Vanessa finally made her choice, and it wasn't the expected choice.
Penny Dreadful Season 3 Episode 7 saw Vanessa succumb to the seductions of Dracula/Dr. Sweet, fully knowing who he was and what she was doing. Talk about a twist!
There's a lot to unpack here – this was one of the few installments this season that featured every major character! – so I'll just jump right in.
We opened on Lily at a graveyard, somber and all in black, as she gave a rousing speech (Lily's just chock-full of rousing speeches this season, isn't she?) to a mother laying her own daughter to rest. It was a great speech, lovely dialogue as always, and Billie Piper is totally killing it in this role as per usual – but at some point, Lily is sort of just saying the same thing over an over again, isn't she?
Anyway, the meat of this scene was the big (and yet very understated) reveal that Lily, as her previous self Brona, had her own child die, likely much in the same manner that she described in her speech to the mourning mother. The tombstone revealed that Brona/Lily's child was named Sarah Croft, and that she died at or around the age of 1, in 1891.
Completely heartbreaking; as if Lily's backstory could possibly get any more tragic, we've now got the added context that she was prostituting herself to provide for her child, the only means of survival she could muster. To further dig in the knife, note that her daughter died in 1891 – Penny Dreadful Season 1 was set in 1891, meaning that Brona, stricken with tuberculosis, had just watched her own child die shortly before she met Ethan. Yikes.
They've done a great job in contextualizing Lily's rage to keep her a quasi-sympathetic character throughout all her hand-collecting, murderous, chest-thumping antics. I, for one, find it very hard to completely write her off as a loon, which is a success and a real testament to John Logan's always-phenomenal writing and character development.
Of course, despite his infrequent appearances this season, we've seen a steady strand of Dorian becoming more and more disgruntled and uncomfortable with Lily's actions all season. This finally came to a head during "Ebb Tide," in which Dorian found himself bored and disenchanted with Lily's "Rise up, ye women" mission.
Dorian is a textbook narcissistic, so it's unsurprising that he finally turned on Lily, once it became clear that her focus was no longer on him. Instead, she was far more interested in her revolution – something that Dorian, as he so bluntly said, had seen quite enough of in his many lifetimes.
You want to play with me, kitten? Then show me your claws.Dorian
As soon as he threw on his jacket and cast an annoyed glance back at the cadre of women gallivanting in his house – following his face-off with a very feisty Justine – it was clear that he was going straight to Victor Frankenstein. They did a nice job of setting that up back on Penny Dreadful Season 3 Episode 6, when Dorian intervened to prevent the women from killing Victor and vowed that he'd call on Victor for a favor in repayment later on.
The one rather unavoidable plot hole, for me, is why on earth Lily allowed Victor to leave Dorian's house alive in the first place. Despite Dorian's interference, there was no logical, in-character reason for Lily to let Victor live. Seems pure plot contrivance. He had to live then so he (and Dorian) could later kidnap her and attempt to mold her into a docile version of herself.
It sorta stuck in my craw that Lily so drastically changed her tune back on Penny Dreadful Season 3 Episode 2, when Victor first sat on that bench outside the house and cried up at her window. It doesn't make a ton of sense that she allowed him to survive after she'd already warned him off twice.
Now, that mistake may cost her.
We're going to make you into a proper woman.Frankenstein
GAG. John Logan is not really being subtle here with who we're supposed to sympathize with in this scenario. (Spoiler alert: Despite all the murder and mayhem, it's still Lily.)
Despite being chained up like an animal, I sincerely doubt that Victor will succeed in his attempt to "domesticate" Lily. She is too volatile and too interesting to be killed off or reduced to her docile, immediately-post-resurrection self.
As an aside, there's a really interesting parallel here between Victor's desire to make Lily a "proper woman" and Vanessa's speech to the orderly on Penny Dreadful Season 3 Episode 4 about women being forced to be obedient and docile, cogs in a social machine.
Meanwhile, Frankenstein's other creation had a much, much better week.
Mr. Clare, after a little pep talk from Vanessa that essentially flowed as if the two of them were reciting a poem jointly, decided to take a chance and reintroduce himself to his family.
Mr. Clare: Join the dance?
Vanessa: We both should. We have been unhappy long enough.
Mr. Clare: No matter the consequences?
Vanessa: Let us dare.
Mr. Clare: And if we're rejected?
Vanessa: Can we be more lonely than we are now?
Mr. Clare: Then let us dare.
Vanessa: And may the lost souls be found.
Seriously, how spectacular are these two together? It's unreal, their chemistry and their ability to bring to life John Logan's extremely lyrical dialogue without making it sound cheesy and ridiculous.
Nothing ever really works out on this show, so I was certainly not expecting it to be all hugs and kisses and tearful reunions. But it was! My heart swelled. It was so lovely and Rory Kinnear has such a marvelously expressive face. He really brought the emotional weight to that scene. I made the mistake of watching the screener for this episode in an In-N-Out, which got a little weird because I was basically in tears when the reunion between Mr. Clare and his son Jack happened.
You were lost. And now you are home, husband.Marjorie
Of course, we still have the Penny Dreadful Season 3 Finale to get through, so I'm not getting too comfortable or letting my guard down. There's still a solid two hours of screen-time for something to go horribly wrong for the ever-tragic Mr. Clare.
Finally, there was the convergence of the Kaetenay/Sir Malcolm/Ethan storyline with the Vanessa/Dracula storyline.
In the end, despite any of the myriad chaos surrounding Lily, Dorian, Victor, and the Creature, it is Vanessa's battle with darkness which is the heart of Penny Dreadful. Naturally, for that reason, the big turning point in the main plot – Vanessa giving herself over to Dracula – closed out this installment.
Despite having sex with Dracula (in his Dr. Sweet persona) the night before, Vanessa hadn't fully given herself over to him just yet. Apparently, she needed to be fully aware of who he actually was in order to do that. As Vanessa inched closer to the truth, Ethan, Sir Malcolm, and Kaetenay raced across an ocean hoping to make it there in time to prevent the end of days, as ushered in by Vanessa and her vampire boyfriend.
Of course, the three men were on a boat, so there wasn't much they could actually do to hasten their trip. Kaetenay attempted a vision quest to commune with Vanessa, but that was sort of a bust – I'm not sure exactly what the nature of Kaetenay's meeting with Vanessa was, but it appeared to have been intercepted by Dracula or somehow just didn't make it through to her.
As a fan of Ethan/Vanessa romantically, it was great to hear Ethan address the fact that he turned her down when she opened her heart to him and that he wanted to return to her an make things right. Unfortunately, it's too little, too late, from what we've seen.
Also, way to get over Hecate completely in like 4 minutes, Ethan. She literally took a bullet for you. Not cool. Kind of abrupt.
Ethan regained points for this speech to Kaetenay about who his real tribe was:
My people are in London now. That man inside there -- that woman that I told you about -- my friends. That is my tribe.Ethan
And, similarly, for his reassurance to Sir Malcolm, that he'd have never chosen to not meet him and Vanessa, if he had the chance to do things differently:
You've seen what I come from. That dragon that raised me. That land that reared me. I've known very little grace in my life. But I did with her. And with you.Ethan
After all they've gone through, they're truly a family. Vanessa and Sir Malcolm are Ethan's people. As much as I love the Ethan/Vanessa bond, the Sir Malcolm/Ethan surrogate fatherly bond is almost as great.
Back in London, Catriona conveniently showed up at Vanessa's door to explain to her that everything she thought she knew about Dracula was wrong (a nice way for John Logan to throw in an explanation for why Dr. Sweet was able to walk in sunlight, have a reflection, etc.)
I like Catriona, and more than that I like the idea of Vanessa having another strong female to befriend, but the timing of her appearance at the house was a bit suspicious.
Is she in league with Dracula? She quite transparently tipped Vanessa off as to his true identity (saying that Dracula typically dwelled in the house of night creatures was a very obvious hint), and despite Vanessa's initial intention to go there and shoot Dracula, she ended up playing right into his hand.
The confrontation scene closing out the installment was wonderful. Eva Green perfectly portrayed Vanessa's broken spirit and as Dracula echoed themes we'd already heard before – being normal, being herself, etc. – it did make an unfortunate amount of sense for her to give in to him. She was tired of fighting him. She was tired of fighting herself.
Dracula: There's one monster who loves you for who you really are. And here he stands. I don't want to make you good. I don't want you to be normal. I don't want you to be anything but who you truly are. You have tried for so long to be what everyone wants you to be. What you thought you ought to be. What your church and your family and your doctors said you must be. Why not be who you are instead?
Dracula: You will never be alone again. I will love you til time has lost all meaning.
Dracula: Do you accept me?
Vanessa: I accept... myself.
So... that's it, then? Ethan and the others are set to show up in London for the finale, so they will fight to reclaim Vanessa from darkness. But the question remains: can she be saved now? Does she want to be saved?
- Sorry for missing out on reviewing last week's Penny Dreadful Season 3 Episode 6, y'all – I was out of the country and wasn't able to find another reviewer to cover it! My big takeaways from last week were "Good riddance, Inspector Rusk" and also "Holy death count, Batman!"
- I kind of really, really hate Justine now. It was sudden, but I just can't stand her. She's not well-developed enough to justify her extreme venomousness towards Dorian – who, don't get me wrong, I'm also not a big fan of right now. She is too obliquely just a foil for Lily, a parallel of her pre-Lily Brona persona, had Brona been empowered as Lily is empowering Justine.
- Are we ever going to learn the Creature's pre-Mr. Clare original name? It seemed pointed that Marjorie referred to him as "husband" and not by name...
- Who wants to place bets on Kaetenay's survival odds? I'm guessing he won't make it out of this battle alive. This guy has had so many near-death experiences (both seen and discussed) that I assume he's going to meet his end in the finale.
- Dr. Seward is becoming more aware of Renfield's creepiness. Will this lead her to the truth about Vanessa and Dracula?
What did you think of "Ebb Tide"? Leave me a comment below and catch up before the season finale by watching Penny Dreadful online here at TV Fanatic!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.