watching at one point.
  • Vanessa asking Peter to kiss her. I was so afraid she would be possessed in that moment and bite him or something.
  • Vanessa telling Peter he was going to die in Africa.
  • The Master pointing out that, not only did Vanessa cause everything to happen, she had sought it out and screwed it.
  • Vanessa’s mother walking in to see her daughter getting basically raped by something invisible and then promptly dying on the spot. Completely appropriate response, I think.
  • Mina getting snatched away by the Master as she pleaded with Vanessa to help her.

Will Vanessa have to kill Mina to save her?



Editor Rating: 4.6 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (22 Votes)
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Henry A. Otero, I couldn't agree more with you. It's the kind of slow-burning, chilling and absolutely unforgettable show, the one that subverts the conventions of a generic "Horror TV Series". I really think "Penny Dreadful" is a masterpiece, probably the best show I've seen so far. It's an extraordinary piece of work and Eva Green's performance is just legendary. Mere words cannot do justice of her towering commitment to the almost unbearably demanding role of Vanessa Ives.

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I've heard many people complain about the pacing of the show and that the action sequences are few and far between. Nothing happens etc etc... They're completely missing the point and viewing this as they would any other show. Penny Dreadful's much more immersive than your average "horror" show. Everything from the writing, to the sets and lighting, costumes, the score and performances are like watching a piece of artwork come to life. It's rare for me, but I'm completely mesmerized by this television show. Wasn't expecting that at all. Btw, yes I think Vanessa understands the only way to save Mina is to kill her and she will no doubt be the one to do it.

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@ Henry A. Otero

I couldn't agree more! I too feel like I'm seeing things in this show that people either don't want to see or can't. I am enthralled and mesmerized and I don't mind as much that the pacing isn't perfect. Sure there are some times I wish it would move a little faster, but only because I am dying to know more about these characters. You should join our Round Table, I feel like I need at least one more person on my side. LOL.

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@ Michelle Carlbert

I'm in for the round table. Is "Closer than Sisters" already completed or can I start there?

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@ Michelle Carlbert

Great review, I too am enjoy the slow burning of the storyline, I have no doubt that there is action a plenty to come from this series, but I like the fact that they aren't rushing it, they are moving the storyline along at the pace that they want to. I did note in your review though that you said Vanessa saw her father with her best friends mother, you have that backwards, it was her mother with her best friends father.

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@ Gavin

Whoops! Terrible typo. Thanks for the heads-up, it's been fixed. Great to know there's more people who are enjoying the show as much as I am.

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