Penny Dreadful Season III – Ep. 5 “This World Is Our Hell”: (A Review)

Posted: 06/01/2016 in Uncategorized


This latest run features the back story of Ethan Chandler/Talbot (Josh Hartnett). The picture painted is deeply unsettling and justifies his absconding to England to get away from his past misdeeds. Did the show go too far however in providing a framework of acts so irredeemable, as to damage the character’s potential for good? With such a question put forth; I press on to my review.

A goodly part of the episode occurs in the Mojave and this aspect works very well. Three parties are in play: Ethan and his associate, Hecate Poole (Sarah Green); Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) and Kaetenay (Wes Studi), Bartholamew Rusk (Douglas Hodge) and a posse led by a U.S. marshal. One party, Rusk’s, vies to bring Ethan to justice for all the people he has slaughtered. For Rusk, it is a personal challenge one which he later expounds upon as he reveals to the marshal that he is no simple government functionary. The tale of how he sought out the man who cost him an arm is told in terse, yet resolute fashion, cleanly justifying his worthiness to leading this charge and manhunt. The other two parties, namely Hecate ion one corner and  Ethan’s “Two Fathers” vie for his soul.

The relationship between Hecate and Ethan grows initially out of desperation but her claim that they are very much alike gains momentum with each moment she spends with him. She initially catches his eye by kindly tending to a horse which leads to his “I never pictured you as an animal lover…”She takes the opening to talk about her own back story including her mother’s initiating her in Lucifer’s rites at age five. She explains she had no choice which allows Ethan to open about his own dark path. These are not good occurrences. Whatever her tale of woe, Hecate is a purveyor of death and misfortune. Offering her love and ruling by his side is a feint. Corruption is her truest aim. Kaetenay is wise to be fearful of her turning him toward evil. He and Malcolm palaver over his visions and why he will do anything to prevent Ethan’s fall.

The complexity of Kaetenay’s relationship with Ethan is mirrored by his relationship with his true father, Jared Talbot. The episode is shot in a desolate locale where little can be hidden and the treacherous landscape acts as a perfect sounding board, allowing truths out. None of these revelations are good. In fact, none of the characters are good. Lord Malcolm is easily the noblest of the men, but even he has blood on his hands as the elder Talbot calls him out on the men he killed while in Africa. While the show is gripping; it is equally challenging to have no one really to root for. We see Kaetnay’s cause as just as despite his protestations that he allows Ethan to live and suffer after he butchered his people/his family, there is more. Despite declaring that Ethan would kill him the first chance he got, Kaetenay sees good in his “son”, and strives to protect him. The later revelation of his own part in the ruin that is the Talbots, however, taints him as well, providing light on his confession to Malcolm that he “has done monstrous things.” Despite citing that his people were dying and being hunted, the Apache elder acknowledges his choices and the fate that awaits him.

Ethan’s corruption occurs organically. He is being seduced by Hecate and seems comfortable going with it. She opens up, he opens up. He confesses more to her than he did to Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) or Brona (Billie Piper), both women he truly loved. This is telling. Hecate challenges his belief in redemption. She tells him he can be free by not seeking a path of guilt. Through the performance by Hartnett, we can see her argument getting deeper and deeper root. Her offering to “call upon what lies beneath” to aid their cause against the overwhelming odds of Rusk and the marshal is the turning point. The consummation of their relationship is an afterthought and unless the arc changes, she has him where she wants him.

A later moment with Malcolm brings about the only moment of levity in the episode as in the aftermath of Ethan and Hecate’s play, there are now only three agencies of two. Malcolm approaches Ethan with a canteen of water and offers it to his friend presently on the bring of dehydration and exposure. Ethan’s response of “how the fuck did you end up here?” is gamely retorted by Malcolm who says “you never know where I’ll turn up” MM’s next move is circumvented by Ethan and shows how dark a turn he has taken. The intercession of Jared Talbot’s men sets the stage for horrors to come. The final confessional moment between father and son reveals that Ethan’s damnation might very well be assured and is a tour de force performance by Brian Cox.

The Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) and Henry Jekyll (Shazhad Latif) arc gained minor traction as Victor put his theory of sustaining the madness assuaging formula as permanent via a brutal injection process on patient Balfour (Jamie Ballard). The potential schism between both scientists is intimated as Victor taunts Jekyll on both his perspective and temper. The notion that “sins” are wiped clean via his process removing previous memories gives the viewer access to Frankenstein’s end goal for Lily (Billie Piper). As with other arcs, neither character is a good man. At the heart of one is soulless calculation and the desire to possess another. With the other there is a seething rage at being perceived as less than what he is. The destructive path of both men, as with that of Ethan Chandler makes for gripping, if bleak, very watchable fare. PD Season III continues its path of being simply outstanding and well worth your time.



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