Penny Dreadful Season 3, Episode 2
“Predators Far & Near”
Posted by Sage
Last week, Dr. Seward sized Vanessa Ives right up and correctly guessed that she’s exclusively drawn to “dark, complicated men.” And how does such a struggle-magnet top a depraved pleasure-seeking immortal and an self-loathing American werewolf? Only with Count friggin’ Dracula, the most “dark and complicated” man of them all. Go big or go home.
That’s right. There was no point in Penny Dreadful dragging out the Dracula reveal, since only one character who was introduced in the premiere could reasonably be his “gentlemen in the streets” alter ego. Dr. Alexander Sweet is a fake-ass bitch with a fake-ass name, and Vanessa like-likes him. Where is her all-female dude-vetting squad? Who among us hasn’t been dazzled by a tall, dark strangers passion for the dangerous eyes of taxidermied tigers?
The Sweet/Vanessa relationship is unsettling because we don’t know yet what Dracula wants from her. He’s had plenty of chances to follow her home or into a dark alley and sink in his teeth. And yet, he hasn’t. Her secrets and her stories are what’s valuable to him. I feeeel like I don’t want to know why, but hurry up and tell me anyway.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. THAT COLD OPEN. It was very cold indeed. Curious what Dorian and Lily have been up to since they shacked up together in the season two finale? Looking fucking FABULOUS, for one. They head out into the evening, dressed to the nines and as composed as ever. The couple is granted entry into building where a bouncer of sorts takes in their appearance and Lily’s presence in general. He warns them that this isn’t a gathering for the squeamish (“You are aware, sir, of the extremity?”) but Dorian’s money terminates his attempt at chivalry. Dorian and Lily take their seats in a circle comprised otherwise by monied, older gentlemen. A large man in a leather mask drags a young woman into the center of the circle – shackled, gagged, and completely nude – to be tortured and killed for the paying customers’ entertainment. She’s already doomed, so the girl takes her chance to spit in her jailer’s face. Dorian and Lily turn towards each other and share a smile over the girl’s defiance. The executioner turns to select his first tool and they’re out of their chairs. Dorian and Lily make swift and bloody work of every last man in the room until only they and the evening’s entertainment are left standing. “Now,” Lily whispers into the girl’s ear, “you are mine.”
The young woman wakes up later in probably the softest bed she’s ever slept in and examines the material of her frilly nightdress. She hears tinkling music and follows it into the ballroom to see Dorian and Lily lost in their other favorite pastime: the waltz. She’s on high defense, unwilling to eat anything or even sit down. Lily recognizes her as a fellow “feral animal,” suspicious of any kindness and wondering what she might be asked to do in return. But then she hears the plan. Dorian and Lily didn’t intend to free the subject of that underground snuff club; they intended to draft her into service. To adopt her even. “You killed them,” the girl accuses. “And would’ve killed more,” Dorian clarifies. “And shall,” promises Lily.
What was Dorian even DOING before Lily showed up? She’s so clearly running the show here. Dorian is in her service as much as this new addition will be. He provides the room and board, the cash, and some excellent marksmanship, but this vendetta – this MISSION – is Lily’s. Dorian is happy to be given a reason to carry out his own basest instincts and to have a partner who lets him drop the mask. He gets to live almost entirely in civility except for when he grows tired of it. For Lily, this calling is all she was made for. Brona’s revenge. And so she drafts another soldier who shares her own specific pain.
“And the men from your past? The ones who used you. The monsters. Will you forgive them?”
“Would you have me forgive them?”
Vanessa’s happy thing is giving a lecture over at the Natural History Museum. Dr. Sweet has a little following of zoology groupies who turn up every Wednesday to hear him speak about this species or another. These women didn’t even have dialogue and I love them. They ABSOLUTELY went out for tea afterwards to gossip about Vanessa and the attention their crush paid her. Anyway, bullet dodged, girls. But if Dr. Sweet as Dracula ever felt too obvious to be endgame, that thought perished for me when he pretended to forget Vanessa’s name for a second time. (That’s TOO aloof, Count. Damn.) Vanessa is charmed by it, however. She likes that Dr. Sweet isn’t endeavoring to impress her.
The two bond over adventures missed and idols followed. As a child, Sweet aspired to be like Verne’s Captain Nemo, but now won’t even leave the museum to go on one of the institution’s many guided expeditions. “We are not made of such stuff as our heroes, are we?” he asks. But perhaps he doesn’t realize with whom he’s speaking. Vanessa is much closer to her own. First of all: OF COURSE Vanessa Ives chose a woman as her champion. Secondly, she chose a women whose resoluteness was her power. Vanessa only sees where she and Joan of Arc currently differ (“To have belief in anything with such confidence is heroic.”), but all I can think about is how similar they are. “It’s said she sang on the pyre as she died,” Vanessa says. Vanessa has stared the devil in the face, yet here she stands, lightly flirting with a man she finds intriguing. She’s the ultimate survivor.
It’s a real shame that Dr. Sweet is a vicious vampire, because Vanessa’s next move is BALLER AS HELL. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been asked out by a woman,” he says as they sit down for a show. She’s so proud of her own moxie and her ability to try and let herself have nice things, even if she’s not sure she deserves it. It kills me that her pursuit of him is part of his plan. Vampires are typically seductive, as Dana Scully says in the second best X-Files episode of all time. And like Luke Wilson’s character in “Bad Blood,” Sweet knows that seduction isn’t always best achieved by aggression. It’s his gentleness that’s luring Vanessa, and the notion that she can show him a little more of the world, even if it’s just through a series of lenses.
I wonder if Vanessa isn’t surprising Sweet a little bit, though. And I suspect that some of the wonder he presumably feigned at the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea show was real. Does Dracula want to destroy Vanessa Ives or has he selected her for a companion? Either way, his next step is to turn down her offer of coffee, which leaves his date perplexed and a little impressed. Game recognize game, and “He’s Just Not That Into You” wasn’t a concept in the 19th century. Anyway, Alexander did have other business to attend to, such as checking Renfield’s progress and giving his pet a little snack. I knew it was coming and I still screamed.
Across the ocean in the Americas, Ethan Chandler is a fugitive again, and Rusk fancies himself Tommy Lee Jones. The inspector won’t let any clumsy Americans steal his case and vows to find Mr. Chandler himself. Or rather, Mr. Talbot. Ethan Talbot is to be delivered back into the hands of his father (this guy had barely be the scariest motherfucker we’ve seen on the show, he’s been built up so much), but his babysitters fail to take into account the full moon. A trading post and watering hole straight out of Frontierland gets painted with blood when Ethan helplessly if not willingly turns. His spree is tag-teamed by Hecate, who used Rusk’s tip to track Ethan down. “How I’ve missed you,” she purrs, when they’re the only two beings left alive. Wolf and witch, face to face.
Ethan Chandler/Talbot is in high demand lately. And it’s bad news for the American West that Hecate got to him before any of the others on the hunt. (On the plus side, now we have Penny Dreadful characters reenacting Natural Born Killers on two separate continents.) Rusk wants to see justice done, and that justice involves a hanging. And Kaetenay? I’m not sure what he wants, but I don’t think that his and Sir Malcolm’s versions of “saving their son” look quite the same.
Henry fusses over Victor’s health before dipping into some brief exposition for any of our viewers who haven’t seen the Jekyll & Hyde episode of Wishbone. (OR THIS.) The duality of man, etc. etc. Dr. Jekyll’s research is all about chemically controlling that composition. (What could POSSIBLY go wrong?) He’s waiting for his shithead father to die so that Henry can inherit his position and his lab. Until then, he’ll conducts his experiments in a steampunk Hogwarts potions classroom by way of Mrs. Lovett’s upstairs rooms at Fleet Street. It lies underground in the bowels of Bedlam, and no one would miss any of his criminally insane subjects if anything should go wrong.
It doesn’t though, in Henry’s first demonstration for Victor. The raving man was driven mad by Bedlam, Henry says, proving that containment and not treatment is the order of the day in this facility. Mr. Balfour screams like an animal and would surely bite Victor’s probing hand off with his rotten teeth if he weren’t fitted with a gag. Henry, hair tied neatly back and looking moderately devastating, does his thing. The man convulses violently in his chair for a while, Victor looking on in terror and interest. Henry sends his friend to check the results once the process is finished. In the place of the lunatic is a man who looks like he just wandered in off the streets. “I could do with some water, sir, if you’re so inclined.”
Before the demo, Henry emphasized again that this process is no love potion. Victor is still reaching for white knight status, going on and on about how he blames himself for Lily’s state and must be the one to correct it. Henry is like, “Sure, dude. Sure.” And this is why we need our friends to call us on our shit. Doing the exact opposite of what a person who’s trying to prove that they’re not a stalker should do, Victor goes to Dorian’s house that evening and watches Lily from a bench outside. She notices him from her window, and goes out to him. “There’s nothing here for you,” Lily says. (Note to self: excellent Tinder brush-off.) Victor does not know his audience and storms right past her request to leave her alone. “Where you go, I belong,” he says, miserable. “I must save you from all of this.” (BRUH.) “God help you if you follow my path, Victor,” she warns. “Take your romance and your memories, which are almost crime fiction, and go.”
- That corpse photoshoot was a fun set-piece that definitely will not give me nightmares about vertically standing coffins.
- “I’ve never heard my own voice.” “You wouldn’t like it. No one does.” Okay, PATTI LUPONE.
- “Oh, there’s poetry in that, don’t you think?”
- “Man is no great thing.”
- Dr. Sweet calls his exhibits “beasties.” Why is Dracula cute now? I can’t take cute Dracula.
- Goals: Vanessa Ives kicking back after totally slaying a dude on a date.
- All I could think during Henry’s explanation of Mr. Balfour’s crime in the name of Scottish Independence was “Outlander crossover!” forgetting about ACTUAL European history.
- Vanessa telling Sir Malcolm “it’s all rather boring here” is the “I’ll be right back!” of Penny Dreadful.
Tell the truth: are you still rooting for Dr. Sweet? Let us know in the comments!