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Penny Dreadful recap: And Hell Itself My Only Foe

Hold on to your ears.

Posted on

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

Midway through tonight’s penultimate episode, the Creature tells Putney that he believes Pandora’s box contained a mirror. Nothing more — just a mirror. In the Creature’s mythology, evil wasn’t released upon the world; it was a fundamental part of human nature from the beginning. I imagine our heroes would find something familiar in that self-loathing. They see the worst of humanity reflected back at them, and it makes them all a little reckless.  

After tracking Ethan to the cottage, Roper orders Vanessa to cuff her “boyfriend” behind his back. Note to all future Pinkerton agents: If you want Ethan to come with you quietly, don’t even think about harming Vanessa. When Roper threatens to rape her, Vanessa grabs a knife — and in the course of the ensuing fight, Ethan bites Roper’s ear. Roper lodges the knife in Ethan’s shoulder, so Vanessa removes it and stabs Roper to death. She’s surprisingly conflicted about it, given that she’s already used an unforgivable spell to kill a man. Wasn’t there supposed to be no turning back from that? The rules of inner battles don’t apply to Vanessa Ives.

Her guilt trip is interrupted by Victor, who arrives by stagecoach with the news that Sir Malcolm is in trouble. Vacation’s over, kids. Vanessa is eager to mount a full-fledged assault on Evelyn’s castle as soon as they’re back in London, but Ethan protests. Tonight isn’t a good night for him; he’s a little tied up with the full moon. Leaving out the part where he becomes a werewolf, he argues that they should wait for daylight and embark on their rescue mission tomorrow, when the witches will have less power.

But is it actually the rising of the sun that saps their energy? While Evelyn seems exhausted at the start of the hour, standing motionless in an alcove of her puppet room and listening to Sir Malcolm’s screams, Hecate is fine. As far as Hecate is concerned, if anything is wrong with her mother, it’s age — because that’s what her mother taught her. Youth is paramount. Taking matters into her own hands, Hecate pays Ethan a visit. It turns out all of those protective totems around the room mean nothing if you don’t believe in them, which makes this whole battle feel that much more hopeless. How do you fight what disregards the only defense you have? Does disbelief always cancel out belief?

Hecate seems to think so, arguing that Ethan’s power is bound to be used for evil. He is meant “to strike with impunity, to feed at will.” As she kisses him, Hecate asks if he can feel in his heart that she’s speaking the truth. Ethan says that he can, but of course he can — she’s verbalizing his worst fears about himself. Having never heard Lyle’s theory that the wolf of God is the devil’s greatest hangup, he accepts that he’s fated to be the devil’s ally. The phrase “wolf of God” should be a dead giveaway to the contrary, but Ethan has always been quick to believe that he’s meant to hurt the ones he loves.

This is what the witches do best: prey on our team’s most human weaknesses. Even their devotion to each other can be used against them — Evelyn has no doubt that despite her friends’ warnings, Vanessa will come for Sir Malcolm tonight. She’s right, obviously, and Vanessa’s display of blind loyalty inspires another. Ignoring Sembene’s warnings, Ethan foregoes his plan to stay chained up in the basement and joins the expedition to recover his friends, knowing full well what could happen.

NEXT: Orange is the new Creature