Join me in a quick, cathartic “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” won’t you? Two episodes into this season of Penny Dreadful, we’ve already got our first big twist: Dr. Sweet is Dracula. I’m not sure what surprises me more — the reveal or the fact that it came so soon. Sweet did seem too good to be true, but his distance from all of the “nocturnal danger” that defines Vanessa’s life also seemed to be the point. And while it’s better to rip off the bandage now when it still has the capacity to shock and we still have time to get some answers, I’m already missing the innocence of last week. How quickly new love loses its shine in the face of unchecked bloodlust.
Victor doesn’t know the feeling. Lily contemplated killing him to his face, and he’s still in love with her. How do you solve a problem like Lily? If you’re Henry Jekyll, you over-medicate. In the hopes that his friend’s experiments can “tame” the object of his affection, Victor tags along for a demonstration at Henry’s basement lab in Bedlam. An inversion of Dr. Seward’s elegant sunlit office, Bedlam is content to hide its patients away, treating people with mental illnesses like test subjects. The guards don’t ask Henry what he’s doing; they just deliver him an inmate and leave him to his business, which brings results. One injection from Henry’s serum, and a screaming “madman” is politely asking for a glass of water.
But Henry’s work relies on the duality of human nature — moderating the debate between darkness and light. Is there anything light in Lily? Victor mourns that he “wants her back as she was,” but Lily never was anything else. She woke up like this. The last time she wasn’t consumed by the desire to kill, she was Brona; the injustices she faced when she was alive still fuel her anger, but it’s her inhumanity that spurs her to action. Lily is as Victor created her, and if his guilt is any indication, he knows it. He clings to the hope that she might save him by saving herself, but she isn’t built for that.
Unless — in a quest for an exciting new way to violate the woman he claims to love, Victor sits outside Dorian’s home and watches Lily through the window. When she meets him outside, she’s softer than she has been since she dropped her innocent act. “First love, Victor,” Lily says. “You will recover. Please don’t come here again. You will not like what I’m becoming.” Until now, she’s reveled in the bodies left in her wake. Lily wants to dominate. Is she capable of remorse, or is this another act? Even if it is, it’s an act of kindness meant to push Victor away — an unexpected display of sympathy from a woman who slits throats like she’s performing at the Guignol.
Lily’s latest mission is a bloody one: She and Dorian buy their way into an underground ring that specializes in the torture and murder of women. They kill every rich, white man in the room to save the young Justine (Jessica Barden), then take her home and offer her a new life — like the Daddy Warbucks to her Annie, but with murder. Lily promises Justine “monumental revenge” against the men who wronged her, sealing that promise with a kiss while Dorian smiles helplessly in the background. The best part of this scenario is Dorian’s presumption that he has any authority in it. When Justine observes, “You killed them,” he adds, “And would have killed more.” But it’s Lily who gets the final say: “And shall.” It’s cute that Dorian thinks his ruthlessness can even compare.
Elsewhere in London, two women take a slightly less murderous approach to their problems. Vanessa’s second session with Dr. Seward is devoted to sharing her story, which could easily fill 19 sessions, give or take. It seems criminal to cut away from Eva Green and Patti LuPone in a room together, but if you must, you could do worse than Timothy Dalton and Wes Studi on a boat. The men pass the time on their passage to America by unpacking Sir Malcolm’s racism. “Do all your people speak so enigmatically?” Sir Malcolm asks. Kaetenay straightens his shoulders and tells his companion with his eyes how ridiculous he’s being: “Yes.”
NEXT: Finding Nemo