Everything is very bleak and dark – of course, such imagery is the bread and butter of Penny Dreadful. With Vanessa’s ominous voiceover we have the stage set of darkened and fog clouded streets, evil darkness, cloying poisons in the air and the night creatures rising up
Penny Dreadful is the undisputed master of gothic imagery.
Enter into this the one gloomy bright spot, with John Smith and his family, him making all these happy plans for the future while his eager son is ravaged by a cough, all those happy plans hollow before his inevitable demise
How very… Victorian; gloomy, tragic, desperately sad and sweet.
With Kaetenay, Malcolm and Ethan arriving from America they convene at Sir Malcolm’s house and, after a bit of fun with some vampires, they’re joined by Catriana and hunting skills: saving Ethan and teaching Malcolm the finer points of curing a vampire bite. And the foolishness of stubborn male pride
While Ethan decides to run off into the fog looking for Vanessa, the others are joined by Dr. Seward. She’s just had an unpleasant experience with Renfield who, in addition to being horrifying, also told her a lot about Dracula and tried to murder her, sure she wouldn’t fight back because she’s not a killer
That shows what he knows
Duly beaten and imprisoned in a straight jacket, he is now confined for Seward and Catriona (who have collectively become toweringly awesome in this show) to question.
Ethan is lured through the streets by a child vampire into an ambush. He tells Dracula repeatedly that he will rescue Vanessa while Dracula responds, equally repeatedly that Vanessa isn’t actually his prisoner, she’s there willingly. Ethan won’t hear this so Dracula casually flips him aside and leaves him to his minions
Which would work if it weren’t the full moon and werewolf Ethan didn’t come out to play – especially when joined by werewolf Kaetenay. Between them they shred a whole lot of minions
Meanwhile we have to check on Lily held prisoner by Victor and Henry – who she duly calls a minion. He gets angry and is promptly treated as a minion which kind of makes her point. Dorian leaves, not even slightly moved by Lily’s plight, meaning we’re left with Lily and Victor and Lily desperately trying to make him understand what her memories, her pain, mean to her how her scars have defined her – especially the child she has lost to the brutality of her life; memory of which she would lose if she were to take his serum. A serum she calls “an execution” since it would remove all parts of her personality
She pulls out a truly devastating heart wrenching performance that does break through. Normally I’d say something sarcastic about emotional speeches transforming people’s motives but in this case I’m all behind it. Victor releases Lily – commenting about trying to be human rather than monsters (honestly I had a whole list of quotes for this episode but there were just so many that I realised I was just quoting the entire dialogue).
She is released, choosing to leave with a kiss rather than murdering him
But at Dorian’s mansion, Dorian demands her female army leave. When Justine tries to stab him and discovers his immortality, they quickly run out leaving just Justine and Dorian. He says something jaded and sad about how many Lilys and revolutionaries he’s seen and how Justine should just run along. They really needed more time to develop Dorian as this world-weary jaded figure because all he’s selling is petulance and childishness.
Justine cannot go back to her terrible life – she’d rather “die on her feet than live on her knees.” Dorian takes her at her word after she confirms it – and breaks her neck.
Ok, I always expected Penny Dreadful to end somewhat tragically… but we’re sending a plethora of worrisome messages, the same messages I have complained about through this season when it comes to Vanessa, Lily, Henry and Kaetenay. This is not heading to a good place. They only thing that could salvage it at this point is Seward and Catriana.