Previously on Penny Dreadful: Vanessa’s sexy date with Dorian was interrupted by the arrival of her old possession demon friend.
Vanessa reclines on a sofa in the sitting room, a steaming cup of tea at her side, musing on how messed up Victorian ideas of feminine beauty are, while Malcolm listens nearby. Malcolm tells her that the evening before she went into some bizarre fit. She’s oddly relaxed about that and apparently doesn’t remember it. She starts chatting and it quickly becomes obvious she’s channeling Mina. She’s got that little kid voice on again and babbles about how her fat mother cried in her loneliness whenever he was away, and that he hated her for being fat and preferred pursuing lean ladies. Her voice growing dark, she tells him to tell her about the other women, scolding him for not going to Mrs Ives’s funeral. She goes on to list the other women he was with, the prostitutes in Zanzibar and the native women he met along his journeys. He tries to contain his rage as she goes on, and then her anger starts to create a hurricane in the room powerful enough to throw furniture and books around. She stares at him as Sembene comes in and Malcolm looks helpless. Sembene takes things into his own hands and hits her twice, knocking her out. The enchantment breaks. He takes her upstairs as Malcolm looks at the wreckage of the room.
In her bedroom, Vanessa stares at her reflection in the mirror, looking horrified, as Victor comes in with his doctor’s bag. She tries to tell him she’s just fine now, but he still insists on examining her. He does some basic tests, and she seems herself for a while and says she has no memory of what happened downstairs. She’s afraid they’ll bring in an alienist but Victor says he doesn’t favour that kind of treatment. As he checks her out, she starts to get strange, guessing he’s a virgin, and then quotes a line from Shelley’s Adonais that he mentioned to Van Helsing last week before calling him ‘demon’, as Cal does. Victor’s clearly creeped out and gathers his things. She asks if the examination is over, but he says it’s not yet begun.
Downstairs, Malcolm tells him this has happened before, but not to this extent. Victor asks if she’s experienced sexual trauma in her life. Malcolm doesn’t think so. Victor still thinks that this condition is rooted in some deep psychosexual issues. Her date with Dorian apparently triggered it, producing feelings of guilt which caused a sort of psychological break. As he talks, he plays with one of her tarot cards, but he stops suddenly when he sees a huge spider crawling over his hand. And then there are spiders covering her tarot table, pouring off of it and onto the floor. As they advance on the men, Vanessa starts howling like an animal upstairs.
Sometime later, Ethan shows up. Malcolm comes down to greet him and asks if he brought his weapons. He has. He’s taken upstairs to see Vanessa, who’s now rocking back and forth on the floor, groaning and grunting. Apparently she’s actually in her right mind for the moment, since she manages to excuse her appearance. Ethan goes to her, concerned, and she says she’s fighting this, but it’s almost impossible. He takes her hand and squeezes it comfortingly, and she then asks him if he was top or bottom during sex with Dorian. She’s getting all kinds of good gossip, isn’t she? As the demon takes hold, she says they should tell Brona, who already knows Dorian and had sex with him herself. She then launches herself on Malcolm, so the men pin her down so Victor can sedate her. I’ll bet she’s developing a whole new sympathy for Fenton just about now. Before she goes under, she yells something in another language.
Downstairs, Malcolm guesses she’s been possessed by the devil. Ethan ridiculously orders Victor to do something, and Victor informs him that evil possession is no longer covered in med school. Malcolm tells them about the Egyptologist’s belief that Vanessa’s demon is the goddess Amunet, and if that creature fully takes hold, it’ll be really bad. Ethan suggests getting a priest in, which Victor scorns. Malcolm agrees that they need to handle this in-house, because Vanessa trusts them. He asks Ethan to stay and help them, and Ethan agrees. He asks Malcolm what she was saying earlier, before she knocked out. Malcolm says it was Arabic for ‘let me die.’
Vanessa possession montage. She rages as the men pin her down, then finally calms down enough for them to put her to bed. Night turns to day. She howls, bringing Victor and Malcolm running. Ethan tries to stomach the noises. Victor cleans up some sick and looks exhausted. He takes refuge in the study and shoots up. Day turns to night.
Ethan sits at Vanessa’s bedside. She wakes, and is herself (for now). She asks how long she was out and hears it’s been a week. Yikes! He brings her some water when she asks for it and tells her there’s been talk of restraining her so she doesn’t hurt herself. She tells him how awful it is having this thing inside her, scratching away, clawing to get out. He asks if she wants a priest to talk to and she says she’s not sure it’ll do her any good. She asks him to make sure she doesn’t hurt anyone and he promises. She then asks him to kill her, if that becomes necessary. That leads to talk about heaven and hell. He believes in both places, because he knows them personally, having been cast out of one and into the other. Yes, it’s not Ethan at all, but that demon of hers who takes various guises. She struggles against him and calls him a coward for forever hiding behind others’ faces. He admits to being afraid, but what scares him most of all is the thought of someone not fulfilling all their greatness. He calmly tells her she can’t resist him forever. She says she can at the moment, and that’s what counts. She asks him what he wants and he says he wants her to be the mother of evil and to rule the darkness by his side. I guess he puts her into some sort of trance because, well, she seems ok with all of that. You know all women just want to be mommies, right?
Outside, Sembene sits sentinel in the hallway. The real Ethan is downstairs, fingering the St Jude medal Brona gave him. Malcolm asks if he’s thought of coming along to Africa. Ethan’s not interested, and furthermore, he thinks Malcolm’s a fool for going. They both accuse the other of constantly running away from their troubles, doling out some low blows along the way. Malcolm tells Ethan that he needs to go to Africa because he needs to bring his son’s body home. Well, that’s what he tells himself at least.
Vanessa screams upstairs, and by the time they get up there, she’s tossed Victor aside and is clawing at the walls. One of her arms turns black and she starts convulsing. Hieroglyphics appear on her chest briefly, as if burned there, and she begins insanely clawing at her arms. The others restrain and sedate her before she harms herself.
Victor shoots up again, watched by Malcolm, who guesses it’s morphine. Victor’s an addict, something he readily admits to. Malcolm doesn’t seem to have a problem with that. I guess he understands the need to dull one’s senses from time to time. He goes upstairs and Victor wanders over to the open window, looks out, and sees Cal standing nearby, watching the house. He puts his hand up to the glass, but then turns away when Ethan comes in and asks how Vanessa is. Sleeping, for the moment. Ethan wonders what they’ll do next and Victor says he’s going to try vitamins and things, mostly just to keep her alive. He admits they may have to give up on her at some point. Ethan closes the door and says he’s not sure Malcolm is being honest with them about why he wants Vanessa to live. Victor thinks it’s because Malcolm cares for her like a daughter, but Ethan doubts it. He tells a story about how, when the American army takes over a native tribe, they take the kids, cut their hair, give them European names, and ship them off to boarding schools. Some kids escape, only to be rejected by the tribes and basically left between worlds, belonging nowhere, like Vanessa. It doesn’t tend to go well for them. Victor returns to the window and notes that it’s snowing. Cal is still standing there. Victor turns back to Ethan and asks him for shooting lessons.
He gets them, in the basement of the house, which seems pretty unsafe, it being all stone and all. Isn’t ricochet a risk here? Victor does fairly well, and gets really excited. He asks Ethan to do some shooting, and with a little prodding, Ethan does, shooting down all the bottles they’re using as targets. Sembene comes down to find out what the racket is, on Malcolm’s behalf, and Ethan jokes that they’re in trouble with ‘dad’. Just in case anybody still watching has missed this whole ‘formation of a family’ thing going on.
Back to Vanessa. More madness montage. She’s tied hands and feet to her bed and lies there, sobbing. Ethan looks like he can’t take much more of this. They all look like that, actually. Ethan brings Sembene some soup, and when Sembene says it’s good, Ethan takes that as a cue to sit down and do a little get-to-know-you session. He talks about himself a little and where he’s travelled to in the States and asks Sembene what his story is. Semebene claims he has no story. Ethan thinks he’s beholden to Malcolm, but Sembene suggests it might be the other way around. Sembene thinks they should call a priest for Vanessa.
Malcolm’s sitting by Vanessa’s bed. When she’s quiet, he gets up, goes to her, and wakes her. He quietly tells her she’s in a special place, between their world and another, just like Mina. So, maybe Vanessa can reach out to Mina while she’s there? Vanessa looks horrified. Malcolm gets insistent and she accuses him of wanting this and allowing it to continue, so she could get in touch with his daughter. He says that’s not true but asks her to at least try. She begins to cry, calls him cruel, and then Ethan comes in and tells Malcolm to get away from her.
In the hallway, Ethan yells at Malcolm and says they need to get a priest. Victor kind of backs him, saying they can’t bring her back on their own. Malcolm thinks they can get this priest to try an exorcism, which Victor is not ok with. Ethan tells Malcolm to do the right thing here, because there’s a dying woman. Malcolm tells them to get the priest. Ethan tells him that, if he did in fact let this happen so he could manipulate Vanessa, he’ll kill him personally.
A little later, Malcolm asks Victor for some drugs to help him rest. Victor complies, explaining that this was given to him as a kid, for his asthma, and left him addicted. Malcolm talks a bit about his son, and how he asked his father to name a mountain after him. But Malcolm went and named it after himself, something he clearly now regrets.
The priest arrives and Malcolm tells him they’re dealing with a possession here. The priest says that exorcism is forbidden by canon law, so all he can do is administer last rites. Victor, at the end of his rope, tells him to just do it and then get lost. Malcolm takes the priest upstairs.
The priest takes a gobsmacked look at Vanessa and her totally wrecked room and nearly flees, but his way is blocked by Ethan. So, he gets to work. As he goes to bless her with holy water, she remembers the doctor at the asylum who tortured her with water. The priest unwisely leans in to hear her, and suddenly she snaps all her restraints, bites off his ear, leaps onto the wall, comes down, and begins attacking Malcolm. Ethan hauls her off, and all the windows shatter. Ethan screams for the priest to get out. He flees, and Victor is sent flying after him. Soon it’s just Ethan in the room with her, and he draws his pistol and holds it towards her, begging Vanessa to come back to them. And she does, but only to tearfully beg him to kill her already. He holds the pistol to her chest, his eyes filling with tears, and she steels herself. But the seconds pass, and something seems to overtake him. He kisses the medal, starts talking Latin (I think), and presses it to her forehead. He keeps repeating the Latin, getting louder, as something groans and screams and Vanessa writhes and yells, eyes darting. And then, suddenly, it’s over. She draws in a whistling breath, and collapses onto the floor. Ethan looks down at her and then leaves the room, passing the other men in the hallway. He gathers his hat and coat and leaves, walking out into the snow. Malcolm goes into Vanessa’s room and finds her sleeping peacefully, in bed.
Vanessa is still in bed, looking a little better. She dreams of being back in the theatre, and seeing Mina on the beach, and suddenly she wakes. She goes into Malcolm’s room, startling him, and tells him she knows where Mina is.