The hedonistic pursuits of Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) take a surprising twist on “Demimonde,” Episode 104 of Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful.”
Retaining a youthful vigor while his portrait ages, Dorian hosts an orgy at his Victorian mansion. But this sexual escapade bores rather than stimulates the jaded libertine.
Dorian’s pleasure seeking next leads him to a greenhouse displaying the world’s rarest orchid. Here he encounters lovely and enigmatic Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), who’s as infatuated with Dorian as he is with her.
“I like to do one extraordinary thing every day,” he tells Vanessa as they examine the delicate plant. Found only on a mountain in Borneo, the flower slowly perfects itself by taking 15 years to blossom.
“Is it poisonous?” Vanessa asks.
“Like all beautiful things, I hope so,” Dorian replies.
Then Dorian is drawn to sharpshooter Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), whose theater date with Irish prostitute Brona Croft (Billie Piper) ends abruptly. Initially enchanted with the opulent surroundings, Brona soon feels intimidated by wealthy Londoners.
Then she angrily rejects Ethan as a boyfriend.
“Who are we trying to fool?” asks tuberculosis-ridden Brona. “Do you want to watch me die?”
“You ever wish you could be someone else?” Ethan somberly asks Dorian.
“You want to be someone else?” Dorian replies. “Come with me!”
Their destination is an illicit club where Brits bet on how many rats a dog can kill inside a bloody arena. Repulsed by this “gentlemen’s sport,” Ethan instigates a brawl and takes a beating.
Dorian treats Ethan’s wounds and plies him with absinthe and the “Tristan und Isolde” Wagnerian opera. It’s the only music that still excites Dorian, specifically the “Liebestod” aria with its theme of erotic love and death.
Overwhelmed by alcohol and horrific memories, Ethan unexpectedly grabs Dorian and kisses him hard on the mouth — swapping a terminally ill lover for one untouched by time.
Meanwhile, Professor Abraham Van Helsing (David Warner) helps Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) analyze vampire blood. They do so at the behest of Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) as he desperately strives to free his daughter Mina (Olivia Llewellyn) from a perilous netherworld.
Vampire blood has a unique property preventing coagulation, Van Helsing explains. That property assists with hematophagy — the eating of blood.
Victor interrupts their work when he spots murderous Caliban (Rory Kinnear) lurking outside. Brought back from the dead by Victor, the monster demands an immortal bride.
“Do what you have promised me,” Caliban insists, emphasizing that his wife must be beautiful.
“To match her mate?” Victor retorts, antagonizing the hideously scarred creature.
“What a simple thing it is to snap your neck,” Caliban haughtily observes. “The future belongs to the strong — to the immortal race. Look upon your master!”
Finally, Victor performs a blood transfusion on Fenton (Olly Alexander), a vampire’s servant chained in Malcolm’s basement. Fenton is submissive at first, then reveals his violent side when offered an apple.
“I need blood,” he screams. “Give me what I need!”
Fenton apparently allowed himself to be captured so his master (Robert Nairne) could track down and ravage Vanessa with apocalyptic consequences. Vanessa is out when the vampire appears — fortunately for the human race — and Fenton dies in a struggle.
“The creature was in your room. It came after you,” Malcolm informs Vanessa upon her return.
Vanessa suspects Mina is colluding with the vampire as an act of revenge.
“I betrayed your daughter once,” Vanessa exclaims. “You ignored her your entire life!”
But Malcolm remains determined to rescue Mina from evil forces.
“So we’ll carry on with this fight,” he declares. “We can lose every battle except the last.”