Penny Dreadful: Above the Vaulted Sky

penny-dreadful-150531Previously on Penny Dreadful: The gang started making progress on decoding the relics, the sole survivor of the Mariner’s Inn massacre woke up but refused to talk, and the witches got a lock of hair off of Vanessa.

‘I believe we make ourselves what we are. The blood’s on our hands, not God’s.’

In a pre-credits sequence, Kali works on a new marionette, one that looks a lot like Malcolm’s wife. She cracks open the skull and reveals a brain. Wow, these things are really detailed. Hecate enters and holds out the hair she got from Vanessa. Kali is pleased and goes to start an incantation, but Hecate asks if she can do it. Kali smiles and allows her to go ahead. Hecate sees to that while Kali heats a hatpin and drives it into Mrs Murray’s marionette’s brain.

Mrs Murray wakes, screaming, clutching her head in agony. Is there no end to this poor woman’s torment?

At Malcolm’s, Ethan tells them how sieges work. He knows well, having served in a cavalry unit that was sent to annihilate a village of Apache Indians. He and his men snuck up on their camp, up in a mountain, and slowly encircling the camp and watched for hours before striking. ‘They had underestimated the ruthlessness of their enemies,’ he intones. It took 15 minutes to wipe out the tribe. He tells the others they can’t let themselves be infiltrated and destroyed.

Vanessa has figured out that the witches are making a Fetish, a sort of voodoo doll. She knows they have the hair, and Sembene knows this is a bad thing. Vanessa says they’re safe during the day, it’s the night they have to worry about, but there are ways to ward off witches. Ethan urges them to use every weapon at their disposal—guns, rituals, magic, whatever.

The next day, a massive iron door is fitted while Ethan and Malcolm load up guns and Sembene hangs some totems. Vanessa draws her blood scorpion on doors throughout the house. Ethan burns some incense. Lyle puts on a skullcap and prayer shawl and starts praying over a candle and, presumably, a copy of the Torah. He then starts covering up the mirrors throughout the house, taking a moment to stare at his own, terrified reflection in one.

Vanessa prays fiercely in her room after nightfall, and two of the witches appear on either side of her. She opens her eyes and sees one of them above her, and she flees to Ethan’s room, where he, too, is praying. She apologises, babbling that the witches were there, or maybe not, she’s not sure what’s real and what’s not anymore. He holds and comforts her but she won’t be eased. She paces and wishes she were mad so she could be locked away and have the doctors cut out the insanity, anything to make this end. She brings up suicide, but they both agree that’s not an option (one-way ticket to hell, in Catholicism). She asks if she can stay in his room for the night and he readily agrees and goes to sleep on the sofa. They talk about what makes a person what they are and Vanessa takes his arm and tells him that she accepts him as he is, no matter what. He gently urges her to sleep and kisses her on the forehead, as if she were a little girl, then goes to douse the candles. She requests they stay lit, which sounds really dangerous, but he relents and lies down on the sofa.

Caliban is throwing a bit of a wobbler because he wants his time with Lily and is tired of Victor putting him off. Victor calls his bluff and invites him to go up and talk to her, fine, but the consequences will be on his head alone. Cal  again castigates Victor for not being a better dad to him, which is a road I’m getting really tired of treading now. He then gathers himself and asks what Victor’s told Lily about him. Only that Cal was her fiancé before her ‘accident’. He gave no details of their romance, leaving that up to Cal. Cal asks how she responded  when she heard she was to marry him and Victor says she wanted to know if she must love him now and was told that she can do or feel as she likes. Cal agrees that’s the right thing and then quietly asks if she asked about his face. Victor says she knows he looks differently from her or Victor, but she has no other exposure to people so doesn’t know that much about how others should look.

They go upstairs to see her and find her reading (Romeo and Juliet, perhaps? It sounds like she’s muttering something about Juliet.) She springs to her feet as soon as they appear and Victor hands her over to Cal and excuses himself, ostensibly heading downstairs but actually sitting down on the steps to listen to their conversation. She politely invites Cal to sit. He compliments her dress and she says she likes it because Victor picked it out. Hmmm. He notes that she’s looking at his face and she aplogises and goes to get some water. He gets up and tells her that they were friends once and one night they were walking through the village and some men started laughing at the picture of the two of them together, and Lily took his hand and kissed it right in front of them. She tells him she doesn’t remember and asks if they can just be friends for now. Though it clearly pains him, he accepts that.

Ethan wakes at the Murray Fortress. Vanessa’s gone, but she left a prayer book on the bed.

Mrs Murray continues to writhe and scream in pain, foaming at the mouth as Kali puts more and more pins in the doll’s head.

Ethan goes out to stock up on ammo and is intercepted by Rusk, who asks him for a word or five back at his office. Ethan’s not keen, but he agrees, noting all the constables and plainclothes detectives lurking nearby.

Victor and Lily go to meet Vanessa for coffee. It’s Lily’s first time out, and she’s clearly been put through her paces by Victor. She’s all studied politeness and slight nervousness.

Rusk asks Ethan how he’s surviving, with no job and Ethan answers vaguely. There’s some talk about Rusk’s time in the Transvaal, which cost him a hand, and then the conversation turns to the Mariner’s Inn. Ethan claims not to know anything about the massacre. Rusk says that he and Brona are the only guests not accounted for. Ethan pretty much just shrugs. Rusk asks about the ammo but Ethan says he doesn’t have to answer anything. It’s not illegal to buy bullets and none of the people he’s being questioned about were shot. Rusk tells him about the survivor of the massacre, but the man seems a bit forgetful. Seems like kind of a stupid thing to tell a possible suspect. Rusk then asks what Ethan’s real name is, because apparently it’s not Ethan Chandler. That man doesn’t seem to exist. Ethan says he has nothing to say, and since he’s there of his own free will, he gets ready to leave.

Lily makes small talk and looks to Victor for approval, which he gives. Vanessa’s really sweet, keeping her talking and overlooking her slight awkwardness. She excuses herself and says she hopes to see them both soon. After she leaves, Lily asks Victor if she did all right. He reassures her she was perfect and kisses her hand. Vanessa looks on from the doorway and smiles fondly.

Rusk walks with Ethan, talking about his time in the Boer War, fighting guerrillas. He says it must have been like that against the Sioux Indians, but Ethan pretends ignorance of any of that. Rusk admits he’s having trouble getting any information on Ethan, but he’ll keep at it. Ethan leaves him, then ducks through a shop and escapes through a back alley to shake the tail Rusk has put on him.

Vanessa goes back to the soup kitchen and finds Cal there. They sit down for a chat and she asks if he knows he shares his name with a dead poet. Of course he does. He says he always felt a kinship with Clare, who was short and therefore considered a freak. The threshold of freakishness was seriously low back in the day. He always felt an affinity with the outcasts and broken things. He begins to quote ‘I Am’ by John Clare, and Vanessa picks up the poem part way through. She wonders if Clare ever found his place with God and Cal says the poem says he did, and Vanessa will too, someday. They talk about the little places were God is and Vanessa says she saw it earlier, when having coffee with a friend and the girl he’s clearly in love with. When she touched his hand, the look on his face was a sort of peace he’d never shown before. Cal says that sort of touch is lethal, because it puts your heart at the mercy of another. Vanessa says she’s never had luck with love (I’ll say) and Cal confesses he’s met a woman recently but he doesn’t know how to behave around her. He can quote poetry all day long but he can’t take her hand in his ugly hand or know when to laugh or how to dance. Vanessa offers to help with the latter and gives him a little dance lesson. It’s rather sweet, this friendship that’s sprung up between these two.

Ethan returns to the fortress, stopping to glance warily behind him as Sembene opens the door. Unknown to Ethan, the survivor is spying from across the square, staring at the house.

Oh, great, another diversion to Dorian’s story. He and Angelique have gone to the opera to enjoy a spot of Wagner, but during the interval some men see and recognize her. One of them calls her a little freak who tricked him into thinking she was a woman. Dorian tells him to shut up and kisses her hand. The douchebag spits on her and Dorian goes to kick his ass, but she stops him. Dorian gently wipes her face and she struggles to hold back tears.

As they leave, they pass Kali and Malcolm on a date of their own. As their drinks are delivered, she jabs him lightly with that magical ring of hers.

Ethan and Lyle are looking at the relics, which have Lyle a bit perplexed. The narrative suddenly breaks down and they’re left with just one phrase repeated in several different languages: Lupus Dei in Latin. He can’t figure out what the hell it means. It doesn’t seem to mean anything to Ethan, either.

Dorian takes Angelique back to his place, where she changes into some of his clothes. Dorian asks why he’s rejecting whom she is and Angelique accuses him of preferring ‘the freak’ because it adds a bit of spice to his life. She says she wasn’t what she was meant to be, even from birth, and she eventually ran away from home and came to London, where she was fit only for whoring, degradation, and ridicule. Dorian admits he’s never known that, but he understands what it’s like to be different. Angelique admits she’s exhausted, because she’s been fighting for so long. He approaches her and tells her she’s not fighting alone. She asks if he’d still care if she dressed as a man and he tells her he cares for who she is, not what she wears. They kiss passionately as a storm starts rolling in.

Kali and Malcolm are caught in the downpour and take refuge under the awning of a hotel, where Malcolm catches her and kisses her. He says he has to be with her. How convenient they’re right outside a hotel! They head inside.

Dorian and Angelique get it on. You know, I get that notions of freakishness and not feeling comfortable in one’s skin and being different are all recurring themes on this show, but I still can’t help but feel like this plotline is completely out of step with everything else that’s happening. Dorian’s such a sideline character, why’s he getting so much play with this? I’m glad to see issues relating to transgender identity getting some screentime, (though I can’t quite speak to whether or not this is being handled as sensitively as it should be,) but I don’t feel like this is really the place for it.

Ethan and Vanessa meet on the stairs and Malcolm’s and stare long and hard at each other.

Malcolm and Kali get it on.

Poor Mrs Murray gasping and shaking in her bed, starts to hallucinate that the graves of her two children have appeared just beyond the footboard of her bed. And then the gross, rotting corpses of those children start emerging from the graves, horribly, and she starts to panic, as anyone would.

Vanessa brushes Ethan’s hair back from his face, then continues down the stairs. He watches her go and tries to collect himself.

More sex. Dorian and Angelique. Kali and Malcolm. She stabs him again with her ring, this time in the neck.

The dead Murray children advance on their mother, who screams and tries to flee, only to find herself trapped against a wall. She finds Malcolm’s shaving kit in a bag by the bed and slits her own throat with the razor. She dies as the storm rages.

Lily is frightened by the storm, and a clap of thunder sends her running into Victor’s bed. He puts an arm around her and reassures her she’s safe. She thanks him and calls herself silly. They cuddle up, and once she’s calmed down, she starts to look at him, and then gently kisses him. His face is halfway between wanting this and knowing how Cal will react if he ever hears about it. They kiss again, and he suddenly sits up, pushing her away and turning his back. But she gently turns him back around and undoes her nightgown, placing his hand on her breast.

Lily and Victor get it on. Let’s place bets on who kills Victor first: Cal or Ethan.



3 thoughts on “Penny Dreadful: Above the Vaulted Sky

  1. I feel the same about Dorian’s line although it is quite an interesting one. Maybe all the threads will come together, as he is one of the “fallen”…
    In this particular episode there was a bit too much… detail of gay sex.

  2. By the way, the blind girl could be a perfect match to Cal!
    And WHY was Vanessa’s hair so curly when she and Ethan stared at each other? Could it be Hecate turned into Vanessa or did a witch awaken inside Vanessa (all those withes having those perfect curles)?

    1. Interesting theory about Vanessa. I admit I didn’t notice her hair being curlier than usual, but this could be a possibility. After all, what was that spell for, anyway?

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