Good morning everyone, and welcome to this week’s visit to the sundae bar, aka my recap and review of Penny Dreadful.
And boy, was it an interesting visit this week. Let’s just say that the choices at the sundae bar were limited this week. Not that this is a bad thing, but if you were wanting variety (you know, where you could mix gummi bears, crushed Oreos, M&M’s and whatever other junk your not so inner child may have been craving), you may have a been a bit out of luck. The treats available this week were actually quite interesting, but the selection was quite limited. However, sometimes limiting the selection can cleanse your pallet…after all, cramming too much junk food down your gullet in one sitting can result in a need for that sophisticated pallet to be cleansed every now and then…
With that being said, let’s take a trip up to the bar and talk about this week’s selection!
The episode begins with Ethan asking Vanessa how he can help her. Vanessa then proceeds to describe an incident from her past some months back, as it occurred when the search for her friend Mina was still active.
Vanessa had been troubled for most of her life by visions and other strange occurrences. This prompted her to pay a visit to a bruha, or the “village witch.” The bruha, or Joan Clayton (also known as the Cut Wife), is at first skeptical of Vanessa and her intentions, but that skepticism vanishes when Vanessa is able to tell the witch exactly how the older woman received the scar on her back. The witch agrees to take Vanessa in, and begins to teach her the art of witchcraft. Vanessa assists the woman in hunting, gathering and even helps Joan perform an abortion on a young woman who lives in the village. Joan also performs a tarot card reading on Vanessa. Vanessa picks The Devil from the tarot cards, and states that this card could represent a dark lover who may become a part of her life. Joan becomes fond of Vanessa, referring to her as her “little scorpion.”
However, the lessons are cut short when the coven headed by Evelyn Poole and her minions track Vanessa down in the remote village, and pay the old woman a visit. We learn that Joan and Evelyn were formerly members of the same coven, but Joan broke off from Evelyn and sisters because Evelyn’s practices had taken a turn towards the dark side. Joan attempts to protect Vanessa from the coven, but falls critically ill shortly after the confrontation. She tells Vanessa that she is dying, and that there are books in her possession that she will pass on to Vanessa after her death.
In the meantime, Evelyn begins to stir up trouble in the village. She uses her dark powers to kill cattle with a mere touch, and then seduces Geoffrey Hawkes, who happens to own the land that the village is located on. She convinces Geoffrey that witches are responsible for the deaths of the cattle, and points the finger towards Vanessa and Joan. Geoffrey confronts Vanessa while she is out on an expedition for Joan. Vanessa fights off his advances and hurts him. Geoffrey is angered, and leads the village to Joan’s residence. The villagers become an angry mob, and accuse Joan of witchcraft and believe her to be responsible for the death of the cattle and other ills that have befallen the village. Joan is then tarred and burned alive at the stake, as Vanessa watches helplessly. The villagers also restrain Vanessa, and burn the shape of a cross onto her hand.
The episode ends with Vanessa finding the books left to her by Joan, and leaving the village behind. However, Vanessa first cuts herself, and draws the shape of a scorpion on a rock before leaving, presumably to protect the village from evil.
As stated before, the selections were limited this week at the sundae bar. This was a bit of a contrast to last week’s episode, which had almost too many selections to choose from…well, at least the show is never boring!
This episode did not feature douche bag doctors lying to newly resurrected corpses about their past, and trying to cop a feel in the process. Vanessa did not become possessed. And perhaps the saddest part: No monsters quoting poetry!
However, this episode was still interesting. For one, we got some more background info on Vanessa. Vanessa is a fascinating character, and more than a little mysterious. This episode only served to increase both the fascinating and mysterious factors. And it also made Vanessa a little more human (even though she may be the most human of all the characters, other than Caliban). I am rooting even more for Vanessa now…How can I not, after this episode? The relationship between Vanessa and Joan was actually sweet, and it made me think of the time I spent with my grandmother as a child (minus the witchcraft, of course). And it was clear to me that the events of this episode have had a far reaching effect on Vanessa, making her determined to fight evil, even if it puts her own life in peril. Vanessa definitely needs to be classified as a “good guy” after this episode.
The village setting for this episode was also beautiful. The backdrop was so creepy, and it fit the mood perfectly. The overcast skies (I’m not sure I ever saw one ray of sunlight in this episode), the isolated house where most of the action took place and the “moor-ish” feel added an ambiance that I liked. From the start, I was given the impression that something tragic would happen, and I was correct.
The best part of this episode, however, was Joan Clayton. First of all: the name. Joan. Kind of close to Joan of Arc…surely this was not coincidental. And the fate suffered by Joan Clayton was similar to Joan of Arc, as both were burned at the stake. So does this mean that Joan Clayton is also a saint? Well, perhaps it does, at least to Vanessa. We now know that Vanessa is fighting for someone or something, and its a pretty safe bet that the someone is Joan. Joan of Arc has served as a beacon to many, and Joan Clayton is now a beacon to Vanessa. Joan Clayton and Joan of Arc both died while fighting for what they believed in, and Vanessa has now been inspired to do the same.
And the death of Joan Clayton. Tragic. Simply no other words. There have been more than a few deaths on this show (if your name is Van Helsing, too bad, you are disposable). But I think that this is perhaps one of the saddest deaths. In fact, I thought of this character from a certain book written by the master:
And its probably not too far off base. Joan Clayton was innocent, she was only trying to help someone who was also innocent and caught up in a game that she didn’t understand. This episode was actually pretty good mirror for some shameful events in our history (the Salem Witch Trials immediately came to mind), and also a good mirror for what still happens to women in far too many parts of the world even today. Being burned alive is one of the most horrible deaths imaginable, and my heart ached when I watched it happen to poor Joan, who seemed so resigned to her fate. The fact that Vanessa was forced to watch and not able to help added yet another horrifying touch. The cross that was burned onto Vanessa’s hand also showed just how cruel humans can be to one another, and I am sure that it added fuel to the fire burning in Vanessa (no pun intended).
The scorpion drawn by Vanessa using her own blood was also a nice touch. Presumably, it was to protect the village, but I may be wrong on that count. I was not really sure if Vanessa was leaving a blessing or a curse when she left the village behind (and it could be either, depending on which side of Vanessa you are on). I have a funny feeling that there is some meaning behind the scorpion drawing, and I am pretty sure that it will come into play in a later episode. So writers, don’t disappoint me on that, ok???
So folks, there you have it. That’s it for this week’s trip to the sundae bar, but there will be more to come next week, when we check back in to discuss the latest hijinks of our favorite literary Avengers!
Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!