ARGH! That’s how I feel after sitting on the events in the episode for the evening. We have one episode of Penny Dreadful left this season. Traditionally, I would have expected a big setup for the season finale to have taken place in this episode, so that the finale can explore closure and resolution. I’m not sure if we got that here in episode seven, “Possession.”
Depending on how things play out next week, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. The finale might surprise me and pack a lot of action into it, along with some answers, or it might be a jumbled mess. I’m cautiously expecting the former, praying we don’t get the latter.
Note: There are potential spoilers throughout this review, so you may want to stop here and return after watching the show.
The final few minutes of last week’s episode (“What Death Can Join Together”) brought Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) back home after an evening of sexual exploration with Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney). But instead of looking like a satisfied woman, she looked ill, feverish, and then decided to treat us with some levitation.
With that ending, we could only hope this episode was going to be intense. And, boy, was it! Time is a bit fluid in this episode – I would guess that the entire episode took place over the course of a month, but that’s just a guess. And while the action is intense, yet also subdued, Vanessa most certainly takes Malcolm, Frankenstein, and Ethan to task.
To start, Vanessa seems to channel a young Mina, taunting Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) with stories of how “fat mother” used to cry and try to hide it from the children. Malcolm’s affairs seemed to have no boundaries – neighbors, prostitutes, native women (Vanessa’s words). And, apparently, he even forced Peter to participate to prove his manhood! Malcolm is truly a shining example of parenting. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) Yet he lets Vanessa – or the entity possessing her – taunt him. He takes her verbal abuse, and then suddenly things start to heat up. Papers fly off the desk. Books and furniture fly about the room. Who knows what would have happened if Sembene (Danny Sapani) hadn’t come in and literally knock Vanessa out with two swift blows? The man is a badass.
After waking up from Sembene’s blows, Vanessa is brushing her hair, while Malcolm and Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) look on. Malcolm is dismissed, so the good doctor may examine Vanessa. We learn that she is still alive, and we get to see just how awkward Frankie is with the living. Vanessa takes Frank to task for his innocence, implying he has never known the touch of a woman. And she all but admits that she is possessed, a demon. To his credit, Frank doesn’t run from the room screaming, but he does look concerned.
My husband (The Husband) guessed right off the bat – a few episodes ago – that Vanessa’s possession, or rather her inability to keep whatever it is that haunts her at bay, has something to do with sex. I tend to think it has more to do with sex being an activity that frees us (Ideally, it relaxes us.), thereby lowering Vanessa’s defenses. Frankie seems to think it has more to do with psychosexual perversions and guilt. Nonetheless, Vanessa’s encounter with Dorian Gray did indeed bring forth something, or perhaps it merely allowed something within her to come out and play a bit. Whatever the case may be, whatever is within her, dear Ms. Ives is a snarky devil!
Frank goes downstairs and asks if perhaps some sort of sexual trauma brought this about in Vanessa. Malcolm says that it might have something to do with her date with Dorian (See. I knew it. The manboy is no good!), and then… the spiders come. Tons of them come out from under Vanessa’s cards. I start to itch – bugs do that to me. Vanessa screams from upstairs. The gentlemen make their way upstairs. Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) arrives, and Malcolm asks him if he brought his weapons. Is this the end of the mysterious Vanessa Ives?
When the men get to her room, things are tense. Vanessa looks even worse than before – a skeleton where a lovely woman once stood. She starts kind, but then taunts Ethan about his encounter with Dorain. Kind woman, then wicked demon. She also puts Malcolm in his place by reminding him what a complete shit he was to his son, Peter, and basically calls Malcolm a child-killer. Eventually, she has to be sedated.
Just before being sedated, Vanessa screams at the men in Arabic. Once downstairs, the men start drinking, and Ethan asks Malcolm what’s wrong with her..
He tells her that Vanessa is possessed by the devil.
Ethan’s response, “Oh, fuck me!”
Malcolm goes on to explain that Vanessa might be possessed by the ancient goddess Amunet, and if she is brought forth, she could very well be the destruction force they all fear. He then says that the Arabic words she screamed were “Let me die.”
We get a montage of similar events – Vanessa railing at the men, and them sedating her. And soon we see just how this is effecting her. She is thin, and her body is bruised and battered. It’s a very intense scene.
Ethan wants to call a priest, but Malcolm refuses.
We are treated to even more scenes of rages, projectile vomiting, and the men cleaning up and valiantly trying to protect Vanessa from herself.
Eventually we see Ethan sitting vigil by her bed, and when she awakens, she seems to be Vanessa again. Yet something is off. She begs Ethan not to let her hurt anyone, telling him that he alone has the strength to do what needs to be done – to kill her. But things aren’t what they seem.
A few episodes ago, the Serpent (Amun-Ra?) visited Vanessa in the form of Malcolm. This time it takes the form of Ethan – the one man that seems to want to truly help her. He, or rather whatever is possessing him, tells her that he wants her to rule by his side – to be the Mother of Evil! WTF!
But then we see that Ethan is truly downstairs with Malcolm. He is railing at Malcolm’s desire to head back to Africa, and it is here that we see the depths of Malcolm’s failings in regards to his son. His son became ill, and instead of being there with him or bringing him home, Malcolm simply buries his poor son because he needed to map yet another part of the lake and river.
The Husband points out that perhaps it is his failings with Peter that has caused this obsessive desire to save Mina. I point out that Malcolm is just a giant jerk.
The back half of this episode moves quickly. We see a scene with Vanessa in her room where something within her causes her blood to look almost black, and makes her veins form weird shapes. What was that? The goddess Amunet and the god Amun-Ra maybe? She starts scratching at her arms, and the men must sedate her yet again. Frankenstein shooting up morphine. Ethan expresses his fears to Frankie that Malcolm isn’t being honest with them in regards to Vanessa – he might not want her dead, but does he truly want her to live? And then we see that Caliban (The Creature) is standing outside Malcolm’s home, so Frank suddenly asks Ethan to teach him to shoot.
The next short scene brings some levity to a very intense episode. The men are in the basement, and Ethan has set up bottles. He gives Frankie some tips, and the men go at it with the guns. (Ergh! What happened to Brona? He’s shooting bottles with his pal, but where is she?) When Sembene comes downstairs to tell them that Malcolm is inquiring about the noise, Ethan quips:
“Uh oh, we’re in trouble with Dad!”
Vanessa is screaming yet again… and again. And then we see her tied to the bed with Sembene sitting guard outside her room. Ethan brings him food.
“So, what’s your story?” He asks the quiet man as he eats.
“I have no story.”
I bet he does, and I hope we hear it soon, as I like the calm Sembene brings to the show. He does what needs to be done – nothing more, nothing less. He tells Ethan that perhaps it is time to call a priest.
Cut to Malcolm literally badgering a comatose Vanessa. He’s begging her to find Mina, telling her that this line she is straddling between life and death must allow her a connection with Mina. I am truly beginning to dislike Malcolm. But enter St. Ethan, who tells him to get away from her – in much more colorful language! I am pleased to see that Ethan and Frankie are on the same page. Frankie because he can logically see Vanessa wasting away, and he knows he has done all he can. Ethan because he seems to truly care for her and wants to release her from her misery.
Ethan screams to Malcolm:
“You want a daughter? There she is!”
He tells Malcolm that she’s not a monster with fangs, but just a girl. It’s a poignant moment, and for a second I wonder if perhaps Ethan has gotten through to Malcolm. Eventually, Malcolm relents and lets Ethan call a priest. Ethan also makes sure that Malcolm knows, should he find out Malcolm was manipulating Vanessa all this time, just to find Mina, he will rip Malcolm’s throat out. And I kinda believed him.
In the next scene, we get to see Frankenstein, the resident druggie, give Malcolm a cocaine derivative to stay awake. During the scene, Malcolm shares more insight into how horrible he was/is. Malcolm’s son, Peter, had one wish before death – for Malcolm to name a mountain after him. Well, when Malcolm found those mountains, he named them after… himself. Scum!
The priest arrives, and while the men were hoping for an exorcism, the priest refuses and says he will give last rites and hear her final confessions, nothing more. You know this isn’t going to end well.
The priest starts to do his thing, and for a moment I feared this was the end of Vanessa. All of a sudden shackles are thrown off, Vanessa has a mouthful of the priest’s face, and she seems to dance on the ceiling before falling nimbly to the floor and turning to the men. Things move quickly here, and I’m unsure of what I’ve seen, but the next thing I know bodies are flying – the men, not Vanessa. And before we know it, Ethan and Vanessa are alone.
It’s painfully obvious what Ethan should do. He’s a gunslinger, the hired heavy, but he also seems to truly care about Vanessa. She’s obviously fighting back the demon within. She is begging, crying, and pleading, and you see the pain on his face as well. Her pleading gets to him, and he brings his gun to her chest.
And then… holy moly! Ethan knows Latin!
Why, Mr. Chandler, aren’t you full of surprises?! Ethan performs the exorcism himself, and as Vanessa contorts and screams, we’re left wondering just what exactly is the enigma that is Ethan Chandler.
Vanessa eventually collapses, and Ethan simply walks out of the room, gathers his things, and leaves.
And The Husband and I are left sitting there with our mouths open – or at least mine was. There was talk weeks ago that Ethan was a werewolf. That doesn’t seem to make sense now. A fallen angel? A priest? What the heck is going on?
We wrap up with Vanessa dreaming of the play she recently watched – The Transformed Beast. When she wakes, looking much healthier, she tells Malcolm she knows where Mina is.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, my frustration grows with the show, and I’m OK with that as long as we get the pay off. So long as I get something for investing my time in the show, I’m cool with the questions and the mystery. However, should we be left with no answers, or even more questions, after next week’s season finale… well, I’ll be the first to admit that it probably won’t make much of a difference. Though I might get annoyed and curse – maybe even throw something – I have been sucked into the mysterious world of Victorian London that these characters inhabit, and I think it’s safe to say we’ll stick around for the ride.