Penny Dreadful Review: Unendurable Truth

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If it’s possible to experience a wild ride while on a sedate merry-go-round, Penny Dreadful Season 1 Episode 6 delivered that in spades.

It’s becoming more and more obvious that Vanessa is the key to the biggest part of the puzzle in this show, but it seems like the more I learn about her, the more I want to learn.

Vanessa's Vision

As was easily predicted, Vanessa and Dorian gave into their desires for each other but I have to wonder what exactly it meant to both of them.

They seem to be kindred spirits and when they were speaking about how they were each different from “normal” people, I saw quite the connection between them.

I have a complicated history with the Almighty.


But could their connection be something different? The events in this episode took place the night after Dorian’s (we assume) tryst with Ethan. So is Dorian simply getting what he needs from each person that he finds attractive and interesting? Or is he providing what they need, which in turn feeds his own desires?

We still haven’t seen his painting yet which makes me suspect that there’s more going on here than simple seduction, no matter how beautiful it is to watch.

As for Vanessa, she was undoubtedly drawn to Dorian and it looked like he brought out the darkness in her, but was that on purpose? She told Sir Malcolm she couldn’t just conjure up the Master or Mina, but her violent sexcapade with Dorian seemed to do just that.

Van Helsing: Of what I am about to tell you, we cannot enlighten him.
Victor: Why not?
Van Helsing: Because the truth is unendurable.

Each storyline in this episode unfolded in the quiet, almost gentle way I’ve come to love from this show. And yet, I still felt breathless and excited when it was all over.

Take Victor and Van Helsing for instance, we finally heard the word “vampire” but I didn’t quite understand why Van Helsing was so adamant that Sir Malcolm not find out. It seems to me that after everything Sir Malcolm has seen, discovering vampires are real would be nothing. Or could it be Van Helsing’s ignorance of the situation that made him say that?

Well, it took a few weeks but I might be slowly getting onto the side of those who thought that Caliban was nothing but a bully. While I felt bad for him when the lovely lady rejected him, I don’t know if I consider that a justification for murder.

Do not weep. I've learned that skill. It brings no solace.


Ethan’s story is still unfolding slowly and there is part of me that is getting some sort of sick pleasure from that. I want to know who or what he is for sure, but I love that they aren’t giving it to us immediately. I thought for sure we’d know by the end of this episode, but I was happy to be wrong.

The desire to learn what he is reminded me of something that Van Helsing said. Could it be that learning about Ethan will be some sort of unendurable truth? If so, aren’t they all living with that now already?

Freakiest bits:

  • Vanessa’s tarot cards moving apparently on their own.
  • The painting screaming at Vanessa.
  • The look Vanessa gave to the camera.
  • Brona asking Ethan to stand a minute so she could look at him, as if she were planning to die that night.
  • Vanessa looking at all of the Dorian’s portraits. I kept waiting for one to come alive.
  • Caliban showing up out of the blue and snapping Van Helsing’s neck.
  • All of the vampires opening their eyes and attack en masse.
  • Not just Dorian bringing out the knife, but the way Vanessa seemed to relish the prospect of taking his blood.
  • Vanessa’s face when the Master spoke to her while she was on top of Dorian. Holy cow.
  • Vanessa floating in the air and spinning around. Yep. That did it. Officially freaked out now.

Did Vanessa sleep with Dorian for another purpose other than pure pleasure?

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Penny Dreadful Season 1 Episode 6 Quotes

Van Helsing: She did not succumb to a disease precisely.
Victor: Of what did she succumb?
Van Helsing: I drove a stake through her heart and cut off her head.

Van Helsing: Of what I am about to tell you, we cannot enlighten him.
Victor: Why not?
Van Helsing: Because the truth is unendurable.