Penny Dreadful Review: “What Death Can Join Together” (Season 1, Episode 6)


Last week’s “Closer Than Sisters” was a pleasant diversion for Penny Dreadful but a diversion all the same, and you can feel show creator John Logan trying to make up for lost time in “What Death Can Join Together,” an episode that hits the ground running and rarely slows down. At times, that acceleration of, well, everything in Penny Dreadful means that certain character moments seem a little rushed (and that’s a shame), but overall the episode is another extremely enjoyable outing for the series. There are some very creepy moments, major developments in the overarching plot, the show’s best action sequence to date and an Eva Green sex scene all wrapped up in one stylish bow – and if that balance is what Penny Dreadful will be aiming to strike from now on, I’m completely on board with that.

After a recap that reminds us where the main characters were left after the thrilling finale of “Demimonde,” the episode opens with Sir Malcolm and Vanessa investigating her ransacked room. The Master himself (itself?) had been there, and the place isn’t looking too tidy as a result. Horrified, she calls the room “foul” and declares that she can no longer stay in it. After all, this creature stands for everything evil that she has been trying to evade her whole life, and now it has succeeded in violating her inner sanctum. The cross hanging crookedly on one wall says it all – there’s no God here any more, if there ever was. As she storms out, Malcolm stops her on the stairs. “Have you forgotten Mina?” He calls after her. Though it upsets her to do so, Vanessa agrees to attempt to summon the vampires, if just so Malcolm can get another shot at rescuing his daughter.

Things aren’t going too well in Brona’s world either. We last saw her slumped in a doorway, coughing up a storm, but thankfully she’s made her way back to the inn room she shares with Ethan. Still, it’s clear that her days are numbered. Ethan’s there to tend to her as she awakens, and she apologizes for acting out at the theater. The thing that will disappoint most viewers about this episode is that we don’t get any resolution about the absinthe-fueled sexcapade that Ethan went on with Dorian – not one bit. All Ethan says is that he “went out with Mr. Gray,” and Brona doesn’t question him further. “I love you with all my heart,” he assures her, no doubt kicking himself pretty hard for what happened the night before.

Back at Malcolm’s home, Vanessa is trying to tap into her spiritual side by drawing cards. Soon enough, she hears Mina faintly crying out, “Vanessa, help me!” That she hardly reacts just shows what she’s learned from the Master’s intrusion into her room – Mina is not to be trusted. Vanessa also hears sea sounds, including a bell and rushing water. Unfortunately, because these are vampires they’re hunting, Vanessa also gets an earful of guttural growls, screams from the creatures’ human victims and sickening, crunching sounds. After speaking with Sir Malcolm about it, she concludes that Mina is somewhere around the Port of London.

Before they can discuss further, however, who should appear on the doorstep but Dorian Gray. In one of the few moments on this show that have actually made me laugh out loud, he wants to apologize for not apologizing to her the night before, when he ditched the theater and ran off with Ethan. Dorian is a bit of a clown sometimes, but his apparent sincerity wins her over, and Vanessa quickly assures him that no apology was necessary. Then the real Dorian comes out, asking with a roguish grin, “In that case, would you like to have an adventure?” Vanessa’s taken aback. Malcolm, meanwhile, is not impressed but tells her to go get some air. “She’s always her own creature,” he tells Dorian as she goes to fetch her coat. (Unless she’s being possessed by an ancient demonic entity, of course. Or maybe that was just a well-placed jab from Malcolm – it’s hard to tell.) They head out.

Next, we catch up with Caliban, who’s busy tinkering around under the Grand Guignol. He’s surprised by one Maude Gunneson (Hannah Tointon), the beautiful lead actress in The Transformed Beast. Her blood tube is clogged up. Caliban fixes it for her, but his painful shyness piques her interest. Maude explains that her brother was in a terrible accident and disfigured, and that he also looked away from her after that. “I missed seeing his face, my brother,” she recalls, mentioning that her brother’s name was Lucifer (but not the devil, of course – it means “bringer of light”). Caliban is left hyperventilating in excitement at the prospect of a beautiful woman taking an interest in him.