Penny Dreadful: The Nightcomers

Posted: May 23, 2015 in film, gothic, horror, television
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

*Spoilers may follow*

“What is wrong?” Ethan asks of Vanessa after spotting the blood left on the floor from Verbis Diablo


As Vanessa begins to tell her story to him we are brought back to the time in which Mina had gone missing. In order to find out why she is, as she is, Vanessa has traveled to the West Country to speak with the infamous  Cut- Wife (Joan).

nightwalkers vanessa and joan

Unfortunately, her introduction is marred with crass-to-be-crass dialogue, and an overly dramatic performance by Patti Lupone.   As the character kept spitting out venom and turning to Vanessa for a reaction, it brought to mind a teen trying to shock their parents by leaving  The Satanic Bible open on the kitchen table, or making sure they’re caught while acting out scenes from the works of the Marquis de Sade.

Vanessa wasn’t buying it.  Neither did I.

Once Cut Wife stopped jamming her fingers into Vanessa’s forehead and lifting her up from the ground by her crotch, she calmed down enough to allow our gal to come inside her fetish-filled witch hut.

“Who marked you?” She wants to know of the pentacle branded in Joan’s skin.  When the other will not respond, the answer comes to Vanessa, herself.  “Someone you kissed once.  A woman.  A sister?”  “Your sister.” She looks to the witch.  “If I am right, let me stay.”

At that, Joan brings out a tarot deck and orders Vanessa to pick a card.

The Devil.

“When you understand the major arcana, you can hear the echoes of time in your ear,”  Joan explains the next day as they walk through the morning forest. “They’re never always as they seem.”  Words which certainly describe the characters who populate Penny Dreadful.

penny dreadful vanessa and joan

“And what do they mean?”

“You’ll learn.” And she has Vanessa describe her impressions of the Devil Card.

“A dark lover.  Part of yourself, but not.  The whispers of something ghastly and beautiful.”

Later, Joan warns Vanessa she is in danger.

“From what?”

“Legions.” Vanessa is a terrible woman, she insists, and like attracts like. “I felt you every step across the moor. And they felt you, too.”

Nighttime.

As they sit discussing Vanessa’s hopes in saving Mina, Joan feels a stir. She warns the other to stay seated while she takes a look. In a fantastic shot, three witches stand outside underneath the crooked branch of a tree. Behind, the landscape evokes the isolation of Caspar David Friedrich.

Helen McCrory as Evelyn Poole in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 3). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_203_2785

Helen McCrory as Evelyn Poole in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 3). – Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: PennyDreadful_203_2785

Joan greets one. “Sister.”
“Sister,” Miss Poole replies.

She has come for the Master will not be denied the woman he seeks the most, and warns the Cut-Witch that she can’t protect Vanessa forever. “Your bones are brittle. Do you really want this to be your last battle?”

“It is the only battle,” Joan spits back.

She and her sister once followed the old ways as “daycomers” until the devil tempted Miss Poole with promises of youth, beauty, love, and power. The coven followed her and cast out Joan when she would not join them in their midnight arts.

“You know them,” she now says to Vanessa. “All those midnight things.”

And it is a good thing that Vanessa does indeed know these midnight things, for Miss Poole and her witches will be coming back…

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At the conclusion of the episode, I wasn’t sure how I felt, and still don’t. Some of the dialogue was over-the-top, and some didn’t make any sense character-wise. “They come to me so I can kill their babies.” “You’re here so I can kill your baby, right? Okay. Lie down on the floor.” That’s terminology that someone against abortion would use. Not words a wisewoman or “cut-wife” performing the procedure would.

The mentor/student relationship between Joan and Vanessa came across very stereotypical and contrived.  Of course crusty ol’ Joan allows Vanessa to stay and decides to help her even though she pretty much knows doing so will be the death of her.

The plot was paint by the numbers and quite derivitive.

YET, I loved the mood and atmosphere evoked throughout. The Salem-y bleakness mixed with the lustiness of a Hammer Horror film.

The landscape felt like a character, itself.

Helen McCrory shined in another captivating perfomance. And
her witches beguile even while remaining silent in the background…

While some lines of dialogue were ridiculous, the episode was also filled with some exquisite lines.

With a little bit of help from Shakespeare: “I felt you every step across the moor. They felt you too. They’ll be here soon. I felt you walking to my door. Felt you standing there. By the pricking of my thumbs something wicked this way comes.”

Hopes:

– while this is unlikely, I’d love a flashback episode of Miss Poole and Joan set back in the days when the devil came between them…

Questions:

– How long will it take Vanessa to realize who Miss Poole is?

and how long will it take her to open the Poetry of Death?

– Why does Miss Poole’s master desire Vanessa so much?

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