One of the major highlights of season one was the flashback episode of Vanessa Ives’ (Eva Green) fall from grace into the hands of demonic possession. So it comes as no surprise that last week’s “The Nightcomers” episode provided yet another high in the Penny Dreadful saga.
After initially attempting to rebuff Ethan’s (Josh Harnett) attempts to help in her brewing battle against the Nightcomers, Vanessa then decides to recount to him how she became embroiled in this conflict for her soul. Picking up with her vision of Mina begging her for help, Vanessa’s wanderlust brings her to the doorstep of “The Cut Wife of Ballentree Moor,” (Patti LuPone) a wise but cantankerous witch who immediately recognizes Vanessa’s untapped powers. Over the course of several months, she refines Vanessa’s divination and clairvoyance abilities while teaching the differences between becoming a Daywalker (good wtich) vs. a Nightcomer (bad witch).
When watching this episode, you’ll immediately catch on to the feminist themes that the Cut Wife imparts on Vanessa. For one, her nickname of the Cut Wife derives from her expertise in performing abortions, in this time a defiant and political statement in assisting women in controlling their bodies. In addition, the Cut Wife tells her that the powers bestowed on her should be used to help other women.
The contrast in that philosophy is Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory), a former sister of the Cut Wife who uses her dark powers in service of the Devil. She wants Vanessa for her master and plots to have the Cut Wife removed. She succeeds by manipulating her lover (who happens to be a wealthy landowner in the region) by playing on witch paranoia (reminiscent of the Salem Witch trials). Vanessa is forced to watch her Cut Wife mentor, who before the moment of death finally reveals her real name of Joan Clayton, burned alive. With her only protector gone, the path now seems clear for Evelyn and her Nightcomers to take Vanessa.
Surprisingly, the opposite happens. Vanessa, although no doubt further traumatized, leaves Joan’s home armed with her newfound knowledge (“Be true”) and embracing the nickname her mentor bestowed upon her, “Little Scorpion.” The Nightcomers, who so aggressively tried to take her from that very home days earlier, are nowhere to be found. However, a voiceover tells us that Vanessa will be “hunted til the end of days.” which ties in neatly enough to bring us to Sunday’s (May 24) episode. Will Ethan, Sir Malcom, and Sembene be enough backup for Vanessa to defeat the Nightcomers.
EPISODE 4 PREVIEW