Penny Dreadful season 2 finale recap: And They Were Enemies
The guilt outlasts the curse.
It was always going to come down to Evelyn’s puppet room in the end, wasn’t it? Vanessa sealed the deal when she admitted her fear of dolls, but the Creature also hinted at it last week with his theory that Pandora’s Box contained a mirror. If the face of true evil is the face looking back at us, then it’s only fitting that Vanessa would see the devil in the eyes of her look-alike puppet—that her struggle would be, as it’s always been, to come to terms with the darkness in her.
And there is something dark in her now, even more than there was before she opened the Cut-Wife’s forbidden book. The devil tempts Vanessa with the promise of a “normal” life—one that involves marrying Ethan and having cute kids and not having to worry that everyone she loves is doomed by association. She almost gives in, only to pull back and declare that she doesn’t want a normal life anymore. Snarling the Verbis Diablo, Vanessa puts her hand on the puppet’s face, shattering it and releasing a swarm of scorpions. “Beloved,” she says, “know your master.” Did Vanessa just banish the devil?
We’ll process that later. For now, Evelyn is without a master, and it’s aging her (literally). As her mother panics, Hecate seizes the opportunity to release Ethan, who slashes Evelyn’s throat. Live by the throat slash, die by the throat slash. Ethan, still in werewolf form, turns to Vanessa, but he seems to come back to himself enough to recognize her. Just as she’s about to touch his face, he runs off in guilt. A scorpion crawls into Vanessa’s hand and is absorbed into her palm.
And that’s our plot resolution. Now that Evelyn is dead, Victor and Sir Malcolm are released from her enchantment—just in time, since visions of their sins had just about convinced them to take their own lives in atonement. With two thirds of the episode still to go, everyone is technically free. But who needs spells when you have the actual consequences of past mistakes? Vanessa reunites with Sir Malcolm, Victor, and Lyle over Sembene’s dead body, with Ethan nowhere to be found.
Sembene’s death hits Sir Malcolm hard. He resolves to bring his friend home to Africa as Vanessa comforts him, then seeks comfort of her own from Ethan. She might say that she doesn’t want a normal life, but she still wants a life with him, full moons and all. “There’s no walking away from what I am,” Ethan insists, but Vanessa just pulls him closer. There’s no walking away from what she is, either—all she wants is someone to walk with her. She asks him to stay the night, but she’s being so seductive that it almost seems like the demon in her has taken over. Maybe this relationship really is too dangerous.
Ethan leaves, asking for Vanessa’s forgiveness but explaining that he needs to think. The next morning, she finds a note under her door as Ethan turns himself in to Inspector Rusk and confesses to all of his crimes. All he asks is for a quick hanging, but Rusk hands him an extradition order instead. Ethan looks more upset at the thought of going home than he does at the idea of being hanged. Maybe he knows that he’s about to be subjected to a buzz cut.
In need of a friend, Vanessa looks for the Creature at the soup kitchen—and she finds him, having no idea how unlikely their reunion would have been just last night. The Creature escaped a life as king of Putney’s freaks, broke out of his cell, and proceeded to kill his captors (except Lavinia, because he’s a Nice Guy). Now, he’s packing to leave civilization forever. “When you’ve seen that of which you are capable,” he says, “when you have stood in blood long enough, what is there left but to wade to a desolate shore away from all others?”
Vanessa knows the feeling, but she doesn’t believe in a shore far enough to distance her from what she’s done. She tells the Creature that she’s lost the immortal part of herself, so he asks her to join him. Vanessa refuses. Everyone close to her suffers, and she doesn’t want that for “the most human man [she’s] ever known.” She kisses the Creature’s face and leaves. Both of them are crying. I’m not sure Eva Green’s tears shouldn’t be illegal.
NEXT: Boulevard of broken crosses
As the Creature, Ethan, and Sir Malcolm set sail on three separate ships, Vanessa is left home alone, methodically turning out the lights in every room. Ethan’s letter echoes in the empty halls. He thanks her for the light she brought to his life but says that he’s made for the dark: “Your road may be difficult, but mine is doomed, so we walk alone.” He’s not kidding about walking alone. After staring at the crucifix fixed to her wall, Vanessa removes it and tosses it into the fire.
Ever since she opened the poetry of death, I’ve been waiting for it to change her—for the demon inside her to take full control, maybe, or for her empathy to harden. As it turns out, going away from God forever changes little about Vanessa’s outward actions. She has always believed herself to be cursed, so as hopeless as it is to watch her burn her cross, it isn’t so much a reversal as another step down the road she fears she’s been on this whole time. She’s given up on herself, but nothing in the way she treats others has changed. Not yet, anyway.
In that sense, Vanessa now has even more in common with the Creature, who told her when they first met that atheists are kind to their fellow man without ulterior motive. “We have no fear of God,” he said, “so we are accountable to no one but each other.” Vanessa now shares that “profound responsibility.” But is she really beyond saving, or does she just believe herself to be? It’s a question that could be posed about just about anyone in this finale: How much is guilt running the show?
The only ones not bound by guilt are Lily and Dorian. Victor finds them dancing together in Dorian’s home, looking elegant and murderous in all-white ensembles and slicked-back hair. He tells Lily that he loves her and asks her to come back, then shoots her when she insults him. Nothing happens. “Please, creator,” Lily taunts. “You made me too well for that.” She tells him that she knows—and has always known—what she is, so Victor (who is clearly running out of ideas) tries shooting Dorian instead. He looks pricelessly confused when Dorian doesn’t die either. The ageless pair debate killing the good doctor before deciding to let him live with what he’s done. As Victor leaves to sink further into his drug addiction, Lily and Dorian go back to dancing, the candles illuminating the blood that pools on the back of their white outfits. It’s a stunning visual and a chilling indicator of what’s to come, so let’s end this season there, shall we?
Bits and pieces:
- Okay, Rusk, is it really necessary to keep Ethan in a cage all the time?
- I’m pulling for those two to develop a reluctant friendship while they’re trapped on the high seas together.
- Hecate was the only witch to make it out of the house alive, and she seems fine with that.
- I may have fist pumped when Lily told Victor that touching her naked body was “abuse, not science.”
- How many times has Vanessa had to ask a friend, “Where will you go?”
- “Never underestimate the power of a queen with lovely hair, my dear.”