Previously on Penny Dreadful, ‘Little Scorpion’
Morning dawns on Lily cuddling her victim. She calls him a silly boy. “Men should always remain boys at heart, filled with childish games, Snakes and Ladders and Blind Man’s Bluff… You’ll never grow up now.” She kisses his dead eye, the card pyramid stretching up into the glowing port light. She pulls out the center card.
Caliban wakes Victor from his drugged stupor with a bucket of water, throws open the blinds, and threatens him with a live wire. Worst wakeup EVER. He declares that Lily is his, and he will take her away. But, he will return. “One day, one night, I will show you the monster you have made.”
As Evelyn’s charges give her a massage, Sir Lyle recounts his own attempts at keeping his youth while the presence of more perfect specimens mocked him. She catches his passive aggressiveness and gets up to question his love for the Dreadfuls, if Ethan loves Vanessa, where they are… She threatens to paint the room with his blood. “You don’t mean to tempt me; I am your creature,” he reminds her. She forces a kiss on him despite his revulsion, then spits out his rejection. He scuttles breathlessly to escape, but Hecate blocks his exit, hoping to turn him, and asks about Ethan.
Malcolm sadly reminisces over his children’s photos. Having found last year’s appointment books, Rusk arrives to question why Malcolm visited Scotland Yard, quoting him: “Stop hunting for a man, and start hunting for a beast.” Malcolm calls it a caprice and whimsy, but those are hardly personality traits of someone with bullets on his desk, guns at the window, and a “door that could keep out a beast.” Rusk presses, needling him with his illegal cover up of Mina’s death, then pulls out the Wild West Show leaflet. Malcolm denies even knowing him.
Lily returns home, asking Victor to kiss her like a “true friend.” She lies flagrantly about falling asleep on a park bench. He’s still agape when she finds a white rose bouquet from Dorian. Victor tries to convince her to leave with him, but no. “If I know my boy, he hasn’t thought about about breakfast.” She’ll make him some because he’s so good. He declines.
Victor confides in Malcolm that his addiction is out of control, his veins collapsing, because he’s so flustered over being in love; he doesn’t have the “proper tools to perform this operation.” He’s is used to mastering all things. Malcolm can relate: “We’re in the same unknown jungle my friend. We must thrash our way out… suffer through it. We are enchanted.” Malcolm’s true self is one of “monomaniacal anger” and cruelty, but, in love, he’s become a stranger to himself.
Evelyn chants over his avatar, and his real heart pounds in response. Lyle reads the entire narrative, now complete:
In the Great War for the Heavenly Throne, we were vanquished, so God looked down on his defeated angels and found us to be evil angels so he cast us out. He took us by our winged backs and raised us over His head. Thence did He fling us from His Heavenly Throne and cast us down, to Earth and to Hell. So we were cleaved apart, two brothers cast out to two realms. One brother to Earth and the other brother to Hell. And thus we were set in eternal enmity. My brother on Earth, to feed on the blood of the living by night. And myself in Hell to feed on the souls of the dead. Both in an eternal quest for the Mother of Evil who will release us from our bondage and allow one of us to reconquer Heaven and topple God from his bloody throne. And so will the Darkness reign, on Earth, in Heaven everlasting.”
And so begins the apocalypse via Lucifer and the Vampire Master, who are both after Vanessa. Lyle names the many historic “chosen ministers of evil,” all female: Amunet, Lilith, Hella, Macha, Mara… The unholiness of erotic power over men.
As Evelyn chants over the beating heart and Malcolm grows distracted, Lyle points out their one hope: the Hound of God, which Malcolm corrects as Wolf. Sembene picks up the trail, but the table begins shaking and Malcolm’s pupils grow black. Lucifer speaks, flipping the table: “You children. Meet your master.” Sembene tackles him, screaming, “NO!!!!” and wrestles him into a dusty room, bellowing, “KNOW. WHO. YOU. ARE!” Somebody get this man a raise!
Evelyn is stunned. Ghostly memories of a ball fill the room and Malcolm and waltzes with his wife, watches Mina and Peter dance. The Dreadfuls observe him promenading through the empty room. Evelyn and his memories war until her mirror finally cracks. Spell broken. Hecate taunts her, but Evelyn replies “Such a baby.” Men always return to their true nature, and Malcolm as himself is just as dangerous. At the mention of her age, Evelyn throws Hecate out of the room by the face.
As Victor and Lyle drowse by the fire under Sembene’s watch, Malcolm loads his gun and blows out the candle. Sir Malcolm prowls through Evelyn’s open door and ascends the stairs, harried by the nightcomers. Sembene discovers he’s missing.
Dorian heads out for another evening with Lily as Angelique watches jealously. (Behind her, Portrait of Alice Guerin by Paul Cesar-Helleu, with draping red hair over a black dress) Lily dons a black dress, dragging perfume across her throat in a mirror shard, and leaves her white roses and dress behind. Caliban stalks her, watching Dorian drape pearls around her neck. A draft snuffs the candelabra, attracting Angelique’s attention—a hidden doorway.
Dorian returns home, notes the scene, and pulls off his red scarf. Multiplied by mirror chamber, he finds Angelique at the portrait of his manifested sins. Could she accept him and love him for this? She assents and drinks the offered wine, then gasps. Poisoned, she crushes the glass and falls dramatically, red robe puddling like blood. “I don’t think you can” he says, dispassionately. The chained grey monster in the portrait looks at him suddenly. He startles then smiles.
The lights flicker when Lily returns home to Caliban waiting. She pretends fright, but he advances, asking who she is, wondering if she enjoyed being with “that young man.” There is no one else to him, only “thee and me,” but he realizes she’s incapable of love. She turns bitter, reflection multiplied in the cracked mirror, as she mocks his desire. He moves to “take her” as he swore, but she throws him back, again recalling her misuse as a woman through “the slavery of marriage.” Impassioned, her brogue returns, frightening the devil out of him. “Never again shall I kneel to any man. Now they shall kneel to me. As you do, monster.”
Something clicks. “How clever he has been, our Creator. Our little god has brought forth not angels, but demons.” Now what will they do with this power? Why were they Chosen? She wants a man unlike all other men, her brother and equal, and offers to bed him and then kill Victor together.
“We were created to rule my love and the blood of mankind will water our garden, us and our kin and our children and our generations. We are pure blood. We are steel and sinew both. We are the next thousand years. We are the dead.”
Evelyn introduces Malcolm to her memento mori. She understands hunting, too: “Sometimes you tie a lamb to lure a lion, don’t you?” Just baaa, Malcolm! Don’t take her hunt for Vanessa personally, it’s just business; he too can live forever if he joins her. She claims that he’s made her feel human again, but his own humanity is long gone. She kneels, crying, asking him to take her hand and love her, bury the past and “walk quietly” together.
Malcolm, however, is no lamb: he offers to tear off her head with his bare hands while laughing instead, but he’ll agree if she spares Vanessa. Otherwise, “When I have played this game out, my dear, the lamb will kill the lion.” She insinuates that he’s inappropriately obsessed with Vanessa and conjures a scorpion that crawls onto his knee. “Mind her, she stings.” Message! She leaves him to his memories. He swats the scorpion harmlessly to the floor, but the door is locked. The candles blow out, and a coffin appears behind him. Distraught, he gathers the sackcloth slowly to find Peter’s body, dead and grey. He embraces him, sobbing, caressing the hair, but this is no sweet moment: two more coffins appear, and his wife and daughter rise as Peter opens his eyes.
“Memento Mori” is thematically heavy, so let’s get complaints out of the way. Firstly, the choice to show Dorian’s portrait was a bit disappointing—imagination is so much more potent—and his explanation was poetically vague. Did Angelique truly comprehend that the portrait magically changes to reflect his every monstrous sin? Secondly, I felt cheated out of nearly two-thirds of the demonic narrative’s translation. Were there really twice as many pieces as we saw after “cast us down to?” If so, why did we spend two episodes on “Hound of God” instead of those pieces? Frustrating.
But, onto the text. In “Memento Mori” one half of a dangerous couple asks for love that the other is incapable of giving. Likewise the Creature threatens its Creator through the Caliban/Frankenstein and Lyle/Evelyn relationships, both minor reflections of the larger conflict between Lucifer/Master and God; the Creator may create, but that power doesn’t protect them from rebellion. Also, two women, religiously viewed as lesser creations taken from men, threaten to spill mankind’s blood and force kisses on their frightened counterparts. “Childhood” continues that vein. Lily thinks men should remain boyish and play games, a strand Malcolm picks up when compares his duel with Evelyn to a game. Lucifer calls the Dreadfuls children, and Evelyn calls Hecate a baby. Caliban also names Dorian a young man, which we know he is not. Victor’s two “children” determine to kill him, and Malcolm’s two undead children confront him as well.
Examining contrasts, Lyle the lamb rushes to break out of Evelyn’s estate while Malcolm the hunter winds into the lion’s inner sanctum, and becomes trapped with the scorpion (Vanessa) and his memories. Dorian enters the portrait chamber as many mirror images coalescing into one creature, showing how he appears to humanity, while Lily begins as a single creature, then breaks into many mirrored versions as she loses her humanity.
The progression her monstrousness can be tracked through her clothing, from the white, to white and red, and ending with red on black. Little remains of her original nature, a change embodied by the pearl necklace—a lustrous creation from a grain of sand, dust to destiny. She casts aside her good nature, characterized by the Queen of Hearts she discards upon her first return, resulting in a chilling, thrilling turn. For once I’m interested in what Caliban will do now that he’s no longer the strongest piece on the board.
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 1-8:
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?
Episode 8: How does Victor like his eggs?
*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.