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Penny Dreadful – S2E5 – Above the Vaulted Sky

Previously on Penny Dreadful, ‘Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places’

Evelyn Pool cracks open a marionette’s skull to get to the juicy brain underneath. Hecate joins her mother in chanting as she adds the hair to Vanessa’s doll and Evelyn stabs a hot poker into the brain of hers. Mrs. Murray wakes up screaming. Oh, dear.

Ethan describes running a siege to the Dreadfuls, revealing his part in the annihilation of a small Apache group hidden in a cliffside through infiltration and a night attack. “They had underestimated the ruthlessness of their enemies. Sound familiar?” Everyone absorbs this horrific but pointed information. Vanessa says the nightcomers are making a fetish with her hair. They determine to break out every superstition at their disposal.

“We defend our cliff,” Ethan repeats.

The next day, a vault door is installed. Guns are cleaned, and Sembene’s voodoo dolls hung. Ethan sages the hallway, while Sir Lyle creeps to the basement, donning a yarmulke and prayer shawl to pray in secret, sighing in relief as he touches the Torah. As night falls, Vanessa draws her scorpion on the door while Sembene takes up his Lion Watching post on the stairs. Sir Lyle covers the mirror. Lastly, Vanessa takes to her bedroom in prayer. The nightcomers pose silently by her side like evil archangels, closer and closer. Finally she sees them and all the fire goes out, but the room is empty.

Vanessa Ethan bedroom Penny Dreadful 2x05

She runs to Ethan’s room, interrupting his prayers. She cries in his embrace, then hugs her arms around herself and asks to stay the night, repeating to herself that God has a plan. “I believe we make ourselves who we are,” Ethan says, and he can’t come back from once deciding his life was more important than anyone else’s.

“I believe we make ourselves who we are,” Ethan Chandler

“Whatever you have done, whatever you have made yourself, I am here to accept you. We’re together for a reason,” Vanessa answers.

Doubting this is God’s plan as she believes, he takes the sofa. When he awakes the next day, the bed is perfectly made, his Bible resting upright on the pillow. Meanwhile, poor Mrs. Murray screams and froths at the mouth as a maid and nun hold her down, Madame Kali driving yet more pokers into the fetish.

Ethan vs. Rusk

Inspector Rusk accosts Ethan on his morning walk and asks him to come in for questioning. Presenting a Wild West show playbill, Rusk wonders how he’s supporting himself now, but Ethan won’t say boo. Relating how he lost a leg to guerilla warfare with the Boers, Rusk brings up the Mariner’s Inn, saying Ethan and Brona are the only outstanding people, besides THE SURVIVOR. Ethan doesn’t react, wondering why Rusk is interested in him at all. “Because you’re a mystery,” the man answers, waving to a board of clues about his past. It shows information from all over the U.S.— a farmer in Indiana, a cotton grower in Louisiana, and a chemist in New York. Ethan’s many lives? Rusk asks his real name. RUH ROH. (Yes, another dog reference.)

Ethan Rusk investigation Penny Dreadful 2x05.bmp

Rusk walks him back down the street, hammering the point that he’s closing in on information about Ethan. Ethan remains polite, then gives Rusk’s lieutenant the drop by ducking through a bookstore.

Ethan might have managed to shake Rusk, but he misses Roper following him home. “Like a dog” seems gratuitous, but there it is. Speaking of dogs, Sir Lyle points out a repetitive phrase in their puzzle, over and over in several languages: Lupus Dei.

“It’s like a poem waiting to be rhymed. It makes me sad.”

Frankenstein Love Triangle

Caliban hulks out on Victor for keeping Lily away, but once Victor taunts him to go on in, he’s too nervous to go in without Victor’s reassurance. So, Victor accompanies him, and it’s clear that the damage is done: she only has eyes for her creator. Once alone, Caliban tries to establish an affinity with a story of how she once kissed his hand in front of bullies, but she friendzones him again. Victor listens from the stairwell.

Victor takes Lily to high tea with Vanessa and fortunately she doesn’t recognize Lily from briefly meeting Brona at the Grand Guignol last season. Lily checks with Victor after her strangely rehearsed answers, but Vanessa only smiles tolerantly, watching Lily pile sugar cubes into her tea. Vanessa excuses herself, watching from the door as he kisses Lily’s hand passionately in reassurance.

Victor kissing Lily hand Penny Dreadful 2x05.bmp

Vanessa returns to feed the homeless and visit Caliban, admitting she’s a kindred emo soul: “All sad people like poetry. Happy people like songs.” He begins quoting John Clare’s poetry, then she joins and takes over, wondering if he ever found “his silent place with God.” Caliban says that grace can be found in the touch of a hand, but at her description of the peace she saw from her friend (Victor) kissing a hand, Caliban morosely comments that love is the cruelest touch, exposing one’s self. She knows, of course. He admits to being in love himself, but worries, “I’m so maladroit, Miss Ives.” She holds out her hand for a dance lesson, and after hesitating, he accepts.

“Follow gently in this as you do in all things,” she says, leading him in a simple waltz.

Vanessa dancing with Caliban Penny Dreadful 2x05


Dorian strolls out of the opera with Angelique, pleased that he’s found something that can shock her—incest (probably Wagner’s Die Walküre/The Valkyrie). He does love to shock his ladies with entertainment, doesn’t he? They’re interrupted by a man who’s been telling his buddies about his encounter with Angelique, but maybe Dorian likes that “kind of thing.”

Dorian Angelique opera Penny Dreadful 2x05.bmp

Dorian only kisses her hand, relieving her embarrassment, but the man spits on her cheek. Angelique stops Dorian from fighting, so he simply wipes it off and takes her home. Once there, Angelique, wearing Dorian’s clothes, lashes out, exhausted from her life-long fight for acceptance. Dorian protests.

“I care for who you are, not what you wear.”

Meanwhile Malcolm is also at the opera on a date with Evelyn Poole, exclaiming over how special she is in a complicated life. Maybe she can just take care of that for him, eh? She hands him a drink, pricking him with her ring, then kisses it. He seems overcome. A storm blows in and they run through the rain, laughing like teenagers. Malcolm kisses her passionately, apologizes, and keeps kissing her. Fortunately they’re at a hotel. What a coincidence!

Malcolm Evelyn rain Penny Dreadful 2x05


As the storm howls outside, Dorian and Angelique make love. Vanessa appears on the stairwell in her nightgown, silent in one of her dark moods. Ethan stares, stone still. Malcolm and Evelyn are rough and passionate, while far away blood runs down the Murray Fetish’s face and his wife goes mad, hallucinating her children crawling from their graves. Vanessa strokes Ethan’s face, then descends the stairs as he breathes out in the lightning flash.

Vanessa caressing Ethan Penny Dreadful 2x05.bmp

Evelyn pricks Malcolm once again, blood running down his neck, and he smiles. His zombie kids reach toward his wife. She cuts her throat with a straight razor; the room is empty and peaceful once again.

Lily cowers in bed from the thunder and runs downstairs to Victor’s bed, his lie come to life. He freezes, then wraps an arm around her. She kisses him. He looks absolutely terrified, but then she pulls him back around and unlaces her pajamas. He touches her the same way he did when she was in the tank, except this time she’s alive, and finally Victor is a virgin no more.

Overall Thoughts

Maybe this episode should have been called “Hand Kissing,” but I suppose that’s not very poetic. And, if you were wondering about how much trouble a marionette could possibly cause, now you know; I don’t even want to THINK about where that brain came from. Poor Mrs. Murray, whose only sin was being married to Malcolm. In the end, she did find peace, as did many of our other characters—Vanessa serving the homeless, Lily running to Victor, Victor accepting his feelings for her, and Sir Lyle embracing his religious roots. Ferdinand’s self-acceptance, something no one else had yet afforded him, also echoed in the Angelique storyline, but there are still dangling details for those who weren’t ready, like Ethan’s true name. Other parallels and opposites to consider:

  • Score | 9.5/10Caliban says Lily kissed his hand in front of bullies, and Dorian does this at the opera with Angelique.
  • Evelyn kisses Sir Malcolm’s hand after cutting it, bewitching him, while Vanessa takes Caliban’s hand to teach him a waltz, breaking his fear of pursuing love.
  • Vanessa runs to Ethan’s room for protection, and he acts as a true protector; Lily runs to Victor’s room in the storm, and he takes advantage of their relationship.
  • Victor tells Caliban to go right ahead in the middle of their confrontation, but Caliban is too scared. Rusk tells Ethan he can leave any time, but Ethan stays and stares him down.
  • Rusk learned about tactics from being injured through guerilla warfare; Ethan learned from being the predator.
  • Rusk gained his experience in Africa, where we know Malcolm and Sembene joined forces.
  • The Valkyrie is part of an epic following the struggles of supernatural creatures over the world and how the main god’s plan went horribly awry. Sound familiar?

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 1-5: 

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?

Episode 5: What date did Ethan arrive in London?

*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 – S2E5 – Above the Vaulted Sky

  1. Fantastic recap. The catch on Wagner opera name is amazing. An episode of Penny Dreadful with a title of the “Ring” dramatizing Germanic and Norse mythology. A little Viking with that dread. Perfect!

    Wonder if there are 3 more nights of opera in store for them. Or if they just caught the first of the 4 operas.

    Your parallel comparisons are fantastic. I only picked up a few of them so this makes this episode even better for me.

    I was confused when Lyle covered the mirror. Now I understand. However, I thought a mirror was only covered “after” someone close to you died. That couldn’t have been for Gladys or M&M could it? Is it normal to cover a mirror before someone close to you dies? I’ve been thinking he’s decided to stick with the PD’s against MAD K and coven but now I’m not so sure.

    Also, wonder if Hecate caused the rain and had that room “pre-booked!” Holy cow, is M&M in for a migraine

    Great job DD
    ~tks Wiley

    • Thank you again for reading and your insightful feedback. You must forgive me for taking so long to respond; this week was just crazy 🙂
      Mirrors have long been regarded as portals for magic and into other realities. In fact, Through the Looking Glass would have been popular at the time (published in 1871), but as far back as Sumeria, people believed they could be used for magic. Several ancient cultures covered mirrors to prevent dreaming souls from being trapped or lost through them at night, and Judaism to prevent dead spirits from being trapped and kept from the afterlife. If you knew someone was dying or could die, that would be appropriate. Further, many cultures believe they can be used by witches to see into another residence–Sleepy Hollow covered this recently in which Moloch and his warlocks/witches could spy and speak through them like magical Skype. During scrying (mirror gazing or catoptromancy) mirrors can be used to aid in astral projection, not unlike when the junior witches were haunting Vanessa during her prayers. Remember that Sir Lyle’s table at the seance was mirrored, contributing to the powerful spirits that came through. So, it was appropriate for many reasons to cover the mirror.
      I feel that Sir Lyle is with Kali against his will and that if he can aid the Dreadfuls in defeating her while playing his part as a spy, all the better. Nobody saw him pray or cover the mirror, and both of those were private moments of doing the right thing, so that is promising.

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