Previously on Penny Dreadful: Vanessa started flirting with Dorian, who apparently slept with Ethan after a strange night at the theatre and perhaps too much absinthe. Ethan was dating Brona, the dying prostitute, who told him she was too lost a cause and he should just eff off already. Caliban wanted a girlfriend and threatened to take out anyone Victor passes the time of day with if he didn’t produce a girl immediately, and Malcolm lost his best link to the creature that has Mina.
In the immediate aftermath of the events from two weeks ago, Vanessa and Malcolm discuss the appearance of the creature and Fenton’s death. She refuses to stay in the room and he asks if she sensed anything the night before. She did not, because she can’t just summon these things at will. She can’t? She seemed pretty possessed of her abilities in the premiere. He accuses her of having forgotten Mina and why they’re doing this and reminds her that he lost his family. Speaking of, whatever happened to his wife? She just disappeared without an explanation. Same with Vanessa’s dad. She snaps that she lost her family as well and he backs down. She frowns beautifully and promises to try harder. Can anyone glower as glamorously as Eva Green?
Ethan shows up in Brona’s room, where she’s in bed, coughing away. He spoons up next to her and she asks what he did the night before. He vaguely answers that he went out with Dorian. ‘He’s a devil, that one,’ she says. Why does she think that? She and Dorian seemed to be getting along pretty well when they were having that naughty photo session that turned into sex, and he was nice to her at the theatre, so what’s her deal with him all of a sudden? She apologises for being kind of crazy the night before and he tells her not to worry about it. They exchange I Love Yous, which might be touching if I really bought into their relationship, which I totally don’t.
At Malcolm’s, Vanessa starts dealing her tarot cards. I can’t help but wonder when and where she learned to do this. I find it highly unlikely that someone brought up a strict Catholic would have been taught tarot, so did she learn it at the asylum? After her mother’s death? From whom?
Somehow, the cards bring something on—the sounds of people screaming in agony. She goes to Malcolm and tells him the cards suggest a ship or something to do with the river trade, and something awful happening on the ship. He goes to check the shipping registry for any interesting reports, but first Dorian is escorted in to apologise to Vanessa for skipping out on the theatre the night before and to invite her out on an adventure. She says she’s currently busy but Malcolm urges her to go. She’s cutely pleased and goes to get her coat.
Victor’s got Fenton on a slab and gets started on an autopsy.
At the theatre, the cute ingénue Cal likes comes to his belowstage lair to seek him out for a repair to her blood spurting apparatus. He rather heartbreakingly shrinks into the shadows and keeps himself as hidden as he can. While he fixes her blood tube, she notes all his books and urges him to call her by her first name, reminding him that they’re all a family there. She’s really sweet, and explains why she’s not shocked by his appearance: her brother was scarred badly in a steam engine explosion. She regrets that he always looked away from her after that. By the way, her brother’s name was Lucifer. Off of Cal’s WTF face she explains that it means ‘bring out the light’ or something like that. It’s still a horrible name to give your kid, though, no matter what it means. I’m sure Hitler or Pol Pot have some benign meanings if you look hard enough, but that’s still no reason to saddle an innocent child with the moniker. Not that that’s stopped some people (should I be surprised that a man who went on to name one of his children Adolf Hitler wanted to name one of his kids Lucifer? No, I should not). Anyway, the family calls the poor guy Luke, which begs the question of why they didn’t just name him that in the first place. She thanks Cal and leaves and he practically hyperventilates in joy.
Malcolm’s going through the shipping notices when Victor appears and reports that there was nothing unusual in Fenton’s autopsy, aside from malnutrition and anemia. Fenton wasn’t totally supernatural, though Victor agrees that he had some way of communicating with the creature. He wants to discuss this with Van Helsing while Malcolm goes back to his notices. Malcolm shortly dismisses Victor, who looks a little hurt.
Sembene appears in the doorway and asks Malcolm what’ll happen if he finds Mina but can’t save her. Malcolm insists she will be saveable, but Sembene knows that some people just can’t be. Malcolm, of course, doesn’t want to face that possibility.
Dorian’s taken Vanessa to his home to have her photographed. She admits it’s her first time, because she always had a resistance to it. But she can deny Dorian nothing. She asks what he’ll do with this little bit of her soul and he promises to protect it. He admits to preferring paintings to photographs, because photographs only catch a moment while paintings can capture eternity. The photographer asks her to hold still and tells her she can look at the camera or look away. Unsurprisingly, she looks straight at it. The camera’s flash takes us into the next scene…
The ingénue returns to her room to find a gift from Cal: The poetic works of Milton. Cal spies on her opening it from behind a grate. Is he totally turning into the Phantom of the Opera or what? We should just rename him Eric and be done with it. In the meantime, we may as well just call her Christine, right? At least until she’s given an actual name. She seems really pleased with the gift, and then the douchebag actor who hates Cal comes in and asks what the book is. She says it’s a love token and he jokingly asks if he has a rival. ‘Hardly,’ she answers as he goes to kiss her. Poor Cal retreats below the stage to cry. Awww, I really feel for him. He’s actually becoming the character I’m most interested in on this show.
Dorian returns Vanessa home and she asks him out to dinner.
Victor spies on a ballet class and writes ‘subject?’ in his notebook as he eyes one of the girls. Creepy! Van Helsing joins him and they repair to a restaurant to talk about their relationships (Van Helsing had his late wife, but Victor, unsurprisingly, is fairly asexual.) Van Helsing’s sure Victor will find his girl someday and urges him not to let his work control him. Victor hints about what he’s done and Van Helsing looks curious, asking Victor to share his story. Victor promises to do so someday.
That evening, Vanessa comes downstairs, all dressed up, and goes to Malcolm for some fatherly approval. After last week’s episode, I’m a bit curious as to when things thawed out between them. Also, considering the form the demon that possessed her took, scenes like this have started to take on a rather creepy edge. Malcolm reacts like a proud daddy, telling her she looks great and not too slutty at all. She asks what he’s up to that evening and he lies that he’s just going over the books for his upcoming African adventure. As soon as she’s gone, he gets his coat from Sembene and the two men depart.
Ethan loads up his guns, ready for another night of craziness. Brona worries about him a little and he reassures her he’ll be fine. She warns him it’s best for him to keep a safe distance from her, but he comes over and lays one on her anyway, figuring it’s a bit too late for that. She gives him her St Jude medal—patron saint of lost causes—and asks him to wear it for her. Thanks, that’s a lovely reminder of how their relationship is going.
Ethan meets up with Malcolm and Sembene and hears they’re going to explore a plague ship. These guys really know how to spend a Friday night.
Van Helsing takes Victor to a library and tells him that Malcolm doesn’t really know what he’s seeking, but they shouldn’t enlighten him, because the truth is unendurable. So, it’s better to just hope he never finds what he’s seeking, I guess? Because if he does find it and is totally unprepared, that’s got to be even worse than being faced with a supposedly unendurable truth, right? Van Helsing explains that his late wife didn’t succumb to a disease. She died when Van Helsing drove a stake through her heart and cut off her head. That’ll do it.
On the way to the ship, Ethan and Malcolm talk about Brona. Malcolm gently asks if he’s considered an institution for her. Ethan checked one out, but it was more of a prison. Malcolm offers to pay for a private place in the country, which is really generous of him. Ethan thanks him but politely declines. Malcolm warns him she’ll need opiates soon, and will cease to be the person she currently is. Ethan staunchly says he’ll love the person she becomes.
They find the ship they’re looking for. Malcolm explains that it came from Cairo and has been in quarantine ever since. He thinks the fact that it came from Cairo and the hieroglyphics they found on the first creature means the two are related somehow.
Dorian and Vanessa are dining out at a nice restaurant. Dorian talks about all the different life philosophies he’s tried out, none of which really worked out for him. They talk religion (she tells him she has a complicated history with God, which is putting it mildly) and she says she believes there are tremors around all of them and some people are more attuned to them than others. She thinks those people must be sort of alien to those around them, which she considers a curse, but he thinks to be different and powerful is a blessing. She suggests it’s lonely, and he adds that someone like that would be seeking another like them.
Van Helsing explains vampires to Victor, who’s never heard of them, because they’re really the stuff of penny dreadfuls, uninspired literature, and Balkan folktales. Considering Victor’s love of the romantics, you’d think he’d be aware of John William Polidori’s The Vampyre, which was written as part of the same contest that saw the birth of Mary Shelley’sFrankenstein, but since we’re obviously supposed to ignore the existence of that novel in this universe, maybe we’re ignoring The Vampyre as well.
Vanessa checks out Dorian’s portrait gallery and she asks why he’s so drawn to pictures of people. He just finds them interesting and mysterious. He asks what kind of music she wants to listen to. ‘Meaning, who do I want to be at this moment?’ she says. Geez, evenings with these two are a bit exhausting. Just pick a song, Vanessa, it doesn’t have to be deeply meaningful. She says she wants to be Dorian Gray and asks what he wants to be. He wants to be himself without limits, so she suggests he put on dancing music. He puts on a song (which is totally not a dancing song) and comments on her poise, asking what would happen if she abandoned it. She says she can’t, because there are dangerous things in all of us that need to be controlled. He asks if he can kiss her neck and she tells him not to ask, to just do something if he wants to, and risk rejection. He is not rejected.
Back with Victor and Van Helsing. Van Helsing says vampires work in packs and move from place to place, sowing destruction all over.
Malcolm, Sembene, and Ethan head belowdecks on the plagued ship. It’s quiet there. They start poking around and find some vampire women, asleep. A quick check reveals none of them are Mina. Malcolm insists she must be there. The camera reveals that the creature’s there, asleep.
Van Helsing and Victor continue their conversation while walking down the street and Van Helsing warns Victor not to get too wrapped up in this dangerous stuff, because he’s young and has a lot to offer the world. And just then, Cal comes out of nowhere, grabs Van Helsing, drags him down an alleyway, and breaks his neck. Woah. Ok, so, that’s it for Van Helsing, I guess. Cal once again tells Victor to keep his promise, or see more tragedies like this. He departs and Victor cradles Van Helsing, weeping.
Vanessa and Dorian head upstairs to his bedroom.
Still on that plague ship, the men keep looking. The creature wakes, and so do the women, and they start attacking. With guns and knives the men manage, with difficulty, to fight them all off. In the process, a lamp is knocked over and starts a fire. Once the women are dead, the creature appears on the other side of the flames with Mina, who calls out to her father. Malcolm wants to go to her, but the flames keep them apart. A burning beam falls, just to illustrate that point, and Sembene and Ethan drag Malcolm out.
Vanessa and Dorian have sex, which quickly gets weird when he produces a small knife to cut off her corset. She then takes the knife and starts to cut him, licking up the blood as it flows out of him. Ewwww. As the sex gets more energetic, she suddenly goes into some sort of trance or something. Everything gets all slow motion-y and disjointed, and a man’s voice says ‘hello, my child. I’ve been waiting. What games we will have now.’ Vanessa freaks out, grabs her clothes, and gets out of there, leaving Dorian wearing the WTF face now.
Back at Malcolm’s, Ethan tries to brightside that at least they know she’s alive now, and they’ll find her again. Malcolm’s not so sure and Ethan comments that Malcolm reminds him of his father and he can’t control anything. He says they both need to put their trust in Vanessa. Not sure why he thinks that, but ok.
Dorian goes down to his secret portrait room, uncovers his painting, and as he looks at it, the wounds so recently inflicted by Vanessa start to magically heal.
Vanessa returns home, looking like absolute hell, and goes into Malcolm’s study. He starts to tell her about his evening, but suddenly her eyes roll up and her body levitates and begins rotating in midair. I think she wins the prize for freakiest evening, Malcolm.