Previously on Penny Dreadful, ‘Glorious Horrors’
Ethan sits in the basement window’s light as Sembene brings his chair close to report: as predators eat other things (monkey, leopard, and crocodile), they become those things. The shamans in his mountains call this Uchawi Mabadiliko, skin changing. Is this a sickness or a blessing? He believes it to be the latter, because he sees Ethan, “past the crocodile and the leopard… and the wolf.”
Sir Malcolm blames Vanessa’s collapse on Female Hysteria, stunning Victor with his sudden disbelief. Vanessa decides to leave, and Ethan insists he accompany her. Lyle jumps in to practically push them out the door while Malcolm protests. She finally accepts Ethan’s company; after all, “You were all in the room with me, and yet the lions still hunted.”
Upstairs, however, she does tell Victor that she’s going to find a better weapon, but meanwhile he needs to look after Sir Malcolm. “He’s losing his heart and needs our care.” Oh, how apropos. She then counsels patience with Lily while she’s still in the Ooh Shiny Object phase.
Ethan and Vanessa stand like Victorian Gothic in front of the cut-wife’s home, staring at the burnt tree, the scorpion sigil still holding guard. Once again he offers to take the couch. Has he ever been in a haunted place, she wonders. The Indian graveyard in Arizona–“I felt I belonged there,” he says. Maybe she belongs here, doing things that hurt even though they help, hating all the trees for their complicity. Going upstairs to bed, she touches everything, including a double-headed eagle (symbol of divine power) and her eyes light on the bookshelf.
The next day she tells Ethan about her relationship with Sir Malcolm, forged of anger and mutual suffering. But now he’s found love and she’s left out, so she won’t force him to face reality. Another herbal remedy: Wood Betony attracts bees for honey, prevents nightmares crushed in the pillow. Ethan shares his own heartache, of his contentment and belonging with Brona, and thinks Malcolm is just looking for his place of. But when he finds it, he’ll come back to Vanessa, just like Ethan did. Mhm!
She says nothing, fixing a rabbit snare. He chuckles at her handiness.
Vanessa: “Life isn’t all about tarot cards and pagan blood glyphs you know.”
Ethan: “You’re gonna make someone a great little wifey one day.”
Pretty sure that was irony.
That night they share a smoke and childhood stories. When Ethan’s father demanded he mount their largest horse, DIABLO, little Ethan squeaked, “Know your master, beast.” The “little lord” ended up with a broken wrist and soiled pants. She admits to a fear of dolls. Precocious then as now, she played them only to prevent people from thinking she was deviant, but knocked her “army” of dolls face down every night. “All those eyes, staring at you, just waiting to come to life.” Knowing what we know, we can hardly disagree. Was this premonition, or was the devil already after her as a child?
Ethan’s grows somber at the youthful things they never outgrow, going to look at the bright night through the window. “They just wait, don’t they? The monsters inside us.” “Demons” she prefers. But, when released, they’re most who they are, unrestrained. Speaking of, he’s going out for the night. When she protests, he yells, “Just bolt the goddamned door.” Goddamned, indeed. He runs into the moor, full moon looming overhead. Soon the wolfman tears into a herd of sheep, blood flinging in an arc.
Vanessa wakes the next morning to the sound of chopping. This is love–she hates a tree, and he chops it down. “Tell me.” She commands. “Speak quietly, but tell me.” She wraps a hand behind his neck, offering to hear his truth by whisper. He’s not ready, but he does set up for a gun lesson, which she apparently doesn’t need. Just like her nemesis, she shoots true each time. Reloading, she reaches around him to the bullets as he tells her how to kill someone: Aim for the middle. Stop being human. Become a predator. Don’t look in their eyes. But what lesson can she offer him? Dancing. He flips a bottle into the air and she nails it.
Dancing: “It’s the opposite of homicide. Always look into your opponents eyes… Proceed gently.”
Every color warm and rich, they giggle through the basic waltz steps, music playing through the scenes as they dance, chop, and cook together. They plant a garden in place of the cursed tree.
During a storm, they waltz beautifully around the house. As he bows low, the door blows open. Vanessa goes to the window, loving how storms encourage everything true to come out.
Ethan: “Let it.”
Vanessa: “This must have been how the world was created”
Ethan: “Or how it ends.”
A lightning strike blows down the chimney and explodes into flames. They rush to put it out. After the danger passes, she stares at him through the rain and dying flames, beams of light dividing them. He crosses the room and picks her up, kissing her. As they go in for a second, she suddenly coils, pushing him back. “No! We are dangerous.” He backs away through the smoking rubble out into the stormy night. Oh, my shipping heart! *sobs*
“What is love but a kind of creature waiting to be unbound, a malady? What does it bring any of us but confusion and bedevilment,” Victor muses to Lyle. What an accurate summary of Vanessa’s affairs!
Lyle says the the Egyptians called love “the Scorpion’s Sting.” Persisting through eternity, love even afflicted their gods, with the result being the subjugation of mankind, like Amunet and Amon-Ra. “Legions,” Lyle reminds Victor; all of the monsters will come out to play. This demon is locked onto Vanessa, and she’s drawn to it in her own way. Regardless of their beliefs or lack thereof, the scorpion still stings to protect itself. Lyle begins to realize that the puzzle shows the demon becoming neurotically focused on Lupus Dei because it’s a danger to him.
“The demon, the hound, the scorpion. Endlessly circling one another.”
In the woods, Ethan tells Vanessa that Lyle and Victor won’t give up. Sometimes she wants to give in to the Devil, because then she’d know Why. But Ethan won’t let her die or surrender if he has “one goddamn purpose in my cursed life.” He’s not just a man. “We have claws for a reason.” Sir Geoffrey trots up with his hounds, hateful as ever, monologuing about taming animals by feeding them from his own hand. Maybe he’ll just come burn Vanessa, too, eh? Doubtful. Monologuing will get you every time.
She seethes for vengeance, telling Ethan to see her for what she is, but he still tries to talk her out of it.
“I’ll stop when his soul is burning like hers was.”
“I see you for exactly what you are,” Ethan corrects, leaving again.
Lily pesters Victor into letting her go out with Dorian. As sick as he is about it, he won’t tell her not to, so she and Dorian walk out into the dusty night. He has a hunch that she doesn’t need protection, despite her feeling that it’s all new. “Is it?” he questions. At the wax works, she flinches at the Mariner’s Inn massacre, giggling. He’s taken by her mysteriousness –the cool touch, the constant discovery, her familiar eyes. The next exhibit is Burke and Hare, the Resurrectionist men, who sell bodies to a doctor for experimentation. His eyes flicker from her to the grave and back. John Clare watches. Afterward, Dorian deposits her in a coach, saying, “You’re like a breath of fresh air.” He bows low and kisses her hand. Another new experience, another breath reference.
While Ethan stalks through the night to Sir Geoffrey’s estate to chop down another tree Vanessa hates, Vanessa pulls out the curse book and hunches low over it, mirroring Evelyn’s stance. Growling, she incants with the devil’s tongue. Sir Geoffrey saunters out to feed his dogs, but before Ethan can shoot him, the dogs turn against their master, tearing him to shreds. Vanessa laughs devilishly. Ethan’s eyes turn glossy and his nose twitches in disgust. She collapses on the floor, crying.
Lily asks the carriage driver to stop at the Globe saloon. Wading through the smoke, she sidles up to the bar, and lets a man pick her up. Soon they’re home, a pyramid of cards on his drawing table. He takes her to bed, grossly pumping away. Then she flips him over… and slowly strangles him, smiling as he dies, satisfied. Lily becomes Frankenstein’s monster.
Vanessa waits on the doorstep, combative, as Ethan returns. He doesn’t look at her, re-holstering his unused gun. “Do you feel better now?” He lashes out at her becoming a killer, lecturing,
“Do you know what it is to walk with someone’s body around your neck for the rest of your life? Do you know what that is, little girl?”
He takes her by the shoulders, saying one gradually becomes deadened to all emotions. “You’ll never get your soul back, not ever.” She says she knows, but does she? “Welcome to the night, Vanessa.”
Vanessa and Ethan’s road trip to Ballentree Moor was a balm for those wishing to see them spend more time together, and yet he still didn’t trust her with the entire truth about himself. Sir Lyle’s discovery of the never-ending cycle between the demon, the scorpion, and the hound doesn’t provide much hope that their relationship will ever be anything more. I loved how she coiled back like a scorpion to push him away; the scorpion stings regardless of his beliefs about it. And sting she does. He tries to save her from becoming a soulless “monster” like himself, but she won’t allow it. Is there more to this book than a killing curse? Will using it become like Frodo trying on the One Ring and draw the demon to her?
Contrasting these two monsters are Lily and Dorian. Dorian’s suspicions about her grow, and red velvet has crept into her wardrobe, marring the Lily white. After spending time with Dorian, not unlike Vanessa’s experience, she is drawn to an illicit sexual experience which turns to violence. As it ends, she rests perfectly atop the triangle in the foreground, head stretching into the circle above. This suggests that she’s risen to the top of the predator pyramid. Already soulless, she is literally dead to what she’s done. Dorian may have met his match.
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 1-7:
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?
Episode 6: What jewelry does Lily notice Hecate wearing?
Episode 7: How old was Ethan when he rode Diablo?
*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.