Penny Dreadful recap: Above the Vaulted Sky
A stormy night takes relationships to the next level.
The opening minutes of “Above the Vaulted Sky” caught us up to speed by setting last week’s comedic scenes to serious music, because the fun is over, kids. Now back to voodoo puppets. The Nightcomers’ siege was a wake-up call—but if it proved that disaster is coming, at least it persuaded everyone to face the darkness together.
There’s a sense of real camaraderie as the team pulls a Home Alone (but not alone!) and readies the house for battle with rituals and incantations, not to mention “sturdy locks and a sh–load of weapons.” Where do they find a metal door on such short notice? Unclear. But all of this open communication is a welcome change from the way Vanessa used to keep to herself, convinced that this fight was hers alone. Chalk that up to Ethan’s influence.
Ethan gives Vanessa a space to be vulnerable without letting it change the way he sees her. She runs to him after the witches stare her down during her prayers—unless they’re in her head. It’s so hard to be sure—and he doesn’t judge her for being afraid of the dark. He’s been there. Ethan lets Vanessa sleep in his room, and she calls him out for praying when no one else is around. What is Ethan’s relationship with religion? The only thing he’ll admit to believing is that he gave up his shot at redemption when he picked up a gun. “I believe we make ourselves who we are,” Ethan says. “The blood’s on our hands, not God’s.”
For a man so focused on getting Vanessa to open up, Ethan plays his own problems close to his chest—but they’re catching up to him. Inspector Rusk knows that Ethan lived at the Mariner’s Inn and and that London’s problems only started after he arrived. The inspector is open to the idea that the Mariner’s Inn massacre might have a supernatural element; does he already suspect that Ethan is a werewolf? When Rusk brings in Ethan for questioning, he pulls a leaf from some kind of plant and drops it on the ground as a protective measure. He has an idea that there’s more to this American than meets the eye.
Ethan keeps his answers vague and makes it through the interrogation. He also makes it back home after Rusk sends some men after him—they’ll have to work harder if they expect to lay a trap for a cowboy with wolf senses. But while Ethan manages to outsmart Rusk’s men, he can’t shake his one surviving victim, who watches as Sembene lets Ethan inside. Back at Sir Malcolm’s, Lyle is still trying to decrypt the Verbis Diablo. He’s found one phrase that keeps repeating in different languages: “lupus dei.” Ethan translates it as “hound of God.” His identity is spread all over that table “like a poem waiting to be rhymed.” It’s just a matter of time now.
The more connected these people become, the harder it is to keep secrets. Vanessa is gradually working her way into Victor, Lily, and the Creature’s lives, all without realizing their relationship to each other. She meets up with Victor and Lily for coffee—not recognizing Lily as Brona, though they didn’t meet for long—and Lily tries her best to present herself as a member of society. (“The weather is challenging, but the excitement is palpable.”) Vanessa doesn’t care about Lily’s social graces; she’s more interested in the way Victor’s face lights up when Lily touches his hand.
NEXT: Love is a battlefield
Even Victor’s desire to socialize Lily is an attempt to pull her away from the Creature. When the Creature demands face time with his bride of choice, he asks Victor what Lily thinks of his appearance. Victor points out that she knows he looks different than she and Victor do, but she hasn’t seen anyone else. The more he shows her of London, then, the more she’ll realize that the Creature is different. The Creature tries to win Lily’s affection by spinning a tale about how happy they used to be, but she isn’t ready to be anything more than friends.
Vanessa finds the Creature back at the soup kitchen, mourning his failed attempt to bond with a woman. Not realizing that the woman in question is Lily, Vanessa tells him about the smitten friend she just had coffee with. She and the Creature bond over how difficult it is to make yourself vulnerable. “All the stratagems of the battle are unknown to me,” says the Creature, whose first problem might be that he looks at love as a kind of war. Vanessa decides that she’s going to teach him to dance, and she won’t take no for an answer. They waltz in the soup kitchen.
Meanwhile, Dorian and Angelique are enjoying a night at the opera when Angelique is recognized. A man who paid for her and got “quite a surprise” calls her out and spits on her face. Dorian responds by kissing Angelique’s hand—the same scenario the Creature dreamed up with Lily—but the damage is done. Angelique puts on Dorian’s clothing and, when he objects, accuses him of “preferring the freak.” Dorian insists that he understands what it is to be different. The clothes change nothing: “I care for who you are, not what you wear.” I worried last week that he might just be drawn to the scandal of their relationship, so this is a relief. The two have sex.
Meanwhile, Evelyn is still playing games with Sir Malcolm. After she pricks him on the hand with her ring, they wind up kissing in the rain—and getting a room at a hotel. She pricks him again, and they take it to the bed. Sir Malcolm has no idea that Evelyn has been quietly killing his wife with her voodoo dolls (which we now know are called fetishes, which seems appropriate). She sticks hot pokers in the doll’s (real?) brain until Mrs. Murray, driven mad by hallucinations of her children rising from the grave, slits her own throat.
As if this night weren’t enough, a crack of lightning sends Lily running to Victor’s bed, and they have sex, too. What is the Victorian attitude toward relationships with cousins? Not that he’s her actual cousin, but she believes he is—and the fact that he brought her back from the dead makes it feel incestuous regardless. Vanessa and Ethan are just about the only people not having sex tonight, but she does put her hand on his face and makes significant eye contact before walking away. Anything could happen.
Bits and pieces:
- Ethan once killed an entire Native American tribe, and he’s more open about that than he is about the fact that he’s probably a werewolf.
- “I know totems like these. It is the most important thing to have the flesh of the enemy. Consume it, you take their power.” What the heck, Sembene.
- “All sad people like poetry. Happy people like songs.”