Penny Dreadful S30E05 “The World Is Our Hell” REVIEW

Penny Dreadful S30E05 “The World Is Our Hell” REVIEW

0 comments 📅01 June 2016, 16:44

Penny Dreadful S30E05 “The World Is Our Hell” REVIEW


stars 3
Airing in the UK on Tuesdays on Sky Atlantic 

Writer: Andrew Hinderaker

Director: Paco Cabezas

Essential Plot Points:

  • Ethan and Hecate journey through the desert to reach Ethan’s father’s house, and as the journey goes on Hecate goads Ethan and tries to get him to embrace his dark side. He eventually relents and declares he’s going to kill his father and join with her.
  • On the way, however, they hit many snags – including their horses carking it through thirst, and the pursuit of Rusk and the Marshal freaking them out.
  • Hecate performs a spell to make rattlesnakes rise out of the sand and attack the sleeping lawmen. Unfortunately, Malcolm and Kaetenay are already in the middle of a silent attack on them at the time so that they can steal their horses! Kaetenay is bitten.

Rusk vowing revenge

  • Rusk is so outraged after the devastation that he swears to revenge himself on Ethan, even if it takes him outside of the law. Ooh, he’s a cop who’s going rogue!
  • Meanwhile, in London, Victor and Henry experiment on their patient, Balfour, injecting the serum straight into his brain while it’s actually being electrified (talk about two birds with one stone!).
  • The patient wakes up a while later totally sane and peaceful, but with no memory of what happened. This gets Victor excited because he knows he can do it to Lily soon and get her back.
  • In the US, Ethan finally expands on all those hints about why he’s such a wanted man. He took part in the slaughter of an Apache village, but was so guilt-ridden that he shot his commanding officer straight afterwards and went to join the remaining Apaches. Naturally, they were pretty pissed off with him, and Kaetenay let him live so he could marinate in the guilt. Then he ordered him to kill his fellow soldiers. Obviously, that didn’t go down well with Ethan’s family.
  • Malcolm finally catches up to an exhausted Ethan and half-dead Hecate (“Half-Dead Hecate” would be a great band name, wouldn’t it?). He can’t bring himself to kill him after all, and then it’s all a moot point as Ethan’s father’s men arrive and take them all captive.
  • Kaetenay, meanwhile, is left to die of his snake bite in the desert.
  • Weirdly, after all we’ve heard about Jared Talbot being a git, he’s actually quite urbane and calm and has a decent little talk with Malcolm about fatherhood.
  • But then Jared takes Ethan into the family chapel and recounts to him how the Apaches killed his mother, sister and brother, and how it’s all Ethan’s fault.
  • Ethan is sad.

Brian Cox as Jared


This week’s cheerful episode title says it all, really, as what you get here is one horrible story after another – how Rusk lost his arm (nastily), how Ethan went so bad (nastily), how the Talbot family were destroyed (nastily)… even the poor bloody horses get to suffer. Last week’s episode was hardly a laugh, and so watching Penny Dreadful at the moment feels even more masochistic than usual.

Amidst all the doom and gloom, however, there’s an enthralling chase that goes on for most of the episode – one which, as hinted at in previous episodes, really does play off the chase in Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, and that gives it an epic feel. The desert landscapes are beautifully shot and gloriously evocative, too, and such a contrast to the moody darkness of the London-set scenes that you find yourself blinking in shock whenever Victor suddenly pops up.

There are some wonderful setpieces in there, too: the snake attack is suitably gory and disturbing, even if the sight of all the lawmen dancing around the campfire and firing guns into the ground is unintentionally amusing. And even quiet scenes, such as Ethan explaining the origins of the Apache to Hecate, are mesmerising.

However, it all starts to unravel a bit once we get to the Talbot ranch. Ending the episode on a gloomy monologue might have seemed like a good idea – and it’s certainly a striking soliloquy – but after all the thrust of the previous scenes, you can’t help feeling as though the episode just sputters out. A shame.


Mind you, that’s not to take anything away from Brian Cox, who does sterling work – as usual – as Jared Talbot. He’s not the monster we were expecting at all; in fact, you can’t help but feel for him as he lays all that guilt on Ethan. We’d be pretty upset, too, if our family was murdered in front of us like that.

Cox is also good at projecting weighty menace, and there’s certainly a sense that he’s got so much power up his sleeve that he could crush his own son like a bug. As Ethan says, he didn’t think twice about killing a train full of people. Forget the father and son confrontation, though: we’d like to see Jared and Malcolm have a face-off at one point – it would be a fantastic death match!

As for the Frankenstein and Hyde shenanigans in London, they’re diverting enough; particularly those little glimpses you see of Hyde losing control. But it does feel as though they’re treading water until the big things really start happening, and we’re starting to get rather impatient here…

The Good:

Malcolm and Ethan meet

  • The cinematography in this episode is stunning.
  • “The only decent thing about me is the shame I feel,” Ethan tells Hecate, and what a wonderful line that is. He’s done so much bad and so little good (in his eyes, anyway) that the only thing keeping him going is the knowledge that he’s not enjoying it. Although that soon changes…
  • And on that subject, the fact he eventually boffs Hecate doggy style isn’t lost on us. Werewolf, see? Dog? Okay, sorry for lowering the tone.


  • Victor shoving the needle into poor Balfour’s eye, minus any kind of anaesthetic, is a prime example of why all those professors at Cambridge didn’t like his methods. Some Hippocratic Oath you took, doc!
  • Kaetenay reflects on an intriguing vision he had of London overrun by darkness. Oooh, a prophecy!

The Bad:

  • Malcolm and Kaetenay launch a raid to steal the lawmen’s horses to replace their own exhausted steeds. But wouldn’t those horses be just as knackered, given that they’ve been ridden for just as long?
  • “I just didn’t take you to be a lover of animals,” says Ethan, as Hecate strokes her horse. “I adore all the honest creatures of this world. It’s humans I hate,” she replies. We put it to you, Hecate, that you’ve never met a horse in real life, because everyone who has knows they’re deceitful buggers who’ll double-cross you as soon as look at you. Seriously, honest? HORSES? Pah!

The Random:

  • Jared talks about the Apache scalping his wife right in front of him. This kind of behaviour did take place during the settler/native American wars, but actually happened on both sides – white soldiers often took scalps as trophies, too. However, claims that some governments offered rewards or bounties for white men to hand over Indian scalps have been exaggerated.
  • Best Quote: Ethan to Malcolm: “What the f**k are you doing here?”

Review by Jayne Nelson

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