Previously on Penny Dreadful, ‘The Nightcomers’
Vanessa finishes recounting her Ballentree Moor tale to the Dreadfuls. They then assemble around the Brother Gregory artifacts, and Sir Lyle explains how this Rosetta stone works: the pieces contain sentence fragments in Latin, Greek, Sumerian, Arabic, etc., and rearranging them forms the narrative of Satan’s fall, as spoken to Brother Gregory. Examining writing on a giant moth, they realize “us”—it is not just a story, but the very Memoirs of the Devil.
Moths, it should be noted, are the “nightcomer” version of butterflies, a symbol of resurrection and metamorphosis. (Shoutout to reader @dCote.)
After walking Victor to the door and agreeing to a morning errand, Vanessa finds Sembene on guard.
“Watching… those things that hunt at night. Lions.”
Inspector Rusk looks over the train murder scene and, since their murders don’t fit a logical pattern, determines they must be dealing with magic. He then visits Roper, who now has a leather patch sewn crudely over half of his face. Despite Rusk noting that some of his wounds were animal, and others perhaps by a tomahawk or war club, Roper invokes his rights as an American citizen. Could Roper be a Native American from Custer’s battle? Might he now be turning into a werewolf himself, or could he potentially be another vengeful supe, like a wendigo? (Source: Em on The DemiMonde)
The Putney’s wax museum couple bickers over opening a new exhibit, vaguely explained as freaks held captive in the cellar. Is this what he meant when he said, “That face will make our fortune” of Caliban?! Who else is included in the “they”? Downstairs, Lavinia catches Caliban watching her, and Plot Twist! reveals that SHE is the artist behind the wax faces. She wonders what his eyes are like. “Not beautiful,” he says, countering Vanessa’s compliment. Feathery brown like an owl’s wing? (Another nightcomer.) Yellow, he says; like turmeric, she suggests. It hurts her to create the murder scenes, torturing the fresh molds like voodoo dolls. Thanks to her, Caliban begins to rethink his life is suffering philosophy. Doomed.
Symbolic note: In Hinduism, turmeric is symbolic of the Divine Mother, the essence of life beyond the physical and inner purity. Source
Outside, Ethan walks past signs for the new Mariner’s Inn exhibit and buys a paper about the train killing. Very Men in Black. Across the street, Hecate nods to the other two who spook a horse drawn carriage. She walks out in front of it, and he throws her to the ground. She boohoos on his chest as he comforts her awkwardly.
Afterwards, they flirt shamelessly at a café, leaning in. She claims her name is Hecate Aphrodite Livingston, “mistress of the waves,” and she’s making her way alone through Europe. He leans in intimately to wipe dirt off her face, but after she’s filled the air with contradicting facts, he smoothly suggests she’s a female Pinkerton sent by his father and insults her lack of sensible shoes on the way out. Mission Seduce Ethan, aborted. Having failed, she reports back to Evelyn Poole that he may have actually sniffed her out like the Lupus dei he is.
Vanessa finds herself outside of a dress shop with the increasingly flummoxed, virginal Victor. At the shop girl’s suggestion that they’re married, he becomes positively flustered, stuttering to explain Vanessa’s skill at dressing.
“With the collars and the black things with the… Always very completely dressed,” he finishes lamely.
Guipure lace and moussoline de soir are her recommendations, but the neckline has him blushing. After agreeing to tea with his “shy second-cousin cousin,” impish Vanessa can’t resist pushing him right over the edge, modeling a red undergarment with flourish.
Walking past a puppet show on Pandora’s Box, Dorian takes Angelique out for a stroll through a small night carnival, noting how people judge her, but he doesn’t mind: “Provocation is food and drink to me.” They visit Gossima Parlour to try a new trend—ping pong. Angelique beats him 12 times in a row. Despite the flying double entendres and champagne, Dorian’s calm veneer starts to crack a bit, but Angelique kisses him passionately in front of the scandalized patrons.
Lily tries on the resulting new dress, calling out that she can barely breathe or walk, and the lovely white Victorian style renders him speechless. He helps her down the stairs, then hems the dress, explaining that corsets keep women from exerting themselves and acknowledges that if they did, “They’d take over the world.” Corseting, to his surprisingly feminist estimation, is literal and symbolic. Her voice drops an octave into Brona range, as she morosely stares into space, shades of her old life leaking through.
“All we do is for men, isn’t it? Keep their houses, raise their children, flattering them with our pain.”
He tells her to take the corset off.
Malcolm vainly declares his Arabic fragment inscribed on a dead bird is too obscure, but Sir Lyle’s spectacles help. He admits to wanting to feel young, since he’s courting, catching the old gossip’s total attention. “Sir Malcolm, you vanquish me,” he titters, inquiring on her identity, but the name Evelyn Poole has him counseling caution. At Malcolm’s visible upset, Sir Lyle tempers the comment, pretending he’s only concerned about unnecessary drama.
“Those little dalliances can get so Byzantine.”
Ethan shares his encounter with Vanessa. Vanessa points out even her name interpretation was a lie— “Hecate was a moon goddess, bringer of magic, the protector of witches.” When he leaves for coffee, she turns with a strange expression. Ethan, too, stops in the hallway, sniffing. Behind him, the wall moves—a camouflaged nightcomer. Unseeing, he helps Sembene with the dishes. Sembene fusses that Vanessa should eat more, but, “She’s a lioness; she does not worry me.” Ethan asks for his story, but he admits only to being a hunter and something “private.” They smile and bond silently in the way of men, men who wear pressed shirts and suspenders to do the dishes. Mhm.
Out in the parlor, Sir Lyle and Malcolm read Vanessa the puzzle translation thus far. Malcolm surmises that it must be part of an ongoing story, relevant to today, even foretelling the future. Vanessa angrily dismisses her part in an “eternal Satanic quest,” walking past another hidden witch. She asks Sembene to save her some buttercream torte for breakfast.
Finding her bedroom window open, Vanessa closes it and disrobes, suspicious. The men continue preparing dessert as she brushes her hair, increasingly alarmed. The camera cuts between the two mundane activities until she slowly puts the brush down and turns infinitesimally toward the fireplace. With a now full serving tray, Ethan again stops in the hallway, sniffing. Coordinated, the witches emerge in all 3 spots—the parlor, the hallway behind Ethan, and the fireplace. The bedroom witch snatches a lock of Vanessa’s hair, but Vanessa curses her in verbis diablo. Sir Lyle holds up a crucifix to no avail. Hecate strangles Ethan but Sembene tackles her. The upstairs one leaps onto the stairs, triumphantly holding the lock of hair, and Hecate says, “No sensible shoes now, Mr. Chandler.” They all run out into the night.
So. Frigging. Good. Four episodes in and coming off of the acting master class that was “The Nightcomers,” season 2 hits its stride. All of the stories gained momentum and a feeling of dread set in.
Atmospherically, I loved when the roar and crackling of the fire filled the background in the initial scenes, allowing us a few moments of comfort; even the night carnival avoided the usual seediness of a Victorian night street scene, bringing romance back to the era momentarily in its glowing lights. The wardrobe with its sumptuous silk, flowing hair, and pressed shirts lulled us into enjoying time with our team before hell literally breaks loose. It’s stunning how Vanessa and Ethan go from haggard to beautiful to harassed, and the foppish Sir Lyle has earned a surprisingly serious role on the team.
Thanks to Ethan’s gentling skills, we creep ever so slowly into Sembene’s back story; his repetition of the lion/lioness/hunter metaphor combined with the revelation of Ethan’s supernatural sniffer sets the theme going forward, especially when even wallpaper can serve as a hunting blind. Where else might we apply this predator theme? Dorian, for certain; Roper, of course; and, after this episode, Mr. Putney. The game, fellow Dreadfuls, is afoot.
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 1-4:
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?
Episode 3: Which herb, when hidden in the left pocket, serves for the protection of travelers?
Episode 4: What does Angelique say the ping pong ball is made from?
*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.