Warning: Spoilers Most Dreadful
Though the penultimate episode of season two of ShowTime’s wonderful gothic horror series Penny Dreadful, created and written by John Logan, was officially titled, “And Hell Itself My Only Foe,” it actually revealed that almost all the characters are capable of being monsters.
Even those you would least suspect of having any evil intent.
Of course, we know Roper (Stephen Lord), a Pinkerton hired by Ethan’s father to bring him home, even if in manacles, was a bad guy. Even with the scars from his attack when Ethan changed into a wolf, there wasn’t much reason to empathize with the guy. After all, he threatened Ethan even after he knew what Ethan was capable of doing. Roper crawled in through the window of the Cut-Wife’s isolated cottage, indicating that he’d been following Ethan (Josh Hartnett) and Vanessa (Eva Green), and threatened to kill them both.
He ordered Vanessa to manacle Ethan, but I guess this Roper guy lost some of his brains in the attack at the Mariner’s Inn. Even manacled, Ethan proved himself a formidable foe — and that’s without his turning into a wolf. Vanessa just kicked herself some ass, too, without any spells or enchantments, and without using the gun as Ethan had taught her.
She stabbed Roper repeatedly in the chest. And if those wounds weren’t mortal, Ethan helped her out as much as he could with his hands manacled.
If I’m ever in a fight, I want these two at my back.
Though Vanessa “mourned” that they were both murderers now — almost as if she’d forgotten that she’d set Sir Geoffrey’s dogs on him and killed him by a Verbis Diablo spell in an earlier episode — the two only defended themselves against another monster: Roper.
I call self-defense.
Vanessa thinks she’s a monster now, though she’s always acknowledged that she had “demons” inside, because she murdered Roper. That must be her weak spot because that’s what Evelyn got the fetish to say to Vanessa in the basement: “Murderer.”
Vanessa was more of a monster for going alone to Evelyn’s house, ostensibly to rescue Sir Malcolm, but instead putting all her other friends and defenders in jeopardy by forcing them to go, without a clear plan, to the Night-Comer’s home to rescue Sir Malcolm and Vanessa herself.
How monstrously thoughtless of her.
Hecate & Evelyn
Oh, that Hecate (Sarah Greene), she is one wicked, little girl. Not only did she intensify the conflict with her mother Evelyn (Helen McCrory), she came right out and insulted her, calling her a “Dinosaur” and warning her that “Dinosaurs should know when Mammoths are hunting.”
Evelyn was a little too preoccupied “feeling [Vanessa] coming closer” to be on sufficient guard.
Besides, Evelyn didn’t know till later in the episode that Hecate had gone to visit Ethan, easily getting by all their defenses and fetishes, which only have power, as she told Ethan, “for those that believe in them.”
Even when Hecate told Vanessa, in front of Evelyn, that she’d gone to Ethan and kissed him, she neglected to mention that she’d also told Ethan, who is clearly now regarded as the Lupus Dei, that she would worship him and help him destroy God.
I guess she didn’t think that information was important to her mother, revealing Hecate’s treachery goes deeper than Evelyn thinks.
I suppose Hecate’s also missed the definition of Lupus Dei — The Wolf of God — and the fact that he is a Protector. Lyle (Ferdinand Russell Beale) explained this when he and Ethan were in the basement of the museum, gettting ready to steal Father Gregory’s “puzzle” of Verbis Diablo and Ethan saw the shield (or family motto) with Latin on it about wolves. Lyle said the mottoes and shields weren’t so much to scare the enemy as to protect the bearer.
Ethan is the Protector.
Too bad little monster Hecate doesn’t know that.
All the viewers have probably been thinking that Lyle was a monstrous bad guy, what with his letting himself be blackmailed by Evelyn into betraying Vanessa.
Of course, the other characters and most of the viewers probably guessed that he was a closet-homosexual long ago: he has a terrible crush on Ethan, and flirted outrageously with him, which Ethan seemed to mostly find amusing.
None but the viewers knew Lyle is Jewish until this episode, and viewers only discovered it after Ethan instructed everyone to use every spiritual practice and belief he knew to help protect Vanessa from the Night-Comers. While Ethan was using Native American chants and passing smoke over himself and the entry-way, Lyle snuck down to the basement where, glancing around beforehand, he donned his yarmulke, kissed his prayerbook, draped his prayer shawl over his head, and began to daven and pray in Hebrew.
When Lyle and Dr. Frankenstein were left alone at the front of Evelyn’s house — while Ethan and Sembene went to find a back entrance — Lyle paused to say the opening lines of the Kaddish, also known as the “Mourner’s Kaddish,” the Jewish prayer for the dead, which is actually more about praising God than about the dead, so it was literally and symbolically appropriate considering they’re entering a witch’s house and facing death. Afterward, when Lyle looked at him, Victor made a comment like, “Far be it from me…”
None of the characters surrounding Vanessa knew that he was “in league,” albeit involuntarily, with Evelyn, to help her capture Vanessa, but the viewers knew his secret.
For the last couple episodes, however, he’s shown that he’s actually on Vanessa’s side: he urged her to leave the ball, telling her she wasn’t safe there; when Vanessa said she had to leave London, he encouraged it, telling her that she should go immediately and without telling any of them her destination; and since he actually didn’t know where Vanessa had gone, Evelyn was unable to get that information out of him with her threats of torture.
In E9, he confessed his duplicity. After Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) questioned their ability to trust him now, Vanessa was quick to forgive him, saying, “No one here is above guilt.”
When the men went to “rescue” Vanessa from Evelyn’s house/castle, where Vanessa had gone alone to “rescue” Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton), Lyle went with them. Though he declined Ethan’s offer of a gun and took what looked like a pocket-knife.
Lyle’s consistently been demonstrating that he is not, in fact, a monster.
Just a man with secrets.
And jittery nerves.
Them Putneys (David Haig as Oscar P, above R; and Ruth Gemmell as his wife, Octavia) with their wax museum of horrors and crime scenes and “beasties.”
Them Putneys with their pretty, blind daughter Lavinia (Tamsin Topolski) who’s so sweet to the Creature, now going by the name John Clare (Rory Kinnear)…
Sweet, blind Lavinia, who made no comments when she touched Clare’s face, but “grew uneasy” when she felt how cold his hand was, and told her parents there was something wrong, something “dead” about him…
That Lavinia showed herself to be one of the most vicious monsters of all, along with her parents, when she lied and manipulated John Clare into a “secret” part of the museum, claiming to want to know what her father was building, telling Clare, “You are my true friend,” just before she locked him in a cage.
He’s going to be part of their “Freak Show.”
Against his will.
If that weren’t bad enough, Lavinia, little horror-show that she is, insulted his poetry, too.
Poor John Clare (Rory Kinnear), Frankenstein’s first Creature. All he wants is love. All he wants is companionship. All he wants is poetry. All he wants is to “fit in,” even if it means learning how to dance.
Nothing but betrayal.
He’s metaphorically been in behind bars for the entire two seasons.
At the theatre watching the performers,
In his basement “living quarters,” sobbing after the “ingenue” Maude rejected his advances,
Watching Lily (Billie Piper) go out with Dorian (Reeve Carney) after Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) made her specifically to be Clare’s mate.
Imprisoned by real monsters, who consider him nothing more than a freak, when he is the most loyal, loving, passionate “creature” of them all.
Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) should be a monster. After all, he did rape and pillage and murder his way across Africa. He did neglect and emotionally abuse his family. He did use Vanessa to find his lost daughter Mina. He did shoot his own daughter in the head, to protect Vanessa.
Now Sir Malcolm’s cowering in a locked room in Evelyn’s house, surrounded by the ghosts of his family, all of them reminding him of his past misdeeds.
Instead of dancing at a phantom ball with his family members, which is how he broke Evelyn’s enchantment last episode,
Sir Malcolm is trapped with the ghosts of his family, screaming so loudly that the other characters can hear it all through the house.
This is the only part of the show that didn’t work for me.
Unless his “breakdown” is due, in part, to more enchantment, Sir Malcolm is too much of a monster himself to be broken by ghosts, even if they are the ghosts of his family, and even if they are telling him the “monstrous” things he did to them.
Because, you see, Sir Malcolm already knows what he is.
And he already knows what he’s done.
If, despite her brilliant tirade against men and how they “use” women in e8, if any viewers or other characters had any doubts that Brona-turned-Lily (Billie Piper) is, indeed, a monster, they can toss those doubts out with the metaphorical window. This episode, Lily sought out Dorian (Reeve Carney) herself.
Taunting him with the line, “You tell me your secret, and I’ll tell you mine,” she made love to him on the floor of his portrait gallery, then bit off his ear.
She called him her “Monster” and told him to go heal himself.
Any viewers who had not read the book The Picture of Dorian Gray got to see his own portrait in the episode when he killed his transgender lover Angelique (Johnny Beauchamp) for discovering it. Anyone who didn’t know he was a monster before certainly knew it then.
In e9, we learned that Lily knows perfectly well that she was Brona in her former life, that she was a prostitute in her previous life, and that Frankenstein did something “monstrous” to her.
Looks like she’s out for revenge, this little Monster.
Against all men, whom she wants to “kneel before [her].”
As Dorian so obligingly did.
Before she bit off his ear, of course.
For two seasons now, Sembene (Danny Sapani) has claimed that he “had no story,” as he told Ethan when asked. But since they are the only two real warriors in the show, they have become close. Ethan trusted Sembene to tell him what happened during Ethan’s blackouts.
Sembene revealed that the scars on his face are not tribal initiation marks, as I’d thought and stated in a previous blog, but marks of a slave trader.
Hated by his own people as well as by whites.
In short, Sembene has been a monster for most of his life, even if he’s attempting to atone for his sins and treachery now.
The growing bond between Sembene and Ethan has been marvelous.
Hecate ended that by trapping the two of them in a narrow passage of stairs, knowing that the moon was going to be full that night. Realizing that he could not stop the change, and not wanting to hurt Sembene, Ethan attempted to commit suicide.
Sembene prevented it, reminding Ethan that he was “chosen by God.”
Then, as Sembene braced himself for the inevitable, Ethan changed into the monster-wolf that he is, and tore out Sembene’s throat.
Even if Sembene claimed that he, too, had once been a monster, I’m so sad…
I have no predictions about what will happen in the Penny Dreadful Season 2 Finale — my heart’s still broken because Ethan killed Sembene — so I’ll leave you with this teaser from ShowTime.
Penny Dreadful, Season 2
The Lion Hunts Tonight: ShowTime’s Penny Dreadful, “Memento Mori” S2E8
(updated to include the Lily Tirade)
Welcome to the Night: Penny Dreadful, S2E7
Betrayal of the Blood: Penny Dreadful, S2 E4-6
The Cut-Wife, the Day-Walkers, & the Night-Comers: Penny Dreadful, Season 2, Episode 3
When the Hunters become the Prey: Showtime’s Penny Dreadful Season 2 Premiere
Penny Dreadful, Season 1