I could say that after last week, I missed Ethan and Vanessa to the detriment of this week’s Penny Dreadful, but that wouldn’t be true because there was so much else going on that it was OK to let them sit out a week. In tonight’s episode, we explored identity, in a way, with variable degrees of success for our players. Let’s take them one by one.
While he’s very much Evelyn’s bitch, Lyle takes a lot of verbal abuse from her. In the early moments of the episode, they spar a bit. He digs at her for her quest for eternal youth and she belittles him for being beholden to her. She rejoices in his humiliation.
Later, at the manor, he puts all of the puzzle pieces together for the group — last year’s villain was essentially Lucifer’s brother, cast to earth (and targeting Mina + Vanessa) while Lucifer remained in hell. They also learn that the passage about the hound actually means wolf, and he is a threat to Lucifer. Thankfully, Sembene is there to hear it, since he now knows where Ethan fits.
With Lyle, we have a character who is embedded in the dark side and the light, and yet he keeps on. He’d typically be the type of character who would just take himself out to avoid the conflict, but he probably fears that Evelyn would just revive him.
We finally learn that he is in fact a functioning junkie. Last week I thought I saw signs of needles on his arms but nobody commented so I assumed it was a lighting thing. This week, John rouses him from a passed out state on the floor with a cold bucket of water and rage about Lily. When Lily comes home, he pleads with her to run away and she laughs him off that she just got there. He sits with Malcolm and explains his dilemma about being besotted and Malcolm says he’s there, too, and has no real advice for him.
Malcolm is visited by the inspector and plays dumb to all the questions about Ethan and the very visible fortifications to his home. When everyone has gathered for Lyle’s recitation, he literally feels Evelyn plucking his doll’s heart-strings as she incants back in her lair. Whatever she’s invoking kicks in and his eyes turn black and he flips the table over and rages.
Sembene responds with the mother of all NOPE and physically shoves him across the foyer into the parlor and commands him to remember who he is. While Evelyn tries to retain her remote hold on him, Sembene’s words register and the room falls away and is replaced by his memories of a ball with his wife and children.
He finally breaks free and is so angry about what Evelyn did that he goes to her house, armed with his fancy repeating-round gun and is besieged by her daughters until she sits him down and tearfully pleads with him to be by her side in this new world order that is coming. He says yes, only if Vanessa is unharmed.
That is the one thing she can’t agree to. “She means so much?” “She means all.” Then she flips to her sinister self and tells him Vanessa was always his favorite. “It’s good we care for our daughters,” she says (OMG!), and leaves him in a room with a scorpion and the coffins of his family, from which they each start to emerge — the same way his children did before his wife when she committed suicide.
Dorian and Angelique
So long, you sweet, silly girl. Angelique bites her tongue as Dorian leaves her again for a night out with Lily. She sits in the portrait gallery as night falls and the candles burn down, until a breeze catches one of them and she follows it to the corner of the room. She finds Dorian’s hidden chamber behind one of the massive pictures and makes her way to the room that holds his portrait.
And that’s where Dorian finds her, still standing in front of it, when he arrives bearing two champagne glasses. He asks her if she can love him, when this is who he is. She is afraid, but she says yes. Then she drinks and the poison hits. She shatters the glass in her hands and drops to the floor and dies. “I don’t think you can,” he says. Then we finally see the painting, of a shackled, naked, old man, and he moves within it as Dorian looks on.
Lily and John
I kept saying if you’re going to bring Billie Piper back, give her something to do, and boy, do they ever. We open the episode with her wistfully talking about her lot in life to the man she killed, still entwined with his cold body in the bed where she murdered him. Then she gets dressed and goes home to Victor and turns him down when he asks her to flee London.
She goes out on the town with Dorian again, but nothing really transpires there except for the gift of a necklace. When she goes home, she’s confronted by John. She’s immediately terrified but he calls her out that she’s not at all afraid of him. She confirms as much when she shoves him backward and then rails at him until he falls, and he’s dumbstruck at her strength and her vitriol.
She unspools a massive four-minute monologue on him about “thee and me,” that begins with mockery, then pity, then rage about the things women forego and suffer for a man’s attentions, then some kind of twisted adoration where she climbs up on him — “My monster … my beautiful corpse … why have we been chosen? Is it to suffer? Must it be?”
She tells him they were created to rule. They will murder Victor, and the blood of mankind will water their garden, they and their children and their generations are the conquerors. “We are the next thousand years. We are the dead.” Then she kisses him. “Nobody who ever was or shall be will love you like I do.” She kisses him again and clasps her hands behind him in a defiant fist.
It’s a beautiful thing to watch her just go with all of the emotions while John just sits silent, now terrified at the thing before him that he was complicit in bringing into being. Be careful what you wish for, indeed. There was a tiny Brona lilt in there when she got to the hate of men, which feeds the notion that there is at least a subliminal awareness feeding the new persona’s psychosis.
I loved all the character development as we move closer to the end of the season. It was interesting to hear Malcolm tell Victor that his true persona was an angry man who was cruel to his family, and this calm, happy person he was under Evelyn’s enchantment (which he presumed was love) was someone he didn’t recognize.
I never thought of S1 Malcolm as cruel or angry, but OK. And to learn that he’s Vanessa’s father was a hell of a reveal, especially after her visions of having sex with him last year. Shudder. Evelyn never reveals, though, why two of Malcolm’s daughters were / are so important to the Nightcomers, or whether Mina was really just a means to procuring Vanessa that failed.
I loved Billie Piper getting such a fantastic scene. She’s so, so good.
This whole cast is so, so good.
I’m not ready for only two more episodes, but I am really glad we already know we’re coming back next season!
Photos courtesy of Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME