The strange just keeps getting stranger in this week’s episode of Penny Dreadful, Showtime’s stylized dip into the horror pool. Vanessa Ives has a psychosexual orchid connection with Dorian Gray, Ethan Chandler has “bad blood” and Sir Malcolm shows that he will do anything to save his daughter. 

“Demimonde” combines the grotesque with beauty, love with hatred and another huge surprise ending that left my jaw firmly on the floor, maybe permanently. Let’s take a look at this week’s offering that ends up being one big tease, leaving us with more questions than answers.

I See London. I See France. I See No Underpants.

The opening scene is an attention-getter, showcasing a roomful of naked women in Dorian’s lair with our young beauty watching them disinterestedly. Growing bored of all that nakedness, he decides to check out his extensive art collection, perusing his numerous paintings. Cut to him walking down a hall of mirrors (dramatic music swelling to epic proportions). He reaches his destination — a dark room with one chair and one piece of covered art. He pulls off a drape revealing … well, we don’t get to see, of course. He sits down to admire the painting (of himself? growing old? while he stays really young?). No answer tonight. 

Fifty Shades of Orchid

It’s officially a love connection. Vanessa and Dorian become a little obsessed with each other in that creepy, slightly uncomfortable way that Penny Dreadful has made a “thing” each week. It goes something like this: “You’re pretty; I’m pretty. You like orchids; I like them too. Let’s go steady.” Vanessa’s doing some church stalking when a precocious young girl strikes up a conversation and asks why she won’t go in. She’s blabbering about her dead mother, saying, “We put mother into the ground. But she won’t stay there.”  “Where do they go?” asks Vanessa. Chatty Cathy answers, “You know. Heaven, silly.”

It turns out Miss Ives was really stalking Dorian. He rolls out of the service and straight into a greenhouse. He’s fingering and sniffing an orchid in a way that may be illegal in 47 states. I think they made a baby tulip before our eyes. She interrupts his moment, and he begins Flowers 101. He makes her sniff a flower of her own. “What does it say to you?” She answers with talk of touching and fingering and now there’s a whole bouquet of tulips. They continue their double entendre conversation about things being rarely what they seem. Before the pair can fully bloom, Dorian leaves abruptly, saying he’s going to the theatre.

It’s All about the Hematophagy, Stupid

Victor Frankenstein is exploring Fenton’s blood with a hematologist, Professor Van Helsing. Our favorite vampire killer explains that this blood prevents coagulation. “It assists with the eating of blood, hematophagy.” Don’t you know anything, Dr. Frankenstein?” Victor’s vocabulary lesson is interrupted by first pancake, who has turned into that nagging wife that just won’t take no for an answer. “My bride must be … beautiful,” firstborn demands. “To match her mate?” answers Victor. Son does not enjoy daddy’s little quip and threatens father, commenting on how fragile he is. “The future belongs to the strong … Look upon your master.” I think Victor just got bitch slapped by a flapjack.

Fenton is still chained up acting like a wild animal one minute, and a small, vulnerable child the next. He’s asking for Vanessa just like all the other men on Penny Dreadful

Ethan continues to be the moral compass (sort of) of the show and is not happy about the treatment of their pet. He questions why they are even doing all this. Dr. Frankenstein wants to transfuse their captor using Ethan’s blood. The way Ethan protests confirms all our suspicions that gunslinger might be good with a Milk Bone as well. Frankenstein and Ethan have a pissing contest of words, forcing Sir Malcolm to play peacekeeper. Vanessa didn’t get the “boys only” memo and barges in to make fun of them and eat an apple seductively. 

Strangely enough, when they offer Fenton an apple later, he only demands blood. One of the few humorous moments comes with Sir Malcolm and Frankenstein debating over what to feed the little beast. The butler comes in to throw him a cat. Debate over. So is the cat.

A Master Returns

Fenton is back to singing again and looking up toward his master that we, thankfully, can’t see. He sees his master and starts biting as his wrists.

Sir Malcolm and Victor hear noises from above. It must be that darn singing. They investigate and Fenton is gone. He’s crawling around behind them as they enter a dark room that holds a certain evil. Our luck has just run out, and we see the hideous master who looks like a cross between Voldemort and Gollum. “She’s not here,” says Fenton. The creature attacks Sir Malcolm with Victor standing idly by twiddling his thumbs. The explorer frees himself, with master fleeing out a window and Fenton landing on a wooden piece of window frame shaped suspiciously like a stake. RIP creepy monster child.

A Night at the Theatre, aka The Breakup

Brona and Ethan continue their lovefest, even discussing their past lovers. They both admit to past sins, with Ethan insisting, “We’ve all done things to survive.” He cheers her up by telling her to “Get your best duds ready.” They’re heading to the theatre.

Ethan and Brona excitedly take their seats, all anxious smiles and puppy dog looks (especially from Ethan). He gives her an orange to snack on before the show begins, a sweet little play called The Transformed Beast. A virginal young thing dressed in white is the lead. She falls in love with a beast who ends up tearing her throat out. Fun times.

Dorian and Vanessa are also attending this hot ticket, and Miss Ives almost smiles or her face breaks. Not sure which one. Ethan and Brona run into the beautiful orchid lovers, with Brona flying into an inexplicable jealous rage, telling Ethan, “You’re doing it with a skeleton every night. Who are we trying to fool?” She runs off crying, and we’re left wondering what just happened. So much of “Demimonde” is a mixed-up, out of the blue concoction, I’m left feeling a little dizzy. And we haven’t even gotten to the good stuff yet.  

? and ? Sitting in a Tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Dorian and Ethan have a good, old fashioned bro-talk with Mr. Gray trying to cheer up the newly dumped American. He ends up taking him to something “not completely legal.” They gain entrance into a shady building with a secret knock and find mean cheering and betting. Ethan watches as hundreds of rats are deposited in a ring. Contender number one, Flashjack — a cute, cuddly Labrador looking doggie — is also dropped into the rat pool. He quickly tears apart every rat while Ethan is losing control. He gets a whiskey at the bar where some fancy pants decides to give him a hard time. Ethan goes after the men just like the dog. 

Dorian takes him back to his place saying how sorry he is and tries lightening the mood with talk about cologne. It’s weird and intimate at the same time. Even the way he deposits sugar cubes in a drink says seduction. They toast the most mysterious thing in London, Miss Vanessa Ives. Dorian decides to play a little mood music and spins some Sade, I mean Wagner. I blinked and Ethan rushes to Dorian, kissing him full on the mouth. This may have been the what the hell moment of the century. They get naked and go at it full Brokeback style. What?

There’s some scene at the end with Vanessa and Sir Malcolm discussing who Mina hates worse, but who cares? I’m still stuck on the Ethorian make-out session that occurred. 

Penny Dreadful can definitely shock. Every week, this show takes the most unexpected, twisty sick turn, and like a terrible car accident, I can’t look away. So what did you think? Are you completely hooked? 

Penny Dreadful airs Sundays at 10pm on Showtime.

(Image courtesy of Showtime)

Lisa Casas

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV