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Penny Dreadful recap: Little Scorpion

If Ethan’s a wolf, Vanessa’s a wolf.

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Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME

Penny Dreadful

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton
Showtime Networks Inc.
Suspense, Thriller, Drama

Penny Dreadful has been flirting with other genres lately, experimenting with different tones only to inevitably twist itself back into a gothic horror in the end. What if Victor and Vanessa were in a comedy? Sure, but the witches are attacking. What if everyone had a grand time at a lavish ball? Sure, but it’s about to rain blood. And, this week: What if Vanessa and Ethan were characters in a Nicholas Sparks romance? It’s all waltzing and kissing in the rain until you potentially sell your soul to the devil.

In the aftermath of last week’s Blood Ball, Vanessa is ready to get out of town. Ethan comes along, but only Victor knows the truth about where they’re going and why Vanessa wants to go there. This has nothing to do with running and hiding. She’s going to the Cut-Wife’s cottage to retrieve a better weapon for the fight—like, presumably, the book with the scorpion on its spine. Is Vanessa ready to sacrifice her soul to win this battle? Or does she believe that her soul is already lost?

Questions of redemption are also hanging over Ethan’s head right now, as he comes to terms with what Sembene saw him become in the moonlight. Sembene still believes in Ethan’s goodness and is open to the possibility that his inner werewolf is a blessing. Ethan takes a bleaker view. In his mind, there’s no escaping “the monsters inside us.” He speaks to Vanessa in generalities, but it feels like he’s only talking about himself, given his repeated insistence that she fight the demon in her. Ethan is always telling Vanessa to open up, but he won’t do the same. He just asks her to bolt the cottage door behind him as he runs outside into the full moon, turns into a werewolf, and attacks a flock of sleep.

Vanessa finds Ethan outside the next morning, chopping at the tree where the Cut-Wife was burned. It’s a generous attempt to exorcise Vanessa’s own demons while ignoring his own. Vanessa sees what he’s doing. She puts her hand on Ethan’s neck, pulls him close, and asks him to tell her what’s going on. He responds by touching her cheek and telling her that she needs to learn how to shoot a gun. A procedural drama could drag out this kind of sexual tension for seven seasons.

Penny Dreadful moves faster. After Vanessa’s marksmanship lesson—anyone surprised that she’s a natural?—she offers to return the favor by teaching him something. Ethan suggests dancing. So begins their new normal: a happy montage of waltzing, tree chopping, cooking over a fire, and occasionally debating nature’s basest instincts. One rainy night, Vanessa comments that she loves storms for how “primordial” they are. “Every bit of civilization gone,” she says. “Everything true coming out.”

Just as they’re getting philosophical about the beginning and end of the world, lightning strikes the fireplace, setting the cottage floor on fire. With blankets and buckets of water, they snuff out the flames—then, drenched in rain, Ethan picks up Vanessa in the middle of that old house and kisses her. Are we sure we’re not watching The Notebook? Vanessa is. Just as she’s about to go in for another kiss, she pulls back. The two of them are too dangerous.

Ethan and I are both disappointed by this change of heart, but Vanessa might be onto something. As they sort out the Verbis Diablo, Lyle tells Victor about the Egyptian gods Amunet and Amun-Ra, who were believed to be immortal and in love—but if they ever became conjoined, the fallen angels would emerge and rule the world. Could a romance between Vanessa and Ethan be similarly world-ending, or could it be what protects her? Lyle believes that a fallen angel is seducing Vanessa, and “she loves him, in her way,” but that the hound of God represents a threat to the demon. Why else would his name be repeated so much?

NEXT: Secret Diary of a Resurrected Girl