New Show Recap: Penny Dreadful, Episode 2×01: “Fresh Hell”

Episode one of the second season opens just the day after the events of last season’s final episode.

Vanessa is wandering through the park on a snowy winter day. As she proceeds down the path, Madame Kali appears from behind a statue, chanting a spell. Vanessa falls to her knees and holds up her hand as though to keep the evil force at bay. Madame Kali observes this. Looks like Madame Kali has some plans for Vanessa.

Ethan awakens the morning after he turned into a werewolf, covered in blood, and finds the bar in a shambles. The two men who had threatened him are dead, and it looks as though they have been mauled by some horrible beast. Horrified, he packs up his things and hurries away. He goes to Sir Malcolm’s house to speak to Vanessa, who is just getting out of a hansom cab. They climb into the hansom cab and take it further down the street. Ethan bids good-bye to Vanessa; he seeks to leave England for someplace far away, perhaps to sign up with an army as a mercenary. Vanessa doesn’t want to see Ethan go, since they are still fighting a war against whatever evil force is out there, and she reminds him that he and his skills are sorely needed. Ethan confides in Vanessa that he’s fighting a dark force inside of himself as well. He explains it as blackouts in which he does things he doesn’t remember, but blood is usually a result. Vanessa wants to help him, but Ethan tells her that he is beyond help. Suddenly, the cab is attacked and tipped over. Strange, hissing creatures that look very close to human women attack Ethan and Vanessa. The women speak a demonic language that Vanessa understands and speak herself, though she has not clue of what she is saying, only that it caused the creatures to flee. A few streets over, the creatures regain their forms of human women.

In London’s East End, Victor and Caliban are in Victor’s lab, preparing Brona for her resurrection. Brona is lowered into the water so that when a thunderstorm occurs, lightning will strike the metal poles on the roof of the building and create a current in the water, hopefully bringing Brona back to life. In the interim, Caliban decides to look for work so that he might support himself and his prospective bride. Caliban reminds Victor that he will stay close to him until he knows the outcome of the experiment with Brona. Victor asks Caliban if he and Brona will leave if the experiment is successful, but Caliban replies that he will never be too far from Victor, and that their lives and fates are bound together.

Vanessa is shaken when she returns to Sir Malcolm’s. Sembene wants to know what the creatures are, and Ethan tells him that the creatures from tonight’s encounter are different from the ones they fought in their struggle to find Mina. Vanessa knows what the creatures are, but she will not divulge any further information. Ethan changes his mind and decides to stay in London. After he leaves, Sembene comforts Vanessa. She asks him if the past can return, and he replies that the past never leaves us and makes us who we are, which frightens Vanessa even more. Sembene leaves Vanessa standing alone in front of the fireplace. As Ethan leaves, one of the women who attacked them is watching him.

Sir Malcolm and his wife Gladys have just buried Mina. Gladys is sad at the loss of both of their children. Malcolm offers to come home and try to reconcile with his wife, but Gladys will not allow him to return. She decrees that they ought to separate but remain married. She is angry with him about the deaths of their children.

Caliban finds himself a position in a failing wax museum that boasts a Chambers of Crime similar to the exhibits in Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors. The owner of the museum, Mr. Putney, proudly points out the display of the Annie Chapman murder and of the murder Ethan most likely committed, now called the Mariners’ Inn Massacre, laughingly telling him that they make up whatever details they can’t get from the papers. The owner can use Caliban’s carpentry skills, and he asks Caliban to return later that evening so that his wife, who takes care of the bookkeeping for the business, can interview him. Mr. Putney seems to be a genial sort of man who doesn’t mind Caliban’s deformities.

The London police are investigating the Mariners’ Inn Massacre, and Inspector Rusk will not allow the owners to sell the land just yet. It seems he finds some forensic evidence on some of the wooden furniture. The owner asks Inspector Rusk if it’s Jack the Ripper or someone similar who committed the crimes. Inspector Rusk says that it’s someone different and that there was a survivor of the massacre.

Ethan returns to the Murray home and finds out that Vanessa has been up in her room all day and has not emerged. Ethan is very concerned for Vanessa, since they have never seen her frightened.

There is a really creepy moment with Victor and Brona’s lifeless body in the water. Apparently he’s been wondering about the life she will lead with Caliban after her resurrection, and he’s also been talking to her inanimate corpse like she’s his confidant. He examines the wounds from the postmortem examination, and then feels up her boob (ew–necrophile!). He’s interrupted by Sembene, who requests his presence at the Murray house.

Caliban returns to the museum and meets with Mrs. Putney. The hours and the pay suck, but Caliban is willing to take the job. He gives the name of John Clare, and he’s hired. Mr. Putney asks that Caliban meet the Putneys’ daughter, Lavinia, who is blind. She asks Caliban if she can touch his face so that she can “meet” him. Though he resists at first, he allows her to touch his face. After she’s done, she tells him that it’s good to meet him. When Lavinia leaves with Caliban to see him out, Mrs. Putney asks her husband just why he wants to hire Caliban, whose face is hideous. Mr. Putney’s true nature is revealed, and he tells her that Caliban’s deformed face will make the Putneys their fortune. It seems Putney wishes to exploit Caliban like he’s a circus freak.

Sir Malcolm returns home, and Vanessa, who has been sitting on the steps waiting for him, falls into his arms crying. Vanessa and Ethan tell Sir Malcolm what occurred, and Ethan mentions that the women were branded and deeply scarred. Vanessa reveals that the branding and scarring are the devil’s marks; when the women swear their obedience to the devil, he rakes his claws across their bodies to seal their bargains. Victor gives Vanessa a sedative, and she’s better able to answer their questions after this. The language the witches were speaking was the Verbis Diablo, a dead language. The Verbis Diablo is a corruption of angelic speech, what Adam spoke in paradise before being seduced by the serpent. Satan took God’s language and corrupted it. After Adam fell, he could no longer understand God’s language. Ethan believes in all of this, as he bore witness to it, but Victor rejects it as biblical superstition. Vanessa was unable to understand what she said in that language; she only knows that she had some innate knowledge of it. Malcolm wishes to protect Vanessa, but she insists on fighting the battle on her own. Ethan and Malcolm will not abandon Vanessa, as they’ve become a sort of family. Sembene deduces that Vanessa knew what the creatures were and asks her further about it. Vanessa replies that the creatures were nightcomers, or witches.

In a posh house outside of the city, on a stormy night, we hear a woman singing “The Unquiet Grave.” We see Madame Kali in a bathtub, soaking not in water, but blood, the source of which is the dead young woman beside the tub. Madame Kali meets her acolytes downstairs and tells her daughters that she is disappointed in last night’s events, as she underestimated Vanessa and her cohorts. She is concerned about the man with Vanessa, the Lupus Dei, which is no doubt a reference to Ethan, and this makes things moe difficult. Madame Kali delegates the seduction of Ethan to her daughter Hecate, and she will take on the seduction of Malcolm herself. The women are working for the devil, who considers Vanessa his prize. The acolyte who failed begs Madame Kali for another chance, and she divulges to Madame Kali that Vanessa calls the Verbis Diablo, though she was unable to understand what Vanessa said. Madame Kali tells her daughters the Roman legend of memento mori, or items of death. An old Roman general, according to the story, has returned from the wars flaunting his golden spoils when a slave threw a bone in his path. The slave cautioned him to remember that death comes for everyone, and from that day forward, a slave walked behind the chariot of a returning general whispering into the ear of a skull, as a reminder that all men must die. As she finishes the story, Madame Kali approaches the young witch who failed and cuts her throat with a blade concealed in her ring, The young witch falls, and the young witches take the body away.

Ethan decides to stay at the Murray home to both protect and support Vanessa. He knows that Vanessa will speak to them in her own time. Malcolm was ready to have Sembene prepare the room, but Ethan insists on doing it. This is a reminder of the trust and friendship forged between Sembene and Ethan during Vanessa’s possession last season.

During the storm, Victor and Caliban rush up to the laboratory to hoist up the poles and place the wires in the water so that the electrical current caught from the storm will revive Brona. Caliban is desperate and almost weeping, so much does he desire Brona. As Victor turns on the charges, Caliban prays that Brona is allowed to live. As the lightening’s electrical charge hits the water, the two men wait. Brona rises from the water, revived from death, disoriented and shuddering.

In the privacy of her room, Vanessa prepares to craft a spell, guided only by the light of two candlesticks. She cuts her thumb and uses the blood dripping from the wound to draw a sigil on the floor, allowing herself to be guided by forces from beyond. Suddenly, the candles gutter out, and she hears distorted voices. She begins to pray in Latin for God’s protection. As she prays, Madame Kali is casting a spell herself, using her own blood to create a sigil. She prays to Lucifer, promising to haunt Vanessa until she becomes Lucifer’s bride. Both women are shown praying, and Vanessa is clearly in great torment. The three acolyte witches appear in her room and she sees them only for a bit, but then they disappear. Vanessa is frightened.

And we’re off to a good start for the season! I’ve been waiting for Penny Dreadful, Season 2: Lucifer Strikes Back for a while now, and I am not disappointed! Keep up the good work, Penny Dreadful!

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