Previously on Penny Dreadful, “This World is Our Hell”
After a trudge through the desert last week, “No Beast So Fierce” swiftly picks up the pace, tossing us hither and yon between every storyline. The title hearkens from Shakespeare’s Richard III, Act 1, Scene 2.
Richard: Lady, you know no rules of charity, which renders good for bad, blessings for curses.
Anne: Villain, thou know’st not the law of God nor man. No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.
Richard: But I know none, and therefore am no beast.
Anne: O, wonderful, when Devils tell the truth!
Richard: More wonderful, when angels are so angry.
Each Penny Dreadful beast shows some pity and proved therefore their touch of remaining humanity, albeit with someone less sympathetic readied in the wings to finish their job.
The character weight tips towards the feminine as packs of women form on both sides of the equation, while the men partner in threes. Vanessa, bidding adieu to the Indomitable Sir Lyle, meets with Dr. Seward in a friendly fashion and Catriona Hartdegen (Perdita Weeks, previously Mary Boelyn in The Tudors), a thanatologist who is not cowed by her knowledge of Dracula. Lily, fresh off of inducting Justine, schools a crowd of prostitutes in killing. The final witch standing from last season meets her end at the Talbot estate as Ethan joins with Malcolm and the unsurprisingly not-dead Kaetenay to finish things with his father. Victor runs astray of Lily’s new crew, but Dorian, sick of being just a pretty face, steps in with implications that he may seek out the mad scientists shortly to control the murderous women who’ve apparently taken up residence in his gallery.
These unexpected pairings show promise, particularly with the addition of Hartdegen, the last name given to the Time Traveller from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine in the 2002 Guy Pierce movie. Even Sir Lyle’s suspiciously hasty trip to Cairo to see the tomb of Imhotep speaks of future adventures… Can The Mummy be far behind? Season 4!
Blended into an episode full of tension, action, tears, surprising humor, heavy texture, and museum floor sex with the dark lord himself, there was much to like here. Even the neat bit of changing focus between Ethan and Hecate was impressive. My only complaints lie in some perhaps clunky dialogue, when Jekyll taunts Victor yet again about trapping Lily, and disappointment in the lack of further explanation for Ethan’s paternal hatred and inability to pull the trigger after his endless chant of how he WILL kill his father. He will, you guys. He totally wi… um… is that pie? Thank Lucifer he brought Malcolm along, who, in case you forgot since Africa, actually is a cold-blooded killer that just happens to love his children, which now includes Ethan, and also hates blowhards, which formerly included Jared.
Guess Who Came to Dinner? Satan
Jared and Ethan’s standoff is interrupted by the arrival of Marshal Ostow and Rusk, who humorously puts them all under arrest. At the most awkward dinner in history, Jared attempts to force Ethan into saying grace with passive aggressive venom. Malcolm references his own mistakes with his son, vouching for Ethan’s goodness. Jared retorts with Ethan’s sins, stunning the table, except for Rusk, who quips that of course Ethan wouldn’t kill like a man. Ethan answers with a perverted Lord’s Prayer seconded by Hecate, and they cheerfully dig into the steak. When Ostow lets on that he seeks revenge for his men killed on the train, Jared shoots him, overconfident. Queue Hecate turning demon while Rusk, Malcolm, and Ethan fight their guards. Kaetenay saves Malcolm, Rusk shoots Hecate, and Ethan shoots Rusk. Alas! Hecate dies in Ethan’s arms, promising Hell for them both.
Jared calls Ethan into the chapel, lying that he only has one man, but Ethan isn’t fooled. Kaetenay (“He knows what to do. He’s attacked this chapel before.”) blows in through the wall while the other two methodically shoot their way through the guards, with Ethan reminding us of his Wild West Show skills as he pounds the gun hammer down the aisle toward his father… and chokes. Despite his father’s taunts that he’s doing the devil’s work by killing him and is a coward for not killing him (the man is literally never happy), Ethan walks away. But Malcolm tires of his mouth and shoots him in the head, laying Jared out on the altar like Christ.
I don’t often talk about Timothy Dalton’s acting, but his gasp at hearing Ethan’s transgressions followed by a renewal of purpose and murderous intent was pretty much everything. Sir Malcolm, you are the father!
A Formidable Match
Vanessa finds Sir Lyle packing for Cairo, perhaps not entirely willingly but hoping it is more amenable to his lifestyle. Repeatedly denying she’s in danger, she asks for a reference to someone with similar expertise. He sends her to Catriona Hartdegen, who offers what scholarship she has about Dracula, and Vanessa offers partnership.
“You seem to be a woman who understands why submission to another would be intolerable.”
Affirming this, Catriona counsels that Vanessa not be alone as Dracula seeks to isolate his prey.
So, Vanessa tries Dr. Seward as a social call. To Vanessa’s admission that she needed her crew of men, Seward replies that she once needed her husband, before killing him with a cleaver for abuse. She lightly pushes Vanessa towards Sweet.
What follows is full of irony. Arriving at the museum at close, Vanessa seeks Sweet, working on the eyes of a falcon, which isn’t just a red flag, but a blazing neon sign: the taxidermy project Vanessa showed Mina’s fiance before seducing him was her falcon Ariel (The Tempest). But Vanessa presses on about what a danger she is, asking if he can understand how a creature is hunting her… in a museum of hunted creatures.
He leads her to a secluded staging room for a future exhibit of nocturnal animals (Oh, come ON, Vanessa!) and relates the taxonomy of the vampire bat by way of understanding. Should she sympathize with this shunned monster who hunts her? He backpedals, solidly offering to stand by her side, as the wolf, who left her, peers over her shoulder.
“I love you for who you are, not for what the world wants you to be.”
Again, since this would be impossible for any normal man, both the sentiment and statement should give Vanessa pause, but she is in his clutches now. They make love wildly on the museum floor, ending in Vanessa’s happy tears.
Amusingly, a growling hyena oversees the entire thing. For those concerned that Dracula has now won, recall that Vanessa also had sex with Lucifer’s spirit, who appeared as Malcolm in Season 1, resulting in her mother’s death.
The Creature’s Mistake
John Clare breaks down watching his son struggle to breathe while his mother works, so he lets himself in, offering a drink and comfort. The half-conscious boy wonders if his father is an angel. After JC gets a bit too emphatic in his embrace, the boy awakes completely, screaming, leaving the Creature impotently sobbing in an alley.
The World’s Crime
Lily holds a murder seminar for an assembly of prostitutes, using Dorian as her example, and follows it with a pep talk.
“Women who are strong and refuse to be degraded and choose to protect themselves are called monsters. That is the world’s crime, not ours.”
During practice, Justine calls Dorian out for his own use of whores, drawing blood and Dorian’s suspicion. She, too, has no idea who is at the table.
Armed with a powerful tranquilizer, Victor stupidly lets himself in while Lily dances with Justine. She brushes off Dorian, who interrupts to reassert his equality and fantasy of world domination. Can’t she just forget about her past? Not now, especially since Justine reports with Victor in her grip, begging to kill him. He’s shockingly forthcoming with his plot, offering to make her whole.
“I’ve suffered long and hard to be who I am. I want my scars to show.”
Dorian tries to intervene for Victor, asking if his love is so wrong, but Justine viciously waits for Lily’s word, which is eventually no as well. She presses him to her bosom, advising him to heal his heart elsewhere, and Dorian pensively lets him out, placing Victor in Dorian’s debt.
Flourishes, Symbols, & Quotes
- Rusk: “I must say, I’m as ravenous as a … *smirks at Ethan*”
- Malcolm’s son: Peter. Jared’s son: Paul.
- Hecate: “We are the death knell. We are the end of days.”
- Owls screech in the desert before dinner. Two owls behind Vanessa at the museum.
- The clock over Catriona’s shoulder – Easter egg regarding her origins
- Also a clock over Kaetenay’s shoulder – his supernatural relationship with time?
- A skull in the tapestry behind Jared, directly next to his face, in the chapel: obvious.
- Colors of the episode: black, white, and red.
- Vanessa and Sweet’s outfits mirror
- Smoke: smoke partially obscures Vanessa’s face when talking to Hartdegen, and the episode ends with gun smoke over Malcolm’s face
- Lyle: “Write often, and think of me only when you dance.”
- Lily: “You were happy. I was just waiting.”
Penny Dreadful S3E6 = 9.3