Though it opens with a shocking murder and gruesome fight scene, the penultimate episode of Penny Dreadful season 2 is a little slow. There’s a lot of set-up in the first half that needs to happen to start to deliver on the endgame — and a lot of that set-up feels repetitive. Once “And Hell Itself My Only Foe” reaches the final acts, things really begin to kick into high gear. As the season finale rapidly approaches, the villains look to be in complete control and the heroes further than ever from victory.
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Nothing Like an Early Morning Murder…
In the hut, Ethan awakens to find Roper standing over him. Brandishing a gun, Roper “invites” Vanessa to come downstairs and forces her to handcuff Ethan. Roper tells Vanessa he’s taking Ethan back to America, and while he’s here he’ll probably kill and rape her too. So, naturally, Vanessa grabs a knife and starts slashing. A struggle follows, and Vanessa and Ethan are forced to kill Roper, though Vanessa doesn’t seem to mind repeatedly stabbing Roper in the heart.
Ethan and Vanessa’s troubles are far from over. The next morning, after they’ve buried Roper, Victor shows up in a carriage. He tells them about Malcolm being trapped in Evelyn’s castle and that they need to rescue him.
When Ethan and Vanessa arrive back at the manor, Bartholomew Rusk is waiting for Ethan. The two walk off to go be sniping prima donnas at one another. It’s basically a replay of all their other scenes, until Rusk drops a bomb. He knows Ethan’s real name. Rusk promises — or, more accurately, threatens — Ethan that he’ll bring his crimes — all his crimes — into the light of day.
Ethan goes inside to find that Lyle has finally coming clean about his double agent status. Everyone accepts and forgives Lyle pretty quickly, but that’s mostly because Vanessa wants to rush off and do something reckless. She’s determined to save Malcolm that night, but everyone tries to convince to her to wait, at least until the season finale. Sembene provides the most convincing argument and continues his season-long trend of being Penny Dreadful‘s MVB (most valuable bad-ass). He tells Vanessa they will go save Malcolm, charging Evelyn’s stronghold, and it will be unholy slaughter — but only when the time is right.
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John is not too happy with “consummating” his relationship with Lily in “Memento Mori.” He believes her to be the devil and himself a reflection of that evil. Lily is just the appetizer on John’s terrible meal of a day. The sweet, blind Lavinia Putney turns out to be just as disgusting as her parents. She tricks John and locks him in a cell. Then her parents appear and tell John he’s to be their newest and biggest “freakish” attraction.
Meanwhile, Lily is working her magic on Dorian, though magic is a bit wholesome a word for Lily’s manipulative sexual mind games. She uses the same language with Dorian that she used before sleeping with John. “We’re immortal creatures; we can rule humanity together” … y’know, the general undead supervillain speechifying. After plagiarizing herself, she decides to steal something from Mike Tyson. She bites off Dorian’s ear and tells him to heal himself — a task that Dorian eagerly accepts.
Victor, still hurting over the dissolution of his relationship with Lily, is comforting himself with morphine. Thankfully, Vanessa is home now and she is there to soothe him as well. Penny Dreadful may have turned Ethan and Vanessa’s friendship into a romance, but at least this sibling-like relationship remains.
Wolf of God, Witch of Satan
Speaking of Ethan, he goes into his bedroom and finds Hecate awaiting him. She tells Ethan what being the “Wolf of God” really means. According to Hecate, Ethan is destined to rise above humanity and join Lucifer’s side as the devil retakes Heaven, and Hecate wants to be there. She will help and guide Ethan to his destiny.
Ethan seems kind of cool with all of this, which doesn’t necessarily jive with his character or even make sense. However, Penny Dreadful does need to set something up for the next season. Lily’s growing reign of terror is not enough to pad out a season. So I guess I’m willing to let this slide.
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Vanessa and Evelyn Meet Again
But enough of all this tedious set-up and talking. Vanessa decides she is just as tired of waiting for the action as the audience is. She slips out of the manor and goes to confront Evelyn on her own. The guys quickly notice she’s missing and rush after her, but Vanessa has already met Evelyn inside her castle.
Evelyn takes Vanessa down to her basement of horrors, and the creepy doll magic reaches its zenith of terror. Vanessa comes face to face with her doll doppelganger. If that’s not enough, the doll opens its eyes and, in Vanessa’s own voice, calls her a murderer.
Never. Split. Up. The. Group.
In the most horrifying episode of Scooby Doo ever, the men split up into two teams to explore Evelyn’s castle looking for Malcolm. Lyle and Victor are in one pair and Sembene and Ethan in the other. Lyle and Victor become separated when one of Evelyn’s daughters traps Lyle. Victor plows ahead and manages to find Malcolm in his room of horrors. Before Victor can rescue Malcolm, he becomes affected by the strange magic that is tormenting Malcolm. Victor doesn’t see his dead family like Malcolm does, but rather his own undead children. Lily, John and even Proteus begin to surround Victor.
Sembene and Ethan’s adventures are somehow even less successful. Hecate traps the men in a cramped staircase.This doesn’t sound bad, but it’s also the night of the full moon, which means Ethan can turn into a werewolf at any moment. Ethan tries to commit suicide to save Sembene’s life, but Sembene stops him. Sembene says that he is just a man and Ethan has a destiny. This is Sembene’s final and most bad-ass moment. He sacrifices his life, letting Ethan kill him when he turns into a werewolf. RIP MVB.
Penny Dreadful airs Sundays at 10pm on Showtime.
(Image courtesy of Showtime)