This week’s episode of Penny Dreadful starts the downswing of the season. Everyone is either hiding or on display this week, sometimes uncomfortably so. Early on, we find out that Dorian is throwing a party—a ball, really. He wants to throw a ball in honor of Angelique. He says she “deserves a proper coming out.”
There are all kinds of implications in that phrase and in the ball itself. Dorian’s coming out ball for Angelique works as the unifying force for most of the episode, and it works as a good metaphor for what is happening with many of the characters. (Fair warning: spoilers below.)
But first, let’s go back a bit. Early in the episode, Ethan gets a visit from Mr. Roper, the survivor of the Mariner’s Inn Massacre and a Pinkerton agent hired to bring Ethan home. Ethan’s story is one of the few this week that doesn’t end at the ballroom. Vanessa invites him along, but he declines. More on that later.
Sir Malcolm, meanwhile, is positively giddy. When he comes home to the news that his wife has killed herself, it hardly seems to bother him at all. Instead, he sits in his room, contemplating whether or not to shave. He asks Vanessa’s advice, and she is confused by his behavior–as is everyone else. It isn’t quite like Malcolm to be so callous. Cowardly, perhaps. But not callous.
(I’m supposing that all of this behavior and gallivanting has something to do with that ring Evelyn used to draw blood during sexy-times. And it’s definitely got something to do with that fetish that Evelyn has now made of Malcolm.)
Dorian shows up at the Murray home and invites Vanessa, Frankenstein, and Lily to the ball. When Frankenstein returns home to tell Lily about the invitation, she seems excited but nervous—and Frankenstein seems just as nervous.
Ethan pays a visit to the museum, where the murder scenes have just opened as a new exhibit. He stops in for a peak at the Mariner’s Inn Massacre set-up, and Inspector Rusk is there. It’s clear that Ethan’s presence in the museum heightens Rusk’s already-high suspicions about Ethan. Also happening at the museum: Lavinia knows that John Clare isn’t alive—there’s something wrong in his touch, something too cold about him. Uh-oh.
And then it’s time for the ball. I couldn’t help thinking that it was going be a bit disastrous, and my was it ever. Lily immediately seemed to know the ballroom—and it was, in fact, the same room where she met Dorian to take pornographic photos and have sexy-times. And speak of the devil—when Dorian is introduced to Lily, it’s clear that they are taken with one another. They gaze into one another’s eyes as they dance. And when Frankenstein tries to take back his dancing partner, she won’t be taken back. She’s also not worried about what he has to say about her drinking. The two argue quite a bit at the party—awkward.
And it’s not just Frankenstein who is upset by Dorian and Lily’s behavior. Angelique is also quite upset—understandably so, especially since it’s her party. And Elsewhere in Frankenstein Is Having a Bad Night: Vanessa reveals to him that she’s met the Creature, though she as yet knows nothing of his connection to Frankenstein.
Sir Malcolm and Evelyn show up at the ball. Turns out, he shaved his beard after all. (Bad move–maybe it’s just me being partial to beards in general, but I liked the beard better.) Evelyn re-introduces herself to Vanessa, reminding her that she met Evelyn as Madame Kali at the seance. As Sir Malcolm leaves to get drinks, Vanessa confronts Evelyn about the changes in Sir Malcolm. Later, as Vanessa is talking with Lyle, he starts to notice the change in the room, the witches staring at her—he’s clearly concerned for her safety and asks to walk her home. Vanessa agrees to go after saying goodnight to Frankenstein, but this is her undoing. As she walks across the room, Hecate moves toward her. The room starts spinning, and in Carrie-style but even worse, blood starts to rain down in the ballroom, covering the dancers and musicians and portraits while no one notices.
Vanessa faints. Frankenstein and Lyle rush to her side, the room perfectly normal, nothing like what Vanessa was seeing. And across town, we find out why Ethan was so quick to doge the invitation to the ball. It’s a full moon. Ethan goes downstairs with Sembene, who he asks him to watch but not come closer. A show-and-tell seems to be as close as Ethan is going to come to really opening up.
He howls and crumples over, his teeth lengthening and his eyes yellowing.Then he changes. Ethan is a werewolf, and Sembene knows.
It looks like next week we might return to the Cut Wife’s cottage, and perhaps those Ethan and Vanessa shippers might finally get their wish.