Penny Dreadful: Season 3, Episode 4 Recap and Review

Sometimes, all you need is a big, ugly cry.

You know, the kind where your face ends up covered in snot, your nose and eyes are swollen and you share the same coloring as a ripe tomato.

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And sometimes, you need this, but you don’t know you need this.  So, it’s up to someone, or something, to let you know that you need this, so that ugly cry doesn’t stay trapped within your soul forever, turning you into some kind of horrible monster (or is that just me?)

So, enter one of my favorite television shows…

No, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer, although thanks to the Scoobies, I learned the meaning of “ugly cry” at a relatively young age.

No, I am talking about the “other” show about vampires.

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Yes, that’s right...Penny Dreadful!

I know, makes sense, right?

You need some catharsis, so just watch a period horror show series and you’re good, right?

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 1, episode 1). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_101_3501

Well, actually, the answer is yes.

Penny Dreadful may be that “literary show period show with monsters”, but once again, it has proved to us that it is much, much more than that.

I mean, if you’ve been faithfully watching the show from the beginning (or binge watching, I won’t judge), you have probably realized this already:  that Penny Dreadful is much more than meets the eye.  It has shown us that it, in fact, is much more than meets the eye time and time again.  And that is the reason why I love the show so much.

But just when I think I can’t get blown away again, it happens.  I watch, as is my custom on Monday nights right now, and I get my socks knocked off.  And all for the price of just under one hour of my time!

So, let’s get to it, and review and dissect this week’s episode, titled A Blade of Grass.

As always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The episode begins with Vanessa trapped in a fugue state.  Vanessa has traveled back in time to her days as a patient in a mental institution, the Banning Clinic.  Dr. Seward tells Vanessa that she is trapped in this state until she comes to some kind of resolution, but that she will not abandon her.

Vanessa is trapped in a padded cell at the Banning Clinic.  Her only reaction is with the orderly who would later become The Creature.  At first, the orderly plays by the rules, and tells Vanessa that she is not being tortured, and that what is being done to her is being done in the name of science.  However, the orderly gradually comes to believe that this is, in fact, not true, and begins to show compassion towards Vanessa.

One day, the orderly brings Vanessa a blanket, after she is forced to undergo hydrotherapy and is shivering and wet.  The orderly comes back later and takes the blanket from Vanessa, as it is against regulations.  Vanessa reacts by clawing him in the face.  The orderly subdues Vanessa, and Vanessa is then confined to a straight jacket.

Because Vanessa is confined to a straight jacket, the orderly is forced to feed her himself.  He brings a wooden spoon from his house, as the wooden spoon will not hurt her mouth.  Vanessa complains that she is being tortured because she must become “normal”, as the current social structure will not accept a woman like Vanessa, who deviates from the norm.

The orderly begins to open up to Vanessa.  He will not reveal his name, but talks about his wife and son.  Vanessa tells him that she thinks that she has been touched by Lucifer.  The orderly leaves the room, but turns to Vanessa, and tells her he believes her story about Lucifer, as he was there.  His eyes then shine black.

Vanessa begs Dr. Seward to pull her back to the present, but the doctor tells her that is impossible at the moment, as Vanessa must work through these memories.

During her time in the institution, Vanessa is robbed of her ability to speak, as she is gagged.  One day, the orderly removes the gag, and brushes her hair and puts some makeup on her, to restore her sense of dignity. Before removing the makeup and mussing up her hair again, he holds a mirror before Vanessa’s face, and reminds her that this is who she is.  The orderly reads Vanessa poetry, and fantasizes about a day when they can walk out of the institution together.  The orderly then leaves the room, telling Vanessa that it is Christmas day, as he shuts the door.

Over time, Vanessa becomes closer to orderly.  One day, she removes her gown and attempts to seduce him.  The orderly responds to her kiss, but pulls back, and puts the gown back on Vanessa.  He begs her to get better, as he has seen what happens to Dr. Banning’s lobotomy patients.

The orderly then begs Vanessa to talk to him about her problems, and pulls up a chair.  Vanessa brings up Lucifer, and the orderly’s eyes turn black, and he introduces himself as the devil.  The devil tells Vanessa that her God has abandoned her, and that if she gives herself over to him, they can rule the earth together.

A laugh then echoes through the room.  Lucifer cowers in the corner, as the devil’s brother, also wearing the orderly’s face, appears to Vanessa.  We find out that this second entity is Dracula, and unlike Lucifer, he wants Vanessa’s flesh and blood.  Vanessa nearly gives herself over to Dracula, but snaps out of it, once she hears his name.  Vanessa then cites the Verbis Diablo and levitates, coming back to reality with the orderly next to her bed.

Taking the advice of the orderly, Vanessa pretends to be “normal,” in the hopes that she will be released from the clinic. However, she refuses to deny her faith, and the doctor refuses to release.  Instead, he shaves her head and schedules her for a lobotomy instead.

The night before Vanessa’s surgery, the orderly pays her a visit and tells her that he has tendered his resignation, as he believes that his employer is engaging in inhumane practices.  However, he promises Vanessa that he will not leave before she receives the anesthesia, as he wants that last face she sees to be the face of someone who loves her.  Vanessa kisses him, and both weep.

Vanessa then comes to in Dr. Seward’s office.  The doctor is startled and apologizes for the cigarette burn she gave to Vanessa in an attempt to rouse her.  Vanessa states that she remembers everything, and reminds the doctor that she has told her in the past that people name things that frighten them.  Vanessa says that she is no longer frightened, and that the creature who had frightened her previously is named Dracula.


My Thoughts

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And on so many levels, too.

First of all:

All.  The.  Feels.

Now, Penny Dreadful is kind of a feelsie show, but this episode really outdid itself.  Really outdid itself, in fact.  Let me count the ways…

Now, Vanessa and Caliban (whenever are we going to find out his government name?) have had a handful of scenes together.  In particular, there was the poetry scene last year (somewhere along the line The Creature developed a taste for poetry, who knew?)

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And there was the scene in the last episode of the second season, where the two shared a dance…

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 5). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_205_1509

But now, we have this episode.

I don’t normally care about awards (Emmy, cough, cough) but really, this episode not winning SOME kind of award is simply criminal!

I mean, this episode was (mostly) done by two actors (although Patti Lupone did a fabulous job, as always.)  It mostly took place in one room.  And the special effects were minimal (although the shadows that appeared when Lucifer and Dracula took over were pretty cool.)

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And this episode was mind blowing.  In fact, it may be one of the best episodes that the series has ever put out.  Which is saying something.

We also had one actor (Rory Kinnear) play three different roles in one episode.  All in his orderly get up.  This brings the number of roles played by Mr. Kinnear up to four (The Creature, the orderly, Lucifer and Dracula.)  Is there anything this man can’t do?

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Let’s talk about Mr. Kinnear for a minute, too.

Many of the accolades for this episode are probably going to my girl Eva Green (and this is not necessarily a bad thing), but Mr. Kinnear simply blew me away after I watched this episode.

I have always had great love for Caliban.  He is one of my favorite characters on the show.  But, to be honest, I never thought (or cared) much about his pre-Creature life.  I knew that he had one, but it never really crossed my mind.

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Until now.  And I had made some assumptions last week.  And we know what happens when you assume…ASS!

This character arc was NOT what I expected.  For some reason, I had thought that maybe Caliban’s job as an orderly had hardened him.  At the beginning of the episode, my assumption was correct.  He was pretty rough with poor Vanessa there for a bit, with the force feeding and having to subdue her when she scratched his face.

But, as this show likes to do, it all got turned upside down.  And in a good way.  The orderly began to read Vanessa poetry.  And he brought a wooden spoon from home, so Vanessa’s mouth wouldn’t be hurt.

And the brushing of Vanessa’s hair and application of make-up, to remind her of who she was…beautiful.  Although when he removed her make-up and clumsily mussed her hair back up again…I think that was actually the most heart-wrenching part, as it symbolized Vanessa having to shed her humanity yet again.

I also loved his story about building a ship with his son, and the realization that people (as in Vanessa) are often forced to live where it’s cold and lonely.  But having even just one person who believes in you can make the cold and loneliness vanish, at least for a little while.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_307_1030

This episode may be considered to be “Vanessa-centric”, and that thought would not necessarily be wrong.  However, I consider this episode to actually be more about Caliban than anything.  Clearly, the time he spent with Vanessa changed him, and he came away a better person because of that.  And his character became much more interesting because of that.

Of course, I need to throw some accolades at Eva Green.

As if you couldn’t figure that out…

I don’t know how she does it.  Very few people can make crawling on a ground, being nose to nose with what may be (literally) evil incarnate, look classy, but Eva Green has that ability, and should get an award for it, if such a thing exists.

And even when she is clawing a poor orderly’s face, she still manages to evoke sympathy.  I mean, who does that?

My girl, that’s who!

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Before we are done here, I want to talk about the ending a bit.

It would have been easy (and logical) for the episode to end after Vanessa threw down some shade via the Verbis Diablo.  But this is Penny Dreadful.  So nix easy, and (sometimes) you can nix the logical with that, too.

It was pretty clear to me that, along with being Caliban-centric, this episode was about Vanessa not forgetting her humanity, even though she has not one but two forms of (literal) evil incarnate fighting over her.  The scene at the beginning with Dr. Seward telling Vanessa that she would not abandon her for anything (another gem in this episode, aka Patti Lupone proving she is worth her paycheck) was some pretty good foreshadowing of this fact.

Christian Carmargo as Dr. Sweet and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 2). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_302_5122

Vanessa has clearly spent much of her time alone in her struggles, with no one to turn to.

Then, enter the orderly.  Although I still believe that this episode is actually Caliban-centric, as his time with Vanessa effected a massive change in him, it is pretty clear that Vanessa benefited from this friendship as well.

I think that perhaps Vanessa needed a reminder that relying on others is not necessarily a bad thing, so her mind forced her to remember someone who was kind to her.  Someone who loved her.  Someone who was willing to sacrifice for her.

In short, someone who reminded her that she is worthy of love and support, no matter what other-wordly forces that would try to lame claim to her.  A worthy human, in other words.

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So that’s it for Blades of Grass.  Join me next week for the review and dissection of episode 5, titled The World is Our Hell.

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

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Penny Dreadful: Season 3, Episode 3 Recap and Review

Sometimes, I think that I have become a bit too desensitized.

All these years of reading The Master, watching horror movies, spending some quality time with the merc with the mouth (such a good cure for blah-ness, by the way) and basically being incapable of watching or reading something that does not make me its emotional bitch (thanks, Kurt Sutter and Sons of Anarchy) have left me a bit…apathetic, to say the least.

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Nothing can surprise me, horrify me or gross me out (so I think, at least.)

But I think I have found a cure for my ailment…

You guessed it:  watch an episode or two of Penny Dreadful, as if you couldn’t figure that out!

Finally, I have found something that can manage to surprise me every now and again.

And this week’s episode was no different.  And I learned quite a bit, actually…

Like that a threesome involving Dorian and Lilly will be interesting, to say the least.

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And that if you are a character on this show, and don’t have an alter ego of some type, well you probably won’t survive in this particular universe.

So, let’s get to it, and review and recap this week’s episode of Penny Dreadful, already!

Oh, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The episode opens with Ethan having a vision of Kaetenay, who is covered in blood.  Ethan awakens in a stable with Hecate, who tells him that she wants him to realize his true werewolf self.

Lilly has tea with Justine, and they watch the police use brutality against suffragette protesters.  Lilly tells Justine that their approach will be different, they will move silently and accumulate power before striking.

Lilly and Justine then return to Dorian’s mansion, where they show Justine her tormentor, who had purchased her to be his whore when she was 12 years old.  They tell Justine that she has choices, and list the man’s crimes against her.  Justine then slits his throat, and has a threesome with Lilly and Dorian.  All three bathe themselves in the man’s blood.

Caliban returns to London.  He sees Vanessa with Dr. Sweet, and smiles, as he is happy that Vanessa seems to have found happiness.  Caliban’s memories of his previous life are also slowly returning, and he remembers that he had a wife and son.  Caliban tracks down his family, who have been forced to move into run-down housing.  His son also appears to be quite ill, but still insists on learning to read and write.  Caliban robs a man of his watch, and leaves the watch for his son’s mother, so that she may sell it.

In America, Ethan and Hecate steal horses so that they may travel across the desert.  In the meantime, Ethan is still being hunted by Inspector Rusk, who now suspects that Ethan has an accomplice.  Rusk also warns the American authorities that occult forces are involved, and it is dangerous not to believe in the occult.  Ethan and Hecate are nearly accosted by the authorities, but manage to escape on their stolen horses.

Vanessa speaks to Dr. Seward and is distraught that the doctor does not fully believe her story.  Vanessa then touches Dr. Seward’s wrist, giving the doctor details about her past, which startles Dr. Seward.

Vanessa also accepts a date with Dr. Sweet, and the two attend a carnival.  Dr. Sweet persuades Vanessa to go into the house of mirrors, although she is reluctant.  Vanessa agrees, and all is well at first.  However, Vanessa encounters one of Dracula’s familiars, who recites morbid nursery rhymes, and tells her that they have met before, when Vanessa was institutionalized.  Vanessa becomes badly frightened, and ends her date with Dr. Sweet, telling him to stay away from her.

Dr. Sweet becomes angry at his familiar for revealing himself to Vanessa too soon, and tells the creature that he wants Vanessa to become completely vulnerable to him.  Dr. Sweet then sets the rest of his vampire familiars on the creature as punishment.

Malcolm and Kaetenay travel across the American Southwest by train, in the hopes of saving Ethan.  Kaetenay tells Malcolm that a great disaster will occur if they do not get to Ethan in time, and that if Ethan can’t be saved, then they must kill him.  Malcolm and Kaetenay then find evidence of the massacre at the saloon, and Kaetenay tells Malcolm that Ethan has an accomplice in Hecate, which makes the situation even more dangerous.

Vanessa returns to Dr. Seward, and demands that she be hypnotized, as she believes that she was tortured when she institutionalized.  Dr. Seward reluctantly agrees to the request, warning Vanessa that some memories are better left as un-recovered.  Dr. Seward then hypnotizes Vanessa, bringing her back to her time in the institution.  Vanessa is then taken back to her time in the institution, where she was locked in a padded room.  An orderly then enters the room, and is revealed to be none other than Caliban, in human form.


My Thoughts

I watch this show on Monday, most of the time.  At the advanced age of nearly 38, 10 PM on Sunday is too late to stay up.

In other words, Tuesday through Sunday are my antsy days, since I have to wait the next episode, which is an unfortunate side effect of actually watching a current show, instead of waiting the five or six seasons until said show is nearly done, and then spending a shameless number of hours binge watching said show…sniff…boohoo…

I constantly think about Penny Dreadful.  This is actually not anything new, but my thoughts seem to a little more intense this season.  And for good reason, since it seems we get a twist in every episode (more on this later.)

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One thing I loved about this particular episode was…you guessed…more of my friend, Caliban, aka the poetry quoting monster!

Caliban has always been a fascinating character to me.  Actually, he won me over completely last season, when he quoted William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence.  Oh, that beautiful monster!

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_307_1030

In all seriousness, I was glad that we got more of Caliban in this episode.  The theme of the episode was duality (even the title, Good and Evil Braided Be…shiver) and if anyone knows about dual natures, it is surely Caliban.  Out of all the characters, Caliban is the most knowledgeable, even over Dr. Jekyll.  After all, he has literally lived two lives!

I have never given much thought to Frankenstein’s monster, before this show.  I pitied him, because he did not ask to be created, but was an experiment at the whim of his creator.  I never thought of who he may have been before his corpse was dug up and revived.

Well, until this season of Penny Dreadful, actually.

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So, it appears that The Creature had a life (see what I did there) before he became The Creature.  And by all counts, it was not a happy life.

However, it was still his life, and my heart broke wide open while watching this episode.  Obviously, Caliban loved his son very much, along with his wife.  And now, his memories are starting to come back, and we see that he is something other than a gruesome resurrected corpse (although I knew that all along, anyone who can quote William Blake like that has at least a little humanity.)  He was, and still is, a man who loved.  And I think that his character arc will be fascinating:  will he try to reconcile with his family?  And if he does, how will that go (probably not well, given the fact that this is the Penny Dreadful universe, but still)?  Are we in for more heartbreak?  I think the answer is a resounding yes on that part.

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So, more about Caliban later, when we talk about the ending, obviously.

Again, I want to talk about the visual component of this show.

As always, it was excellent!

I wasn’t too sure about having part of the story take place in America, at first.

But, as usual, my doubts have been proven wrong.

The shots in the desert are quickly shaping up to be one of my favorite parts of this season.

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I am loving seeing Ethan in the desert.  There is just something ominous and foreboding about all that open space.  Maybe it’s because it plays on our fear of the unknown.  It is (or was) unknown territory, and there is always a great of that.  Whatever the case, the show has captured that aspect perfectly.

I also loved the scene in the house of mirrors.  I always hated those as a child, and when watching this week’s episode, I remembered why.

I definitely understood Vanessa’s reluctance to enter that particular attraction.  There is just something about seeing multiple, sometimes distorted, reflections of yourself that is unsettling.  This particular scene brought me back to my childhood, and bonded me to Vanessa even more, as we both also share a hatred of dolls.

Of course, I never encountered a vampire in any of the fun houses I went in as a child.  Poor Vanessa!  And that has to be one of the creepiest things I have ever seen: a bunch of distorted fun house mirrors, along with a vampire reciting a gory little nursery rhyme of some kind, while dropping a huge bombshell on Vanessa…eeek!

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And then the effect was compounded, when the vampire scampered away, but scampered BACKWARDS.  Yes, backwards…why is that so creepy?  I think maybe it is so creepy because vampires are corrupt creatures and are evil.  Evil is the opposite of good, so it would make sense that evil creatures are the reverse of us, and would therefore do everything backwards, including scampering away into the night.  Creepy stuff, regardless.

Christian Carmargo as Dr. Sweet and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 2). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_302_5122

So, we are back to Caliban again.  Let’s talk about this week’s ending.

Really, who on this show doesn’t have a secret identity or past of some kind?

Dr. Sweet is Dracula.  That has been established.

We have Dr. Jekyll.  Need I say more on that?

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(Side note:  with the way this is going, my identity as the Green Arrow is going to get leaked soon…oh, oops.  Hope my secret is safe with both all of you readers).

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Ethan is a werewolf, and we are (hopefully) going to find out just what he did in his previous life.

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And now, we have Caliban.

As I stated before, Caliban is someone who has actually lived two lives.  In the first one, he was apparently a regular dude, with a wife and family.  And now he is resurrected Creature, trying to recover his memories.

Well, he is recovering his memories pretty slowly.  We know that he remembers his wife and kid, but the memories of what he did for a living are taking their sweet time resurfacing.

And his previous occupation has suddenly become much more than a footnote, as he was apparently an orderly at a mental institution.  And not just any mental institution, either.

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Caliban was an orderly at the mental institution that housed Vanessa for a time.  This time appears to be significantly important to Vanessa and the mythos of the series.  In other words, Caliban is no longer an interesting side story.  No, he is now directly tied to the “main” story, and probably in a really important way.

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Something tells me that Caliban played a huge part in Vanessa’s time at the mental institution.  We know that she encountered vampires there, along with other supernatural creatures.

Now, Caliban is a part of this.  And it is likely that he was a part of those encounters.  Did this have something to do with his death?  It is quite possible.  Did this have something to do with Victor obtaining his corpse for his experiment?  Also quite possible.  Did Caliban possibly agree to the experiment before his death?  Again, quite possible.  And I can’t wait to find out where the show takes this.


Well, that’s it for Good and Evil Braided Be.  Join me next week for the review and dissection of the fourth episode of the season, titled Another Demon.

Tune in next week.,.same bat time, same bat channel!

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Making Castle Rock Great Again: My Review of The Dead Zone

As I have stated before, one of Stephen King’s strengths as a writer is that he writes about “real life”, and is able to write about it very well.

Stephen King

And this is a good thing for a few reasons.

For one, it makes the stories more believable.  The Shining is a good example of this.  We may know the book for the scary hotel and the lecherous ghost in a certain famous room, but much of the book centers around the Torrance family and their problems, which include financial issues, abuse and substance abuse.  These are all topics we are familiar with, so when the familiar is juxtaposed with the supernatural, it makes the supernatural that much more believable.

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In other words, seeing Jack’s struggles with addiction and his need to provide for his family adds an element of credibility, and suddenly we can believe that an old hotel is really haunted by angry ghosts that want to use you as a human battery of sorts, because you really do have those psychic abilities.

(Ok, maybe a stretch on the psychic abilities part.  But, still you never know.)

King also creates great characters.  These characters also add to the story, allowing one to emphasize with the horrible situations they are put in.

In fact, King has the ability to create a sympathetic “good guy” and a great bad guy.  Both of these are essential to any good story.

Actually, bad guys are unfortunately a part of real life…

MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures after Carly Fiorina says she met with Russian President Putin at a one on one meeting, during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Coincidentally (or maybe not), one of King’s most iconic bad guys is, in fact, a politician.

Again, real life can actually be much scarier than a clown in the sewers or a haunted hotel.

In case you were wondering, the character I am talking about is Greg Stillson, from the book The Dead Zone, which also happens to be one of my favorite King novels (and movies!)

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With it being an election year that has proved to be horror show that scares even motherfuckers like Stephen King, there was only one thing to do.

That’s right:  a read and review of The Dead Zone!  Makes perfect sense!

So join me, if you will, on my recap and dissection of The Dead Zone…hope you don’t scare easily!

Oh, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The prologue of the book features two people.  One is a young boy by the name of Johnny Smith.  Johnny suffers a head injury as a child due to an ice-skating accident.  This accident is not serious, but it does briefly render Johnny with precognitive abilities.  However, these abilities soon become dormant, and the rest of Johnny’s childhood is normal.

The other person is a man named Greg Stillson.  In the beginning of the book, Stillson is a young man who does door-to-door sales, but aspires for something better for himself.  However, there is something not quite right about Stillson, as he is shown to be a cruel man.  On one of his stops, Stillson kicks a dog to death out of anger, and proceeds to cover the act up so that he will not be caught.

Several years later, Johnny has graduated from college and secured a job as a teacher.  He is also dating a young woman named Sarah Bracknell.  One fall night, Johnny and Sarah attend a fair.  Johnny wins big in one of the gambling games and plans to consummate his relationship with Sarah.  However, Sarah becomes ill, and Johnny takes a cab back to his apartment.

Tragedy strikes on the cab ride back to Johnny’s apartment:  the cab collides with another vehicle.  The driver of the cab is killed, along with the passengers in the other vehicle.  Johnny survives the accident, but suffers from severe brain damage and falls into a coma.

For nearly five years, Johnny remains in the coma.  His parents, Herb and Vera Smith, are grief-stricken.  However, Herb is able to cope with the accident a little better than Vera, who succumbs to a sort of religious mania, and begins to subscribe to beliefs that can only be described as “fringe science.”  Sarah is also grief-stricken, but falls in love with a man named Walt Hazlett and has a son by him.

While Johnny is in the coma, a killer that becomes known as the Castle Rock begins to terrorize the town of Castle Rock.  Several women are murdered, but the murders go unsolved.

One day, Johnny awakens from his coma.  His mobility is limited, and he lacks control over certain bodily functions, but he is coherent and remembers his name, his parents, etc.  Johnny is also devastated to find out that Sarah has re-married, but holds no ill will against her.

Almost as soon as he awakens from his coma, Johnny begins to manifest precognitive abilities.  When Sarah visits him in the hospital, he is able to touch her and tell her where she lost her wedding ring.  He is also able to touch one of his doctors, Dr. Weizak, and determine that Weizak’s mother did not die in the Holocaust, after all, and is living in California.  Both of premonitions are subsequently verified, and bring attention to Johnny.

Johnny continues with his physical therapy and rehabilitation, even though it is painful for him.  One day, he touches his physical therapist, and has a premonition that the woman’s house has caught on fire.  Luckily, the fire department catches the fire on time, and no serious damage is done to the woman’s house.  However, this incident continues to bring more unwanted attention upon Johnny, in the form of curious reporters.

Shortly after the incident with his physical therapist, Johnny is hounded by news reporters who are curious about his abilities.  With Dr. Weizak at his side, Johnny attempts to answer some of their questions.  When he touches one reporter, Johnny is able to obtain some information about the reporter’s deceased sister, and there is no explanation as to how Johnny could have obtained this information.  The reporter becomes angry and calls Johnny a charlatan, even though the information is not false.

However, Johnny is distracted from the reporters when he finds out that his mother is in the hospital, as she has suffered a stroke.  Vera passes away shortly after Johnny’s arrival at the hospital, and Johnny and his father are devastated.

While Johnny is recovering from his accident, Greg Still becomes the mayor of a small town in New Hampshire and is on a rise to power.  However, his methods of keeping order in his city are unorthodox, to say the least, and some question his legitimacy.

After the death of his mother, Johnny moves back into his childhood home with his father.  Shortly after he moves back home, Johnny is approached by a man named Richard Dees.  Richard Dees works for a tabloid magazine called The Inside View, and offers Johnny a job at the magazine that promises to be quite lucrative.  Johnny becomes angry, and chases the reporter off his property, threatening to hurt Dees if he ever returns.

Sarah visits Johnny a few days after the incident with Richard Dees.  Even though she is happily married to Walt, Sarah consummates her relationship with Johnny, reminding Johnny on what he has missed.  Sarah then leaves, and she and Johnny agree not to contact each other again.

The weeks and months pass by, and Johnny struggles to return to a normal life.  An article accusing him to be a charlatan is published in The Inside View, in retribution for his refusal to work for the tabloid.  However, Johnny ignores the article, and the publicity surrounding him begins to die off.

One day, Johnny receives a call from Sheriff George Banner in regards to the Castle Rock Strangler murders.  Sheriff Bannerman requests Johnny help in solving the case, as the case has remained unsolved for several years and quite a few women have fallen victim to the murderer.  Initially, Johnny refuses to help, as he feels that he is being mocked.

However, when Johnny watches a news report on the murders, he changes his mind and agrees to meet with Sheriff Banner.  He meets with Sheriff Bannerman in a local diner, and finds out that the latest victim of The Castle Rock Strangler was a nine year old girl.  Johnny heads back to the police station with Bannerman, so that he can touch something that may have belonged to the killer, and hopefully get some information on the murderer.

When Johnny touches the cigarette carton that may have belonged to the murderer, he does not get any information.  However, Johnny heads to the site where the murder occurred, in the hopes that he will be able to obtain some information from the area.  And Johnny is successful in making this visit, and reveals the murderer to be Frank Dodd, who is actually one of Sheriff Bannerman’s deputies.  When Johnny makes this revelation, Sheriff Bannerman is angered, but agrees to at least investigate the possibility that Frank was involved in these murders.

The sheriff and Johnny then head to Frank’s house to confront him in regards to the murders.  When they arrive, they find that Frank has somehow figured out that he has been caught, and has committed suicide by slitting his throat with a razor.  He has also written “I confess” on his bedroom mirror in red lipstick.

After The Castle Rock Strangler has been caught, Johnny’s life has been turned upside down.  He is hounded by the press, and loses a teaching contract that he had previously secured.

The years pass, and Johnny eventually moves to a nearby town and obtains a job tutoring a high school boy named Chuck.  Johnny is quite good at his job, and helps Chuck overcome his difficulties with reading.

Greg Stillson continues to gain popularity as a politician, and runs for a seat in The House of Representatives.  Johnny is somewhat skeptical of Stillson, but does not pay him much mind, as he continues to try to live a normal life.

One afternoon, Johnny attends a rally to hear Greg Stillson speak.  Johnny is able to shake Stillson’s hand, and has one of his premonitions:  he sees Stillson being elected president and wreaking havoc on the United States and the rest of the world.  This frightens Johnny badly, causing him to faint.  When he awakens, he is questioned by the police, but released, as they cannot charge him with a crime.

Johnny continues to work with Chuck, and to live his life.  However, Greg Stillson is never far from his mind, and Johnny decides that something needs to be done about him, although he does not like the idea of killing, even a psychopath like Stillson.  Johnny begins to keep obsessive notes on Stillson, and wonders just what he can do.

One night, Chuck gives Johnny a hug, thanking him for his help.  Johnny has another premonition.  He sees the restaurant that is hosting a graduation party that Chuck is planning on attending get struck by lightening, killing several students.  One of these students may be Chuck.  Johnny convinces Chuck not to attend the party, and Chuck agrees, hosting a party of his own at his parent’s house.  Later that night, Johnny hears a radio broadcast that there has been a fire at that restaurant, and that 75 people were killed in the fire, which was caused by a lightening strike.

After the incident at the restaurant, Johnny flees New England and heads to Florida.  He is determined to stop Stillson at any cost, and purchases a gun.  He then heads back north, in the hopes of catching Stillson at a town hall meeting in Jackson, New Hampshire.

At the meeting, Johnny fires his gun at Stillson.  In order to defend himself, Stillson grabs an infant and uses the boy as a human shield.  A nearby reporter takes a picture of Stillson’s act of cowardice.  In the meantime, Johnny is shot by Stillson’s bodyguards and dies almost instantly, but knows that even though he was unable to shoot Stillson, he has still completed his mission.

Once the picture of Greg Stillson’s act of cowardice is brought to the public’s attention, his political career is killed, and the world is safe from the nuclear war that otherwise would have occurred.  It is also discovered that Johnny Smith was suffering from a brain tumor and had only months to live.  His letters to his father and Sarah indicate that he was of clear mind in his decision to stop Stillson.

Sarah visits Johnny’s grave, and feels distressed.  However, she feels a ghostly, gentle hand on her cheek, and knows that Johnny is not truly gone.


My Thoughts

The Dead Zone.  Many know Stephen King as the guy who writes scary stories.  And they would not be wrong, some of King’s material can scare someone right into a change of pants.

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But then, you have the underrated gem otherwise known as The Dead Zone.  In other words, the other Stephen King.  And people often forget that King does indeed have another side.  And this side is not the one that can scare you into a change of pants.

No, one of the things that the other Stephen King is good at is feelsies.

Yes, the guy that can (literally) scare the crap out of you can also reduce you to tears, and not the kind of tears brought on by a certain homicidal clown or by a creepy woman who has taken up resident in the bathtub in a certain famous (or is it infamous?) room in a haunted hotel.

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No, these are the kind of tears that you shed for the human condition, which is actually one of the most fucked up conditions of all time.

And The Dead Zone is a constant reminder of this, even from the very beginning.  Tragedy does not wait to strike in The Dead Zone.

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Rather, it rears its ugly head right away, as Johnny falls into the coma right away.  When Johnny falls into a coma, his life is forever changed.  He was a young man with a bright future with the woman he loved.  However, the accident changes everything for Johnny.  He is no longer the young man with a bright future, the young man who made being a high school teacher look effortless, the young man who had a beautiful girlfriend who he planned to marry.  He is now a vegetable, and even his father prays for death for him, so that he can receive some form of mercy.

The lives of Johnny’s loved ones are irrevocably changed as well.  His parents have effectively experienced the death of their only child.  To witness your only child suffer like that…it’s no wonder that Vera basically went insane, and Johnny’s father prayed for his death, so that he would not have to witness his only child suffering.  Who could blame them?

And there was another victim to tragedy:  Sarah Bracknell.  It is true that Sarah was not married to Johnny, or even engaged to him.  Sarah’s tragedy was the future that never came to be:  her marrying Johnny, building a life with him, possibly even having children together.  However, the accident robbed Sarah of that, and made her live with “the what if” for the rest of her life.

The tragedy continues, even when Johnny awakens from his coma.  “The world has moved on” (in the words of another famous King character.)  Johnny has missed out on almost five years of his life.  Not only does Johnny not know who the president of the United States is, he has missed out so many other things, like his career and his family.  And perhaps the saddest part is that Sarah has moved on and married another, so he has also lost the love of his life, along with the five years he will never get back.

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Stephen King often writes about ordinary people placed into extraordinary situations.  The Stand, It, The Shining and even the Dark Tower series are all examples of this.  And The Dead Zone is, as well.

Nick

At first glance, the ability to predict the future may seem like a good thing.  After all, knowing that something terrible with happen gives us a chance to prevent it, and preventing something terrible from happening is always a good thing, right?

More like nope, at least in The Dead Zone.  Johnny’s abilities make him a pariah.  They frighten other people, because most people fear what they don’t understand.  Often, Johnny’s knowledge brings some unwelcome revelations.  Sheriff Bannerman punched Johnny for accusing Frank Dodd of being the Castle Rock strangler.  Bannerman literally needed to have the evidence in front of his face before he would even entertain the notion.  And even then, he wasn’t convinced.  Bannerman was only fully convinced when he got a written confession from Dodd, and by then it was too late for Dodd to face justice.

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Johnny’s abilities also put him in a moral predicament.  He knows that a nuclear war will ensue if Greg Stillson becomes president.  But is there any way to prevent this from happening, without resorting to actions which make Stillson such an awful person (as Stillson has shown he is not above murder, by killing law enforcement officials who possibly would have put a stop to his political career)?  However, unlike Stillson, Johnny is not someone who can so easily resort to murder.  Johnny struggles hugely with his decision, and often (rightfully) curses his “gift”, which has caused so much turmoil in his life.

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Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life?

Throughout my re-read of The Dead Zone, I wondered this.  A lot, actually.

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And I think we all know what I am referencing…

Although I will also take a dig at Her Nibs here, just to show I am not just picking on The One Who Won’t Be Named.

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In all seriousness, the resemblances to our current political climate is just unreal.  That’s the only word I can think of to describe it.

King’s description of Stillson’s antics at his rallies is so strikingly similar to Donald Trump’s antics.  In one scene, Stillson crawls across the stage like a dog.  In another scene, Still promises “free hot dogs for all.”  I am sure that if I actually watched some Donald Trump rallies (while we are on the subject of being scared into a change of pants), I would find footage of The Donald crawling across the stage like a dog.  Probably barking too.

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And don’t even get me started on the subjects of hot dogs, since Mr. Trump has so generously let us known that his…ummm…man parts are fully functioning and of proper size.  Actually, if you never want to eat hot dogs ever again after reading this paragraph, I won’t hold it against you!

But, let’s get serious again.  Stillson founded his platform on hate, just like Mr. Trump.  Donald Trump has been repeatedly promising us that wall that Mexico will so magnanimously fund.  Stillson also had a hatred of the “outsiders”, promising his constituents that he would eradicate them.  Both Trump and Stillson attracted a certain type of voter:  white, lower middle class, ignorant and convinced that their problems were causes by “the outsiders” (Muslims, an African America president with a “foreign” name, any “foreigners”, etc), and not by a system that is inherently unfair to anyone who is not rich, like Stillson and Trump.  So both men were able to take the rising fear experienced by their supporters, and got the results that they wanted:  supporters who are frightened, and because they are frightened, are actually zealots as opposed to supporters.

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When reading this book, I was also struck by the description of the violence at Stillson’s rallies.  One woman had a miscarriage. People broke bones and suffered other injuries.

Like I said, art sometimes imitates life.  And I may be insufferable in regards to the jokes I have been making about Trump and Stillson lately.  But then King throws in a detail, like the fact that a woman suffered a miscarriage due to the violence at one of Stillson’s rallies.  I can also watch footage of violence at Trump rallies, as there has plenty.  And I can’t joke any more, since I am reminded of the horrible problem we have in this country, where these types of incidents are accepted.  Footage like this is much, much scarier than anything that has ever come out of the mind of Stephen King.

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Johnny Smith prevented Greg Stillson from starting a nuclear war.  This is a scenario that would be all too plausible if Donald Trump was to be elected the leader of the free world.  When someone uses fear as his/her campaign platform and actually gets elected, what else can we expect?  The campaign was not based on rationality, so why would any decisions, especially the important ones, be based on rationality?  In other words, campaigns based on hate and fear do not end well, and will probably end in disaster.

BOCA RATON, FL - MARCH 13: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during his campaign rally at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater on March 13, 2016 in Boca Raton, Florida. Mr. Trump continues to campaign before the March 15th Florida primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In school, I remember reading Animal Farm.  1984 also may have been required reading.  However, The Dead Zone was not required reading.  And that was a damn shame.  Perhaps, if this book was required reading in high school, “Making America great again” would not be a political platform in 2016.

animal farm 1


Well, that’s it for The Dead Zone.  Join me next month for the review and dissection of another Castle Rock tale, The Dark Half.  And there will be a bonus recap and review, as the final installment of The Mr. Mercedes trilogy, End of Watch, will be released next month.

Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin


Connections:

Just for fun, here are some of the connections to King’s other work that I found in The Dead Zone:

The Dead Zone takes place in the town of Castle Rock.  Castle Rock is the setting for several other King stories, including Needful Things, The Body, Cujo and The Dark Half.

Needful things 3

-Sheriff George Bannerman also makes an appearance in the novella The Body (part of the collection Different Seasons), and in the book Cujo.

Cujo

-The events from the book Carrie are referenced.

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-Beverly Marsh mentions the Castle Rock Strangler in the book It.

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-Richard Dees, the writer from the tabloid The Inside View, is also a character in the short story The Night Flier, which is part of the collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes.

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Eddie makes mention of the tabloid The Inside View in the novel The Wolves of the Calla.

Roland dance

 

 

Penny Dreadful: Season 3 Episode 2 Recap and Review

Sometimes, things just go together.

Like peanut butter and jelly…

Macaroni and cheese…

Netflix and chill…

Jason Statham and well…anything…

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(Seriously, that man could be covered in tar, and I would still try to lick it off of him…yum.)

Eva Green and Patti Lupone

Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Frankenstein…

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Vanessa Ives and the Undead…

Yes, I just watched the second episode of this season’s Penny Dreadful last night, in case you can’t tell.

And saw some interesting combinations.  I am sure some of them, like Jekyll and Frankenstein, along with Eva Green and Patti Lupone, will become instant classics!

Of course, some combinations, such as Vanessa and supernatural creatures, were not unexpected.  But still, these combinations (like Jason Statham covered in tar), were fun, and I definitely want to see more of them.

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of the second episode of season 3 of Penny Dreadful, titled Predators Near and Far.

And of course:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The episode begins with Lilly and Dorian Gray, who make their way into the underground sex scene.  There, they rescue a young woman named Justine, who is set to be sexually tortured by a group of older men.  Lilly and Dorian shoot the men, and take the young girl back to Dorian’s mansion.  When Justine awakens, Lilly promises her that they will seek revenge upon the men who abused her.

Victor speaks to Henry Jekyll about his desire to transform Lilly into the woman he thinks she is.  Henry tells Victor that he is employed by Bedlam, a mental asylum, and is experimenting on his most psychotic patients, in a hope that he can find a cure for their ailments.  Henry brings Victor back to the asylum, and demonstrates his “cure” on a deranged man accused of conspiring to murder the queen.  The cure appears to work, as the man becomes docile and no longer raving, and asks for a glass of water.

Malcolm and Kaetenay continue on their travels, heading to America in the hopes of helping Ethan.  Kaetenay reveals to Malcolm that Ethan supposedly killed his family, and he has let Ethan live as a punishment.  Kaetenay then smokes something and appears to Ethan in some sort of vision.  Ethan is angered by seeing the old man, warning him to keep his distance, as he is being returned to his father and wants to seek revenge against his father.

The full moon rises when Ethan is in a saloon along with the bounty hunters who are tasked with bringing him back to his father.  Ethan speaks to an elderly Apache woman who appears to have ties to Kaetenay.  Ethan tells the woman to leave the bar immediately.  Shortly after, Ethan transforms into a werewolf and murders everyone in the bar.  He also receives some assistance from Hecate, who tells him that she has missed him.

Vanessa begins her sessions Dr. Seward, and tells her entire story, which is recorded on audio.  Even Dr. Seward is visibly shaken after Vanessa finishes her story, and tells Vanessa to do one thing that would be unexpected of her, yet make her happy, and report on it next week.

After her session with Dr. Seward, Vanessa makes her way to the natural history museum, where she listens to one of Dr. Sweet’s lectures.  She leaves him a note inviting him to attend a performance of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea later that night.  Dr. Sweet accepts, and the two have a pleasant evening.  Vanessa also invites Dr. Sweet to have coffee with her, but her declines the invitation, and tells her that he will see her again soon.  Vanessa is then followed by Dracula’s minions on her way home.

Victor sits on a bench outside of Lilly’s mansion, lovelorn and heartsick.  Lilly speaks to him, telling him that she does care for him, but that he needs to stay out of her way, as what she is planning will be dangerous.

At the end of the episode, Renfield returns to Dracula’s lair to give the creature his intel on Vanessa.  Renfield then begs the vampire for blood, and Dracula obliges.  Dracula is then revealed to be Dr. Alexander Sweet.


My Thoughts

This week’s episode was an interesting one, for sure (well, duh.)  But it was interesting for quite a few reasons, and most of them don’t actually have much to do with “horror.”

First of all, this was not an action heavy episode (except for the end, which we will talk about in a bit.)  I view this episode as more of a “bridge building” episode, as opposed to one that would really advance the plot.  And there is nothing wrong with that, as some more was revealed about the characters (never anything wrong with that!)

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_307_1030

And speaking of characters, let’s talk about Dr. Jekyll for a minute.

While we are talking about “interesting”…

First of all, The Hulk er Jekyll has always been a fascinating character, at least to me.  We all have a dark side, after all.  Usually, we are supposed to keep that dark side hidden, and it is not acceptable to unleash that upon the rest of the world.  But there is no denying that dark side, and that side can just sometimes make an appearance, whether it is “acceptable” or not.

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In pretty much every depiction I ever seen of this character, he has been pretty…well…white.  Not that there is anything wrong with this, just putting this out on the table.  And the reason for his anger is never made clear, just that he has evil urges that he represses.  And we are all pretty familiar with what happens:  Jekyll hulks out into Mr. Hyde, goes on violent rampages and nothing good happens when Hyde is around.  This particular story seems to serve as a warning to all of us about our dark side, i.e. everyone has one, even the nicest guy, and when it gets unleashed…watch out, that’s what you get for having anger issues and not dealing with them.

Well, this is Penny Dreadful.  And Penny Dreadful likes to take the “traditional” and stand it on its head.  You can always put a twist on something, even something that is classic, like the story The Strange Tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

And the show has done this by depicting Dr. Jekyll as a man who is half Indian, in turn of the century London.  Go big or go home, right?

This “change” (after all, this is a work of fiction and not immutable) has actually paid off dividends, even though we are only two episodes into the season.

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First of all, variety is the spice of life.  Nothing wrong with vanilla as a flavor, but why not mix it up a little sometimes, and add some spice?  Even turn of the century London didn’t consist of all white folks, and modern day society sure doesn’t.  So seeing other flavors on any television show is never a bad thing.

But (and this a big but) the fact that we have some variety on the show is not the only reason why making Dr. Jekyll half Indian has worked so well.

Being a person of color is hard, even in “modern” times.  However, being a person of color today cannot possibly hold a candle to being a person of color in turn of the century London.  Even though Dr. Jekyll is half-white, he is seen as Indian by almost everyone.  To add insult to injury, he is also an outcast in India, and would probably be seen as an Untouchable, just like his mother, who had a child by a white man and then contracted leprosy, which she later died from.

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So, Dr. Jekyll is marginalized.  He may be even more marginalized than The Creature or even the ladies on the show, as he cannot really fit in anywhere.  He has no place among the white folks, and no place in India.  Jekyll is educated and intelligent, with much to offer.  However, the best he can do is to work with the “other Untouchables”, aka the mentally ill.  Even there, no one respects him, and he has to remind people to address him as “Dr”, a title he has rightfully earned.

And what happens to someone who is marginalized?

Well, I would be pretty angry if I was treated like that and had my options in life limited because my skin color wasn’t “right.”

And it’s pretty evident that Dr. Jekyll is angry.  I could hear it when he reminded that man of his proper title.  I could also hear it when he told Victor the story of his background, and how his father discarded him and his mother like a piece of trash.

In other words, Penny Dreadful‘s version of Dr. Jekyll does not have unexplained “evil urges.”  He is someone who has been kicked around by life, and legitimately has a chip on his shoulder.  And that chip on his shoulder will (probably) emerge as Mr. Hyde.  And I am sure that Mr. Hyde will somehow buck “tradition.”  And I can’t wait.

I also need to give a shout out to the visuals on this show.  The first two seasons impressed, and it looks like the third season is continuing the trend…

The opening was probably my favorite.  The red Japanese lanterns against that ominous backdrop…can you get more ominous than that?

I also loved the vision sequence, when Ethan receives an unwanted visit from Kaetenay.  The desert against the dark sky…talk about surreal!

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So, let’s talk about this ending…

While I enjoyed this episode, it was a bit ho-hum…

Well, until the ending, that is…

We have been teased about Dracula for going on three seasons now.  Last week we got a voice.  And this week, we can put a name to that scary voice.

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And the name is…Dr. Alexander Sweet?

I know that I made the statement that with a name like that, Dr. Sweet had to be either a vampire, or vampire bait, at the very least.

Christian Carmargo as Dr. Sweet and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 2). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_302_5122

But, still this came as a bit of a surprise to me.  Revealed this early on in the season?  Kind of like going all the way on a second date, eh?

(As a side note, I feel a little better about my own previous dating life.  Can’t say I dated Dracula, but I am sure I at least hooked up with his familiar a time or too.  Poor Vanessa!)

So, now we know that Dr. Sweet (appears) to actually be the biggest Big Bad of them all.  So what happens now?

I can’t answer that question.  But it sure has gotten interesting.

How long will it take Vanessa to figure out that her new boo is the bloodsucker responsible for the death of her best friend, Mina?  Vanessa seems pretty smitten with the new doc, so I think this may take her a while.  So far, she doesn’t appear to have noticed the wannabe fan boys who have been stalking her as of late, but she’s not dumb either.  So there’s that.

Christian Carmargo as Dr. Sweet and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 2). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_302_5057

And will anyone else, such as Dr. Seward, figure out what’s going on?  I am not sure that the good doctor entirely believes Vanessa’s story, but it looks like she may also be afraid not to believe it, either.  Not to mention that her secretary is now Dracula’s bitch…

in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode -). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_302

Speaking of which, we have Dracula.  The biggest Big Bad of them all, as stated before.  Has he been working in a natural history museum (makes a weird sort of sense if you think about it, actually) right there, under our noses the whole time?  How long has he had Vanessa in his hooks?  Why is he moving in on her now?  Who else will he either murder or turn into a creature of the night in order to get at Vanessa?

Like Dr, Jekyll, I am sure that the show will turn the character of Dracula on his fanged head.  And again, I can’t wait to see what they do with him.


Well, that’s it for Predators Near and Far.  Tune in next week for the review and dissection of the third episode, titled Good and Evil Braided Be.

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

 

 

Penny Dreadful: Season 3, Episode 1 Recap and Review

After months of anticipation and excitement, it finally happened.

I turned on my television last night, and there they were!

My Avengers came back!

No, not those Avengers, although I am looking to spending some quality time with them soon, especially my man Iron Man.

No, I am talking about my literary Avengers!

In other words, I watched the first episode of the third season of Penny Dreadful, aka my adult sundae bar, aka my literary Avengers last night.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_307_1030

And, I felt a sense of homecoming.  Some may say that familiarity breeds contempt.  And sometimes this is true.

But familiarity is not necessarily a bad thing.  And the episode I watched last night proved this in spades, as much of the characters and ideas have been seen before.  But, this is Penny Dreadful, and there is always a twist.  In other words, the sundae bar had new flavors.  And new flavors are not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, they provide a welcome addition to what has already established itself.  I am always looking for additions.

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of the first episode of the third season of Penny Dreadful, which is titled The Day Tennyson Died.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The episode opens to a depressed Vanessa Ives.  Vanessa is now living in squalor in what was once a beautiful mansion.  Vanessa has stopped caring about her appearance, and also appears to spend most of her time alone.  Mr. Lyle knocks on her door, and forces his way inside.  Lyle notices the squalor and Vanessa’s appearance, and gives her a referral to a psychologist.

Ethan has returned to the States, and is being escorted by Inspector Rusk to face justice for the crimes he is accused of committing.  Ethan and Rusk are traveling by train.  The train is held up by would-be robbers, and chaos ensues.  Several people are shot and killed, but Ethan and Rusk survive the attack. Hecate is also a passenger on the train, and she also survives the attack. It is then revealed that the would-be robbers are actually bounty hunters, who have been sent by Ethan’s father to capture his wayward son.

Malcolm has buried Sembene in Africa, which no longer holds any allure for him, and he is eager to leave the continent and return home.  On his way out of a bar, he is nearly mugged, but saved by a man named Kaetenay. Kaetenay tells Malcolm that he must not die before he serves his intended purpose, and that there will be a confrontation with the forces of darkness.   Kaetenay also tells Malcolm that Ethan is in trouble, and needs his help.

Caliban has become stranded on a ship that is frozen in place somewhere in the Arctic.  His fellow passengers have become desperate, and are thinking of resorting to cannibalism to survive.  One of the fellow passengers is an infant who is dying.  Caliban sings to the child, and has memories of an unidentified man comforting a child in a similar manner.  Caliban then kills the child, viewing the act as one of mercy.  Caliban then exits the ship, and begins his journey via foot.

Dr. Victor Frankenstein requests a meeting with an old friend and colleague, Dr. Jekyll.  Victor discusses his discoveries with Dr. Jekyll, and confesses that he wishes to destroy Lilly, as he fears that she has become an evil creature incapable of any good.  Dr. Jekyll attempts to talk Victor out of murder, and speculates that they can possibly bring Lilly over to the side of the good.  Victor reluctantly agrees to try this, but says he will destroy Lilly if this experiment fails.

Vanessa meets with Dr. Seward, the shrink recommended by Lyle, and receives a huge surprise because Dr. Seward bears more than a passing resemblance to Joan the Cut-Wife.  In fact, Dr. Seward tells Vanessa that she is descended from the Claytons, and may actually be a relative of Joan’s.  Vanessa commits to the therapy, and Dr. Seward advises her to do something for herself that she has never done before, and report on the experience in their next session.

To fulfill her commitment to Dr. Seward, Vanessa visits the London Natural History Museum, and makes the acquaintance of Dr. Alexander Sweet, who confesses that, like Vanessa, he also loves broken creatures, as he feels that someone needs to care for them too.  On her way home, Vanessa encounters a strange boy who demands money for a cause related to Alfred Lord Tennyson, who has recently passed away.  Vanessa obliges the young man, and we also see another young man take away the money donated by Vanessa.

Upon returning to her home, Vanessa proceeds to clean the mansion and bring back its former glory.  She also writes a letter to Malcolm, confessing that all has not been well, and that she is suffering from a depression which threatens to take over her life.

At the end of the episode, the secretary who works in Dr. Seward’s office steals the money Vanessa left for services and heads to the questionable part of town, and pays for a prostitute.  However, the man is captured by the same creatures encountered by Vanessa earlier.  The creatures bring the man to their Master, who introduces himself as Dracula.  Dracula then forces the young man to do his bidding, as he has business with Vanessa.  The young man’s name is revealed to be Renfield.


My Thoughts

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again:

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So much love, and this is only the season premiere.  So the bar has been set,  The bar has been set really high.  But don’t worry actors, producers, writers, etc…you guys got this, I know you do!

After watching this episode, I foresee a lot major reveals (maybe.)  And I have been wanting some reveals, so hopefully this prediction comes true.

For instance, there is my wolf, er man, Ethan.  Finally, we may get an Ethan origin story!  The show has spent two full seasons teasing us about the wolf and Ethan’s past, but we still don’t know the story of how he turned into a wolf, why he is on the run from his family and just exactly why he defected to England.  What did Ethan do in the States that made him a wanted man, even before the incident on the last episode of the first season?  Was he born a werewolf, or was he cursed by someone or something (and this may have tie-ins to something Native American, given that mysterious man who has been spying on Malcolm)?

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And just exactly what is going on with Ethan’s father?  Does he have something to do with that fact that Ethan is a werewolf?  And why has he gone to all the trouble to send bounty hunters after his son, who was in the custody of law enforcement officials anyway?

Yes, tons of questions, I know.  But legitimate ones, and I hope that the show has decided to answer at least some of them this season.

And it looks like that my literary Avengers have finally found their Hulk…

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No, not that Hulk!

I am talking about the introduction of the character of Dr. Jekyll.

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Although he claimed he no longer “hulks out” (my translation for his quaint, turn of the century speak in regards to his “rages”), I don’t buy this.  Nope, not at all.

In other words, I am sure that Mr. Hyde will make an appearance.  He did seem rather possessive of that beautiful monster, Victor.  So will that bring out Mr. Hyde?  Maybe.  Or will he fall for Lilly too?  Since he is probably a glutton for punishment, too, I can buy this, and things could get ugly pretty quickly between him and Victor (I love how the show casually implied that these two were at least roommates in the past, with possibly something more between them.  What a way to bring together two classic characters).  So Hyde would make an appearance.  And I can’t wait to see how the show and the actor interprets Hyde.  I am sure the interpretation will be a bit off the wall, but somehow make perfect sense.

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As always, Vanessa.  Yes, I know, I may be the president and founding member of Club I Obsess over Eva Green and Therefore Vanessa Ives Too, but I can’t help it.  My girl Eva Green is just a freaking genius!

I loved how, in this episode, there were so many faces of Vanessa.

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We started off with feral Vanessa, who needed a kindly reminder from Mr. Douche er Lyle to pick up her hairbrush.

Then we had funny Vanessa.  That interaction between The Cut-Wife  Dr. Seward and Vanessa was just priceless…I loved it!

Somehow, Eva Green managed to make hand-scrubbing floors a classy act…who does that???

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 5). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_205_1509

The scene in the natural history museum was also a good one.  Dr. Sweet?  I am figuring he is either a vampire in disguise or possibly a future victim of a vampire, given his name and his personality.  I just don’t think anyone by the name of Sweet is NOT destined for something terrible in the Dreadful Universe.

Oh, and speaking of vampires…

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Yes, *that* vampire!

Finally, we have at least a voice for something else the show has been teasing us with for the past two seasons:  we heard Dracula speak!  So we have a voice for the icon now, even if we don’t have a face.  But still, that voice sent chills up my spine when I first heard it.  And now, anticipation is in the air…

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Oh, and speaking of chills down my spine…

The end of the episode.  You would have thought I was watching a Colts football game where Andrew Luck made a miraculous play and took a substantial lead away from some crazy team in Detroit, from the way I reacted (true story, by the way.)

(I also told my husband that if we ever get another cat, its name must be Renfield.  Really, he was laughing with me, not at me!)

As I stated before, there is something to be said about the familiar.  We are all familiar with the character of Renfield.  In fact, I remember reading Dracula in college, and finding that bit about Renfield somewhat amusing, but more than a little bit disturbing.  The guy lives in an asylum (predecessor to Arkham, I am sure), suffers from “delusions” and eats insects.  But he’s sensitive too, as all he wants is a kitty…go figure!

In other words, this is another classic character who will get an updated interpretation, courtesy of this show.  What kind of role will he play, and what will he fate be?  Definitely some interesting questions, and I am looking forward to the answers.  Again, the anticipation is in the air!

in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode -). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_302

in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode -). – Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: PennyDreadful_302


Well, that’s it for The Day Tennyson Died.  Join me next week for my review and dissection of episode 2, titled Predators Far And Near.

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

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Top 10 Women in Stephen King Books

I am a nerd (well, duh).

I am also a woman (duh again, what was the name of this blog?)

Growing up, I loved things like horror, action movies and Batman.

In fact, I still love all of these things, although I have expanded my horizons a little bit (The Green Arrow is my show boo, thank you very much!)

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And don’t get me wrong, I love being a nerd, and I always have, even if my social calendar has always been strangely empty.  But being part of so many fan-doms, which have allowed me to meet so many wonderful people (Internet, where have you been all my life?), is simply rewarding…there is no other way to put it.  And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

However, being a female nerd has put me in a delicate position.  I love my Batsy, I love my dispensers of vigilante justice and I love being scared into a change of pants by evil, sewer dwelling clowns and whatever other “monster of the week” happens to either haunting the books I read or the movies I watch.

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But even as a child, I noticed something that made being a nerd that much harder, at least for me.

That’s right, you guessed it…the lack of female nerds.

At least, this was the case when I was growing up.  It is true that April O’Neil was a presence on one of my favorite shows.

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There was also Dr. Crusher.

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(The fact that both of these ladies are gingers is just purely coincidental.  Nope, no bias here at all).

But there was no denying it:  nerdiness was not geared towards the likes of me.  Instead, all the cool stuff was geared towards the boys.  And although we have made some pretty good strides in recent years, there is still that mentality:  meeting another woman who is versed in the story line of something like The Killing Joke and who is stoked for the upcoming movie is not common, even though this is something that is changing as well, although slowly.

In fact, when I was introduced to Special Agent Dana Scully, I wept.  At last, a female nerd!  She was smart AND could throw down some serious shade!  And do all that in three inch heels!

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As I got older, I began to look for female role models in my nerdy obsessions.  Slowly, I began to find them.

In other words, I picked up my Stephen King habit after an extended hiatus.  And I found some great female role models…

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Ok, glad you have let that sink in.  So quit laughing, and let’s talk about the ladies in the works of The Master.

Stephen King

King is the master of modern horror.  This fact is undisputed by most.  He knows how to terrify us, with his monsters, both human and inhuman.

But King also creates great characters that we can all relate too.  Jack Torrance, Larry Underwood and Johnny Smith are just a few examples of the Every Man.

King also has given us the Every Woman.  It is true that some of his female characters are mainly seen through the eyes of another character who is usually male.  Examples of those would include Wendy Torrance and Leigh Cabot.

But King has also created some great female characters that are either main characters, or “side characters” that actually stand on their own, sometimes even stealing the show from the guys.

So Stephen King is not only The Master, he has made some pretty cool contributions to the women’s movement…check!  I still don’t know if he has mastered interpretive dance, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.

And I figure now would be a good time to pay tribute to some of these ladies via a post in this little old blog.

So, without further ado, here is a list of what I consider to be the most memorable women in King’s works.  This is a list containing only ten, so I apologize if I left out your favorite…ranking awesome is not easy!

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


10.  Jo Noonan (Bag of Bones)

I am trying to stick with “human” ladies for this post, so I struggled with this one for a bit.

However, Jo Noonan won out in the end.  She was indeed a ghost, but she was living at one point.  Which makes her human to me.

Jo Noonan was a force.  In life, she was courageous and fought to the very end.

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Even in death, she was unstoppable.  Jo simply would not rest until her mission was accomplished:  expose the truth (which was not pretty) in regards to a small town’s questionable history.  Not only was Jo determined to expose the truth in regards to the small town that was her and Mike’s summer home, she was also determined to protect a child who had no tie to her or to Mike.  However, that did not matter to Jo, as she was determine to break the curse that had ruined the lives of so many, including her own.

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And Jo succeeded in that mission:  with her help, Mike was able to stop the curse and save the life of an innocent, and was able to ensure that no further generations would suffer either.

Jo Noonan was a constant presence in this book.  Even when her ghost was not around, we got to know her through her husband, Mike Noonan, as she was such a big part of his life, even after she died.  Even though she technically not living, this fact was easy to forget, as Mike’s memories served to paint a vivid portrait of her, making her as essential to the story as the living cast.


9.  Abra Stone (Dr. Sleep)

In many of King’s works, children are put in perilous situations.  Often, these children are faced with some adult situations that call for adult decisions.  And a wrong decision can literally be the difference between life and death.

Abra Stone is one of these “King children.”  And there are a couple of reasons why she is on this list.  One of them is that she is female.  She may be just a teenager when the events of Dr. Sleep take place, but she is forced to do quite a bit of growing up in a relatively short period of time, earning her a place on this list of distinguished women.  Another reason is that she is simply an ass kicker.  There is no other way to put it.

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In the novel Dr. Sleep, the grown-up Danny Torrance (of redrum fame from The Shining) is a major player.  Most of the adults that were in Danny’s life as a child failed him (especially his father.)  So it is up to Danny to not fail Abra, a girl who possesses PSI abilities similar to his own, although hers are much stronger than his ever will be.  And Danny succeeds in that mission, quite admirably.

However, Danny’s success was heavily tied to Abra and her abilities.  Abra is an extremely brave young woman who takes on the leader of a clan of psychic vampires who call themselves the “True Knot.”  In doing so, Abra risks her own, along with the lives of her loved ones.  The clan has cheated death for centuries, and is determined to “harvest” Abra’s abilities so that they may continue to cheat death for many more years.

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However, with the help of Abra, Danny is able to defeat this clan once and for all, saving the life of Abra and possibly several others.  In other words, Abra was able to work with Danny so that Danny could succeed where his father had failed.  Abra was able help Danny achieve something that he desperately needed:  redemption.


8)  Margaret White (Carrie)

No story is complete without a good bad guy.

Or bad gal, as the case may be.

Carrie is King’s first published work.  The book definitely has this feel, and makes for an interesting read.

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The title character, Carrie White, is fascinating in her own right.  As a survivor of childhood bullying myself, I identify with Carrie White on many, many levels.  In fact, I am pretty amazed that I survived high school and didn’t burn down my school on prom night (the fact that I could not get a date to prom to save my life has absolutely nothing to do with this.)

But the real strength of this book, at least to me, lies in the villains.  I could consider Carrie’s schoolmates to be villains (and they are pretty awful) but to me, Margaret White, the mother of Carrie, is the true villain of the book.

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Margaret is a religious fanatic who strives to raise her daughter to become the same way.  However, Carrie attempts to defy Margaret so that she can fit in with her peers and be accepted somewhere.  Usually, these efforts fail, and Carrie is left feeling even worse, which causes her mother to retreat even further into her religion, worsening the cycle.

Sex is considered dirty by Margaret White, and she does not explain “the birds and the bees” to her daughter.  Therefore, when Carrie gets her first menstrual period at age 17, all hell literally breaks loose.  Carrie thinks that she is dying, as she has no knowledge of what is a perfectly occurrence.  She is further alienated by her peers.  One of these girls feels some guilt, and attempts to help Carrie fit in by having her boyfriend take Carrie to her prom.  Carrie fights her mother, who vehemently opposes any kind of normalcy, in order to try to fit in with her peers once again.  However, once again, this backfires, but in a horrific way that no one could have imagined.

Margaret White

Throughout the book, Margaret White’s presence is felt, even up to the conclusion of the story.  If it had not been for Margaret’s fanaticism, the outlook for poor Carrie may have been quite different, and the reign of destruction experienced by her classmates, teachers and ultimately her mother, may not have happened at all.  So, in essence, Margaret White created the monster, and suffered the horrific consequences, along with many others.


7.  Dolores Claiborne (Dolores Claiborne)

Domestic abuse is a common theme in many King works, including It, Rose Madder, ‘Salem’s Lot, Insomnia and many others.  King writes about the every day issues we are all familiar, and domestic abuse is unfortunately one of those issues.

Dolores Claiborne is another King novel that deals with the issue of domestic abuse.  However, there is a twist:  Dolores Claiborne is one of the few stories of abuse told entirely from the perspective of the abused, a middle-aged woman named Dolores Claiborne.

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Dolores endures some horrific abuse from her husband, Joe.  Finally, Dolores takes a stand, and the abuse against her comes to a stop.  But the spousal abuse is only the beginning, as Joe transfers his aggression to someone else:  his and Dolores’ teenage daughter, Selena.  Joe begins to sexually abuse Selena, and Selena’s innocence is forever lost.  And Dolores realizes that her battle is not over.

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At first, Dolores looks for a peaceful solution to her problem.  But society reminds her that she is a woman and powerless against the hierarchy.  So Dolores decides to forget the peaceful solution and resorts to killing her husband, making it look like an accident.  Society and her husband have pushed her, and she pushes back the only way she can: a fatal “accident” that does indeed turn out to be “her best friend.”

However, Dolores is NOT a cold-blooded killer.  She is a loving, hard-working mother who is doing the best she can for her family.  The law is not on her side and society has marginalized her.  But she has not given up the fight, and ultimately rises above it all.


6)  Sadie Dunhill (11/22/63)

Behind every good man, there is a good woman.  Or something like that, as the saying goes.  In other words, much of life is a partnership, and it really does take two to tango.

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And this was the case in the novel 11/22/63.  Jake Epping travels back in time to attempt to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  In preventing the assassination of the president, Jake hopes to change history for the better.

Initially, Jake is alone in his question.  But this is not the case for long.  Jake meets and falls in love with Sadie Dunhill, a beautiful young woman who is in the midst of divorcing her abusive husband.  And Jake’s quest becomes even more complicated.

Ultimately, Sadie takes a bullet and sacrifices her life so that Jake may succeed in his quest.  When she learns of Jake’s mission, Sadie becomes an advocate, never letting Jake forget why he traveled back in time.  She encourages Jake along the way and becomes as passionate about his mission as Jake.  Her relationship with Jake changes Jake for the better, making him more vulnerable, opening him up to his feelings.

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Sadie is also amazing in her own right.  She has the courage to leave her husband at a time when divorce was heavily frowned upon, especially for women.  She fights back against her husband in two different timelines, and wins both times, even when she did not have the help of Jake.  Sadie survives her divorce, and makes a difference in the world (in both timelines.)


5.  Susan Delgado (Wizard and Glass)

Again, children in the Stephen King universe are often placed in awful situations.  This is a prevailing theme, and is a theme in the book Wizard and Glass.

Roland and Susan

Susan Delgado is still a child at the beginning of the story of Roland Deschain’s youth.  However, she falls in love with Roland and is forced to grow up quickly.  Because of the bad decisions made by the adults in Susan’s life, her life becomes endangered when she commits the sin of falling in love with Roland.

However, Susan is not just a love interest for Roland.  She is much more than that, and becomes an integral part of his ka-tet.  Susan risks her life to help Roland and his friends fight The Good Man and his forces, which include include most of the people in her town, who have turned against the Affiliation.  And she pays the ultimate price for her bravery:  she is burned alive for “treason.”  But Susan is never bitter about her fate, and her last words are her declaration of love for Roland.

cuthbert and alain

Throughout Wizard and Glass, Susan realizes that because she is a woman, life will not necessarily be “fair.”  She deals with her greedy aunt, an evil witch and unwanted sexual advances from a man nearly old enough to be her grandfather.  However, she remains true to herself until the very end, and is ultimately responsible for Roland beginning his quest to save the Dark Tower.


4) Susannah Dean (The Dark Tower series)

When one thinks of the Dark Tower series, Roland Deschain naturally comes to mind.  And Roland Deschain is a huge part of this series, as he is the main protagonist.

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However, Roland is not alone in this quest.  He had friends once, but they were lost.  But someone (or something) decided that he needed friends again.

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Enter Susannah Dean.  And Odetta Holmes.  And Detta Walker.  No, Roland was not given three women.  He was given one woman (along with another man, a young boy and even a creature known as a billy-bumbler but this entry is for the ladies only.)

When Roland first meets Susannah, she is a broken woman who literally does not know her true self.  One self goes by the name of Odetta Holmes, and is educated, well-spoken and gentle.  However, another personality, Detta Walker, wages war inside Susannah.  Detta is rude, crude and volatile, and threatens to destroy Susannah’s mind completely.

Eventually, Odetta and Detta are united, and a new being emerges:  Susannah Dean.  Susannah Dean has now married one of her tet mates.  She has also become a gunslinger, and a brave one at that, who refuses to back down from anyone or anything.  Susannah becomes the heart of the ka-tet, and makes sure that Roland retains a least a little of his humanity as he grows closer and closer to reaching his goal.

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Susannah endures unspeakable pain in the name of Roland’s quest.  First, she loses her husband, Eddie Dean.  Then she loses Jake Chambers, her spiritual son.  But Susannah is a survivor, until the very end, and reaches her own Dark Tower when she is finally reunited with her husband and son.


3)  Lisey Landon (Lisey’s Story)

A common theme in King’s work is the often taboo subject of mental illness.  Many of his books deal with this topic in its various facets.

One of these books is the novel Lisey’s Story.  Lisey’s Story can be considered a fantasy novel that is also a metaphor for the the creative process.  Lisey’s Story has much to say about mental illness as well, including its effects on the loved ones of people who suffer from mental illness.

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Before she meets Scott, Lisey is ordinary.  However, when she chooses to spend her life with Scott, it becomes clear that Lisey is no ordinary woman.

Scott Landon is a brilliant but troubled writer.  Mental illness has had tragic consequences for Scott’s family, and Scott (rightfully) fears tragic consequences for himself and anyone else who is close to him (namely, his wife, Lisey.)  However, Lisey loves Scott, and is determined to stand by him, no matter what kind of sacrifices that she may have to make.

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Lisey becomes Scott’s anchor.  When Scott becomes trapped in a kind of no-man’s land, Lisey is able to rescue him.  Lisey realizes that Scott is not ordinary either, but still accepts Scott along with all of his peculiarities.

Even in death, Lisey is still firmly anchored to Scott.  However, in order to save herself, Lisey must rely on her own strength.  And she is able to do just that, which allows her to return to the land of the living so that she can hear one last story from Scott, and allow him his final peace.


2)  Rose McLendon (Rose Madder)

I am a survivor of domestic abuse.  For years, I lived in hell.  At times, I thought that I would not live to see my 30th birthday (I was 29 when I escaped.)  I felt alone and carried a huge burden on my shoulders, as no one outside my relationship knew about about the abuse.  This was the case for many years, even after I escaped my first marriage.  The fact that I kept this secret for so long nearly destroyed me emotionally.  Even now, as I write this paragraph, the tears still well up in my eyes.

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But something kept me going for all of these years.  That something was the book Rose Madder.

Rose McLendon endures years of abuse and humiliation from her husband, Norman.  Rose finally escapes and attempts to build a new life in another city 800 miles away.  But the past catches up with her, when her husband Norman (who is also a police officer) tracks her down, killing several people who were friends of Rose and who helped her to build her new life.

Rose battles with her husband and wins that battle, even though she requires some help.  She goes on with her life and gets married again and has a daughter a daughter with her second husband.

I enjoyed the fact that Rose was able to defeat her husband, but my favorite part of this book was the description of the aftermath.  Even after Norman is no longer in her life, Rose still struggles.  She experiences anger over her ordeal that she has repressed for many years, and this threatens her new life.  Eventually, Rose is able to get her troubles under control, but struggles for some time.

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Most of the focus on abusive relationships is on leaving the abuser.  And this is indeed a major step.  However, not much advice is given on how to cope with the aftermath.  Reading about Rose’s feelings, which were similar to my own, made me love the book and this character that much more.  In Rose McLendon, King has truly created the Every Woman.


And now, for my favorite female Stephen King character of all time…

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Allow me the pleasure of introducing…

Beverly Marsh (It)

Yes, Beverly Marsh, the sole female member of the Losers Club, is my top female Stephen King character.  There are many reasons for this, so let’s talk about them.

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Beverly may not be endowed with any special powers.  She may not technically be a “gunslinger.”  But Beverly is extraordinary, and deserves her spot on this list.

When I was a child, I was not interested in the typical “girly” things.  I did not play with Barbie dolls.  Instead, many of my interests were “male.”  I liked the Ninja Turtles.  I preferred Thundercats to whatever was marketed to girls at the time.

Because of my interests, I often felt that there was something wrong with me.  Nobody quite knew what to do with me, including my own family.  I thought that I was the one who needed to change, as opposed to thinking that our society needed to change and become more accepting of someone like me.

Then, when I was 12 years old, I read It.  And I met Beverly Marsh.  Beverly didn’t like “girl” things either.  Beverly could hang with the boys and hold her own.  Beverly was tough and seemed fearless.  And it didn’t hurt that Beverly was also tall and a redhead, two things that I absolutely hated about myself at the time.

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Beverly may have faced an evil clown (twice!) but her extraordinary qualities extend way beyond that fact.  Don’t get me wrong, facing Pennywise the Clown on a semi-regular basis is nothing to sneeze at, but Beverly had to endure so much more.

As I have stated time and time again, one of King’s strengths as a writer is the fact that he writes about ordinary life so well.  And this is evident in a book like It.  The homicidal clown is just one facet of this book.  Compared to what the kids had to face on a daily basis, Pennywise was actually pretty mild.

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And Beverly had to endure so much real-life horror.  For starters, she was an outcast.  She was poor, so she was bullied.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, she was abused by her father, and in the summer of 1958, that abuse began to take on sexual overtones.  Of course, there was no refuge for Beverly, as most adults, even her mother, turned a blind eye on the abuse.

Even after facing Pennywise the first time, the horror did not end for Beverly.  She went on to marry an abusive man, and was trapped in a nightmare for several years.  However, it was a strength of a childhood promise that compelled her to finally fight back, and escape from the nightmare, once and for all.

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In facing Pennywise for the second time, Beverly finally finds her footing and a confidence that was missing for most of her life.  She is even able to find love, as she marries a fellow Loser, Ben Hanscom.  Beverly rode off into the sunset with Ben, but she earned that ride, given what she had to overcome.  And a clown living in the sewers was the least of it.


So there you have it.

My top 10 ladies in the Stephen King universe.  I am sure that maybe I missed a few, but this list did have to be cut down to 10.

Like all of King’s characters, these ladies are fascinating and are an integral part to the stories that they appear in.  They are also proof that Stephen King is much more than a writer of horror; he is also a writer who understands the human condition, along with the female condition.

And whoever you are, man or woman, do yourself a big favor and pick up one or more of these books, if you haven’t already, so that you can meet some fascinating characters and escape into the never-boring  world known as a Stephen King book.

RoaldDahl