Penny Dreadful, Season 2, Episode 10, “And They Were Enemies”
Written by John Logan
Directed by Brian Kirk
Airs Sundays at 10 pm (ET) on Showtime
Penny Dreadful concludes its second season with one of its most emotionally wrought episodes in memory. There is no victory here for our monstrous players and worst of all, they find themselves alone.
Last week, Vanessa (Eva Green) told Dr. Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) that he deserved to be loved, and love and acceptance have always been sought by these ghoulish characters. While they previously have been able to lean on each other to form their own twisted little family unit, by the time the end credits roll on “And They Were Enemies”, these characters find themselves scattered to the winds. In the end, it seems they must all walk alone, as Ethan (Josh Hartnett) writes to Vanessa near the ending.
Wrapping up the season’s overall plotline much earlier in the episode than expected, “And They Were Enemies” finds Vanessa facing off against Satan, only Satan takes the form of the giant Vanessa-like puppet that Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory) has crafted. To be blunt, it’s a terribly silly scene. Even for a show that thrives on its over the top charms, watching a character get into a verbal argument with a puppet that looks exactly like her is always going to play silly. But give credit to the consistently remarkable Eva Green, who somehow manages to make it all work. She unleashes a torrent of verbal incantations and curses and is able to crush Satan Puppet Vanessa’s stupid puppet face. R.I.P., Satan (I guess?).
Her benefactor defeated, Evelyn loses any real power she had left — which is exactly what her treacherous daughter Hecate (Sarah Greene) has been waiting for. Hecate opens a door that Ethan, in full werewolf form, is behind (having sadly killed Danny Sapani’s Sembene). Ethan rushes in, tearing Evelyn’s throat out but stopping himself from attacking Vanessa. From here, Dr. Frankenstein, Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton), and Lyle (Simon Russell Beale) kill off the remaining witches. Beale gets to utter the wonderful line, “Never underestimate the power of a queen with lovely hair, my dear,” before dispensing with a witch who has him by the throat. The only person left standing is Hecate, who burns the castle down and heads off to parts unknown.
One might expect this to be the end of the episode, but there’s still a half-hour remaining. Writer and showrunner John Logan uses the rest of the runtime to shatter the remaining characters into pieces. John Clare (Rory Kinnear) is still trapped in a cell in the wax museum basement. His former employers turned captors try to sweet-talk the monster into joining their scheme to display unfortunate freaks like himself to the public. He listens intently, only to rip the bars from their hinges and murder the wax museum owner and his rather awful wife. He leaves their blind daughter left alive to find their bodies.
Victor tries to go claim Lily (Billie Piper) back from Dorian (Reeve Carney), but the two laugh at him to the point that he shoots them both in rage. Of course, Lily and Dorian are both immortals, and the gunshots do little more than making them bleed all over their nice white outfits. Rather than kill Victor, they let him live, so that he may be tormented by the knowledge that he helped create a master race of immortals intent on taking over the world. “You will know terror,” Lily warns, then she and Dorian dance the night away. These two are the only characters to get anything close to a “happy” ending this season, and the shot of them waltzing around Dorian’s gallery while adorned in blood-soaked clothes is wonderfully wicked.
It’s all emotionally down-hill from here. Sir Malcolm is taking Sembene’s body back to Africa. Ethan confesses to being a murderer and is headed back to America in a cage. And poor, tragic John Clare heads off to the Arctic on an ice-encrusted ship, much like his character in Mary Shelley’s source novel. Before he departs though, he and Vanessa share a lovely, melancholy scene. “When you have stood in blood for long enough, what is there left but to wade to a desolate shore,” he tells Vanessa, then tearfully begs her to come with him. But Vanessa cannot — she feels she brings misery and death to those she associates with and doesn’t want to see such a fate befall the creature. “I think you are the most human man I have ever known,” she tells him. It’s a heartfelt, exquisitely beautiful scene, acted perfectly by Green and Kinnear. The series would do well to have them share scenes more often.
If they’re ever reunited that is. Because Vanessa is the most alone creature of them all by season’s end. She no longer even has her faith to turn to, as she tosses her crucifix into the fireplace in the dark, lonely mansion that once was filled with her friends. It ends season two on a particularly dour note, even for a show so steeped in gothic romanticisms. It’s also a striking conclusion: every single character (still alive, or at least undead) now finds him or herself in a vastly different place from where the season began. By doing this, Logan may have cracked the solution to making his ensemble more compelling and imperative. Penny Dreadful has always been about Vanessa Ives, but with the manner in which “And They Were Enemies” concludes, audiences of the show may find themselves actually invested in the fates of the rest of the characters as well. And what a wonderful, refreshing change that would be. Season three has many potentially exciting places to go, and hopefully will deliver. To quote The Bride of Frankenstein, here’s to a new world of gods and monsters.