New Show Recap: Penny Dreadful 2×04, “Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places”

Vanessa tells Malcolm, Professor Lyle, and Victor about her time with the Cut-Wife and what the Nightcomers really are: witches and evil spirits bound to do the devil’s bidding to serve their own ends. Victor is reluctant to believe Vanessa, but when she tells him that these witches do walk in London, he apologizes. Malcolm decides that they must decipher the writing on the relics. Professor Lyle explains that the writing on the relics is not just one language, but a collection of languages, including Greek, Latin, and Arabic, that tell the story of God casting Lucifer and the angels out of heaven. The monk who had written the story on the artifacts had been compelled by a demon to do so. Professor Lyle suspects that the story is the memoir of the devil.

Victor and Vanessa share an exchange in the foyer, and he admits to her that once, he had never believed that he would ever see the things he has encountered. He asks if she would help him run an errand the following morning, and Vanessa agrees. After Victor leaves, Vanessa notices Sembene sitting on the stairs. When she asks him what he’s doing, he is telling her that he is watching for the Nightcomers. Sure enough, Hecate is watching the Murray house from the rooftop across the street.

Inspector Rusk is present at the crime scene of the murder of the family on the train. He notes that no one saw anything and that no one saw the murderer enter or exit the car, even with a crying baby. He notices that the wounds on the dead are like a those of a surgeon, precise and delicate. Rusk believes that the murders might have something to do with magic. Guess which other notorious London murderer’s crimes had cuts similar to this. Later, Rusk goes to see Mr. Roper in the hospital and asks the witness what occurred at the Mariners’ Inn, Roper is unable to remember what happened. Rusk asks him how he received his wounds, since it looks like someone with an animal claw or a weapon such as a tomahawk or ritual Native American club. He asks Roper why he had a gun in his possession, but Roper insists he still doesn’t remember and that it was simply for protection. Rusk is desperate to know what is happening in London since he thinks there is a connection between these murders and the massacre, but Roper asserts that as an American, he knows his rights, and that he intends to leave as soon as he is healed.

Putney and his wife plan on hosting another exhibition, but instead of the horrific wax displays they have in their museum, they intend on adding a separate freak show. He intends on capturing so-called freaks and holding them captive in the cellar. Now we know what his plans are for Caliban.

At the same time, Lavinia Putney enters the cellar where Caliban is working. he watches her as she enters, but she can tell he’s there, explaining it as a change in the vibration of the air. She tells him some trade secrets of the wax museum business, and she asks him what his eyes look like. He tells her that they are yellow, and she imagines that they are a dark yellow. As Lavinia tells him about the wax figures she creates for her father, she states that she feels she is torturing the figures and making them suffer. Caliban compares her creation to wax dolls to his own life: that he was born fresh and made to suffer. Lavinia tells him that his life could be better, and that he ought not to give up. Indeed, Caliban’s outlook on life seems to have changed throughout the past few episodes.

Ethan is walking down the street and passes the Putney museum, and he grows agitated when he sees the sign for the exhibit depicting the Mariners’ Inn Massacre. He also sees the newspaper articles about the murder of the family on the train and buys a newspaper to see what might have happened. Little does he know that Hecate and the other witches are watching him, and at Hecate’s signal, one of the other witches uses her hatpin to prick the rear of a horse hitched to a waiting carriage and send the creature running wild into the street. Hecate crosses the street, pretending that she has not noticed the runaway horse, and just as she had planned, Ethan pushes her out of the horse’s path, rescuing her. She pretends to grow hysterical, and Ethan takes her to a nearby tea room so that she might collect herself. In the tea room, Hecate reveals that her name is Hecate Aphrodite Livingston, named for a goddess of the sea and the goddess of love, and that she is American who had grown tired of her dull life in the States and decided to take a trip to Europe as a liberated woman. She tells him that she grew up in Maine and graduated from Northwestern and that she had grown tired of Indiana. She takes note of his books in Latin. He asks her if she has ever been out West, and she tells him she has never been there. Ethan accuses Hecate of being a Pinkerton hired by his father to bring him home: she did not have a New England accent and she had stated that Northwestern is in Indiana when it’s really in Illinois. Hecate’s efforts are thwarted, and Ethan leaves unscathed, telling Hecate that she ought to wear more sensible shoes.

When he calls the next day, Victor tells Vanessa about the arrival of his “cousin,” Lily, who is in need of some proper attire for the rest of her time in London. Vanessa and Victor go to the nearest dress shop, and Vanessa helps an embarrassed Victor purchase some clothes for Lily, who is a country girl and needs some proper dresses. Victor also invites Vanessa to tea with Lily some time.

Victor gives Lily the clothes and she tries them on, though she complains that she can’t breathe with the corset on and that it’s difficult to walk in heels. When she emerges from her room, Victor is entranced by her beauty and tells her so. He helps Lily downstairs and when she asks him why he picked shoes with such high heels, he replies it’s because he likes them. Lily asks Victor why women wear corsets and Victor replies it’s to incapacitate them, for fear that they might take over the world, and that they flatter the figure. Lily opines that it is cruel and asks Victor why women must endure pain to make men happy and whether or not he thinks she ought to wear the corset. Victor replies that he would not ask her to wear anything that caused her pain, and that she doesn’t have to wear the corset. Lily resolves to remove her corset, but assures Victor that she will keep the shoes, as he likes them. It seems that Lily is taking her cues from Victor about how to be a woman based on his ideals, and that Victor is falling for her, which is certainly going to complicate things with Caliban.

Dorian and Angelique go out for the evening, and they coquettishly ask one another personal questions. Dorian will not reveal the source of his money, and he states that his parents named him such because they wished for status. He will not reveal his true age, only stating that he is older than he looks, and when Angelique asks him about his greatest secret, he mysteriously replies that people need to be careful of what they wish for. People stare at Dorian and Angelique in disgust, but Dorian remains unruffled by it, as he seems to enjoy the dismay he is causing. He distracts her with a new experience: the game of gossamer tennis, or ping-pong. Angelique and Dorian have a fun night; Angelique beats him at twelve ping-pong games. Their relationship is based on the thrill of subterfuge and secrets, and they both like it. The two kiss in the middle of the game parlor, ignoring the shocked stares from the other players.

Hecate admits her failure to Evelyn, and she is certain that Ethan is a lupus dei, or Wolf of God. Hecate believes that Ethan was able to smell her and see what she truly was. Evelyn decides to make the preparations for an enchantment that evening, and cast some kind of spell on the Murray house. There is tension between Hecate and Evelyn, and Hecate believes that Professor Lyle can’t be trusted. Evelyn reasserts her leadership and orders Hecate to bring Vanessa to her.

At the Malcolm house, where everyone has hunkered down for the night, Professor Lyle and Sir Malcolm are reading the relics. Malcolm is having trouble reading some of the script, and Professor Lyle offers his pince-nez. They get further in the story about the angels being banished from heaven. Malcolm confides to Professor Lyle that he and Mrs. Poole are courting after a fashion. Professor Lyle tells Malcolm to proceed with some caution, and Malcolm assures Lyle that he will, since he and his wife are only separated. Lyle laughs and says that it’s all very “Byzantine,” and that he himself has had many “Byzantine” relationships. Seeing as Evelyn basically revealed to us (the audience) in episode 2×03 that Lyle is a closeted homosexual who simply married for appearances, and that she is basically using this information to blackmail him into helping her, we can only guess what kinds of extramarital affairs he has had. Malcolm really doesn’t say anything, just smiling and nodding as though he understands.

Vanessa and Ethan are discussing his encounter with the young woman named Hecate, and Ethan tells Vanessa that he believes Hecate was a Pinkerton hired by his father in an attempt to bring him home. He tells Vanessa that he’s sure Hecate’s name was an alias, and Vanessa tells him Hecate also lied about the meaning of her name. Hecate was a moon goddess and a protector of witches. She tells Ethan that the witches can assume many guises, and that in their natural state, they’re hideous. As Ethan goes to the kitchen to put away their coffee tray, Malcolm calls her to the table where they are reading the relics. As Ethan heads down the hallway to the kitchen, he stops and sniffs the air, as though he feels something isn’t right. He continues on his way as the camera pans to the wallpaper in the hallway. A figure is shown moving within the pattern. Did you also notice that the wallpaper is yellow?

Ethan tries to help Sembene with the dirty dishes, and Sembene is reluctant at first. Ethan sees that Sembene is worried about both Vanessa and Malcolm, and he asks Sembene if he was a hunter in his past country. Sembene replies that he was hardly that, but won’t reveal any further information as the two wash the dirty dinner dishes.

Malcolm shows Vanessa the writing on the relics, and the narrative of the story discussed the fallen angels vanquishing the “wolf at the throne of God,” after which God cast them out of heaven. Malcolm asks Vanessa if any of this means something to her, and Vanessa tells them what the Cut-Wife told her: “When Lucifer fell, he did not fall alone.” Malcolm believes that the tale is not a history, but a prophesy of some kind or an ongoing story. He believes that the narrative has to do with Vanessa’s future, but Vanessa will not accept this, as there is no reference to a woman. She cannot accept that she is central to a satanic prophesy. As it’s all too much for her, she retires. As she goes to bed, we see another figure hiding itself in the wallpaper.

As she ascends the stairs, Vanessa seems overwhelmed by tonight’s revelations, and when she goes to her room, she sees that the window is open. She closes it, staring out at the street below for a moment. She seems to sense that she is being watched as she readies for bed. Downstairs, Malcolm and Lyle continue to study the relics, and in the kitchen, Ethan helps Sembene put together a tray of coffee and cake for a refreshment.

Vanessa suddenly puts her hairbrush down on her dressing table and slowly turns around. As he walks down the hallway, Ethan senses that something isn’t right with the wallpaper once again. As Vanessa turns her head, she sees the figure of a witch emerging from the wallpaper. Two other witches also attack Ethan, Lyle, Sembene, and Malcolm. Lyle tries to use a cross to ward the witch off, but she is not affected by it and pushes him away. The only thing that seems to affect the witches is Vanessa speaking the Verbis Diablo, but not before one of them is able to obtain a strand of her hair. The strand of Vanessa’s hair is what they came for, and once they have it, they leave. Before Hecate flees, she mocks Ethan with the line about sensible shoes, letting him know that she was the woman he encountered in the street earlier that day. Once Vanessa comes downstairs, she, Malcolm, Ethan, Lyle, and Sembene exchange worried glances and then stare at the doorway, dreading what plans the witches have in store for Vanessa.

And that’s it for this week! I have to say that the main story arc concerning Vanessa and the witches is progressing quickly, which I like.

Some things I suspect will unfold during the season:

  1. The Victor/Lily (Brona!)/Caliban triangle is interesting and will no doubt prove to be something that widens the rift between Caliban and Victor, but will also cause much discord among those allied with Vanessa, as Ethan had a rather passionate affair with Brona and was very saddened by her loss, even though he knew she was dying. This breaks the careful trust that they had built with Victor, and the fallout will only help Evelyn in her quest to further isolate Vanessa and make her vulnerable. Also, last season, when Vanessa was fighting the devil, did you notice that Victor was okay with just letting Vanessa die and was against the priest being sent for? Maybe because he could have used Vanessa’s body to create a bride for Caliban so Caliban would leave him alone? Oh, I think that is definitely going to come out!
  2. Vanessa and Caliban have begun to build a platonic relationship, just as Lily/Brona and Victor are. The thing is, Caliban and possibly Lily/Brona could be very useful weapons against the witches and the upcoming battle. Once everything blows up in Victor’s face, I’m sure allegiances will shift, as Malcolm can offer the resurrected couple refuge… if Caliban doesn’t end up in the freak show or as a scapegoat for murder first!
  3. Inspector Rusk knows something is up… and it’s something big. Maybe going all the way back to fall of 1888? There are some people studying the case who insist that the murders were all part of a black magic ritual, and that’s been touched on in fiction, like in the first Sherlock Holmes directed by Guy Ritchie. After the murder of the maid was foiled at the beginning of the film, Sherlock murmurs to Lestrade about “the other five victims,” whom the villain may have been responsible for killing. Rusk notices at the train crime scene that the wounds were made with surgical precision, and the victims’ throats were cut as well. Some of the coroners in the Ripper case suspected that the Ripper had some kind of medical training due to the surgical precision of the cuts. And as with the baby in episode 2×04, there were organs removed. So maybe Evelyn and her henchwomen were responsible for these murders, and possibly some of the murders from last season, as well? I say yes!
  4. There’s a whole connection between Ethan’s werewolfiness, the lupus Dei/Wolf of God mentioned in the writings on the relics, but of course that’s a gimme.
  5. Dorian, Dorian, Dorian! What is your secret? I don’t think he’s someone who made a deal with the devil, but knowing how this show likes to play fast and loose with storylines, he may prove to be a valuable ally to our protagonists.

If anyone wants more information on the Ripper case, since it seems to be a huge point of reference in the show, check out Be warned that there are some gory postmortem photos on there in the victim category, so if you can’t look at those things, avoid them. There’s loads of information on there about Victorian London as well.

Also, did anyone notice that much of the wallpaper in the Murray house was yellow, and that it had a pattern very similar to that of the room described in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story The Yellow Wallpaper?

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