Penny Dreadful 2×09, “And Hell Itself My Only Foe”

Hello, all! Time for episode nine of season two of Penny Dreadful! We’re just one episode away from the season finale, and trust me, the suspense in this one is enough to keep you up all night!

Ethan awakens to find that Roper has broken into the Cut-Wife’s cottage. At gunpoint, Roper orders Vanessa to chain Ethan. He reveals that it was easy to track Ethan and Vanessa to the Cut-Wife’s cottage. We also see his face when he removes his mask; it has been hideously scarred by Ethan’s claws while he was in werewolf form, and Roper is sure to tell Vanessa that Ethan was responsible for his scars. When Roper threatens Vanessa, she and Ethan fight back. In the ensuing struggle, Roper stabs Ethan in the shoulder. Both Ethan and Vanessa kill Roper. They bury Roper the following morning. Vanessa feels some remorse over the man’s death, and remarks that she and Ethan are homicides together. Ethan tells her that they had no choice and that they only killed him in self-defense. Vanessa asks Ethan about Roper’s scars, and Ethan admits he is responsible for them. Vanessa asks Ethan what he is, but the timely arrival of a carriage interrupts them. It’s Victor; he has come to get them because Malcolm is in trouble.

On the way back to London, Victor explains that Malcolm had been possessed by some kind of enchantment, which he broke himself. He went to Evelyn’s castle. Professor Lyle seems to have switched alliances and helped Victor figure out what’s going on. When they return to the house, they see that police officers have been stationed in front of the house. Rusk is there, as well, and he takes a walk with Ethan so that the two might talk together. During their conversation, Rusk reveals that he knows that something is going on in Malcolm’s house, something supernatural, and he will find out what it is. Rusk tells Ethan that the police will be present about the Murray home day and night. He also calls Ethan by his real last name, Talbot. Ethan was born in the New Mexico territory and served in the American Cavalry. The U. S. government is sending Rusk Ethan’s service record. Rusk is turning up the heat on Ethan. Sembene approaches Ethan, reminding him that there is another full moon that evening, and offers Ethan his help once again.

Professor Lyle confesses his treachery to them, and he chooses to ally with them, despite whatever punishment he might suffer at the witches’ hands. Vanessa wants to rescue Malcolm that evening, but Ethan urges her to wait until the next day, for the witches are powerful at night. Vanessa is still determined to go, for she’s much more confident that she can face Evelyn with her newly honed powers. When Sembene says that they must wait until the morning, and that all of them must go to Evelyn’s castle to rescue Malcolm and kill Evelyn and her coven, Vanessa seems to relent and agree with him.

At Evelyn’s castle, Malcolm is plagued by visions of his dead loved ones and the guilt he bears over their deaths. It seems Evelyn’s new enchantment is driving him to madness. Evelyn meditates in her cellar, listening to Malcolm’s screams. Hecate, ever so ready to throw in an insolent barb, asks her if she’s tired. Evelyn is sure that everything is going to plan, and that Vanessa is on her way to rescue Malcolm and fall into the trap they have set for her. Hecate questions Evelyn’s competence, and asks Evelyn what Lucifer will do if Evelyn fails. Hecate thinks that she is more capable of bringing Vanessa to Lucifer than her mother is. Evelyn knows that Hecate is growing restless and will make a move to wrest power from her soon.

In the Putney museum, Putney asks Caliban which one of the new wax statues is his favorite, but Caliban thinks they are all ugly. Though they are hideous, they don’t represent what true evil is. Caliban tells Putney that true evil is something seductive that can offer whatever your heart desires, like a siren, beckoning you to her ruinous shore. You can either keep your soul or give it to her, and if you sold your soul, you would at least not be alone. Putney suggests that he ought to make an exhibit featuring Pandora’s box, but he’s not sure of how to show what the box contained. Victor says that the box ought to contain just a mirror.

Lily goes to see Dorian at his home, and she remarks on his large home and his lovely collection of pictures. She asks him what he photographs, and he tells her he photographs all manner of life (here’s a hint that she remembers her past life). Dorian tells her that he does hold gatherings in that room, sometimes consisting of friends, and other times consisting of members of the Theosophical Society, a religion that seeks a personal connection to the divine and hidden truths. Lily remarks that Dorian hides things very well, and Dorian retorts that Lily is the same way, though she tries to deflect his suspicion. He calls her Brona, signifying that he knows her secret. Before they kiss, Lily tells Dorian to tell her his secret. Dorian says that he will tell her in time, but Lily isn’t having it, and she orders Dorian to kneel at her feet and tell her his secrets so that she might tell him his.

Victor and Vanessa sit in the parlor, where Victor is shooting up on cocaine. He has been staying at the Murray home and avoiding Lily so that he might sort his feelings for her out. Victor once believed emotions like love to be a series of chemical reactions in the brain, and he says those reactions are addictive. As Victor succumbs to his drug, Vanessa tells him that she’s sorry things haven’t worked out for Victor, but he can be loved and one day will.

In the kitchen, Ethan and Sembene are discussing their plan to lock him in the cellar again. Sembene recommends that Ethan tell Vanessa the truth about what he is, but Ethan insists that she suspects anyhow. Sembene says that if Ethan tells Vanessa what exactly is going on, she will be able to help him cope with it, for she is deeply empathetic. Sembene confesses to Ethan that once, he was alone in the world, too: he had been a slave trader, which is why he bears the marks on his face. He had been shunned by his people, and it wasn’t until he met Malcolm that he found kindness and a home, just as Ethan has. Ethan tells Sembene that he counts the other man among one of his few friends. When Ethan enters his room, he finds Hecate is there. She has been able to get past the totems and charms because she doesn’t believe in them. Hecate tells Ethan that is the Lupus Dei, the Wolf of God, and that he could join Lucifer and help the fallen angels in the coup against God in heaven. She tells Ethan that he could choose to slay mercilessly and feed at will if he allied with her and Lucifer. She is able to get Ethan to admit what he is. She kisses Ethan on the lips, as though to seal a spell. She leaves the house the way she came, through the mirror.

Lavinia asks Caliban what other exhibit her father is building as they work. As Caliban prepares to leave, Lavinia begs Caliban to guide her to the other end of the cellar where the new exhibit is being built. She appeals to his softer nature, for there are some things she can’t do because of her blindness. After much wheedling on Lavinia’s part, Caliban agrees and guides her back toward the exhibit. Caliban tells her that he sees a row of cells with a heavy iron door, and there’s a book in one of them. Caliban goes to get the book for her, and Lavinia shuts him up in the cell, mockingly telling him that it’s a book of poetry. Lavinia is proud of her work, and tells him that she’s glad that she was the one to entrap him. Her parents come to the cellar, congratulating their daughter on the part she played in their little scheme. Putney tells Caliban he is to be part of the new exhibit of living freaks, and that it will get him more money than ever. Caliban begs Putney to release him, but his pleas are ignored. Mrs. Putney calls Caliban an animal and tells him that he deserves to be locked up. Putney tells Caliban that this new exhibit will be the key to his success, and he wishes to devour it.

During sex, Lily strangles Victor and asks him questions about his secrets. He tells her that he is ancient but is evasive of whether or not he can die. Lily sees potential in Dorian, declaring that they could do so much together, even rule the world. She bites off his ear, and tells him to let her see his power so that her “beloved immortal” might heal himself. She watches as Dorian opens the secret door to the room containing his portrait and sits down before it. Once he is healed, Dorian comes to her, and they continue having sex.

That night, Vanessa sneaks out of the house and goes to Evelyn’s castle. When the others discover that Vanessa is gone, they go after her, leaving through a doorway in the cellar so that the police might not follow them. Sembene stops Ethan and tells him that he mustn’t go, but Ethan, at this point, is ready to let it happen.

Vanessa crosses herself before entering Evelyn’s castle. She finds Evelyn waiting for her, and she demands to be taken to Malcolm. Evelyn has tired of Malcolm, and she has a dismissive attitude toward men in general, calling them pathetic, weak creatures, whose only purpose is to procreate and expire. Evelyn remarks on her sister’s shortsightedness in settling in a cottage and being a simple wisewoman, while Evelyn chose a life of luxury in the service of Lucifer. Evelyn tells Vanessa that she enjoyed watching Joan die and Vanessa being branded. Vanessa replies that the skin of the wound is dead. Hecate meets the two of them on the staircase, and she tells Vanessa about her conversation with Ethan and the kiss they shared. They know that Ethan and the others are coming for Vanessa and Malcolm, and they have something special planned for them. Vanessa insists on seeing Malcolm, but Evelyn tells her she must see Lucifer first. She unlocks a door and leads Vanessa down to the cellar where she keeps her fetishes. She learns that the fetishes have helped Evelyn in her work over the years. Vanessa sees the fetish made in her image. The doll’s eyes open and whisper, “Murderer.”

Ethan, Lyle, Victor, and Sembene enter the castle. Ethan order them to kill everyone they don’t recognize. Lyle says a brief prayer before crossing onto the property. As Sembene and Ethan prepare to enter the castle, Ethan begs Sembene to promise him on his life that he won’t let Ethan hurt their friends. Sembene agrees. As the men enter the castle, the witches, hidden in the walls, watch them. Lyle and Victor hear Malcolm’s howls. As Ethan and Sembene descend a staircase, a door suddenly closes, trapping them inside. Hecate smiles as she locks the door.

Victor enters the room where Malcolm is being held, but before Lyle can enter, one of the other witches emerges from her hiding place in the wall and closes and locks the door. She captures Lyle. Victor sees Malcolm lying on the floor of the room in which they were trapped, and he goes to the man’s side, only for Malcolm to run away from him, as Malcolm thinks Victor is his son. After this, Victor begins to hallucinate, seeing all three of his creations: Caliban, Proteus, and Lily, who encircle him.

As the full moon rises, Ethan and Sembene are still trapped in the staircase. They are desperate to find a way out because Ethan’s transformation is due to begin. As he transforms, Ethan shoves Sembene away and begs Sembene to kill him. Sembene will not kill Ethan, who is his friend; he is just a man, and Ethan has been chosen for a greater purpose. Ethan’s transformation begins to take hold. Once it’s complete, he attacks Sembene, biting him in the throat.

I really don’t have any final thoughts this week. I’m glad to see they’ve brought everything together and am looking forward to next week’s episode!

One thought on “Penny Dreadful 2×09, “And Hell Itself My Only Foe””

  1. This was a great episode. I’m surprised that Lavinia betrayed John. It was a nice twist. I wonder if Brona will care at all that John is missing, and if so, will she be the one to rescue him?

    Sembene is a character with great potential who is becoming problematic for me very rapidly. He is the only main character who doesn’t have a personal/sex life, and we only see him in the context of other characters. He’s a near-textbook example of the Noble Savage trope.

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