Penny Dreadful: A Blade of Grass

pennydreadful3040075rjpgPreviously on Penny Dreadful: Vanessa found out that Dracula’s met up with her before—when she was a patient at the Banning Clinic—so she demanded Seward hypnotize her so she could remember. At the start of the hypnosis, she discovered that the orderly at the clinic was none other than Cal.

Seward asks Vanessa to describe the orderly, which takes us back to Vanessa in the Clinic, literally clawing the walls. Cal brings her food, but she refuses to eat, and after a few (or several) days of this, he gently urges her to eat, warning her that starving herself will have consequences. Those consequences are forced feeding, which Cal has to administer. Well, this relationship’s gotten off to a great start. Cal clearly hates doing this.

Seward appears in the room and asks Vanessa why she was starving herself. Vanessa says she was trying to kill herself, because she was evil, touched by the Devil. And there was another demon too, but she can’t remember who he was.

Seward’s gone, and it’s just Vanessa and her memories now. Days pass. Cal goes about his work, swapping out her chamberpot and mopping the floors and bringing food while Vanessa sits on her bed, knees to chin, watching. One day, he sets a plate of food on the floor and refuses to bring it to her, instead sitting on a chair and basically telling her to get it herself. She says that she’s tired because she was tortured that day. He says she wasn’t tortured, she’s being made well, but other treatments will begin the next day. She asks if it’s day or night, since she can’t tell, being locked in a windowless room. He asks what she would prefer it to be and she says night, so he agrees it’s night. She finally crawls off the bed, ordering him to bring her the food. He still refuses. She figures he thinks she’s a spoiled brat and he just says he can’t talk to her. That’s a ‘yes,’ then. She asks what the new treatment is. Hydrotherapy. That sounds like you’ll spend a nice time floating in a bath or something, but actually it just means she’ll be sprayed with hoses on full blast.

Afterwards, she’s put back in her room, still soaking and shivering. Cal brings her a fresh chamberpot and takes in her condition, then returns a little later with a blanket. She grabs it and immediately wraps it around herself. He leaves her to it.

Later, he returns and tells her he needs the blanket back, because she’s not actually supposed to have it. She sobs, wrapped up in it, and begs to be allowed to keep it, sounding quite a bit like my two-year-old. She finally hands the blanket over, but when Cal goes to leave she jumps him. They wrestle, and he finally gets the upper hand and goes. She throws herself at the door, then begins to weep pathetically.

For that little stunt, she gets put in a straitjacket. Cal brings food and spoon feeds her. She meekly eats and asks how long she has to wear the jacket. He says it’ll come off when Banning decides she’s not dangerous. She apologises for having scraped up his face and he says there’ll be no more of that. She agrees, since there’s no fight left in her. At least, that’s what everyone wants. He kind of jokingly says he’d love that, because it’d be safer. He then reassures her that what’s being done to her isn’t torture, it’s science. It’s meant to make her better. She counters that it’s meant to make her docile, like all the other women out there. He shrugs that none of the women he knows, including his wife, are docile.

Vanessa thinks God has forgotten her there, and that she now has nothing, no purpose. He goes on feeding her and she asks again if it’s day or night. She wants it to be day, so it’s day. She asks his name but he tells her he’s not allowed to say. He urges her to get better, because the treatments just get worse from here. He won’t elaborate on that. She wonders how she can get better if she’s not ill. He asks what she is, if she isn’t ill, and she says he probably wouldn’t believe her if she said. But she does say, telling him she’d been touched by Satan because her faith wasn’t strong enough.

He considers that, and feeds her another spoonful of food and starts telling her about his son, and how he used to feed him like this when he was a baby, using the same wooden spoon he’s using now. She asks his son’s name, but he can’t tell her that either. Tears start oozing out from under her lashes, so lonely and isolated and hopeless is she. He goes to leave, telling her he believes her, about Lucifer. After all, he was there. And then his eyes go demon-black and he smiles wolfishly and says they have a lot of catching up to do.

Seward reappears and tries to get her to talk more about this, but Vanessa’s freaked out and demands to be brought out of the hypnosis. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be possible: she’s stuck and Seward can’t even rouse her with a cigarette to the hand, so it looks like she’s just going to have to persist until she fully faces her trauma. Fun!

Things go on. Vanessa is gagged as well as straitjacketed. Cal comes to see her, bringing a book. He gently sits her down in a chair, takes out the gag, and brushes her hair with a brush he’s brought along too. He says he’s sick to see her like this, and really does think this is torture now. He goes on to say he’ll have to mess up her hair before morning, so nobody knows he’s been helping her out and fires him. He then plunks down on her bed to apply some makeup (to Vanessa) and talk about his wife, Margery, who lent him the brush and the makeup and told him what to do. He explains to Vanessa that he wants to leave this place, but he needs the work and jobs are scarce. But he’s hopeful that both of them will leave there, someday. Maybe even together! Makeup applied, he holds up a mirror, but Vanessa won’t even look at herself. He gently urges her to have a look and she does, seeming startled by her (vastly improved) appearance. He tells her that this is who she is and she mustn’t forget that. She finally manages to smile, even as a few tears run down her face. He puts the mirror aside to read A Child’s Garden of Verses. This is so terribly sweet.

The night passes, and he gets to the end of the book and regretfully tells her he has to go before the day shift arrives. He wipes off the makeup and tells her how sorry he is, promising that someday no one will touch her unless she wants to be touched, or do anything else to her. He ruffles her hair, and then sadly replaces the gag. He then tells her he’s not really religious, but he’ll pray for her anyway. Her eyes express her gratitude. At the door, he pauses and tells her it’s Christmas. Um, Merry Christmas?

Time passes. Vanessa’s parents stop coming and she admits to Cal that she’s pretty sure her life will end here. She regrets not having lived a bit more and decides to try and seduce Cal. She takes off her gown and approaches him as he looks away, embarrassed. She hugs him tightly, then kisses him. He’s fighting it, and eventually manages to get control of himself and push her away, then helps her back into her gown. She says she should have died a virgin, like Joan of Arc, singing on a funeral pyre.

Cal warns her that, if she doesn’t start to improve, Banning will resort to surgery, and she really doesn’t want that. He describes the surgery—and the unsavoury results—in detail in a desperate effort to scare her into saving herself. Vanessa, beaten down, just shakes her head, so he urges her to at least fake being well. He asks if it’s really worth it, to be special, and she asks if he would want his son to be other than he is. Cal would not, so she asks him not to ask the same of her.

He sits down beside her and asks her to explain just what’s going on with her. ‘Why would the devil be interested in you?’ he asks. She has no idea, so Cal, now possessed by Lucifer again, answers for her: because he loves her.

Vanessa rushes to the door, but of course it’s locked, so she’s trapped in here with the Devil. She tells him, even as she gets as far away from him as she can, that she won’t fear him anymore. He doesn’t want her to fear him, he wants her to embrace him of her own volition.

Lucifer: What’s so great about God anyway? He leaves people to starve and has clearly abandoned you. Join me, we’ll have a wild time together!

Vanessa: You may have a point. Maybe burning the earth down and then going after God himself is the way to go.

But just as it seems like he’s getting somewhere, there’s sinister laughter and Lucifer drops to the floor in a corner. Another Cal appears, this time possessed by Dracula. He and Satan are brothers, as you’ll recall, and they don’t get on. The two of them take some verbal jabs at each other. Dracula may have the upper hand, though, because Lucifer only exists as long as people believe in him, and a world of science finds it hard to believe in superstition.

Dracula and Vanessa begin circling one another as he tells her how powerful she is and urges her to embrace that power. Lucifer warns her not to give in to his appeals to her lust, because she’s more than that, she’s spirit and soul.

Dracula: You want her soul? Go ahead, I have no use for it. I just want the fleshy bits.

He asks Vanessa to give him her blood and be his bride and they’ll bring an end to this reign of man. She’s certainly seduced by all this, and by his promises of freedom for her and celebration of her uniqueness. She asks for his name and he gives it. Kind of rude of him not to introduce himself before now. But apparently the word ‘Dracula’ somehow snaps her out of her reverie and she throws herself away from him and tells the two that neither of them will have her, because she’s already pledged to God.

Dracula and Satan: We don’t take rejection well at all. Get ready for a truly shitty life.

Vanessa: Bring. It.

She begins speaking in tongues and levitates off the floor. The two demons start to look nervous and back away.

Vanessa comes back to herself, now sitting in her room with Cal again asking why the devil would be interested in her. She just asks to get some sleep, because she’s really tired. He agrees and says he wishes he could turn off the light. She tells him not to worry about it.

Seward appears again and tells Vanessa she can come out of this now. Vanessa whispers that she’s not quite done yet.

Cal brings food and notes that Vanessa’s head has been shaved, in preparation for her surgery the next day. He tells her how sorry he is and she says she tried to pretend to be well, as he suggested, but she wasn’t quite good enough. Banning asked her to speak about her faith and she told him that God’s immortal glory lives in her, and his response to that was: you’re crazy! Let’s cut that crazy right out of you!

She asks Cal if there’ll be anything left of her, once it’s done, but he has no answer. She asks if it’ll be painful and he reassures her she’ll be sedated. He sits down beside her as she eats and she makes conversation about his wife, adding that she herself would be a terrible wife. Cal quietly informs her that he’s leaving the job the following day, because he just can’t do it anymore. He was helping his son build a wooden ship the other night and his son asked where ships like this visit. Cal told him they go to the frozen north, where no one lives because it’s cold and lonely all the time, and then he just started crying because he realised he was wrong: that someone does live in the place where it’s cold and lonely all the time. Vanessa smiles at him, touched, and takes his hands. Aww! He promises to stay to see her through tomorrow, because he wants the last person she sees before her surgery to be someone who loves her. She gently and affectionately kisses him and he says goodbye.

Vanessa comes to in Seward’s office. Seward immediately gets them both drinks and apologizes for the cigarette burning thing. Desperate times and all that. Seward asks Vanessa what she remembers. Vanessa remembers everything, very clearly, and she can now name the thing that once frightened her: Dracula. He doesn’t frighten her anymore. Vanessa’s ready to go kick some more demon butt, folks!



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