Previously on Penny Dreadful, ‘Momento Mori’
The moon waxes over Ballentree Moor when Roper lights a match and wakes Ethan. Oh Roper, haven’t you ever heard of letting sleeping dogs lie?! He calls Vanessa down, condescending, and she takes Ethan’s hand. Roper unmasks, claw marks apparent, blaming Ethan’s “obstreperous moods.” He has her handcuff Ethan, then ponders what he’ll do with Vanessa: rape? scalp? both? While he contemplates, Ethan distracts him and Vanessa slices his neck. Roper fights back viciously, but Ethan bites down until Roper buries the knife in his shoulder. Vanessa pulls it free and the two kill him together, kicking and stabbing. Guess it was D. None of the above.
They bury him, Vanessa declaring, “So now we’re homicides together.” Again she demands to know what Ethan is, but whinnying horses interrupt. It’s only Victor to bring them home, revealing that Sir Malcolm is trapped after breaking with Evelyn’s enthrallment “shattered” him.
Malcolm’s family hallucinations close in, insulting at his dismissal of them as only memories. His wife mockingly asks for a kiss, leaning back, and blood pours from her throat. Malcolm’s torment echoes through the hallways.
Evelyn rests her head on the wall of the puppet theatre, conserving her energy for the fight ahead. Hecate haughtily takes note. What if she fails? They spar about children walking before they run, and mothers needing to know when it’s time. The Vanessa doll sits evenly between them. Evelyn feigns boredom, sharpening her knife. “How long did the dinosaurs last before the mammals discovered their claws?” Hecate asks, strolling out.
The Dreadfuls arrive home to police, Rusk in particular. He tries to invite himself inside, but Ethan draws him away. Rusk says of the group, “More and more I think this is some sort of phantom limb… something not quite real but completely true.” Rusk isn’t superstitious by nature, but is learning to be. “Set a monster to catch a monster?” Ethan quips. Rusk disarmingly warns that they’re watching, such that “a length of hemp” would be a release. Rusk has turned up his true identity after all: Ethan Lawrence Talbot, born 1857. Records ordered, Rusk plans to “liberate” him from his burdens. The quarry, he says, should know when it’s been caught, backed into its hole and movements restricted. Cornered animals are dangerous, but cornered nonetheless. Ethan locks the door, only for Sembene to warn of the full moon and agree to help again.
“Mr. Lyle was just explaining his treachery to us,” Victor snipes at Ethan. Pot, kettle? Lyle is prepared to accept Evelyn’s ruinous consequences if only to prove his loyalty to the Dreadfuls. Vanessa assures him that none of them are guiltless, declaring that they will go this night. Ethan protests, “We can’t go tonight, or any night.” Lyle agrees—their power is stronger at night—but Vanessa won’t let Malcolm suffer alone and Ethan knows what she’s capable of. Vanessa says that it’s a battle of faith now, and his isn’t strong enough. He declares there’s “no goddamn way” she’s going alone. Sembene decides: tomorrow, in the day, all together. “It will be unholy slaughter.”
Mr. Putney spots Caliban observing patrons and follows him to the workroom, asking Caliban’s favorite.
Caliban: “True evil is above all things, seductive. When the devil knocks at your door, he doesn’t have cloven hooves. He’s beautiful and offers you your hearts desire in whispered airs like a siren beckoning you to her ruinous shore.”
Putney: “And then what do you do?”
Caliban: “Save your soul… or you give it.”
Putney: “But then you’re damned.”
Caliban: “But you’re not alone.”
Putney considered exhibiting Pandora but how to show what the box contained? A mirror, Caliban declares.
Wearing all black, Lily wonders of Dorian’s adventures in his gallery. Parties. Gatherings. Photography sessions. Theosophical Society meetings. They both hide things, don’t they, “Brona?” Lily? Or is it “some divine admixture of both?” He kisses her, thinking he’s got the upper hand, but she wants his secrets. “Kneel, boy.” He descends as commanded.
Victor shoots up and admits he’s been bunking at Grandage. Vanessa seems embarrassed for him. “Life’s nothing but a series of chemical reactions,” he reasons, the illusion of power, seeking transcendence, not unlike her addiction to God. She holds his hand, sorry that Lily hurt him and that he feels unloved. “You are a beautiful monster, and there are those who could love you and shall.” She kisses him on the forehead and they rest head to head. “Life awaits you.”
On the floor: an Octagram. Symbolism: the Gate of God; celestial conjunction; the Ogdoad (the 8 primal forces of Egyptian deity including Amunet); Inanna, Sumerian queen of the heavens, and Ishtar, the Lightbringer.
Sharpening his knife, Sembene advises Ethan to come clean: “You should tell her all… She will take your pain and make it hers… She is without limits.” Sembene admits that he was once a slave trader, but here he’s found kindness among the unkind. Ethan says he’s proud to be his friend. Something like a smile flits across Sembene’s face. “Get some rest, Ethan Chandler, for tomorrow we see none.”
Hecate startles Ethan in his room, impervious to the protective totems. What does he want, she wonders. Her grand scheme is to join him, the chosen Wolf of God, and stand alongside Lucifer. He considers shooting her but she claims she’s the one person who could be his ally when he seizes his destiny. “When you’re ready, I will serve you best of all.” She kisses him, then dissolves into her nightcomer form, backing through the mirror.
Vanessa observes her cross brand in the mirror, then re-dresses in black and leaves.
Lavinia sing-songs, wondering if Caliban knows what new ballyhoo her father’s building. She begs him to help her check it out, “so damnably curious.” He politely declines until she calls him a true friend. When a book of poetry on the iron cell floor attracts his attention, she locks him in, mocking his gullibility. “Not everyone shares your mania for poetry.” The family enters thrilled to have the animal caged. Mr Putney laughs, calling him Sonny Jim. Nobody will save him. “I’ve tasted success, sir, and it’s a meal I now wish to devour.”
Lily rolls Dorian onto the bottom and strangles him, asking how old he is. “Ancient.” She bites off part of his ear. “Now let me see your power. Go heal yourself, my beloved immortal.” Passing through his hallway of mirrors one at a time, Dorian emerges, ear healed. She pulls her skirt up as he kneels. Back on top for now.
Sembene reports to Ethan that Vanessa’s gone. “Oh FFS!” They lock and load, even Lyle with a dainty weapon. Sembene shows them out through the cellar but counsels Ethan not to go.
“You know what will happen.”
Vanessa crosses herself at Evelyn’s estate, starting up the staircase. Evelyn welcomes her. What good are men like Malcolm, brought low? Nothing but throbbing vermin. The two women walk the hallway as Evelyn derides her sister and Vanessa’s brand. Does it still burn? “That flesh is dead.” Hecate intercepts, prematurely welcoming Vanessa to HER home. She drops that she kissed Ethan and kisses Vanessa, too, “I still taste him.” Evelyn takes Vanessa downstairs.
The Dreadfuls arrive at dusk. Ethan sends Victor and Lyle in through the front: “Kill everyone you don’t recognize.” Lyle prays in Hebrew, looking for Victor’s judgement. “Far be it from me,” Victor says darkly, and they enter. Around back, Ethan makes Sembene swear on his life that he won’t let him hurt their friends. Nightcomers stalk the teams. Team 1 hears Malcolm wailing. Ethan finds the stairway, but is trapped in it with Sembene. A nightcomer locks Victor in with Malcolm and strangles Lyle. Malcolm can’t see Victor, only his nightmares. Then Frankenstein sees his own three “children”: Caliban, Lily, and Proteus. These memories truly do sting. As the moon shines full through the window, Ethan tries to kill himself, but Sembene won’t let him. “I am just a man. You have been chosen by God.” Sembene corners himself as Ethan changes. “Please,” Ethan begs one last time. Sembene closes his eyes, and the Wolfman bites his neck.
Vanessa meets her avatar, observing Evelyn’s works. The puppet’s eyes open. “Murderer,” it accuses.
NOOOOOOO! Such a sacrifice Sembene makes, this man who sold other men, to preserve the one chance they have against the darkness. Will he survive and become a Wolfman himself? Will this force Ethan to grasp his destiny and claim Sembene’s faith in his capabilities as his own, or will his loss turn Ethan to Hecate’s purposes? Like Rusk foreshadows, the creature is trapped, movements restricted, but he becomes more. Cornered animals prove dangerous indeed.
Speaking of entrapment, three sets of three monsters trap three men: Malcolm’s family, Victor’s creations, and Caliban’s employers. Caliban tells the Putneys, “You cannot keep me here.” I feel this is not just about their rights, but literally. Next we will look to the otherworldly powers in these monstrous men as they struggle to break free; and perhaps, once they do, Caliban should go read poetry to the cows after all. How poignant that he should find unkindness among the kind, a reverse of Grandage Place. The red threading in Lavinia’s collar stood out brightly—a signal of her duplicity.
Exploring the parallels this week, we see daughters (Hecate, Lavinia, and Lily) begin to feel the strength of their power and flex their Evil Muscles. Will their fledgling power prove as potent, or will it falter in the finale? A secondary parallel, in two couples—Vanessa and Ethan, Lily and Dorian—the female demands to know the male’s true nature. Dorian reveals his, with his shadow self reflected only once in the mirrors, but Ethan holds back and Vanessa allows it, which unfortunately makes room for Hecate to get her foot in the door. Both Brona and Ethan are called their true names, but one accepts this as part of her nature, while the other does not.
Thematically, Caliban names a mirror as the contents of Pandora’s Box: so much of this season has focused on vanity. Every character suffers from it, whether it’s Lyle’s little vanities about his hair, Malcolm’s “vainglorious” expeditions and cruelty, or Evelyn’s youth-preserving blood baths. Victor, Lily, Dorian, Roper, Rusk, even Angelique are blinded by fatal or near-fatal vanity. Who needs the Devil when all of the world’s evil is contained within the self?
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 1-9:
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?
Episode 9: What date did Ethan join the cavalry?
*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.