Penny Dreadful S02 E04: Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places and S02 E05: Above the Vaulted Sky

Since Episode 3 was a Vanessa Spotlight, it makes sense that the next two episodes would both be Ensemble Hangouts. Of the two, “Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places” does a masterful job of reconnecting us to the ongoing story and being a solid episode. “Above the Vaulted Sky” includes some disappointments, but also some good setup for the future. Both episodes keep the show’s second season decidedly more woman-centric than the first season, which works to this season’s benefit (even as the first season remains one of the best first seasons of a TV show).

This is also a good place to acknowledge the great work of Genevieve Valentine, who recapped the first two seasons of this show for Io9 (with bonus posts on her blog) and is an all-around smart person. I followed along the first time I watched Penny Dreadful, which undoubtedly shaped my perspective. Out of respect for her work, I try to steer my analysis into some of the places hers didn’t have the space to get to, but there’s no question she’s been an influence on my thinking, especially when it comes to the rest of this season.

[SPOILERS FOLLOW]

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Sex, Monsters, and Today’s Frankenstein

Finding a companion film to The Bride of Frankenstein for this blog was a little tricky. While there have been plenty of Dracula, Frankenstein, mummy, and werewolf movies over the years, plus two different Guillermo del Toro takes on Black-Lagoon-esque gill-men, the pickings are slimmer when it comes to Bride.

Sure, there are homages to Elsa Lanchester’s hairstyle in the already-discussed Rocky Horror Picture Show and the to-be-discussed Young Frankenstein, to stick with just movies that are part of this blog’s work. There’s also an upcoming remake planned for Universal’s Dark Universe, assuming those plans are still on track. But the Bride’s story turns out to be rarely revisited in the context of monster movies.

The best place to look was outside of the horror genre. If I hadn’t already taken a trip to pre-Dracula Germany with Nosferatu, I might have written about Fritz Lang’s 1927 science fiction masterpiece Metropolis, which is chock full of tropes that would surface again and again in later horror and sci-fi movies, including that of the woman animated by technology. I considered going to the ‘80s and watching John Hughes’ Weird Science. Ultimately, though, I settled on a more recent movie about two men and the manmade woman in the lab: Alex Garland’s 2014 Ex Machina.

[SPOILERS FOLLOW]

Continue reading “Sex, Monsters, and Today’s Frankenstein”