Previously on Penny Dreadful, ‘Fresh Hell’
We left Vanessa cowering after her Pray Off against Madame Kali and she stayed in the corner all night. She cries to Sir Malcolm, “Not even my prayers are safe. Tell me I deserve peace.” He swears not to leave her side, then invites her to a place that gives him peace—the dark tunnels where the cholera-stricken homeless congregate, Mrs. Murray’s pet charity. The two don masks and dole out soup.
When he leaves her to visit Sir Lyle and run errands, she finds Caliban/John Clare alone and offers him soup, then sits to chat, admitting the nuns make her nervous. “The Almighty and I have a challenging past,” she quips. He replies that he read the Bible, but then found Wordsworth and the other poets to shape his morality. In his estimation, good pagans are free to be who they are, and he encourages her to see the beauty in the teeming masses, or “heaven in a wild flower,” as Keats wrote. A lovely conversation, bringing forth the best from two tormented characters.
Victor and Caliban try to communicate with NewBrona, but she’s still glazed and jumpy, although smiling. Caliban gushes with poetry, but Victor wants to play with his new toy alone and shoos him away under the guise of teaching her to live again. Before leaving, Caliban urges Victor to spend all of his withheld love and care on her. And he does, dragging his pervy hands down her chest before finally bothering to teach her name. His liberties with her body are disturbing on many levels.
Surprising Victor with a sweet, delicate voice, NewBrona picks up language quickly again, so Victor gives her the backstory that they’re cousins and she had an accident that affected her memory. He picks Lily as her new name—the flower of resurrection and rebirth—which makes her sad. Probably because her real name is Rose Tyler; get your flowers straight.
Victor dyes her hair blond, telling her lies of their youth together, how close they were, and that Caliban is her fiancé, but she can now choose to love him or not. “Don’t let me be hurt,” she begs. When Caliban returns to find her a new woman, so to speak, Victor counsels them to be patient with each other, and introduces them “again” as John Clare and Lily.
Rusk the Inspector visits the Mariner’s Inn massacre lone survivor at the hospital. Buried under layers of bandages with only an eye visible is Roper, one of the bounty hunters. Of course.
Dorian makes his season 2 debut while mooning over Vanessa’s portrait at a sidewalk café, when a woman in red, Angelique, forwardly interrupts. Priding herself on the ability to shock, she invites him to her bedroom and leaves him with her card in case he wants to “mend his heart.” However, it’s not shocking at all when the address turns out to be a high-class brothel and Angelique turns out to be male. Madam, Dorian slept with Werewolf Constantine while drunk on absinthe; this is nothing.
HBO, please consult with Showtime on how you may also partake in these full-frontal moments which do not involve somebody’s grandpa. Don’t walk away muttering about dragons when I’m talking to you, Game of Thrones.
A New Scent
Looking for a gift for Vanessa, Sir Malcolm runs into Mrs. Poole aka Madame Kali at the parfumier. They titter about mechanizing the world and he declares all the scents “nice.”
“Such a man, like you charge by the word,” she chuckles.
As he leans in to sniff the final sample, she whispers a spell into his ear, dazzling him into inviting her on a date to the shooting range. His focus suffers, and he reveals he’s married. She appreciates the honesty, noting, “It’s always good to have something to aim at.” Taking his prototype Mauser, she hits the bullseye again and again.
Ethan & Sir Lyle
Sir Lyle arrives and flirts all over the adorably patient Ethan, joking that he’s so tall as to render him Lilliputian. During their team meeting, Victor again insists verbis diablo is mythical, but Sir Lyle disagrees—there’s a written example of it in the British Museum archives thanks to an 11th century monk, Brother Gregory, who began hearing it and wrote it down. He promises to “plunder” the archives if Ethan will accompany him for protection; Ethan teases that he’ll bring his gun belt and both guns, thrilling Sir Lyle.
On their adventure, the pair run smack into a caretaker, so Sir Lyle fibs hilariously that Ethan is his brother, later explaining that people sneak in all the time to look at the historical porn but he himself is not made for such “skullduggery.” “Now don’t swoon on me,” Ethan kids.
While Sir Lyle digs in the card catalog, Ethan spots a shield painted with two wolves howling under the moon, translating the Latin motto: “The hounds will protect.” After Lyle explains that shield markings were a totem, Ethan recounts watching wolves hunt in New Mexico, detailing how they first isolated prey with barks and howls, then silently attacked, tearing out the windpipe, hunters not protectors. I was slightly frightened for Sir Lyle, who gushes at Ethan’s exciting life, then laughs that his own family crest is two interlocking fish on a field of lavender. Successful, they return with a crate full of objects from Brother Gregory’s cell, all scribbled with the verbis diablo.
That Voodoo That You Do… Oh Hell
Hecate stalks a couple walking at night with their baby and follows them into the conveniently empty train station and train. She transmutes into her nude witch form, killing the parents in the dark, and takes the baby, apparently killing it off screen.
Our friend, Sir Lyle? Sadly in the employ of Madame Kali, thanks to photographic blackmail, including photos of him wearing rouge and a “flamboyant wig,” which he protests is his own glorious early-Bozo hair. She instructs him to keep providing clues for the team to assemble, then probes about Ethan. He nervously lies that Ethan is simple like all Americans.
Hecate interrupts to deliver the “package,” earning a kiss on the lips. Kali takes it to a room full of horrible marionettes, pulls the little body out of the baggage, and carves out its heart. Chanting a spell, she places the little heart in a new doll, sews it up, and sets it upright: Vanessa Ives. The real Vanessa feels a jolt. There’s not enough absinthe in the Victorian world to cover up that scene. Blargh!
This episode contains all of Penny Dreadful’s best elements—friendship, humor, magic, religious challenging, devastating horror, epic squeamishness, and questions. We’ve come to sympathize with our team of outsiders, but “Verbis Diablo” gently reminds that you don’t have to be haunted or hunted by the supernatural to be shunned with its still-relevant examples in the homeless poor, closeted gays, and transgendered people. It also draws parallels between the perversion and abuse of both the newly born and newly reborn, and sets off primal alarm bells through the loss of self-autonomy with Lily/Victor, Sir Malcolm/Kali, and of course Vanessa/Kali. For all of the silly playfulness between Sir Lyle and Ethan, the closing scene brought in-your-face horror with disturbing puppets, infanticide, and voodoo. Overall, a satisfying experience.
Editor’s Note: At the end of this season of Penny Dreadful we’ll be giving away a copy of *The Art and Making of Penny Dreadful, an official companion guide to the series.
Each week, we’ll end the recap with a trivia question from the episode. At the end of the season, you’ll be able to enter your answers into our Penny Dreadful leaderboard. We’ll randomly pick a winner from the entries with the most correct answers.
Here are the questions for episodes 1 and 2:
Episode 1: What percent did Victor say to turn the charge down to before the lightning struck?
Episode 2: Which institution has the largest collection of historical pornography besides their own museum, according to Sir Lyle?
*While the copy being given away was provided by Showtime, they are in no way responsible for choosing the winner. Project Fandom takes full responsibility for the contest, including winner selection and prize disbursement.