Penny Dreadful Season 3, Episode 3
“Good & Evil Braided Be”
Posted by Sage
There are two competing recruiting efforts taking shape in Penny Dreadful’s London. Victor should like to form a “choir of angels,” devoid of greed and cruelty. Dorian and Lily are taking applications for their army of fallen women to bring the men of that city to their knees. The overlap in that Venn diagram is Lily herself. She’s Victor’s entire motivation for taking Henry’s work to the next level, but also the brains and gall behind the war against London’s epidemic of toxic masculinity. Does Victor have one solitary clue what kind of hell is going to rain down on him if he tries to get in his beloved’s way? Unless he had a nanny cam streaming that blood threesome, I’mma say “hell no.”
Early in the episode, Justine and Lily are dressed as ladies ought to be and having tea at an outside cafe. A man leers at them from another table, ignorant of the fact that they are casually discussing the destruction of his entire sex. Lily expresses something like pity for men. They are “slaves to their own desire,” and society perpetuates their disproportional focus on their own physical needs. But neither of these ladies is shedding a tear for them, considering that they’ve both been the second-tier victims of this obsession. At birth, they submitted to the terms of a contract that they were not allowed to look over before they signed. As women, they are objects of sexual thought and action, at all times (like during a civilized afternoon tea) and with no consent necessary. “I’ve never met a man who didn’t want to beat me or fuck me,” Justine sneers. Two actions that are born of the same impulse: to control, to dominate, to humiliate. Well, the tables are about to turn, Lily says, and the men of this town had better watch out. (Other than Ethan, if he returns, since Lily confirms her memory of his humane and loving treatment of Brona. Baby.)
As they talk, a suffragette demonstration is carried out in front of them. The band of women are roughly brought to their knees and arrested. Justine suggests that those crusaders might be their soul sisters. No, Lily says. She has little sympathy for political rabblerousers, partially because of their loud and ineffective methods. (“How do you accomplish anything in this life? By craft, by stealth, by poison, by the throat quietly slit in the dead of the night, by the careful and silent humiliation of power.”) But also because their goals are not the same. If not equality, Justine asks, then what’s the prize? “Mastery,” Lily smirks. Where do I send this check?
The murder was the hazing ritual; the bloody orgy is Justine’s induction into this secret society. She belongs to Dorian and Lily as much as she’s belonged to anyone else, but they don’t treat her like a slave. Why would they? What’s the point in breaking the spirit of someone who doesn’t want to leave? Instead, they communicate through a language that Justine knows well: sex. I’d bet everything I own that Dorian and Lily are the first partners who ever catered to Justine’s pleasure; after a life of abuse and debasement, no wonder she’d walk into hell for them. And when she does, they tell her, she won’t be alone. Justine will be their emissary to the “whores” of London – all those the victims with a lifetime of rage and an unhealthy addiction to people-pleasing. The ideal cadets.
Begrudgingly, Ethan realizes he has a better chance of surviving the desert trek to his father’s in the company of a devil-servant willing to kill anyone or anything who so much as looks at him sideways, even if she reminds him keenly and constantly of the worst part of himself. Hecate dares to say that she’s better equipped for the job than the “the melancholy Miss Ives” and Ethan is NOT having that. He rounds on her. “Don’t you speak her name.” The consequences might have been worse if the Marshall’s men hadn’t begun shooting at them at that exact moment.
Kaetenay knows that Ethan is with Hecate (“a woman and a demon” – true enough) and considers their alliance a ticking time bomb. If he and sir Malcolm can’t reach him fast enough, Ethan will be lost forever and Hecate will have her new master. They reach the ranch Ethan and Hecate stole their horses from and find two corpses bearing what is obviously Hecate’s handiwork. Ethan hasn’t given himself over to his darkest nature yet (what would Dr. Jekyll give to get his hands on this guy?), but killing his father might be the push that he needs. What will Kaetenay and Malcolm do when they catch up with him? Again, I don’t think that Malcolm knows everything that his companion is capable of, especially considering the cold fear Ethan experienced when he saw him in his dream state.
He’s there to tease her. He must believe that his master is close enough to fulfilling his intentions for Miss Ives that little mocking won’t derail the plan. “Lady, lady, pudding and pie,” he intones, drawing closer to her. Vanessa recognizes a minion when she sees one. “Where is your master?” asks the expert.
Lead Familiar: Old friends, you and he. Bosom companions, like. Don’t you remember, my lady? In the white room. Just you and he…and that other. His teeth were at your throat. *he licks her*
Vanessa: When was this? When was this?
Lead Familiar: Long ago. In the white room where there was no time. No day and no night. Surely you remember, my lady, my lady?
But she doesn’t. Vanessa doesn’t remember the master in the white room, but she knows something is drawing near and she doesn’t want Dr. Sweet to be there when it arrives. They go for tea after the carnival. He holds her hand as she gives the “it’s not you, it’s me and Satan refusing to take a hint” speech. Her impossible demons aren’t impossible to Dr. Sweet. He will believe her where Dr. Seward can’t. Or won’t. But that’s not what Vanessa is worried about. Belief might bring those demons closer faster. “It’s too dangerous,” she says, gathering her things. “Take it as a sign of something like love.”
You might think that Dracula would be happy to hear that the target of his seductions is close to falling in love with him. But in this case, you would be wrong. He’s perturbed enough to give his unruffled public appearance a break. Dr. Sweet breaks his teacup in his bare hand (*the entire isle of Great Britain gasps in horror*) and heads to vampire fight club to exact his revenge. “You approached her,” he hisses. “You spoke to her. She is mine.” He throws the Lead Familiar across the room. “When the time is right, my flesh. When she is abject and she is helpless and she begs for me, then, we will have her.” Good luck, bub, cause Vanessa Ives has never been helpless. “Feed,” Dracula commands, and the flesh of the Lord Familiar is torn from his bones by his brothers and sisters.
Vanessa returns to Dr. Seward’s office demanding to be given access to her past. She needs to remember the master’s presence in the white room. And this is a tough sell for Vanessa, because an earlier session ended with the two in a stalemate. Vanessa isn’t letting Dr. Seward’s uncanny resemblance to Joan Clayton go, and she accuses her doctor of knowing the significance and not sharing. “You sit there with your gramophone and your questions, judging me, refusing to believe me when I say I know you! You have been my friend,” Vanessa says, pacing about the room. Again, she asks for faith. For belief. Vanessa knows that she is ill in some ways, but that illness did not create a parade of delusions straight out of Halloweentown. Of that she is sure.
Dr. Seward: Which part do you want me to believe? I believe all of it.
Vanessa: No. You believe I believe it.
Dr. Seward: There’s no difference to me.
In granting Vanessa her request to be hypnotized, Dr. Seward thinks that she is enabling Vanessa’s recovery of the painful memories that might be the source of these supernatural red herrings. As a wealthy lady, Vanessa was never going to be subject to the terror and filth of Bedlam. But institutionalization – even the best treatment money could buy – was still a horror show at the time. When was she committed? It must have been sometime between the events of the Cut-Wife episode and the beginning of Season 1, because the man who would become Frankenstein’s creature is the kindly orderly that brings her meals.
Vanessa remembers this Dr. Banning torturing her and performing surgery on her brain, though of course that’s not what’s in the file that Dr. Seward has in her hands. “The mind protects itself from what it doesn’t want to know. The castle pulling up the drawbridge,” Seward says. Vanessa remembers torture, but she doesn’t remember meeting anyone else in that room. You’ve got to be a pretty legit demon to beat waterboarding in the suppressible memories department.
It looks like the next episode of Penny Dreadful will take place entirely within Vanessa’s hypnotized state. This show knows bottle episodes, so I’m excited. Will we meet Dr. Banning? The master? Are they one and the same? Will we see the Creature’s first incarnation die? Worse, will Vanessa be in some way responsible for it? Dr. Seward is about to get an education in the terrible, bad, no-good life of Vanessa Ives, and I doubt she’ll ever be the same.
- The Ethan stuff is presented so seriously, but is anyone else getting a Smokey and the Bandit vibe? The law always two steps behind? I’m waiting for the Marshall to take off his hat and stomp on it the next time Ethan and Hecate pull one over on him. Will he call Ethan or Rusk a “sumbitch” soon? A girl can dream.
- I’m not nuts about the Creature, but my heart grew a few sizes when he saw Vanessa on her date and smiled fondly. She’s probably the only true friend he’s ever had.
- I’m no doctor, but I think that kid has got the consumption.
- “Steel yourself for the work ahead, Henry. If you can’t endure the nightmare, you should not lay down for the sleep.
- So smooth.
- “Liberty is a bitch who must be bedded on a mattress of corpses.” What I like most about this show is its subtlety of language.
Thoughts on this one, guys? Hit us up in the comments.