TV Review/Recap: Penny Dreadful – Little Scorpion – S2 E07

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@HellingsOnFilm declares Little Scorpion was the best episode of Season 2…


In Sir Malcolm’s basement, Ethan (Josh Hartnett) and Sembene (Danny Sapani) experience the morning after the night before of Ethan’s transformation into a werewolf, with Sembene telling of the way animals consume and become that which they have consumed. He sees his friend beyond what he had transformed into.

Later at Sir Malcolm’s he (Timothy Dalton) doesn’t believe Vanessa’s (Eva Green) recollection of her experience at Dorian’s ball. He’s irritated at Miss Ives’ announcement that she plans to leave London as it isn’t safe for her. Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale) agrees that she should go and tell no one where. Ethan wants to go with her, something the now unwilling spy Lyle agrees upon, as does Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), again to Sir Malcolm’s increasingly untrustworthy protests. Outside the room, Miss Ives chooses to reveal her planned destination to Victor only as she does trust him. She is going in search of “a better weapon” in their fight against evil. She asks him to watch over Sir Malcolm and be patient with Lily. She gives her planned destination to Victor.

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It is to the Cut Wife’s cottage that Vanessa and Ethan go. At the cottage, Miss Ives contemplates that this is where she’s meant to be, away from people. Upstairs on a shelf, she sees a mysterious book. Walking outside across the moors, Vanessa picks herbs and berries and reflects upon Sir Malcolm and the fact that he didn’t attend his wife’s funeral. She decides that he’s in love and the past, including Vanessa, are simply clouds getting in the way. Miss Ives wants him to be happy. Ethan believes that Sir Malcolm will come around. As Vanessa makes a rabbit snare, Ethan jokes that she’ll make somebody a great wife someday. It’s a nicely played, simple scene.

In the cottage, after dinner, the two share childhood stories, Ethan of a failed attempt to ride a horse called Diablo, Vanessa of her fear of dolls (sounds ominous should she ever visit Madam Kali’s mannequin collection, which is what this seems to be setting up). The talk turns to the inescapable monsters and demons within. Agitated, Ethan leaves, telling her to lock the door after him, leaving his gun in case she needs it, saying he’ll be back in the morning.

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The moon is full as Ethan stalks the moors, transforming and killing a sheep in his blood lust.

Morning at the cottage and Vanessa wakes to the sound of chopping. Outside, Ethan is taking an axe to a tree. He won’t reveal his secret, insisting that Miss Ives needs to learn to protect herself, so shooting practice in the order of the day. Vanessa proves a natural markswoman. Ethan tells her that shooting a person is harder: aim for the middle of the body, never look in the person’s eyes (As that will stop you shooting every time), and think only of your own survival. In return for the lesson, Ethan asks only to be taught the ‘social grace’ of dancing, something his father forbade him to do.

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Evening and the dance lesson: ‘the opposite of homicide’ in that you ‘always look in the other person’s eyes’. Morning and Ethan returns to chopping down a tree. Then a dancing lesson outside, and then cooking at night. The tree falls in the morning and Miss Ives watches with a smile as Ethan practices dancing alone. As they tend the garden, it’s an oddly pleasant domestic time for two characters that know it’s only a temporary respite away from the terrors they face back in the real world. They dance at night, he a quick learner, she a good teacher, the dance only interrupted by a storm outside. Lightning strikes, creating a blaze in the cottage which Ethan, with help from Vanessa, puts out. It sets the moment for something that’s been coming from Season One: the unspoken connection between the two, now resulting in a passionate kiss, before Vanessa angrily pushes Ethan away, exclaiming: “No! We are dangerous!”

At Sir Malcolm’s, Victor and Ferdinand Lyle continue to try and figure out the relics (which at this rate they’ll figure out some time next season). They determine that the Demon is afraid of the scorpion and ‘the hound of God’ as they can stop it. They don’t yet realise that that this refers to Vanessa and Ethan.


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In the forest, Ethan tries to reassure Vanessa that they will help her and he will protect her as long as he lives. They are different from other people. Gone is the anger of the previous night, Miss Ives now vulnerable, before they are interrupted by Sir Geoffrey Hawkes (Ronan Vibert). Remember him, the bastard that ordered the burning of the Cut Wife? The arrogant aristocrat rides by with his dogs, insulting and threatening Vanessa and Ethan with his dogs and then leaving with the threat that he’ll visit Miss Ives one night and start another fire: ‘young flesh burns best”.

Nighttime at the cottage and an angry Vanessa will not rest until she sees Sir Geoffrey dead. As much as Ethan tries to explain that’s not who she is, Miss Ives believes that he cannot see her for who she truly is, a woman who wants revenge for what the Lord of the Manor did to the Cut Wife. Ethan exits, telling her that he does sees her for who she is.

At Victor’s, Lily (Billie Piper) asks him if he doesn’t want her to have friends? She has a dinner date with Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney). Victor, not happy at the idea, but not wanting to keep her a prisoner, allows her to go. It might just be the worst thing he’s done (well, maybe not, thinking back on everything else he’s got up to) as Dorian and Lily see the Putney’s waxworks and enter to see the show, (an idea which has ‘this will end in tears’ written all over it). Dorian finds Lily mysterious and fascinating, while she is clearly enjoying the attention. She finds the waxworks of the famous body snatchers Burke and Hare and Dorian’s explanations of their work in exhuming bodies to sell to doctors for their experiments strangely troubling. Are there memories locked away in Lily’s mind? Lily and Dorian are unaware that The Creature (Rory Kinnear) is watching them. He is broken hearted. Dorian hails a cab for Lily. She’s clearly drawn to him, as he is to her as they watch each other as the cab pulls away into the London night to take Lily home.

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At the Cut Wife’s cottage, Vanessa takes the mysterious book from the shelf. At the same time, Ethan approaches Sir Geoffrey’s stately home. Vanessa opens the book on the floor. It’s the Cut Wife’s dark spell book. Vanessa goes full witch and starts reading aloud an unpleasant sounding spell in the Verbis Diablo. Ethan sees Sir Geoffrey about to feed his dogs and takes out his gun, ready to shoot the evil aristocrat. As Vanessa continues the spell, Ethan takes aim at the unsuspecting Sir Geoffrey. There’s no need. The dogs attack the Lord of the Manor and rip him to pieces. Ethan can only watch. Vanessa slumps forward, drained. The spell is complete. Sir Geoffrey is dead. Nice.

In London, on her way home, Lily stops the cab, recognizing a pub. It’s her old stomping ground from the Brona days. Taking a seat at the bar, a wealthy old man says hello and takes her home with him. In bed while they’re having sex, Lily strangles him and enjoys doing it. The monster lurks within and clearly it’s coming out.

At the Cut Wife’s cottage, Ethan returns, knowing that Vanessa was responsible for Sir Geoffrey’s death. He tells her that killing will become easier for her and that she’ll never get her soul back. “Welcome to the night”, he says.

Little Scorpion was the best episode of the series so far. It’s a reminder that not trying to cram every character into each week allows space for the characters shown to actually get decent screen and story time. Ethan got deserved space and it’s good to see him being used more and more. The two-hander aspect between him and Vanessa was well played. Sir Geoffrey’s death was sweet revenge, even if it has seemingly damned Miss Ives further (if that was possible). Lily’s murderous impulse just made her character a whole lot more interesting and was a nice surprise. It was also good to have a week off from Madame Kali and the daughters from Hell. Vanessa’s fall must surely be coming in some way after she’s now used the blackest of magic and Ethan will be facing his own demons very soon. Roll on next week

David Paul Hellings

Twitter: @HellingsOnFilm

Images provided by author

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