Flashbacks! Ill-advised sex! More flashbacks! Luxurious moustaches!
Penny Dreadful starts the back half of the season spinning its wheels with a full episode of flashbacks fleshing out Vanessa’s backstory. Based on the title, one would think that Closer Than Sisters might take a path similar to Carmilla, but sapphic overtones and vampires are largely absent. The episode is rather benign (by Penny Dreadful standards), but greatly elevated by another mesmerising performance from Eva Green.
Vanessa grew up next door to the Murray household and was a frequent companion to Mina and Peter. It was an idyllic childhood of frolics on the beach and taxidermy in the solarium; typical children’s activities. Vanessa’s project is a bird of prey she’s named Ariel, because you have to name them for them to come to life. She and Victor should get along splendidly.
Closer Than Sisters is rather benign, but greatly elevated by another mesmerising performance from Eva Green
Malcolm returns home from one of his expeditions, largely ignoring Peter in favor of doting on Mina and Vanessa. The Ives attend a lavish homecoming dinner for Malcolm, during which he makes polite dinner conversation by jovially recounting his encounter with cannibals. Later that night, Vanessa encounters her mother and Malcolm in flagrante delicto in the hedge maze, which Vanessa enjoys. She returns to her room and prays, but senses a demon behind her.
Years later, Mina is engaged to Captain Branson, which provokes jealousy in Vanessa. Viewers familiar with Dracula know that this engagement cannot end well. Vanessa walks through the hedge maze with Peter discussing Mina’s engagement, Mina’s potential travel to India, and Peter’s desire to join his father’s expeditions to Africa. Peter hopes it will make him less of a disappointment to his father. Vanessa kisses Peter and he flees the hedge maze. She goes home to pray; God doesn’t answer, but something else does.
On the eve of Mina’s wedding, Vanessa encounters a drunken Branson in the hallway and leads him to the solarium to look at their stuffed animals. Apparently taxidermy is an aphrodisiac, and they have sex on the table under the watchful eyes of Ariel. Mina discovers them, so Branson leaves in the morning, taking his luxurious moustache with him. The wedding is off and the Ives are no longer welcome at the Murray household.
Vanessa is taken to an asylum – the treatment for her catatonia will be narcotics (yay!) and cold water therapy (boo!)
Vanessa becomes incredibly and inexplicably ill, which they initially believe to be epilepsy, but it’s obviously demonic possession to viewers. Vanessa is taken to an asylum to see a specialist, where he says the treatment for her catatonia will be narcotics (yay!) and cold water therapy (boo!). Vanessa, again possessed, tries to attack her therapist, which leads to a prolonged montage of ice water baths, injections, pressure hoses, and trepanning.
Some time later, Vanessa is back home and still frequently catatonic. Peter pays the Ives a visit the night before he sets off on the expedition with his father. He sits with Vanessa and she slowly begins to recognise him. She says he should have kissed her in the maze and asks him to kiss her. He does and she tells him he’s going to die in Africa.
Later that night, she is visited by her demon in the visage of Malcolm. He tells her she’s always had a choice, that she invited it/him in, and it still isn’t too late to close that door. Vanessa’s mother hears noises from Vanessa’s room and discovers Vanessa naked and writhing on the bed, like she’s having vigorous sex with the invisible man (although it’s definitely supposed to be demon sex, the invisible man could be a plausible twist for a second season reveal). The sight of this makes her mother drop dead (literally) from shock.
Some time later, Vanessa encounters Mina during a walk on the beach. Mina forgives Vanessa and is now married to Jonathan Harker (who, sadly, does not have a luxurious moustache). Mina says she is under control of the master and begs for Vanessa’s help before the apparition of Mina is pulled backward and disappears.
Vanessa visits Malcolm and tells him that Mina needs their help. Reluctantly, Malcolm agrees to work with Vanessa. After they are successful, Vanessa tells Malcolm, “you will be done. I will walk on.”
– It seems likely that Malcolm won’t survive to see the recently announced second season.
– So much talk of luxurious moustaches! Try to use “luxurious moustache(s)” in a sentence today. Your life will be better for it.
– The Tempest provides a second name in Penny Dreadful, which brings us to three explicitly Shakespearean names in five episodes. Impressive.
Read more: Our recap of last week’s Penny Dreadful
All images: Showtime