Warning: Spoilers Galore
After the flashback in “Cut-Wife” (S2E3), where we learned how Vanessa discovered her true identity and how to harness her unusual abilities, Penny Dreadful has been busy entangling virtually all the characters in dangerous, potentially deadly, erotic, and exotic relationships. Beginning with S2E4 and culminating with a grand ball that turned disastrous in E6, some characters are intentionally setting traps to catch other, unwary characters, while others are merely betraying characters who trust them.
The witches, or Night-Comers, led by Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory), long-lived and still beautiful sister of the Cut-Wife Joan Clayton (Patti LuPone), are busy weaving a web to snare Vanessa. Evelyn is trying a many-pronged approach.
She made a “fetish” — something like a voodoo doll — of Vanessa (Eva Green) in a basement that is filled with hundreds of dolls: evidence of Evelyn’s evil and power.
To make the fetish more effective and powerful, Evelyn sent her daughter Hecate (Sarah Poole), along with the two remaining Night-Comers, to Sir Malcolm’s mansion. There, the three of them blended into the wallpaper. Though Ethan (Josh Harnett), wolf that he is, smelled something suspicious each time he went by one of the hidden Night-Comers, he could not discover what was wrong until it was too late.
Vanessa is doubting her sanity since she is, at times, able to see the Night-Comers, but they disappear so quickly that she fears she’s going mad. Ethan comforts and reassures her, letting her stay in his room with him on guard.
Unfortunately, Hecate was able to get some of Vanessa’s hair by ripping it out of her scalp when the Night-Comers invaded the mansion, and Hecate later wove it into the fetish. I can only assume that this will make the fetish more potent.
Now that Evelyn has gotten Sir Malcolm’s attention, she’s also made a fetish of him, massaging the baby’s heart until it began to beat. Sir Malcolm is already losing his own grip on reality.Evelyn made a fetish of Sir Malcolm’s wife Gladys, but she cracked open the skull of that fetish and put hot spikes in it, driving Gladys mad with pain, causing convulsions and hallucinations, and eventually causing her to commit suicide by cutting her throat with her husband’s straight-razor.
No divorce necessary now.
Sir Malcolm is free to become involved with the widow Evelyn Poole.
Which is exactly what she meant at the shooting range when she told Malcolm that it was always good to have something “to aim at.”
Apparently never one to lack imagination or tenacity, Evelyn Poole has also been using other ways to get at Vanessa. She is blackmailing Mr. Lyle (Simon Russell Beale) with photos of his homosexual encounters (which would have sent him to prison, lost him his wife, her money, and his position at the museum and in society). She wants him to get her closer to Vanessa and to continue helping them solve the puzzle of Verbis Diablo. He offered to “mis-lead” them, but Evelyn said, “No, let her follow the breadcrumbs to me.”
But Evelyn and the Night-Comers have attained some power over Vanessa. At Dorian’s ball for Angelique (discussed in detail later in this post), they made her hallucinate that blood was spilling down on everyone.
Bad witches, them girls.
Lyle & Ethan
Lyle is not only sexually attracted to Ethan, but may actually be in love with him. Lyle flirts outrageously with Ethan, even in front of others.
But the attachment seems to be deeper than flirtation, at least on Lyle’s side. Lyle and Ethan are often left alone in the mansion to work on the “puzzle” of the Verbis Diablo. The other characters are involved, mostly, in sexual encounters, and are not available much of the time. Besides, Ethan knows Latin, which helps in the puzzle-solving, and in impressing Lyle.
Ethan & Vanessa
Though Ethan and Vanessa are clearly attracted to each other, she fears getting sexually involved because her past sexual liaisons have “unleashed” the dark side. Ethan, for his part, knows he has blackouts, and that people die during them.
Not even a kiss.
Just a wistful glance and a touch of the face on the stairs.
Dorian & Angelique
I really admire the fact that creator-writer John Logan, Showtime, and Penny Dreadful are tackling the long-taboo or ignored subject of transgender persons. The show has touched on homosexuality, but only in Lyle’s vain love and admiration of Ethan: the affection and attraction is not mutual.
With the entrance of Angelique (Johnny Beauchamp), Dorian (Reeve Carney), who has had homosexual encounters — including one with Ethan in S1 — gets a chance to have an actual relationship with a “woman” who’s been born into a man’s body.
From its inception, the writer has made it clear that Angelique knew she was different from early childhood, and shunned by her family. Believing that prostitution was the only life-option, she turned to that.
Dorian is intrigued at first — how that ageless bad-boy likes novelty — and their fully nude sexual scene was handled tastefully. Now Dorian seems to be genuinely falling in love, as evidenced by his letting her buy some clothes and leave them at his home, his defending her in public, his kissing her gloved hand in public after she was insulted by another man, and his throwing her a “coming out” ball.
My BF immediately objected to the term “coming out,” insisting that it was an anachronism. I explained that Dorian meant something more along the lines of a debutante’s “coming out” ball, where she was introduced to society as an eligible marriage candidate. (My BF hadn’t heard of that kind of “coming out” — he retracted his objection.)
Unfortunately, the jaded Dorian, after dancing only one dance with Angelique at the ball he was sponsoring for her, immediately seemed to become enamored of Brona-turned-Lilly (Billie Piper), who is meant to be the bride for the Creature.
Angelique was understandably hurt.
So was Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), who has fallen in love with Lilly himself.
My only problem with the Dorian-Angelique storyline are the same ones I had with the Dorian plotline in the first season.
- No one who is unfamiliar with Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray knows what’s up with Dorian, beyond the fact that he likes to have sex with a lot of people — of either sex or gender — has some unknown and unrevealed portrait hidden away that he likes to look at once in a while, and lives in a big house with lots of money.
- Dorian’s story, even with Angelique, is not interwoven with the stories of any of the other characters. Just like last year, Dorian could be completely erased from the show, and its storyline would not be affected. (Reeve Carney’s fans may be dismayed, but the storyline of Penny Dreadful itself would not be significantly altered.) This is not good.
I realize that this has the potential to change if Dorian and Victor get into a spitting contest over Lilly.
Then again, I was sure Dorian would eventually get more involved in the major story events last season, and, sadly, it simply never happened.
Victor & Lilly
Victor took Lilly to lunch with Vanessa, who immediately recognized that Victor is in love with Lilly, “though he may not know it.” (And, yes, I agree with the commenters on forums about the fact that Vanessa’s not recognizing Lilly as Brona, whom she met with Ethan last year, is not realistic. Despite the change of accent and hair-color, Lilly has the same face, and it is not a bland, unremarkable one. To make Vanessa “blind” to her identity, or even to her physical similarity to Brona, is just silly.)
Victor took Lilly to Dorian’s ball.
The Creature & Lilly
Poor Creature, now going by the name of John Clare (Rory Kinnear, above L). He is so lonely. He so wants female companionship. He wants a life-long mate. That’s why Victor (above L) smothered the dying-from-consumption Brona Croft (Billie Piper), who was Ethan’s lover and love, and turned her into the amnesiac Lilly.
For the Creature.
So uncomfortable that she acts cold and distant around him.
He is hurt, confused, and lonely.
The Creature & Lavinia
I thought the blind Lavinia, daughter to the Creature-as-John-Clare’s new employer, would become a viable love interest for him. She cannot see his deformity, and made no remarks about the scars on his face when she touched him in order to “meet him.”
Unfortunately, in E6, during a friendly conversation at work, she took the Creature’s hand, remarked on its being so cold (as if his face isn’t) and then told her parents that there was something strange and “dead” about him.
I guess there’ll be no love story there.
The Creature & Vanessa
Of all the women in the series, Vanessa is the Creature’s equal: emotionally, philosophically, theologically, and intellectually. The two met down in the poorer quarters, where Sir Malcolm sometimes works “to find a sort of peace,” and where he took Vanessa.
Since their initial meeting, Vanessa and Mr. Clare, as she knows him, have not only had many intriguing and interesting discussions, but she taught him to dance when he confessed that he did not know the rules or engagements of “courting.”
I think the Creature is in for an even greater heartbreak than that he experienced last season when the actress Maude rejected his affection and physical advances.
He turned violent last year after his heart was broken, killing Professor Van Helsing (David Warner) in front of Victor because Frankenstein had not yet fulfilled his promise to find the Creature a mate.
Who knows what the Creature will do when he discovers that his intended bride, Lilly, has been “seduced” by Victor?
Sir Malcolm & Evelyn
Yes, I know Evelyn’s only using Sir Malcolm to get closer to Vanessa, preferably by marrying him and living in the same house with Evelyn’s true object of desire: Vanessa, as a bride for the Master, Lucifer.Yes, I know she’s, like, what — 250 years older than Sir Malcolm, and only looks his age and is only still attractive because of her having sold her soul to the Devil.
And, yes, I saw all the scenes where Evelyn pricked Sir Malcolm with her ring, making him desire her sexually. I know she pricked him during the sex act itself. I know he’s so bewitched by her evil power that when he heard of the suicide of his wife, his only comment was that he’d “have to replace the carpet” since it had been covered with blood.
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not real love. Not on Sir Malcolm’s part because he’s enchanted and controlled by witchcraft. Certainly not on Evelyn’s part because she only loves herself and her Master, the Devil. She’s already been shown to manipulate the men in her life — and others — to get the only things she really wants: Vanessa for the Master.
Despite knowing all that, it was wonderful to see an actual sex scene between actors who are not in their twenties. I think both Helen McCrory and Timothy Dalton are not only very fine actors, but they’re very physically and sexually attractive.
So it’s an even braver thing to show the two of them enjoying sex than showing Dorian and transgendered Angelique having sex. It was so brave, I’m going to put up the photo of them together again.I admit it. That scene between Sir Malcolm and Evelyn had me as breathless as the scene between Ethan and Vanessa on the stairs.
Talk about erotic.
(Note to Showtime and anyone else concerned: I would have liked to see more of Sir Malcolm’s chest during the act itself. His shirt was unbuttoned, but still almost closed. I’m not asking for full nudity, but it would have been really nice to see his chest and back, at least. And from the scene with Sir Geoffrey in “Cut-Wife,” we know that actress Helen McCrory (below, not in costume for the show) has a fine body, too, and she doesn’t have to show all of it for us to determine that.
Ethan as Wolf-Man
& Sembene as Protector
Finally, it looks like Sembene (Danny Sapani) is going to have a greater role than opening the door when someone knocks, or sitting watching it when it’s locked. In the final moments of E6, Ethan was not present at Dorian’s ball. At that time, Ethan was at the mansion with Sembene, asking him to chain Ethan to the wall.
Sembene, without further explanation but with a concerned expression, did so. Ethan showed his trust in Sembene by doing this. Though Ethan knows he has blackouts, after which there’s “usually blood,” and no survivors except himself, he does not apparently know that he’s a Wolf-Man. He doesn’t know what happens to him during the full moon, beyond the fact that other people die.
He’s about to reveal his darkest secret, which he himself doesn’t even know, to the only other true warrior in the show: Sembene.
Chained to the basement as Fenton was last season, Ethan then waited.
Seated in a chair in front of him, so did Sembene.
Penny Dreadful, Season 2
Penny Dreadful, Season 1