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Penny Dreadful – S2E4 – Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places

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.) 

Verbis diablo moth Penny Dreadful 2x04.bmp

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)

Ropers face Penny Dreadful 2x04.bmp

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.

Ethan and Hecate Penny Dreadful 2x04

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.

Vanessa Victor undergarments Penny Dreadful 2x04

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.

Dorian night carnival Penny Dreadful 2x04

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.

“She’s a lioness; she does not worry me.” Sembene on Vanessa
The Puzzle

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. 

Sembene Ethan dessert Penny Dreadful 2x04

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.

Nightcomer camouflage Penny Dreadful 2x04.bmp

Overall Thoughts

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.

Score | 10/10Atmospherically, 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. 

Penny Dreadful Companion Guide

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. 

About Sarah de Poer (199 Articles)
Eminently sensible by day, by night, she can be found watching questionable scifi, pinning all the things, rewriting lists, pantry snacking, and not sleeping. She was once banned over an argument about Starbuck and Apollo, and she has to go right now because someone is wrong on the Internet.

2 Comments on Penny Dreadful – S2E4 – Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places

  1. This was a great transition episode full of symbolic clues to build up to the expected climax.

    Ethan relays why Vanessa had to share her story by stating; “For thee are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies but against mighty powers in this dark realm.” Vanessa finishes the verse with “And, against evil spirits in heavenly places.”

    As in many of the episodes this season, John Logan uses biblical verses, poetic lines, and verses from classical authors to title an episode. This title comes from the (modern) Ephesians 6:12 verse. In some translations, this means one must wear the full armor of God to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

    For this little dysfunctional family of outcasts, this begins figuratively in this episode. To arm against the coming assault, each of the Penny Dreadfuls must work on their belief. From my view, a few seem solid in their belief. Evelyn Poole (aka MAD K) is certainly the one that is most secure and firm on her belief. I am certain no one wants MAD K to be victorious.

    Unbelievably, the person who reanimates humans is one of the biggest skeptics. Vanessa contrasts Victor’s statement with her choice to believe far better is possible in life. Victor now has something bright to live for and dares to ask Vanessa to help him with an errand.

    Victor is still designing his creation. He first chooses a white garment for Brona {a.k.a Lily}. White represents cleanliness, neutrality, innocence, purity, and virginity of the soul and mind. Lily already commented to Victor “You’re making me into an angel” in Verbis Diablo. In Christianity, a white lily represents the Madonna while white garment wear denotes a sinless life. Victor has seen Vanessa in “whitish” pajamas but he remarks that he has never seen Vanessa in white. It is as if he wishes to separate Vanessa’s prior possession experience from Lily’s resurrection.

    As armor, “Belief, Charity, Truth, Sincerity and Hope” is a girdle for battle. A personal form-fitting foundational undergarment that is elastic in nature. The corset Victor has Lily initially wear belts her airway and her true nature. Symbolic to the outcome, it was fitting Vanessa teased Victor with the red under-garments. It represents what must come before or at least with Lily’s dress.

    Another part of this foundation and symbolism comes in the form of shoes. The third piece of armor Paul mentions in Ephesians 6 is the shoes of “the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Paul did not just write about the armor of God; he also wore it. He found protection and strength in the knowledge of what God’s gospel meant for him. His footing was sure and unshakable.

    In the first series show, Night Work, Vanessa remarks that Ethan’s boots are nice but re-soled many times. In Verbis Diablo, Vanessa remarks to Caliban about her “ridiculous little shoes” being agonizing. Victor picked high heels for Lily. He likes woman in high heels. She almost topples over but chooses to wear them since he gave her free choice to decide. I do think Victor was lying to Lily again. I think her change in height would help with his “disguise.” As Paul (Demi Monde Podcast) stated all relationships that start in a lie, do not have a chance to last.

    Hecate brags about her degree in botany, sensible pair of shoes, and a generous account at the American Express. Unconvinced with her story, Ethan tells Hecate her shoes are not sensible. However, she has the last word when she throws that back at him after the successful demon witch incursion. Simple stated, shoes and a firm footing allow us to step freely and without fear while we turn our full attention to the battle at hand. The Penny Dreadfuls need to work on their footing.

    Sembene prepares for battle. Even the tort (cake) he served is symbolic to a ceremonial preparation for battle. We first see Sembene sitting high on top of the stairs watching for lions. It seemed odd that his next post was in the kitchen but that is where his knives are stored. He and Ethan are still feeling one another out. For a while now, I have sensed a “respectful caution” between the two. Like a dog peeing around his territory, Sembene did not allow Ethan to wash dishes. However, Sembene did consider giving Ethan an apron. Little by little, this pair is sniffing out one another.

    The apron-kilt is an outer protective garment and one of the most ancient garments. In ancient times, even the apron ties were symbolic to status and could resemble a snake’s coil. The aprons were a critical part of the armor worn for battle and bore many symbolic emblems. Many creations like the gun and tool belt started as an apron.

    I did note that Sembene’s jacket color changed from red to blue in this season. It reminded me of the Fighting Peacocks. The colorful Berber style uniforms of the Zouaves wore brilliant red and vivid blue with shiny buttons. The Zouaves were 19th century guerrilla-style fighters from the Berber tribe that inhabited the coastal mountain Djurdjura region of North Africa in the mid-19th century.

    Sembene said he did not worry about the Lioness when Ethan thought Sembene worried about her. Sembene reserved comment on his concern for Malcom Murray (a.k.a. M&M). Though Sembene’s story is yet to unfold, I considered his real reason for being in London is for the daughter (or soul) of Malcom Murray. For sure, Sembene’s agile leap to remove the demon witch from Ethan’s throat will make this pair brothers in the tooth and claw assault.

    Dorian is still not part of the main group. I am assuming this frame story intends to represent choices individuals’ face between whom they are and who they want to be. One thing for sure, the Putney parents (a.k.a the POO POO Putney’s) choice is for wealth. They are on target to create a dark basement almost resembling hints of Doctor Moreau’s island. If Lavinia is a good as she seems, I am wondering how she came from this pair. Her statement of changing the eyes for the aging waxed creations seems representative to changing one’s outlook with experience. As a mimic poet, I am hoping Caliban (a.k.a. John Clare) takes heart. I do think Steve (Demi Monde podcast) called it correctly in that Caliban will be a leading force to protect Vanessa in the coming fight.

    I really like the puzzle. In chapter one, this “thicket of obfuscation” translates into The Memoirs of the Devil. With the relics going from language to language, this sets the foundation that this story has been here from the beginning of time. I am hoping for more of the actual fragments to hold other messages for each individual’s own demon. The Viking horn could be like a bugle before a charge or a cup to hold a potion that Malcolm Murray or Victor may need. The plate with the butterfly and moth could be for Vanessa. The breastplate (Paul’s second piece of armor) could be for Lyle to remember his biblical training. The shamanic mask and feathers could be for Sembene. The iron horseshoe could be for Ethan if he is a wendigo like EM (@NoShipNetwork) predicted.

    The crosses can be for all, regardless of belief. The cross symbolizes health, fertility, life, immortality, the union of heaven and earth, spirit and matter, the sun, the stars. It is seen a world center and a cosmic axis, the cross represents the human form, with its four cardinal points it can be mapped to fourfold directions (north, south, east, and west) and the four seasons. Regardless, I hope there is more to come from this enigma.

    As stated several times in this series, there are secrets and demons in all. Victor’s confident naiveté (arrogance) and skepticism must finally settle for him to move forward. He seems to be a slow learner on this scale. Lily’s public appearance will undoubtedly cause chaos with Caliban and Ethan. Malcolm Murray’s guilty despair and purposeful loss is leading him straight into MAD K’s clutches that will cause havoc. The lovable but sneaky Lyle is fence sitting on how he can survive another Byzantine-like dalliance. I am counting on his dazzle with Ethan to hold firm with the Dreadfuls.

    Ethan is less skeptical but there was a problem with his story. The Pinkerton Detective Agency did have females prior to Ethan’s visit to London. He also could not believe Hecate was a chameleon witch even after fighting vampires and Dracula. His biggest struggle is with his own demons and a potential interlude with Roper and Rusk. I am sure; Roper will become a werewolf as Paul (No Ship Network) pointed out. While the Sherlockian Rusk talked with him, there were two camera shots to view Roper’s hand and ear. Will Roper join the Penny Dreadfuls or go with the other crowd is the question.

    Vanessa is still in disbelief on the “Lucifer’s” intent and her struggle with faith and finding peace. She stated that Joan Clayton was the first witch she met. Given she never met the others who else has she met? When she lets her guard down, she is unaware or dismissal of her surroundings. That seems curious to me. Astrologically, if she is a Scorpion with Leo (lion) rising then could be part of that personality trait. Her mentor said she did not know if Vanessa’s heart was good or bad. I’m not sure Vanessa is clear on that answer. However, that description could describe Caliban’s struggle. As he is concerned about someone loving him, he is missing the heart of his readings where love of oneself is the first step to real love.

    Possibly, the next stories will show them coming together or add more cracks. For now, they only seem to be together in pairs and not as a cohesive unit. Knives, bullets, and swords will absolutely help, but that will not conquer this type of battle in the long haul. Though they are growing closer, the footing is on shaky ground. Their stratagem needs work on the girdle. Each has strengths as part of their armor. They must begin to trust one another to use the best of that armor to help one another. If the goal is to find peace, love, and happiness then as Joan Clayton, in The Nightcomers, warned Vanessa, each must “Be True” to that end.

    • Thank you for all of this fantastic feedback!
      I agree that Victor is consciously choosing white for Lily. Their relationship is full of resurrection symbolism, even though Victor is an atheist and a skeptic. He’s aggressively remaking her into his ideal image, no matter her wishes. It pains me because Brona couldn’t have been further from this–surely the red undergarment was more accurate, without Vanessa realizing.
      Excellent point regarding the footwear of Penny Dreadful.
      I appreciated Sembene and Ethan sharing their task and respecting the other’s space, a bit ironic given Ethan’s status as a predator and Sembene’s as a hunter, and episode 6 should show the evolution of a very unique relationship between them.
      Interesting catch on Sembene’s jacket colors. That would certainly fit the timeframe of the show and they made two points about guerrilla warfare in episode 5. There are rarely only two parallels on Penny Dreadful, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find he was also skilled in this.
      It would be interesting to see Caliban join the team, but I feel that this is a many episodes away, if at all. So many steps to make that happen, and surely it would come after the PooPoo Putneys have been defeated/killed (?).
      I like the thought of specific artifacts speaking to each member. That seems very likely.
      Agreed that Roper will probably turn into either a werewolf or wendigo, especially given those camera shots–the ears and hands are always the focus of a transformation. I think he’ll be a foe and a weakness/distraction for Ethan, moreso than the witches. It’s appropriate that a loss of control on Ethan’s part would prove to be an Achilles heel in a crucial moment. Ethan is still in a great deal of denial, and this gets in the way of him completely accepting the situation because he doesn’t want to entirely accept his own. This is true across the board for all of the characters, perhaps with the exception of Sembene.
      All of our players, in one way or the other, are fence-riders; it adds an undercurrent of tension through every episode as we cannot trust that they’ll do the right thing or even want the right thing. I’m interested to see how this warrior team girdles itself together and who eschews the girdle like Lily.

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