At a turning point in tonight’s Penny Dreadful, Dorian subjects Lily to a speech that gives the hour its title, warning, “We’re at the ebb tide, my darling.” Has anyone ever taught him how tides work? Lily’s mission — like this season of Penny Dreadful — is anything but on the ebb. What we’re moving toward feels more like high tide. Change is coming in waves, and it’s fitting that for a season so focused on mental health and memory, the action here is rooted in what people know. Vanessa, for instance, knows that Sweet is Dracula. FINALLY.
But that’s more of a relief than a surprise, which makes tonight’s bonus revelation even more charming: When the Creature comes to Vanessa’s door in search of advice, she recognizes him as the orderly. “There was a time when we were thrown together at very close quarters,” Vanessa says, hand on his hand, as I scream internally. “Do you remember?” She waits, but none of the Creature’s memories include his time at the Banning Clinic. The tragedy of their lonely relationship continues. The orderly left his job — which may have even led to his death — because he couldn’t bear to see Vanessa subjected to a treatment that he thought would rob her of herself, only to meet the fate he feared for her.
He blames his scars and memory loss on an “accident,” but if he knew her life, the Creature would tell Vanessa the truth. (Just imagine what hell there would be to pay if she found out that Victor is raising people from the dead.) The Creature asks Vanessa whether she thinks he should reintroduce himself to his family, and, thanks to her night at the museum with Dr. Sweet, she’s “almost” optimistic enough to believe herself when she tells “Mr. Clare” to take the leap. “People are better than we think,” she says. “You were very kind to me once, and I loved you for it. The man I knew deserves to be loved.” Anyway, he’s already lonely, so he’s got nothing to lose.
Vanessa’s loneliness might be driving her down a dangerous path, but it steers the Creature in the right direction. He steps out of the shadows outside his wife’s tenement building and calls out her name, and Marjorie cries as she hugs him. Before she brings him back to their son — a reunion that also goes surprisingly well, with an assist from a model ship — he tells her everything. The Creature is ashamed of the people he’s hurt, and he worries that he’s changed forever: “The sun will never shine so bright for me now that I’ve walked in darkness.” It looks like his conscience has returned with his memories. Victor argued a few weeks ago that it’s our memories that make us monsters, but he’d like to believe that, wouldn’t he? He robbed the Creature of his.
It’s all nature and nurture: Does the world instill us with kindness or rob us of it? In Lily’s case, both. She’s on a violent crusade, but it’s driven by empathy: She wants to spare future generations of women from the pain she’s experienced. Brona had a daughter who didn’t live more than a year. Lily isn’t just upset about the way men treat women in back alleys; she’s mad at how men treat women in the halls of the government. She’s mad that she lives in a society that makes it so hard for women to make any kind of life for themselves, and her mission is for the mother she meets in the cemetery — “We will not have to suffer our children to starve and freeze and die dishonored on cold hills” much longer, she promises — as much as it’s for the young women now living in Dorian’s home.
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Over dinner, Lily rouses her new army with an impassioned speech (look at Billie Piper go) about Irish women who were sentenced to death by the Catholic church when they refused to stop keening. Lily is all for singing from the gallows. “We must be bloody or nothing else,” she declares. She asks every woman in the room to prove herself by finding a bad man and cutting off his right hand, and it isn’t long before the table is littered with more severed limbs than a Romantic painting. Dorian isn’t impressed. On a walk around the city, he tells Lily that he’s “bored” by her revolution — positioning her exactly where Victor and his chloroform need her to be. Dorian is going to regret this betrayal for the rest of his very, very long life.
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