This week, the amazing Patti LuPone was introduced as Vanessa's mystical teacher of the dark arts.
It's fascinating how sometimes a character resonates so strongly, we're devastated by their loss at the end of the hour. Such was the case with Joan Clayton aka The Cut-Wife.
Where other witch shows feel like they're trying too hard, Penny Dreadful Season 2 Episode 3 succeeded in grounding Vanessa's backstory. These witches are the stuff of nightmares and they mean business.
Penny Dreadful Season 1 Episode 5 gave us our first full episode flashback. That was the one that dealt with Vanessa and Mina as children, and her eventual possession. This season, they moved the special flashback episode to number three. That gives me hope we'll get a full flashback episode for Ethan, which is long overdue in my opinion.
He's the one present day character we see briefly questioning Vanessa about the scorpion. She launches into a story she's never shared with anyone, which is a good sign she trusts Ethan.
Watching Vanessa wait in the rain outside the Cut-Wife's cottage, I couldn't help think of Arya from Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 1 waiting outside the House of Black and White. What's with these tests before gaining entrance to a place? I mean, the Cut-Wife could have gone outside on the second day and asked Vanessa the same questions.
I am like no others. That's why I'm here.Vanessa
The Cut-Wife was crude and nasty, but Vanessa passed all her tests. She certainly proved herself powerful, and the Cut-Wife knew it right away. It seemed she was testing whether Vanessa was a good person or an evil one. We also learned the scorpion was designated by the old witch.
Once Vanessa picked the Devil from the tarot deck, it appeared the Cut-Wife softened up a bit. While discussing the card, Vanessa mentioned it can represent "a dark lover approaching." Would that be Dorian or Ethan... or both? Could she have been referring to Lucifer himself? It was interesting to hear the Cut-Wife tell Vanessa she was born with the gift. I'll be honest, I could have done without them killing Thumper. I'm not big on animal cruelty, so the skinning was a bit over the top.
If the Cut-Wife "learned" her gift, how did she know all that information about Vanessa's mother? That threw me for a moment, but I decided to let it slide and chalk it up to years of practice.
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.The Cut-Wife
When Evelyn and her coven arrived, I was surprised how much more powerful she was. Were these two biological sisters or did they use the term sisters of a former coven? It wasn't too clear to me. Either way, we learned Evelyn gave up her soul for youth. I couldn't help but laugh when she called her sister a talking potato. I kept wondering if Vanessa would see Evelyn's face, but she remained in the shadows. Naturally had Vanessa seen her, she would have recognized Evelyn at the now infamous séance from last season.
Once the evil witches left, we learned they were "Nightcomers," former harmless Daywalkers gone bad. More animal cruelty followed as Evelyn walked through a herd of cattle, killing them with a slight touch. The abortion scene was rough, too. Penny Dreadful doesn't mess around, it's as dark as television can get.
Meanwhile, Evelyn was working her enchantments on Sir Geoffrey Hawkes, the landowner of those parts. We instantly realized the guy was a jackass, but Evelyn beat him into action. I've got to say, the S&M scene worked well. There are times when a moment like that can be thrown in for shock value. However, here it felt very natural for the Evelyn character. It did not come across as forced or fake.
Vanessa's confrontation with Sir Geoffrey was tough, and I had a feeling the "scream for me" would come back to haunt her.
When Lucifer fell, he did not fall alone. They will hunt you until the end of days. Be true.The Cut-Wife
In the end, Sir Geoffrey riled up the townsfolk and they burned the Cut-Wife alive. Joan Clayton left Vanessa her cottage and the forbidden "Poetry of Death" book. Obviously, she is going to open that book at some point. Do you think she will use it to defeat Evelyn and her coven?
The burning scene was haunting but beautifully shot. Watching Joan Clayton burn reminded me of the real life women burned at the stake in the name of God. It was a powerful scene, and I found myself watery-eyed over a character I just met. That's great acting and writing. Patti LuPone absolutely killed her guest starring role. This was a tough and emotional installment, but I feel like I know Vanessa Ives even better now.
I don't remember noticing the cross burned into Vanessa's skin, but now that we know it's there I will probably go back looking for it in earlier episodes. By protecting the cottage with her scorpion mark, I got the impression she will return.
What did you think of "The Nightcomers"? Did you ever imagine Evelyn was this evil? What did you think of Joan Clayton's story? Will Vanessa return to the cottage for that book? Your turn my fellow Dreadfuls, hit the comments below. We've got plenty to talk about.
NOTE: Penny Dreadful Season 2 Episode 4 is titled “Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places” and airs on Sunday, May 24.