Penny Dreadful: The Day Tennyson Died

penny-dreadfulPreviously on Penny Dreadful: Witches! And they wanted Vanessa, because apparently Vanessa is the Devil’s chosen one, or something along those lines. But Vanessa was not to be had, so Lucifer came out very much the loser on that one. And so did Kali, the head witch. Her daughter, Hecate, escaped the slaughter, though. To the surprise of exactly no one, Ethan turned out to be a werewolf, and unfortunately he wound up locked in a room with Sembene when he transformed. Fare thee well, Sembene! Afterwards, Malcolm decided to head back to Africa to give Sembene a proper send-off. Ethan promptly handed himself in to Inspector Rusk, the man investigating the massacre at that pub back in season 1. Rusk immediately produced an extradition order and put Ethan on a ship for America. Cal thought he’d found a great job but then nearly got turned into a sideshow attraction by his horrible employers. They are no longer with us. Pity. He then jumped onto a ship too, heading for the arctic, because why not? Victor fell in love with Lily, his own creation, and she played along for a while, but then revealed she remembers her whole history and HATES pretty much everyone, except for Dorian. The two of them are now a really terrifying power couple.

Judging from the level of dust, cobwebs and piled-up mail at the Murray Manse, it seems it’s been a while since we left everyone. Vanessa, apparently, has been spending the time smoking, comfort eating, and not bathing. She drags herself out of bed and goes down to the kitchen, which is absolutely disgusting now. She fetches the daily grocery delivery and starts tearing into the bread and drinking the milk straight from the jug like a fratboy with the munchies.

There’s a knock on the back door, startling her, and Lyle calls out for her to open up, because he knows she’s there and he’s not leaving until she answers the door. Vanessa gets up and admits him, looking for all the world like a feral animal. Lyle glances at the surroundings and jokes that he loves what she’s done with the place.

He lays down a black handkerchief to sit on in the sitting room and tells Vanessa that Tennyson has died, and that’s made lots of people sad. He then really sweetly tells her he’s worried about her and hates to see her living in such squalor. He manages to tease a tiny smile out of her. He continues, admitting that he went through a really rough time in his life, but he was helped immensely by a psychiatrist who basically saved his life. He hands Vanessa a card and tells her he’ll make an appointment. And in the meantime, she might want to do a little something with her hair… Vanessa smiles, grateful, and lays her head in his lap, crying. He strokes her hair and it’s really sweet and adorable. Stick around, Lyle!

Ethan’s on a train with Rusk and a bunch of federal agents, racing through the New Mexico desert. Rusk’s assistant talks about how much nothingness there is, but Rusk sees more—the snake holes and the skeletons. He and his assistant leave to go find a cup of tea. As they make their way to the club car, they pass Hecate, sitting in the adjoining passenger carriage.

In the passenger carriage, a man glances at his watch, eyes the marshal sitting next to the door to Ethan’s carriage, and then catches the eye of several other men sitting nearby. They all get up and start moving towards Ethan’s carriage, pulling guns and shooting all the marshals dead with some very well-placed head shots. Then they start opening fire on all the passengers, because why leave witnesses, I guess? One of them goes to shoot Hecate, who plays the ‘defenseless woman’ card, so they let her live. Inexplicably, they also let Rusk and his assistant go, even though they see the two of them returning from the bar car. Rusk and Assistant avoid the bullets by pausing between train carriages.

The man who started all this walks up to Ethan and welcomes him home, by name. Ethan is loaded onto a horse outside the train, and the man and his assistants gallop away. Rusk watches them disappear in the distance and the music gets SUUUUPER intense.

In Zanzibar, Malcolm drinks and VOs a letter to Vanessa in which he tells her that he buried Sembene in a private ceremony. He also notes that Africa has changed beyond recognition and he hates it now and can’t wait to leave, but he’s not sure where to go next. He’s an explorer, and restless, but it seems there are few places left to explore.

He finishes his drink and pays and is followed out into the street by some men. He’s stopped by a woman who begs for money, which he readily gives. He then notices the men behind him, and the woman whips out a pistol. Before she can use it, a thrown knife to the head takes her out. An American Indian man appears behind Malcolm’s would-be assailants, and between him and Malcolm, the men are taken care of. This isn’t just a chance rescue: Malcolm’s saviour knows exactly who Malcolm is. He helps himself to one of the dead men’s scalps.

The ship Cal is on is stranded in the Arctic ice. The remaining few crew members are all trying to decide what to do: one man advocates cannibalism, but the captain’s not on board with that, because it’s an unholy thing to eat human flesh. He thinks it’s better to die. Well, go ahead, then, but if it were me and these guys were already dead, I say make use of them. Let’s face it, meat is meat, when you’re starving.

The cabin boy, who’s clearly on his way out, coughs weakly and the captain goes to him, noting that the boy probably doesn’t have long. The man who wants to eat the crew members suggests they put him out of his misery, so they can eat, but Cal blocks his path and the man gives up pretty quickly. Guess he wasn’t all that committed to murdering and eating a child.

Cal goes to the boy and comforts him, softly singing a song, and in doing so, he’s suddenly jolted into a memory from his living past, of singing to a young boy in bed—his son, presumably. Hmm. He seems startled by this but tries to hold it together. He asks the captain how long the boy has. The captain says it’s just a few days. Cal says the others won’t even give him that long, and it’s best for the boy to die quickly. He breaks the kid’s neck, then wishes the others luck and strikes out across the froze wasteland.

Malcolm and his saviour sit down together. Malcolm has a drink, the other man does not. The other man says he’s Chiricahua Apache and he’s been following Malcolm all the way from London. He knows more about Malcolm than just his name: he’s also aware he’s fighting the ‘great deamons of earth and sky’ and will continue to do so the rest of his life. Malcolm claims to be done with that, but the man knows better. We all do. The man orders Malcolm to accompany him to America, because Ethan needs his help. This is not a request. We finally get a name: Kaetenay, and he says that Ethan is ‘almost his son’ the same way he’s a sort of son to Malcolm. Ethan’s got more family than he realises.

Ethan’s captors/rescuers stop for a break. The man in charge—let’s call him Beardy for now—is quite polite with Ethan, who correctly guesses that he and his comrades were sent by Ethan’s father to rescue him from people who would have hanged him. Ethan does not seem to get the warm fuzzies from any of this.

Back in London, a handsome, young Indian man makes his way through the streets of one of the crappier neighbourhoods, encountering some pretty gross racism along the way. He arrives at Victor’s door and raps on it. Victor opens it and greets him as Dr Jekyll. Ooooh!

Jekyll steps inside and asks Victor what’s wrong with him. These two are old friends, apparently. Jekyll notes the track marks on Victor’s arms. Victor is an absolute mess. I mean, he’s like Theon-as-Reek bad right now. Victor confesses that he’s been working on ‘the old work’ and has been successful. This was apparently a project he and Jekyll had started together. Jekyll tries to absorb that, as Victor goes on to say that he’s conquered death, but also created monsters. Jekyll reassures Victor that he can be trusted, because he’s Victor’s true friend. Victor gets ready to tell him everything.

Another twitchy person—Vanessa—makes her way to the psychiatrist’s office. She’s greeted by a very polite male secretary who asks if she has an appointment. Vanessa gives her name and he briefly disappears to see to it. While he’s gone, Vanessa’s hand starts twitching and she becomes bothered by the sound of the clock ticking and her reflection in its face.

She’s shown to the psychiatrist’s office. The psychiatrist—a woman appears and—hey! It’s Patti LuPone! Better known to us as The Cut Wife! Awesome! But she’s not the Cut-Wife here, she’s a super officious, brisk woman dressed in black with a hairstyle right out of the 1920s, just in case you weren’t aware that she’s really ahead of her time. She invites Vanessa to sit, while Vanessa just stares at her, half pleased and half freaked out. The woman goes on to explain that, if they move forward, they’ll meet for an hour every other day without exception. All sessions are confidential on both sides. She charges 10 shillings per session, which apparently was about as much as a dentist charged. Good to know. She notices Vanessa fussing with her hands and asks why she was doing that. Vanessa lies that she had an itch, which the woman calls BS on. The woman firmly tells her that she’s ill, not bad, not unworthy, just ill, and that’s why she’s seeing a doctor. There’s a bit of talk about finances: Vanessa says she has money—her own money, not a husband’s. The doctor says that Vanessa needs to leave all manners at the door and feel free to cry or scream or freak out or whatever she wants during these sessions. If she has a problem with that, she can leave. Vanessa guesses the woman doesn’t want her to leave, because Vanessa’s a puzzle and this woman likes her puzzles. We’re starting to see a spark of the old Vanessa here.
Vanessa says she knew a woman named Joan Clayton, who was much like this woman. The doctor admits that her family name is Clayton, but that’s immaterial. She orders Vanessa to appear the next day at ten. Also, she’s totally diagnosed Vanessa already: she knows that Vanessa is lonely and isolated and thinks she’s unworthy of happiness and affection. She’s lost something important: family or faith or both, and she thinks it’s all her fault, so she’s become neurotic and doesn’t sleep or eat anything healthy. She avoids mirrors, since she no longer takes care of her appearance. She avoids the sun but feels guilty about that, because who hates the sun? She’s an unconventional woman but tries to seem conventional so people will just leave her the hell alone. She tends to be drawn to dark, complicated men who can’t really be had, so she ends up alone, which she’s actually ok with, because she prefers it that way, but then she feels guilty about that, so the cycle just continues.

As Vanessa turns to leave, the woman gives her some homework: go do something you’ve never done, right now.

Victor shows Jekyll his workshop. Jekyll pokes around and tells Victor that it’s an amazing thing to have created life. Victor agrees, but says that every sin of his creations weighs on him, which is why he’s turned to drugs. Oh, Victor, you really need to learn to cope better with parenthood. Just drink wine, like the rest of us do.

Jekyll scolds him for having dropped off the grid for five years, and then suddenly summoning him out of the blue to tell him all this. He asks what Victor wants. Victor needs Jekyll’s skills as a chemist. Jekyll counters that he needs a sponsor first, because he’s a complete mess. Victor has no time for that, because he needs to destroy Lily, and he needs help with that. Jekyll says he’s not a killer. Victor reminds him of his days as a ‘shunned little half-caste boy’ crying himself to sleep and daily reciting the names of his enemies, Arya Stark-style. Jekyll says he mostly focuses on taming the beast within. He reminds Victor of how Victor used to be a romantic and says he knows he doesn’t want to kill Lily, he wants to tame her. He offers to do it for Victor, to turn her into the sweet girl she used to be. He tempts Victor by offering to ‘domesticate’ her and Victor agrees. Oh dear. Victor makes him promise they’ll destroy Lily if they fail in this endeavour. Jekyll kind of agrees.

Vanessa, trailed by a seriously creepy looking pale man, walks down the street. The man nods to an equally pale boy, who leaps into her path and offers her a death ribbon for Tennyson. She agrees to buy one, then gives him some side-eye. The boy says he has anaemia. He gets a little too excited talking about his own blood, so Vanessa grabs her ribbon and hastens away. But first he calls after her, calling her ‘my beloved,’ just like Lucifer did. Creeeeepy!

Vanessa find herself in front of The Natural History Museum (I believe) and goes inside. She looks intently at a stuffed wolf, then examines some scorpions in jars, seeming pleased to see them. A man joins her and starts chatting excitedly about them. He talks in a manner that makes it seem like he doesn’t really get out much, but it’s sweet and Vanessa seems a bit charmed. She tells him she’s touched a scorpion before, which amazes him. He’s Alexander Sweet, the guy pretty much in charge there. She introduces herself and the two of them bond a little over their shared childhood history of taxidermy. He goes on about all the amazing animals out there in the world and she asks if he has a favourite. He says no, but the ones he tends to like best are the unloved and unvisited ones. Wow, he’s really pushing all her right buttons, isn’t he? ‘All the broken, shunned creatures: someone’s got to care for them. Who shall it be, if not us?’ he wonders, a little heavy-handedly.

A colleague of his comes over to tell Sweet there’s some problem with a tiger. Vanessa excuses him, then returns home, looks around, and starts getting the place back in order. Wow, that one appointment was ten shillings well spent.

Vanessa writes a letter to Malcolm, telling him about Tennyson’s death and admitting she’s not been doing so well, but she’s getting better now. She says she hasn’t heard from Ethan and thinks he’s probably quite gone from their lives. She confesses that she lost her faith, and that made things seem really bleak, but with the old monsters gone at least she has some hope.

The doctor’s secretary locks up for the night, stealing some money on the way out. He takes it to Chinatown and buys a cheap prostitute, but while they’re going at it, something flies out of nowhere, kills her, and kidnaps him.

It’s the vampires, folks! They take the man to their warehouse hangout, and wow, there are a lot of them and they’re creepy as hell, crawling around like insects. The one in charge—the same creeper who was following Vanessa earlier, and the kid’s there too, so he’s not anaemic, he just has no blood left—approaches and notes the man’s just full of blood and that’s super tempting. The secretary’s so terrified he’s almost certainly both wet and soiled himself by now.

There’s a thudding noise, and all the vampires drop to the floor and scurry away. A rasping voice tells the secretary not to be scared and orders him to tell The Voice all about Vanessa. The secretary tells The Voice he knows nothing but The Voice says that he’ll learn things, and he’ll be reporting back. He asks the secretary’s name. Unsurprisingly, it’s Renfield. Voice orders Renfield to offer up his neck. Renfield’s understandably reluctant, but has little choice in the matter. Voice bears down on him as Renfield completely loses it. The Voice unnecessarily rasps that his name is Dracula.

Well, that was an exciting hour of television! I’m quite looking forward to seeing what transpires here. And good lord, what’ll happen to Lily if she gets the Jekyll/Hyde potion? Will she get even scarier? Guess we’ll just have to see!



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