Penny Dreadful: Above the Vaulted Sky Review (S2 E5)

“Above the Vaulted Sky” marks the halfway point for Penny Dreadful Season 2, and the show is already preparing us for the coming battle with the witches. In some ways, it has been building that tension since Madame Kali’s first appearance last season. But we’re getting ready for a full-scale battle between Vanessa Ives & Company and Evelyn Poole & Coven. (Spoilers below!)

(image via

                   (image via

And we’re back in that creepy puppet room. There’s a doll of Vanessa, but there’s also another doll, a likeness of Sir Malcolm’s wife, Gladys. Hecate brings in the lock of hair she stole from Vanessa and begins to work on the Vanessa-doll. Evelyn, meanwhile, is tearing open the Gladys-doll’s head to reveal brains. (What on earth? How am I even watching this right now?!) She sticks a poker into the brain, and miles away, Gladys awakens, screaming. Oh dear.

In the Murray mansion, there’s a great scurry to protect the home against assailants. A gigantic mental door shows up and is installed; Ethan conducts a sage-burning ritual; Vanessa draws scorpions in blood to seal and protect the house; even Lyle is joining in with what looks to be a Jewish ritual for cleansing and protection. Ah yes, and “a shitload of weapons.”

Vanessa ends up in Ethan’s room, unsure whether the witches she’s seeing are really there or in her head. I like the relationship between the two of them as friends—it’s sweet, and good for them both. This is one of those moments when they work well together, Vanessa talking about her fear of the dark and Ethan talking about his relationship with images (1)redemption and religion, quite serious but a wee lighthearted, too.

There’s trouble for Ethan, though. Inspector Rusk is beginning to put some things together, like those murders that only started happening after Ethan arrived with the Wild West Show and the Mariner’s Inn Massacre occurring at Ethan’s place of residence. Ethan is appropriately vague in answering the inspector’s questions, but in the shadows of the mansion lurk the survivor of the massacre.

And inside the mansion, Ethan’s identity is also close to being revealed. Lyle is working through the Verbis Diablo. There’s a repeated phrase in various languages–we see “lupus dei,” as Ethan holds it up and translates “hound of god.” Ethan looks troubled.

Vanessa, meanwhile, is having coffee with Victor and Lily. Somehow, she doesn’t recognize her as Brona, but I suppose that she didn’t spend a lot of time with her—and the hair and the accent are so different, and she’s not dying. But I do wonder imageswhat will happen if/when Ethan meets Lily. She’s a bit awkward, throwing in stilted phrases like “the weather is challenging, but the excitement is palpable” when Vanessa asks how she likes London, but Vanessa doesn’t care—she’s just happy to see Victor happy.

But Victor brought Lily to life to be the bride of his Creature, and this is creating some (not unforeseen) complications. When the Creature bursts into Victor’s home and demands to see Lily, the two argue about how Victor is handling the situation. The Creature sits with Lily, telling her how happy they used to be. He makes me sad, a bit, even though he’s creepy and pushy. What he dreamed of, the story he told Lily, was that they were walking by some guys who were mean, who called him names because of his appearance, and she took his hand and kissed it. But Lily shies away from him, and he leaves.

He must’ve gone back to the soup kitchen, because that’s where Vanessa finds the Creature. There’s an amusing moment where he’s bemoaning the mess he made of things with Lily and Vanessa tells (ahem–Victor) who she just saw so happy with a eva-green-rory-kinnear-penny-dreadful-above-the-vaulted-sky-01-600x350woman (ahem–Lilly). There’s some poetry quoting, and then something is said about dancing. The Creature can’t dance. And so Vanessa teaches him–Frankenstein’s Creature is waltzing with a powerful medium in the middle of a soup kitchen.

Dorian and Angelique are out at the opera, meanwhile—and she is recognized by an unhappy former patron. He’s incredibly, unspeakably rude. Dorian takes Angelique’s hand in his, and he kisses it—but Angelique is ready to go. At Dorian’s home, we see Angelique in Dorian’s clothes, we hear her story. Dorian is sympathetic, is kind.

And this is about the time that suddenly almost everyone in the show is having sexy-times. Dorian and Angelique share a tryst in Dorian’s bedroom. A flash of lightning and thunderclap send Lily to Frankenstein’s bed. And Evelyn Poole takes Sir Malcolm to bed. There’s something odd with her ring–she uses it to prick his finger and the back of his neck.

Meanwhile, his wife is dying. She’s been having seizures and terrible headaches. Now, she’s also seeing things. The ghosts of Peter and Mina Murray rise, and she slits her own throat from grief and horror. Those dolls, by the way? They’re called fetishes. Vanessa refers to them as a sort of simulacra, a hollowed out copy. Yeesh.

Penny Dreadful: Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places Review (S2 E4)

And we’re back to talk about episode 4 of Penny Dreadful season 2; my apologies for the tardiness, but I quite literally forgot that yesterday was Monday. Whoops!

After the singular fixation of last week’s “Nightcomers,” with Vanessa’s past, we returned this week to the characters’ present as they try to decipher the Verbis Diablo and ferret out what the witches are up to. Ah yes, and there’s a bit of fun, too, something the show could use a bit more of. (Spoilers are lurking below—beware!)

We open with Vanessa telling the group about the nightcomers and about the Cut-Wife, relating the story that she told Ethan last week. And about time, too. Vanessa is one of my

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Harry Treadaway as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Danny Sapani as Sembene, Simon Russell Beale as Ferdinand Lyle and Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 4). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_204_1313

favorite characters, but she has a penchant for withholding information that could be both deadly and damning, information the other characters Actually Need to Know. Frankenstein, in typical scientist fashion, dismisses what she’s saying on the basis that there’s no such thing as witches. Umm, Doctor? You’ve now brought 2 people back to life and seen vampires—why’s this a stretch?

Anyway, Vanessa ends up accompanying Victor to a dress shop the next day, where he explains that he needs to buy a dress for his second cousin (emphasis on second part) who is visiting from the country. He admires Vanessa’s style, runs into a mannequin, and gets flustered when the clerk suggests that he and Vanessa are together. He blushes as Vanessa jokes about underwear and cleavage. The scene is a lovely, awkward moment underwearfor two characters who rarely get to laugh.

Back at his house, Victor has Lily try on the things he’s bought for her. And she really doesn’t like them. Or, at least, she doesn’t like how they feel. The corset is tight, the shoes uncomfortable, and Lily’s realizing that the garb she’s wearing is “for men, isn’t it.” Frankenstein agrees that she can lose the corset, but she keeps the shoes.

Meanwhile, the Creature/Caliban/John Clare is working in the basement of the wax museum. He talks with Lavinia, the owners’ daughter, who helps sculpt the wax figures. There’s a nice moment when she talks about the suffering she must inflict on some of the figures, the horrifying moments she must put them into. For our Creature, this is just the kind of thing he understands.

The Putneys are also planning something else for their wax museum—something to do with “flesh and blood freaks.” Oh hell. Why do I feel like this means our Creature? Is this what Putney meant when he said “hush woman, that face will make us our fortune?” Dman.

And we finally see Dorian again. He’s with Angelique, and they go to a bizarre club full champagneof ping pong tables and champagne. And she’s a firecracker. Unconcerned about the stares she brings, and she’s more than a match for Dorian—that’s the genius of having them play a dozen rounds of ping pong, Dorian losing every match.

And speaking of losing matches—Hecate decides to try and woo Ethan by setting a trap for him. She spooks a horse and then runs in front of the carriage it’s pulling, and Ethan must save her. They go and have tea, but she’s just not convincing enough. Lobsters live in fields, apparently, and stiletto boots are sensible shoes. Ethan is of course not convinced, but he believes she’s been employed by his father to bring him home. And across town, Inspector Rusk is still looking into the Mariner’s Inn Massacre—and he suspects magic.hecate

And at the Murray home, Lyle is still working on translating the Verbis Diablo. The artifacts that the text is written upon must be sequences: the demon spoke in various languages, telling the story of being cast from heaven. There’s some discussion over whether Vanessa’s future is told in the relics, but she’ll have none of it. She goes to her room—and we see that everyone is being watched by the witches, who are hiding in the wallpaper. *shudder* They attack, managing to steal a lock of Vanessa’s hair before she breaks in the Verbis Diablo and expels them from the house.

Next week, it looks like we’ll see more about Putney’s plans and, of course, more of those nightcomers.

Penny Dreadful: Nightcomers Review (S2 E3)

And we’re back for episode 3 of Showtime’s second season of Penny Dreadful. “Nightcomers” is a Vanessa-centric episode, the first we’ve seen this season and the second in the show’s history. We follow Vanessa as she finds a mentor who teaches her about the nightcomers and what their appearance portends. (Warning: Spoilers below!)

We start the episode in Vanessa’s room, where Ethan looks curiously at the blood-drawn scorpion on the floor. He asks for some answers, and Vanessa promises to tell him something she has yet to tell anyone—and we have a neat frame story for a flashback about Vanessa’s life.

Vanessa stands outside a cottage. She’s gone to seek the help of a rumored witch in vanessacutwifethe area, the Cut-Wife (Patti LuPone). She’s unable to pass the boundaries of the
property, marked by stones, and the old woman watches her stand there for what must be a day or two—through rain, exhaustion, and fainting, Vanessa stays.

Finally, she comes out of the cottage. It’s clear that Vanessa isn’t there for the more commonly sought love potions, abortions, or herbal cures. And after a few tests of the how’d-I-get-this-scar and choose-a-tarot-card variety, she’s accepted by the Cut-Wife. She can stay.

That card Vanessa chose? It was the devil—naturally.

Later, on a hunt, the Cut-Wife begins to explain the tarot to Vanessa. Meanings aren’t always literal, and one card can have many possible meanings. Vanessa
suggests “evil” for the devil, but is reproached—she comes up with something better, a dark but irresistible lover. The Cut-Wife admits to being both drawn to and afraid of Vanessa, her gifts and her abilities.

That night, who should show up but Madame Kali? Apparently, she’s the Cut-Wife’s sister, part of her former coven. They used to be Daywalkers, which seems to be a somethingwickedsort of soft-witchery, dabbling in herbs and healing. But Madame Kali sold her soul to the devil, becoming a nightcomer in exchange for lasting power, youth, and beauty.

And the Master wants Vanessa, so Madame Kali has come to fetch her. She almost manages to lure the Cut-Wife from her property—there’s this odd moment where it’s as though she’s compelling her both literally and metaphorically—but it’s broken by Vanessa throwing open then door and crying out.

Later, a young woman stops at the cottage. She’s there for an abortion. The scene is a tough one to watch—Vanessa clutches the girl’s hand and says “god forgives all” as the Cut-Wife methodically begins her work.

Meanwhile, Madame Kali is at work in town. She’s been sleeping with (or at least a dominatrix for—jury’s still out on the sexy-times) the owner of most of the land in the area and killing off his cattle in her spare time. She’s managed to convince him that it’s the Cut-Wife’s doing, the death of all those cattle, and he’s about to whip the town into a frenzy.

Out in the woods, he finds Vanessa and attempts to rape her, but she fends him off. It’s becoming clear that Vanessa is ready to leave and go help Mina, the vision of whom prompted Vanessa to find the Cut-Wife. And it starts to become clear to us that the Cut-Wife is dying. She’d like Vanessa to stay here on here land, help those girls in trouble. She shows Vanessa the poetry of death, a book that Vanessa is only to use as a last resort—gee, I think that’ll come back up later.

scorpionThe townspeople surround the Cut-Wife’s cottage, and she is brought forth, accused of necromancy, and sentenced to death. Vanessa is made to watch as her friend is beaten, shackled, hot tar poured onto her, and she is burned. Vanessa is then branded and left by the townspeople.

When she comes to, Vanessa can’t get out of the cottage fast enough. She packs the tarot cards and draws a scorpion in blood on the stones that mark the boundary. Scorpion–that’s what the Cut-Wife called her. Agile, deadly.

This was one of the best episode of the show I’ve seen. I’m loving all of the witchcraft this season and the female-centric storylines. Patti LuPone and Eva Green each turned in a stellar performance for this episode, and as I’ve come to expect of her on the show, Helen McCrory was delightfully wicked.

Next week, it seems as though we’ll be back with the group and perhaps even that some new characters will get to interact with each other.

Penny Dreadful: Verbis Diablo Review (S2 E2)

Aaaaand we’re back for episode 2 of Penny Dreadful‘s second season. This week’s “Verbis Diablo” gave us our first view of Dorian Grey in the second season and, of course, told us more about the Night Comers. Also up this week: Vanessa meets Caliban, we find out what Brona’s life-after-death looks like, and Madame Kali gets witchy. And oh my, is this show’s second season a lot of fun so far! (Warning: Spoilers lurk beneath!)


We start with Vanessa going to Sir Malcolm for comfort and peace. Malcolm takes her right into a cholera-infested shanty-town, where to two don masks to serve soup to the poor and sick. Sir Malcolm confesses to finding peace in service, atonement in helping.

And while we’re down there, oh, hooray, Vanessa has a tete-a-tete with our Creature, who is now calling himself John Clare. (Clare was an actual British poet pd2who died in 1864–interesting to move from a Shakespearean name to a poet’s.) Vanessa chats with Clare a bit about religion–she’s “not on the best of terms with the Almighty” and he has allowed Wordsworth to supplant the Bible for him. I’m surprised at his capacity to see such beauty there, given his past (and his rant last week when he was looking for a job and unable to find work)—but perhaps it makes sense that he sees the most beauty in the tragedies. Vanessa is so kind—and it’s obvious that Clare finds that surprising.

Back at the Murray home, the Egyptologist, Lyle stops by to chat about the Verbis Diablo, and We Learn Some Things. The language has only been written down once: in the 11th century, a monk called Brother Gregory was possessed. He was pd1eventually burned at the stake, but not before he etched it into anything he could find.

Ethan goes with Lyle to the British Museum to retrieve the items. There’s a fun bit of flirting, and a wee bit of faux intrigue. It’s going to be a puzzle, putting together a cypher from the array of items.

And Dorian is back. He’s at a cafe, mooning over a picture of Vanessa. But along stops a lady for a chat. She slides him a card—and later, we see Dorian at the brothel. She’s not shy about showing Dorian what he’s buying—and Dorian doesn’t look shy about the buying. Let’s not forget how we met him, or who he is.

Frankenstein, meanwhile, is working with the newly-revived Brona. He asks Clare to leave, and it’s evident that there’s already brewing tension between them. New-Brona doesn’t quite have language yet–but it begins to return to her quickly, and with apd5 whole-new accent. Frankenstein names her Lily and gives her a back-story: she was his cousin, and Clare was his intended. We still don’t know if her memories will return, so it’s difficult to say if this story is going to work–and what difficulties Frankenstein’s obvious affection for her is going to cause.

Speaking of difficulties…There was a survivor of Ethan’s attack at the Mariner’s Inn. He’s not in much shape to talk—possibly ever–but it still seems as thought his might cause trouble for Ethan: the police are still interested.

And finally, we turn to the Witchery of the Week. And my, my, are these witches bad. Madame Kali sees Malcolm–she’s buying perfume and asks for advice. She uses the moment for a bit of demonic whispering in his ear, which he doesn’t seem to notice at all. Later, the two go shooting together on a date-but-not-a-date. Madame pd3Kali is a sharp shot. Hmm. Madame Kali is also holding some “indiscreet” photos over Lyle’s head, threatening to release them if he doesn’t comply with her wishes–an interesting development.

Hecate is on the London Underground, stalking a small, young family. She attacks when they’re alone on the car, killing the two parents and stealing their infant. We at least don’t see her kill it, but we do see her give it to Madame Kali. And then, in something that was almost to squicky for me, we see her take the baby’s heart and put it into a wooden puppet of Vanessa. Queue Vanessa, across town, drawing a large, gasping breath.