Penny Dreadful has quickly become my favorite horror show on television. I feel like it’s one of those things that is made just for me! Dark, bloody, classy, and ballsy all at the same time, John Logan’s Victorian monster mash returned for its second season last night and boy, oh boy, they wasted no time diving in. The biggest props, I think, belong to Helen McCrory and her Madame Kali character who burst out of the gate in full force with no time to spare. It’s incredible to me that a character who appeared in essentially two scenes last season, and who we know will serve as the “big bad” this season, already felt so developed, complex and absolutely terrifying. If the premiere episode was any indication, we’re in for one hell of a ride. And now, let’s recap episode 201 of Penny Dreadful, “Fresh Hell.”
The episode opens with Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) walking through the snow where people walk and children play. Suddenly, a woman, Madame Kali, is standing, watching and speaking Latin words that bring Vanessa to her knees. She sees flashes of The Devil, something that’s been haunting her her entire life. Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) awakes bloody and sore on the floor of a bar. He’s shocked at what he finds: dead bodies strewn about and the room in complete shambles. What has he done? Why can’t he remember?
Vanessa arrives home and exits her carriage when she is approached by Ethan, who needs to talk to her. They get back in the carriage and he tells her that he’s leaving, that he can’t be trusted during his “blackouts.” He’s freaked out and he is ready to be done with the demonic battle that fell upon them in season one. Just then, the carriage is attacked by creatures who look like women but bald, with strange markings on their bodies. Ethan and Vanessa struggle with the creatures when finally Vanessa speaks to one of them in Latin and she becomes frightened and flies away. Ethan and Vanessa emerge from the carriage and see the carnage of their driver and the horse. The three women watch from the shadows and transform into well dressed, normal looking women. They are witches.
Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) and his Creature (Rory Kinnear) are in Victor’s lab prepping Brona Croft’s (Billie Piper) body for life. They have to wait for a lightning storm and in the meantime, The Creature leaves to look for work.
Vanessa is shaken by what happened to her and Ethan earlier in the evening. Ethan tells Sembene (Danny Sapani) that they weren’t women like the monsters they fought last time, they were completely different. Ethan tries to talk to Vanessa about what they saw and Vanessa reveals that she knew the women who attacked them but she couldn’t say more. Ethan leaves her at her request and as he walks the city, he is being watched by one of the witches from afar.
Sir Malcom is with his wife at Meena’s grave, mourning the loss of their children. He offers to come home, to get rid of their London home, but she is furious with him. She tells him that they will remain married for the sake of formalities, but they will remain apart. It’s clear that she resents him and blames him for both of their children’s deaths. Back in London, The Creature is standing in the square looking for some kind of work but vacancies are filled and children are begging. It’s a hard time for those struggling, but he stumbles upon a wax museum with a notice in the window. As he enters, he is met by Mr. Putney, who is friendly and agrees to give him a job behind the scenes once he meets the rest of the family. He also reveals that in order to compete with Madame Tussauds, the Putney’s are going to create a London true-crime series of tableaus ripped from the headlines. The new exhibit he’s working on is the bar that Ethan had torn to pieces a night earlier. This is not going to bode well for the gang, is it? Speaking of, a new investigator is touring the bar that Ethan demolished, still a crime scene. They wonder if The Ripper is back again, but the investigator says no, it is different. He knows that there was a survivor in this instance.
As night falls, Vanessa is tense and afraid. Sembene and Ethan are worried; they’ve never seen Vanessa like this. Victor finds himself in his lab working. He rises and looks at Brona’s body in the water, ready for the storm that will come and hopefully bring her to life later that night. He talks to her, he looks at her longingly. He takes her hand and then traces her scar across her chest and her stomach. Then he starts touching her a little… less scientifically. Whaaaaaat? He’s startled as he hears someone at his front door; it’s Sembene there to summon the doctor to Sir Malcom’s home to look in on Vanessa.
The Creature returns to The Putney’s to meet with the rest of the family. He gives her a name “John Clare,” a nod to the English poet, most likely, and Mr. Putney suggests that he meet Lavinia, their daughter. Of course, he’s nervous but Lavinia is blind and can’t see him with her eyes. She offers him kindness and appears innocent. Uh-oh. Methinks The Creature is going to fall in love with Lavinia and his other bride Brona isn’t going to like that too much… Maybe? Or, maybe not. Who knows! In any case, once he leaves Mrs. Putney scolds her husband for hiring him–who will come to their shop when they see his hideous face? But Mr. Putney snaps right back telling her that his face will make them rich.
Sir Malcom finally returns home, oblivious to what’s been going on. Ethan catches both Victor and Sir Malcom up to speed on what happened to them and Vanessa tells them that the markings on the women were the mark of The Devil. Vanessa is weak and tells them that the language the women spoke was actually not Latin, but the “Verbis Diablo,” a the word of the Devil. Vanessa tells them that even though she spoke the language back to them, she doesn’t know or remember what was said. She tries to tell them to leave her but they won’t do it. She also gives them a name, “nightcomers” or witches.
We now travel inside Madame Kali as she sings, bathing in the blood of a young girl who lies dead next to her tub. She emerges from her bath to meet the girls who attacked Vanessa the night before and Madame Kali’s daughter, Hecate. Kali is concerned about Ethan, Vanessa’s protector, and Hecate reveals that he is some part wolf. One of the witches steps forward and asks for a second chance. Kali speaks to her for brief moment about life and death but ultimately offers no reprieve and slits the failed witch’s throat.
As the storm rages outside, Victor rushes home knowing now is his chance to bring Brona back. They prepare the lab and eventually are successful. Back at Sir Malcom’s home, Ethan offers to stay in London and in their spare room. Meanwhile, Vanessa is in her room staring at the crucifix on her wall. She sees Ethan in the hallway and closes her door after he goes into his room. Vanessa kneels and cuts her hand, spilling her blood and using it to draw a scorpion on the floor in front of her. She prays and as she does, Madame Kali also spills her blood and prays to Lucifer, swearing that she will not fail him, that Vanessa will be his. The scene is bone chilling, the two women cross cut between one another, Vanessa scared and weak with Kali strong and aggressive. The three witches find their way into Vanessa’s room but when she looks back, they are gone.
Absent from this episode was Reeve Carney’s Dorian Gray who should be making an appearance next week. There are already a lot of threads to this story: will the police and/or the bounty hunters sent by Ethan’s father find him? Will Sir Malcom’s deeds from Africa come back to haunt him? Is there a love triangle forming between Victor, Brona and The Creature? How will Ethan feel about Brona’s resurrection? Finally, can Vanessa Ives be saved? More importantly, does she want to be?
Penny Dreadful returns with a new episode next Sunday night on Showtime.