Penny Dreadful: Verbis Diablo

Tonight’s Penny Dreadful was a bit of a creative, and emotional, mishmash as moments of levity and beauty were tempered by complete horror at the end. We also had some really interesting character pairings.

The crew summons Ferdinand to dive a little more into the Verbis Diablo, and he’s flamboyant as ever and particularly enchanted by Ethan, who is perfectly lovely to humor him. Ferdinand tells them the British Museum has archives in hand from a monk perceived to have gone mad but revealed to actually be possessed. He was confined for decades and during that time wrote ramblings in the language on any available surface, so they unload the trove of chalices, plates, wall plaster, and even bones. While on the mission to go get it, Ethan and Ferdinand talk about family crests and Ethan makes it plain hat he holds no love for the wolves, who he recalls as silent predators from his days in the New Mexico territory.

Vanessa is wrought by terrors and she confides that in Malcolm, who takes her with him to work a catacomb lunch line for the cholera castaways. There she finds purpose and distraction for a while, and has a very sweet, kind conversation with The Creature, who’s sitting off in a corner reading when she offers him soup. They talk about fate and God and literature and she takes her leave of him by telling him how beautiful his eyes are. He introduces himself to her as John Clare.

He uses that name again when he reintroduces himself to Brona, now Lily. She revives with complete speech and language, although the Cockney is gone, and Victor plants in her the false memories that they are cousins. He regales her with childhood stories that never occurred, and tells her that John is her intended. There are a lot of lines blurred there as he’s more affectionate than he should be. John asks him to be kind and show her the humanity he did not receive from him, but I think Victor is over the line. When John meets her again, with her new name and new blonde hair, she is shy, but not reviled, which is promising.

We pick up very briefly with Dorian, who is still pining for Vanessa, when he’s approached by a young woman, Angelique, at an outdoor cafe. She chats him up about lost loves and broken hearts and tells him to come see her. He comes round later to what would seem to be  brothel, and when Angelique stands to meet him, she opens her robe and asks him if he knows what he’s bought. He sizes up her male anatomy and says yes.

Evelyn starts working on Malcolm, first in a shop where he goes to find a gift for Vanessa — she tantalizes him with perfumes and when he leans in to catch the scent, she speaks to him in Verbis Diablo, casting some sort of sleeper spell, I’m guessing. Later, they’re at a shooting range, where he tells her he is still, and will continue to be, married. Her response verbally is one of understanding but visually it would seem she accepts that as a challenge.

The Scotland Yard inspector goes to see  the survivor of the Inn massacre (which I misunderstood last week as him calling Ethan the survivor). The bandaged man is one of Ethan’s daddy’s henchmen, I think, but for now he’s disfigured and bandaged and can’t yet speak. The inspector is happy to wait until he can.

Her daughter, meanwhile is wandering around town until she follows a young couple and their baby onto an empty train, kills them and takes the child.

Back at Evelyn’s house of horrors, she’s chiding Ferdinand for playing both ends against the middle, and pushing him for intel on Ethan (really disappointed in that). Then her daughter arrives with a closed travel case and Evelyn almost vibrates in expectation of it.

She takes it down to the bowels of her house, in a blood spattered room of lifelike dolls. Then she opens the case and sets the lifeless baby on the altar, She starts her chanting and then cuts out the baby’s heart and places it inside a new doll, where it begins to beat. Then she sews the doll closed and stands it up in her collection, and the camera pulls back to reveal it’s a doll of Vanessa. The camera switches to the actual Vanessa, who feels it when the doll comes online.


So, I can usually roll with stuff against kids in stories like this because they’re not actual children, whereas with animals you really never know for sure, but this was world-class creepy, and a complete level setter about how f-cked up Evelyn is and the lengths she will go to as the Devil’s errand girl.

The tone was all over the place and I think that was what made the last act so left field and jarring. The stuff with Ethan and Ferdinand was sweet and fun, and dare I say, jaunty as Ethan humored Ferdinand and was probably equally grateful for a blood-free outing.

The scenes with Evelyn and Malcolm were disappointing because you would think he’d sense being played. Equally disappointing was that Ferdinand was a mole, and probably doomed because Evelyn is holding his sexual proclivities and photographic evidence of said, over his head.

The scene with Vanessa and John was exquisite because it was a balm for her as much for him, and probably truly the first conversation he’d had where he ever felt like an equal — and like a man. She was unafraid of him, and genuinely interested in him. It made him wholly sympathetic in an episode that earlier reminded us that he killed Victor’s last creation with his bare hands.

Next week, we have a flashback episode anchored completely by Eva Green, with special guest star Patty LuPone.

Penny Dreadful airs at 10 pm E/P Sundays on Showtime and The Movie Network and repeats throughout the week and online.

Photo courtesy of Showtime

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