Top 10 Women in Horror Movies

So, guys and ghouls, it is that time of year again…

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis Colts

Well, yes it is football season, but that was not what I was referring too.  I mean, do you think I want to be scared into a change pants?  Come on, now!

Well, actually I do.  And watching Indianapolis Colts football is one way to be scared, although many other emotions tend to be involved, which include extreme anger, exhilaration, puzzlement, denial, bargaining and resignation.

But, there are lots of other things that I can watch, other than Colts football, if I don’t want to experience the different stages of grief in a four hour setting (NFL math is funny that way:  one hour of football somehow turns into four hours yelling myself horse (you are welcome for that one) in front of my TV.)

In other words:  horror movies.  Horror movies everywhere…

At this time of year, I feel that autumn is right around the corner.  And this starts right after Labor Day, when the Christmas merchandise at the stores is on display!

And to counter the sight of Christmas decorations when the temperature is still at least 90 F, there is only one thing we can do…

That’s right, watch some horror movies.  Or maybe lots of horror movies.  All right, a metric shit ton of horror movies!

And so many movies to choose from.

We have our classics, like Carrie, Halloween and Friday the 13th.

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Or “new school,” like Horns.  You gotta admit, seeing Harry Potter as the devil is fun!

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Or, we don’t have to limit ourselves to movies.  There are plenty of good, horror themed shows not titled American Horror Story to chose from.  And most are available via the miracle of the 21st century otherwise known as Neflix.  Cable schmable, right?

Now, one thing about horror movies:  they seem to have an audience.  And no, not necessarily horror junkies.

Let’s face it:  most horror movies are geared towards white males.  That is often who your horror movie protagonist is, with a few exceptions, like Night of the Living Dead, which was decades ahead of its time for featuring an African American guy as its protagonist.

And it’s not to say that those movies are not good movies.  In fact, movies like Phantasm (I dare you to cross The Tall Man, boooyyyy!), The Shining, Horns and many others are either classics, or on their way to becoming classics.  And I have no problem with that, they are great movies and deserve their accolades.

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But, I feel like I am missing something when I watch certain movies.  In fact, I feel like I may be missing at least half of something…

That’s right, where are my ladies?  I mean, we make up half the population, right?  So where are we?  Where are we in one of my favorite movie genres?

Well, it turns out that if take the time (after all, rushing us is bad, on so many levels, haha) and look, you can find us ladies in horror movies.  And some bad ass ones at that!

In recent years, we have become even easier to find in the horror, genre and science fiction categories.  After all, Game of Thrones, anyone?  Plenty of kick ass women there!

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And The Master and The Master 2.0 have gotten in on the act, as both Stephen King and Joe Hill have managed to write convincing female characters, who have an identity beyond the wife or girlfriend of the guy who winds up kicking ass.

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So, if you look, we are there in horror movies.  Sometimes we get horribly victimized.  Sometimes we victimize others.  But other times, we throw down some serious shade, and you do not want to meet us in a dark alley!

With that being said, here is my list of top 10 women in horror (both on television and film.)  Keep in mind that this is my opinion only, and could be subject to change at any moment…

And, as always:

Spoiler alert


10.  Sally (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Well, I may be a little biased with this statement, but I will say it anyway:

Gingers rule!

And as soon as we have enough freckles, we plan to take over the world!

Okay, I am kidding (you hope.)

But this entry on my list has earned her spot on it.  And yes, she just happens to be a ginger.

Guys and ghouls, I bring to you…Sally!

Now, Sally may literally owe her existence to a man.  However, do not underestimate her, as she is tough, smart and resourceful.

After all, a chic who clearly knows her poisons.  Who would want to cross her?

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Sally is a love interest in the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas (and one half of one of one my favorite onscreen couples ever), but to me, she is so much more than that.

For most of her life, Sally is held in captivity by her creator.  She understands that that she may be selling herself short, and she works to build a life for herself beyond captivity, and to connect with the outside world in a meaningful way.

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Sally also brings a message of self-acceptance.  After all, she literally falls apart, but that doesn’t stop her from picking herself back up and continuing on with her life.  That message of self-acceptance is one that Jack Skellington badly needs to hear, as he finally accepts that it is okay to be the Pumpkin King, and leave “Sandy Claws” to those who are better qualified for that job.

Is it a Halloween movie?  Is it a Christmas movie?  It’s an existential crisis!  But an awesome existential crisis!

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9.  Mrs. Vorhees (Friday the 13th)

Every movie needs a good guy (or bad girl.)  This is especially true of horror movies.  After all, where would we be without The Tall Man, Pennywise the Clown, Reverend Kane, along with many other bad guys that make these movies memorable?

Well, we can add Mrs. Vorhees to that list as well.

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When I bring up Friday the 13th, most people think of the guy in the hockey mask.  I then have to gently remind him that he is the protagonist in the 19 or so sequels that the franchise has generated, along with the awesomely bad crossover where Jason and Freddy meet…spoiler alert:  they don’t meet for Netflix and chill!

So, let’s go back to the beginning.

In other words, the infamous Camp Crystal Lake.  And a few horny teenagers.  And of course, the campers.

And…the camp’s cook?

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Yes, the camp’s cook.  And the mother to Jason Vorhees, who (supposedly) drowned due to the horny camp counselors not doing their job, due to fact of being…well…horny.

Again, Jason is a non-factor in the first film of the franchise.  We do see the “Jason half” of Mrs. Vorhees personality, as she rationalizes killing teenagers, but Mrs. Vorhees is responsible for all the blood and guts.  All.  The.  Blood.  And.  Guts.

All of it!

I personally love a lady vs. lady show down.  There is something much more fierce about those, and so primal.

Well, I got my wish when I watched Friday the 13th, in one of the most epic onscreen lady vs. lady show downs in the history of film and television!

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It doesn’t get much better than that, folks!


8)  Sidney Prescott (Scream)

When I watched Deadpool, I found it amusing that the title character seemed to be self-aware.  He knew he was in a movie, and made reference to that fact throughout the movie.  It was good for plenty of yuks!

The movie Scream also uses the concept of “self aware”, and perhaps one of the best uses of that concept.

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After all, Scream constantly makes references to horror movies throughout the movie.

In fact, in the opening scene, the killer begins by asking trivia questions (see the above entry.)  And that is just the beginning.

Scream pokes fun at the horror genre.  A lot.  After, we now all know to never say, “I’ll be right back?”  Or to drink or have sex in a horror movie, as those acts also mean certain death.

However, underneath the humor, Scream is still a horror movie.  With a protagonist who kicks ass.

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And oh yeah, this protagonist just happens to be a girl!

Sidney’s plight is something that is all too familiar:  her mother was raped and murdered.  The murderer was supposedly caught and put in jail, but Sidney is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s death, and the repressed emotions that come with the trauma.

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And then people start getting killed.  Sidney is still struggling with her trauma, and is now unsure of who she can trust.  Sidney is also now unsure that she did correctly identify her mother’s killer, and fears that she may have put the wrong man in jail.

Throughout the movie, Sidney shows herself to be a fighter.  From the reporter who will not stop harassing her to her friend and boyfriend who turn out to to be the killers, Sidney proves that she is resilient, and a force to be reckoned with.

Processing trauma and coming out on the other side is difficult, but is rewarding when it is finally accomplished.  The character of Sidney Prescott is a wonderful example of this.

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7.  Nancy Thompson (A Nightmare on Elm Street)

Often, I joke (well, sort of) that I am in a relationship with…my bed.

Hi, my name is Leah, and if I don’t get my sleep, I will cut a bitch!

In other words, my bed is a refuge, as is my sleep.

Well, sleep usually is.  Although sometimes I am given to having nightmares…

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But I am lucky in the fact that my nightmares, no matter how real they seem (that one featuring the Tall Man and strange Lovecraftian creatures was certainly a doozy), are just dreams in the end.

They can’t hurt me.

The subject of this particular entry, however, was not so lucky.

Poor Nancy.

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Falling asleep became dangerous for her, so no refuge for her.

I mean, she dozed off in class and nearly got killed for it.  Makes the detention one would normally expect seem kind of mild, right?

However, Nancy sleeps on it (see what I did there) and decides to do something about the evil creature who has been tormenting her and her friends in their dreams.

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First, she recruits her boyfriend, Glenn, to help her catch Freddy. But when that doesn’t work, she doesn’t give up, and instead persuades her father to help trap Freddy.

Nancy just will not take no for an answer, and will stop at nothing to destroy Freddy Kreuger for good (or at least until the next sequel, at any rate.)

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She will not go down without a fight, and I have always loved her for it.

Freddy Kreuger may be one of my favorite horror movie villains of all time, but let’s face it, without Nancy, he would be nothing.  And that is not just because he needs dreams from teenagers so that he can exist.

The fact that my favorite horror villain has to face off against a woman is just icing on the cake.  Wait, I take that back.  Nancy is the cake, icing and all.

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6.  Willow Rosenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Now, I often tell people that high school was hell for me. And it was.

I spent most of my time isolated.  And being isolated was actually the good part.  When I was “only isolated,” I considered myself to be lucky, as least I wasn’t being tormented.

The lesser of the two evils, I suppose…

But what was that saying that I heard way back when, about a guy with no shoes who meets a guy with no feet and gets some kind of new perspective?

In other words, I should be lucky that my school was not built on a Hellmouth, right?

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Isolation and bullying is one thing.  We can talk about the lesser of two evils and so forth…

But when your school is built on a Hellmouth, and when you have to deal with vampires, werewolves, and all kinds of other Big Bads, I think we are beyond the discussion of the lesser of two evils.

In fact, you may just piss one of those Big Bads off by referring to him/her/it as “lesser.”  And that would be dangerous indeed.

And in the midst of all this…well…Hell, we have Willow Rosenberg.

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Now, Willow may be a classic “sidekick” to Buffy, who had the fortune (or is it misfortune?) of moving to Sunnydale, CA, where her destiny as The Slayer awaited her, but make no mistake about it:  Willow is also a bad ass herself.

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Not only did she fight along Buffy’s side (along with Xander, Giles and a few others), Willow also, like so many of us, struggled to find her identity in the Hell otherwise known as high school.

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As a result, one of the most fascinating character arcs in television history emerged.

How often do you see someone go from high school computer nerd, to fledgling witch, to full fledged witch, all the while never losing her integrity, making the arc seem so natural?

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Oh, and Willow also came out as a lesbian somewhere in there too, making her one of the first major characters in a TV show to be openly gay.  And it was all so natural too.  When Willow finally coupled up with Tara, it seemed so right, and to be true love, as opposed to some kind of fetish.  Her friends accepted her as gay, and nothing really changed between them…I loved it!

Oh, and any time I think any of my break ups were bad (along with my high school experience), I just think what was done to poor Willow in the name of entertainment for the masses.  I think this is where that term ugly cry comes into play.


5.   Carrie White (Carrie, 1976)

Yeah, see above…

I will say it once and I will say it again:  High school, aka government babysitting is overrated at best.  At worst, it is Hell.  And the high school in question does not even need to be built on a Hellmouth to suck.  High schools do that quite well on their own, thankyouverymuch.

And again, my high school experienced sucked.  It sucked bunches.  My best memory, other than finally graduating, was getting a 100% on a calculus test.

The teacher must have though I was a freak…

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Well, I am a freak.  But I actually think my freakage is pretty mild, compared to this particular entry.

Meet Carrie White.

On one hand, Carrie is your typical high school reject.  At best, the other students ignore her, and she is invisible to pretty much everyone.

But the at worst part is just horrible.  Getting pelted by tampons, while you are having your first period at age 17 and thinking you are dying…well, I think I would trade going to high school on the Hellmouth for that one!

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However, on the other hand, Carrie is not your typical high school reject.  For one thing, she has a religious fanatic for a mother at home, who shames her for getting her period, getting asked to prom, and pretty much shames her daughter for existing.

Carrie also possesses telekinetic powers.  And this turns out to be bad news for everyone.  When a high school prank goes horribly wrong, and Carrie is humiliated at prom, everyone is at the brunt of Carrie’s revenge.

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Carrie’s powers are unleashed, and the results are epic, to say the least.

I have always said that the villains in this movie are Margaret White, along with Carrie’s cruel classmates.  Carrie is the most innocent among all the characters.  How could you expect her not to finally retaliate, after the happiest night in her tormented life is ruined?

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I shed more than a few tears when Carrie died (see the part above about the ugly cry.)

And for the record, my high school classmates should be lucky that I did not possess telekinetic powers…

Very lucky…

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4.  Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice)

“Well, I’ve read through that handbook for the recently deceased. It says: ‘live people ignore the strange and unusual”. I myself am strange and unusual.”

Oh, the above quote…

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When I first heard it, there were so many emotions to process…

Happiness was one of them, of course.

And, believe it or not, relief was one of them as well.

I may have fallen in love a little that day, with a fictional character.  I have a bad habit of doing that, it seems.

Of course, I am speaking of Lydia Deetz.

As a 90’s kid, “Goth” was a thing.

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We all had them in at least one class.

The kids who wore all black, even in the summertime.

Often, they loved horror.

They had an affinity for creepy things.

Their taste in music was cutting edge, to say the least.  Nine Inch Nails, anyone?

Lydia Deetz started the Goth culture.

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She rocked the all black and pale-face make-up before it was cool (I mean, I was pale-face before it was cool, but no make-up needed here.  Gotta love being a soul stealing ginger, AmIrite?)

In case I have not made this clear, I was not a kid who fit in.  In fact, I didn’t really belong anywhere.

Growing up, I felt like a ghost.  Sometimes I wondered if I was actually dead, and everyone knew it but me and forgot to tell me.

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And like Lydia, I lived in a world of my creation.  I loved to read and write, and create art.

Those interests don’t exactly make one’s phone ring off the hook on Friday night, but I tried to remain true to myself.

That was the thing I admired most about Lydia:  she remained true to herself.

She preferred the company of ghosts over people (well, I preferred the company of animals, but close enough, right?)

Things that repelled most people attracted Lydia (to this day, my parents still think I am some kind of literary leper for loving Stephen King.)

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Being different is a good thing.  But often, it is lonely.

Characters like Lydia Deetz remind us of how awesome different is, and make the journey a little less lonely.


3.  Eleven (Stranger Things)

“She’s our friend and she’s crazy!”

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Stranger Things is my show and it’s awesome!

Now, no matter what else happens in 2016 (and we still have the presidential election to get through, so the season finale is still a bit far away), we can at say, “At least we had Stranger Things.”

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And there so many things to love about Stranger Things.

It is a tribute to all things 80’s.

It pays homage to all kinds of horror, including John Carpenter films, Wes Craven and even H.P. Lovecraft.

It is a gold mine for Stephen King fans.  The story line of people with PSI abilities is classic King (Firestarter, anyone?), not to mention the fact that The Master’s name is lovingly brought up in an episode.

I could go on and on, actually.  Lots of reasons to love Stranger Things

At least eleven, I would say…

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Oh, right.  Eleven.  The subject of this entry!

If you told me that the show Stranger Things centered on the subject of four friends (who are boys) and their entrance into adulthood, along with the loss of innocence they experience, you would be correct.

On the surface, that is what Stranger Things is about (along with a monster christened Mr. Tulip-Head and his band of merry slugs.)  That statement would not be incorrect.

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But, like the books written by a certain famous writer, Stranger Things is so much more than that.

Enter Eleven, everyone’s favorite waffle loving, bald-headed escapee from an evil government lab run by the creep known as Dr. Pedophile.

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And oh yeah, Eleven possesses PSI abilities, along with being on the run from “Papa” (shudder.)

At first, Eleven serves as kind of homing beacon, to help Mike and his friends try to find their missing friend Will, whose disappearance just happens to coincide with Eleven’s appearance.

However, the boys, especially Mike, grow to like Eleven on her own merits.  A friendship develops, and Eleven becomes fiercely protective of her new friends (see the opening sentence to this entry.)

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Through their friendship with Eleven, the boys mature, and also come to the realization that the world is not a safe place, nor is it always a fair place.  Eleven brings out the best in Mike, who begins to fall in love with her.

The realization that the world is not a safe or fair place comes in the final episode, when Eleven (seemingly) sacrifices herself to the alternate dimension known as the Upside-Down, when she battles the monster that was responsible for kidnapping Will.

Out of all the characters on the show, Eleven proves herself to the most selfless of the bunch, who takes the meaning of friendship to a new level, when she sacrifices herself for another child who she does not even know.  She also proves herself to be a tough fighter, in her journeys to the Upside-Down and her battle with the extra-dimensional monster.

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And a fierce protector of Eggo Waffles everywhere.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT mess with that girl’s waffles, if you know what’s good for you!

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2.  Vanessa Ives (Penny Dreadful)

I love Eva Green

Oh, how I love Eva Green!

Eva Green is the bomb.com!

Did I mention that I love Eva Green?

Okay, just wanted to make my point clear.

And the reason I fell in love with Eva Green was her portrayal of Vanessa Ives on the show Penny Dreadful.

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I have problems.  I really do.  Sometimes they feel like they number around 99, although I am really not sure if a bitch accounts for more than a few (although my crazy dog could be put into that bitch category.)

But then, I can go watch the period horror/drama known as Penny Dreadful, and I get some perspective.

In other, my problems are pretty damn mild.  Or maybe even non-existent, really.

After all, I don’t have the Devil Himself after me.

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Or Dracula, for that matter.

I may have guys hit on me and give me unwanted attention, but at least they aren’t evil incarnate.

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(On a side note, no one has ever seen my ex and Lucifer in the same room together.  Fun fact of the day!)

Nor am I harassed by a coven of witches who are willing to hand me over to at least one of the above.

Oh, and I don’t live in Victorian London, where women are limited to only a couple of roles, and if they don’t fit in, then well, that’s just too bad, isn’t it?

I have just described a day in the life of Vanessa Ives, the main character of the show Penny Dreadful.  Yikes much?

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But somehow, despite all of the horrors she has to endure throughout her life (both supernatural and non-supernatural), Vanessa Ives is able to maintain a kind of grace that one rarely sees even in people who have not been cursed by an unknown evil force.

Vanessa makes everyone around her better.  Her influence is something to behold, as she brings out the best even in those who may not be the best humanity has to offer (Victor Frankenstein and Sir Malcolm being prime examples of this.)

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Vanessa’s influence even extends to the ‘non-human” characters in the show, including Caliban (otherwise known as The Creature) and Ethan, the werewolf.

Caliban, in particular, benefits from his friendship with Vanessa.  Even before he became “The Creature,” Caliban was in danger of his losing his humanity due to his employment with the Banning Clinic.  However, when he is forced to care for Vanessa, he begins to see his patients as individuals, as opposed to numbers, and realizes that his employer is in the wrong in its treatment of its patients, and that he can no longer work for them.

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 5). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_205_1509

(Another side note:  anyone who watches the episode A Blade of Grass without tearing up at least a little bit has ice water instead of blood in his/her veins, and we cannot be friends.)

Even after Caliban is transformed into The Creature, Vanessa extends her friendship to him, reminding Caliban that he is more than a corpse stitched together and brought back to life as a science experiment.

Vanessa’s character serves to make the ending even more poignant, as she sacrifices herself so that others may live.

Vanessa’s friends mourn her death, but it is clear that she lives on in each of them, as her influence continues, even after her death.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_3066


And now, for my number 1 woman in horror…

drum-roll-please

I give you…


Dana Scully (The X Files)

OK, let’s get one thing straight…

That’s Dr. Scully to you!

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Now, in case it wasn’t clear, I was a nerd growing up.

I liked math and science.

I read books on theoretical physics for fun.

A wild day for me consisted of visiting the library and finding five books.  OR SIX BOOKS.  SIX BOOKS!

So, as you can imagine, my social calendar was clear until approximately February 30th, 2087.  Although these days, I’m a little more booked, because that calendar is clear until May 32nd 2072, although if you need something, I may be able to shuffle things around and pencil you in.

But, in the fall of 1993, things began to look up.  Well, a little bit, at least.

For that is when we had the debut of The X Files.

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Before I watched The X Files, I did not see a lot of representation of women in my world, aka the world of nerd.  Now, this did not necessarily bother me much, at least on a conscious level.

However, deep inside, I knew that something was missing,  I could not tell you what, but I knew that my world was lacking.

But then Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully made their entrance to the screen.

And right away, it became evident of what my world was missing.

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You see, the world of horror and general nerdiness had been waiting for a woman like Scully.  Finally, she arrived.

And she did not disappoint.

Scully was smart (see the opening sentence to this entry.)

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Not only was Scully smart, she could throw down some serious shade.  And usually, she was wearing heels of at least three inches while doing that.

And her autopsies were so cool!  They almost made me want to go to medical school, just so I could throw around medical jargon like that.  Almost.

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Scully also kept her partner Mulder grounded.  Mulder could get a little nutty at times with his (literally) out of this world theories, but Scully was able to reign him in, and was the yin to yang.  They made a great team.

While Mulder often had to rescue Scully from cannibals, a death fetishist and a few other horrors (both human and supernatural), Scully often often rescued Mulder.

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I loved seeing her storm in with those heels, pointing her gun and flashing her FBI badge.  Sometimes her efforts backfired, and Scully would end up in a dire predicament as well.  But many times, Scully was able to get Mulder out whatever predicament he found himself in, and the two could go on to kick ass for another episode.

Scully also faced the same sexism many of us in the “real world” have to face on regular basis.  Sometimes people were reluctant to respect her, or would ignore her in favor of her male partner.  But Scully always handled that so well, and could silence her naysayers with a single look or sentence.  And I loved her for it.

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And I have one thing to say:  Representation matters.  I am someone who has spent her life feeling invisible and ignored.  And its not fun.  I do not wish that on anyone.

But when we create characters such as Dana Scully, the world becomes a little brighter.  And a little less lonely.

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At last, someone gets us.  And the journey becomes exciting,  At last, we begin to see the hope.


Well, that’s it for my top 10 ladies in horror.

I am sure I missed a few, but compiling this list was not an easy task.  So a shout out to any I may have left out:  You are not forgotten!

So, if you don’t feel like being horrified by Indianapolis Colts football, pop in one of these movies, or tune in to Netflix and watch one of these shows.

At the very least, you can kill a few hours.  Or maybe, just maybe, you can appreciate one of these films or TV shows in a new light, after seeing some kick ass ladies!

Happy watching!

 

Penny Dreadful: Season 3, Episode 5 Recap and Review.

Pssst…

You there!  I see you!

Don’t try to run and hide, because you can’t!

Now that I have you in my snare, you may as well confess…

Since we know you did (not) it!

That’s right, you have committed a crime!

As in, you are not watching Penny Dreadful, that awesome TV show that is criminal not to watch!

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But don’t worry, it’s never too late to start, and and atone for your sin (unlike someone of the characters in the show, who seem past the stage of atonement, but I digress.)

Yes, this show still has me hooked.  And I can’t stop watching.  Or bending everyone’s ear off about it.  The story lines keep getting more compelling, and dragging the viewer in deeper.  And that is the mark of some good television, my wayward friend!

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So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of the fifth episode of season 3, titled This World is Our Hell.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

Back in London, Henry and Victor continue to experiment on Balfor, the mental patient who had threatened to assassinate the queen.  They inject the man with Henry’s serum, but are surprised when the man has no memory of the two scientists, or why he has been institutionalized to begin with.

Ethan and Hecate continue to make their way across the New Mexico desert.  They discuss their childhoods, and of how both of their parents made them into unwilling recruits:  Hecate’s mother forced her into witchcraft, while Ethan’s father forced him into the US Army.

Night falls, and Ethan shares his story with Hecate.  Several miles away, Kaeteney shares Ethan’s story with Malcolm.  Ethan and his fellow soldiers attacked and killed a defenseless tribe of Apache Indians.  Ethan’s commanding officer dragged the body of a boy into the river, using the boy’s blood to poison the water.  The commanding officer told Ethan that the boy was not worth the bullet, and bashed the boy’s face in.  Ethan then shot and killed his commanding officer.

After killing his commanding officer, Ethan rode into Kaetenay’s village and begged the old man to take his life.  Instead, Kaetenay forced Ethan to fight against his home army.  Ethan told the tribe where to find weapons and supplies at his father’s ranch.  Kaeteney promised to lead a non violent raid, but broke his word and murdered all of Ethan’s family (his mother, brother and sister) except for Ethan’s father.

Kaeteney reminds Malcolm that Ethan is descending into darkness, and tells Malcolm of the horrible visions he has had of Ethan and the apocalypse that he says will be brought upon mankind if Ethan cannot be saved.

In the meantime, Ethan and Hecate join forces to cast a spell that brings rattlesnakes out of the earth.  The snakes attack Inspector Rusk’s men, and all the men are killed, except for Rusk and Marshall Ostow.  Malcolm and Kaeteney invade Rusk’s site and steal horses.  However, Kaeteney is also bitten by a rattlesnake.  Malcolm and Kaetenay then manage to escape Rusk and his lone surviving member of the search party.  Rusk then vows to kill Ethan, no matter the cost.

The situation becomes desperate for Ethan and Hecate, who have no water.  Ethan is forced to shoot his horse, as it is dying of dehydration.  Ethan and Hecate spend the night in a cave, which contains drawings depicting the Apache story of creation.  Hecate argues that the drawings may actually be a story of how the world ends.  Ethan then succumbs to Hecate, and they make love, with Ethan swearing that he is done trying to be on the side of the good.

Over the next few days, Ethan and Hecate lose their last horse.  Ethan carries Hecate across the desert for a time, but then gives up, thinking that they will die from dehydration.  However, Ethan is saved by Malcolm, who has finally caught up with them.  Malcolm gives Ethan the last of his water, which Ethan shares with Hecate.  Malcolm threatens to shoot Hecate, but Ethan will not have it.

The standoff is interrupted by the arrival of the men sent by Ethan’s father.  Malcolm, Ethan and Hecate are then dragged back to Ethan’s father’s home.  When asked what should be done with Kaeteney, who is suffering the effects of the rattlesnake bite, Ethan advises the men to leave him to die, telling them the old man is not worth the bullet.

While Ethan and Hecate are recuperating at Ethan’s father ranch, Ethan’s father, Jared Talbot, has a long conversation with Malcolm.  Jared intensely dislikes the Apache tribe, and derides Malcolm for teaming with Kaeteney.  Malcolm becomes self-righteous, but Jared points out some of the acts against Africans Malcolm committed during his time in Africa, reminding Malcolm that he is also a racist.

After Ethan recovers, he dresses and prepares to kill his father.  He then learns that Jared has no desires to make amends, and wants Ethan to atone for his sins, and suffer in the meantime.  Jared walks Ethan through the family chapel, where members of the Apache tribe murdered the rest of the family.  Jared demands that Ethan repent for his sins, and pulls his gun on his son.  Ethan states that he is done repenting, and that he belongs in hell.


My Thoughts

Well, whew…

I underwent therapy after watching last week’s episode, A Blade of Grass.

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My recovery was progressing nicely.

Well, until I watched this week’s episode, at any rate.

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And now I will have to find another, understanding therapist, who is familiar with what shows like Penny Dreadful do to a person, and why we are still helpless to stop watching them.

Yes, this episode was intense.  And also unexpected, in some ways.

Let me talk about our favorite werewolf, aka Ethan, for a few minutes.

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For the past three seasons, the show has been hinting that Ethan has committed some terrible crimes and needs to answer for those crimes.

It was hinted at early on in the first season that Ethan is actually a werewolf.  That fact was also revealed at the end of first season, via the Mariner’s Inn Massacre, where Ethan transforms into his wolf half after the death of poor Brona, and kills several people while in his wolf form.

Of course, I was expecting that all the terrible things that Ethan has done, and is on the run from, had to do with his curse.  He transformed into something horrible, but the acts were involuntary, as he (probably) did not wish to become a werewolf.

in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode -). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_302

Well, I was wrong.

So far, all the things that Ethan is running from have absolutely NOTHING to do with his curse.  Rather, they all have to do with human fuckery (something that is really the biggest horror of them all.)

At the beginning of the season, I had thought that Kaeteney was actually responsible for Ethan’s curse (and this theory may still be true.)  When Ethan came to Kaeteney with blood on his hands, begging Kaeteney to kill him, I thought that Kaeteney’s punishment was the curse of the werewolf.

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However, that appears not to have been the case.  The old man actually did much, much worse to Ethan, by forcing him to fight against the army, and committing an act of treachery that left the blood on Ethan’s hands, along with unimaginable pain and suffering, for both Ethan and his father.

So we still know very little about the actual werewolf, who seems to be tame compared to its human counterpart.  But, we have four more episodes left this season, and I am patient.

The pairing of Ethan and Hecate is also another thing that I am loving about this season, although this relationship is almost as ill-advised as Dr. Frankenstein’s attempt to tame and and capture Lily.  In other words, Ethan shacking up with Hecate is simply NOT going to turn out well, but will provide us with some nifty entertainment.

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Ethan and Hecate’s interaction this episode was fascinating:  those two really are cut from the same cloth.  They both had domineering parents, although I think Hecate wins that one.  Being clawed by Lucifer Himself at age five is hard to beat.  Both have darkness in them, although Hecate has embraced hers (maybe she did get cookies when she came to the dark side), while Ethan struggles with his and is still trying to figure out what to do with all that darkness (somehow, doing in Inspector “How the hell are you still alive” Rusk doesn’t seem to be on his bucket list.)

Side note:  next time Hecate surrenders herself to the dark side, she may want to ask for powers other than the ability to conjure snakes out of nowhere and kill (almost) entire search parties.  You know, like the ability to conjure up water for when you need to spend an untold number of days trekking across the desert with a werewolf who can tell you Apache folk tales on demand…cookies be damned!

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All season, the show has been hinting at dual natures.

We have Ethan, who is also a werewolf.

There is Vanessa, who apparently had a big chunk of her past that was forgotten until recently.

We have Caliban, who is (slowly) beginning to remember the person he was before he became The Creature.

And pretty much every time Dr. Jekyll opens his mouth, we get some sort of lecture about duality.  Although I will listen to that lecture in that voice all day long, no complaints here!

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This episode also placed an emphasis on duality, with the introduction of Jared Talbot, Ethan’s father, whom we have been teased about for several episodes, at this point.

Finally, Ethan reunited with his father.  And not just Jared, as Ethan also managed to reunite with Malcolm, who conveniently made an appearance before Ethan and his witch gal pal succumbed to the desert and all the pleasures it had to offer.

Malcolm has been a father of sorts to Ethan almost from the beginning.  Those two seem to have an understanding, and although it did take some time, a respect for one another.

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Eventually, we knew we would meet Ethan’s father.  And that meeting would be interesting, to say the least.

Finally, we got that meeting.  And it was beyond interesting.  The final third of the episode was when it really kicked off, giving us some tense story telling, and interactions that were just genius.

For instance, the interaction between Malcolm and Jared was one for the ages.  The similarities between those two men are pretty striking when you think about it.  Both have lost almost their entire families.  Both are culpable, to an extent, in the deaths of their family members:  Jared set in motion a chain of tragic events by forcing Ethan into the army, and Malcolm forced his son to accompany him on one of his trips to Africa, which did not end well.  Both men are obsessed with achieving success, even if that success comes at a cost (which it did.)

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So seeing them exchange words was just beautiful.  And bonus points to Malcolm, who managed to call Jared “vainglorious (pot meet kettle), and compliment him on his whiskey, in the same breath.  Malcolm one, Jared zero!

The reunion of Ethan and his estranged father has also been hyped.  And it lived it up to that hype, as we finally got more information on why his father was so (rightfully) angry.  Hearing about what happened to Ethan’s family (which is really a result of his father’s controlling nature and his need for perfection, his son’s best interests be damned) was heartbreaking.  And then guns were drawn.

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Now we have to wait until next week, to find out how this reunion will conclude.  Somehow, I see more tragedy, although I may be wrong about that.  But I don’t think so.


So that’s it for This World is Our Hell.  Join me next week for the review and dissection of the sixth episode, titled No Beast So Fierce.

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

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Penny Dreadful: Season 3, Episode 4 Recap and Review

Sometimes, all you need is a big, ugly cry.

You know, the kind where your face ends up covered in snot, your nose and eyes are swollen and you share the same coloring as a ripe tomato.

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And sometimes, you need this, but you don’t know you need this.  So, it’s up to someone, or something, to let you know that you need this, so that ugly cry doesn’t stay trapped within your soul forever, turning you into some kind of horrible monster (or is that just me?)

So, enter one of my favorite television shows…

No, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer, although thanks to the Scoobies, I learned the meaning of “ugly cry” at a relatively young age.

No, I am talking about the “other” show about vampires.

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Yes, that’s right...Penny Dreadful!

I know, makes sense, right?

You need some catharsis, so just watch a period horror show series and you’re good, right?

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 1, episode 1). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_101_3501

Well, actually, the answer is yes.

Penny Dreadful may be that “literary show period show with monsters”, but once again, it has proved to us that it is much, much more than that.

I mean, if you’ve been faithfully watching the show from the beginning (or binge watching, I won’t judge), you have probably realized this already:  that Penny Dreadful is much more than meets the eye.  It has shown us that it, in fact, is much more than meets the eye time and time again.  And that is the reason why I love the show so much.

But just when I think I can’t get blown away again, it happens.  I watch, as is my custom on Monday nights right now, and I get my socks knocked off.  And all for the price of just under one hour of my time!

So, let’s get to it, and review and dissect this week’s episode, titled A Blade of Grass.

As always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The episode begins with Vanessa trapped in a fugue state.  Vanessa has traveled back in time to her days as a patient in a mental institution, the Banning Clinic.  Dr. Seward tells Vanessa that she is trapped in this state until she comes to some kind of resolution, but that she will not abandon her.

Vanessa is trapped in a padded cell at the Banning Clinic.  Her only reaction is with the orderly who would later become The Creature.  At first, the orderly plays by the rules, and tells Vanessa that she is not being tortured, and that what is being done to her is being done in the name of science.  However, the orderly gradually comes to believe that this is, in fact, not true, and begins to show compassion towards Vanessa.

One day, the orderly brings Vanessa a blanket, after she is forced to undergo hydrotherapy and is shivering and wet.  The orderly comes back later and takes the blanket from Vanessa, as it is against regulations.  Vanessa reacts by clawing him in the face.  The orderly subdues Vanessa, and Vanessa is then confined to a straight jacket.

Because Vanessa is confined to a straight jacket, the orderly is forced to feed her himself.  He brings a wooden spoon from his house, as the wooden spoon will not hurt her mouth.  Vanessa complains that she is being tortured because she must become “normal”, as the current social structure will not accept a woman like Vanessa, who deviates from the norm.

The orderly begins to open up to Vanessa.  He will not reveal his name, but talks about his wife and son.  Vanessa tells him that she thinks that she has been touched by Lucifer.  The orderly leaves the room, but turns to Vanessa, and tells her he believes her story about Lucifer, as he was there.  His eyes then shine black.

Vanessa begs Dr. Seward to pull her back to the present, but the doctor tells her that is impossible at the moment, as Vanessa must work through these memories.

During her time in the institution, Vanessa is robbed of her ability to speak, as she is gagged.  One day, the orderly removes the gag, and brushes her hair and puts some makeup on her, to restore her sense of dignity. Before removing the makeup and mussing up her hair again, he holds a mirror before Vanessa’s face, and reminds her that this is who she is.  The orderly reads Vanessa poetry, and fantasizes about a day when they can walk out of the institution together.  The orderly then leaves the room, telling Vanessa that it is Christmas day, as he shuts the door.

Over time, Vanessa becomes closer to orderly.  One day, she removes her gown and attempts to seduce him.  The orderly responds to her kiss, but pulls back, and puts the gown back on Vanessa.  He begs her to get better, as he has seen what happens to Dr. Banning’s lobotomy patients.

The orderly then begs Vanessa to talk to him about her problems, and pulls up a chair.  Vanessa brings up Lucifer, and the orderly’s eyes turn black, and he introduces himself as the devil.  The devil tells Vanessa that her God has abandoned her, and that if she gives herself over to him, they can rule the earth together.

A laugh then echoes through the room.  Lucifer cowers in the corner, as the devil’s brother, also wearing the orderly’s face, appears to Vanessa.  We find out that this second entity is Dracula, and unlike Lucifer, he wants Vanessa’s flesh and blood.  Vanessa nearly gives herself over to Dracula, but snaps out of it, once she hears his name.  Vanessa then cites the Verbis Diablo and levitates, coming back to reality with the orderly next to her bed.

Taking the advice of the orderly, Vanessa pretends to be “normal,” in the hopes that she will be released from the clinic. However, she refuses to deny her faith, and the doctor refuses to release.  Instead, he shaves her head and schedules her for a lobotomy instead.

The night before Vanessa’s surgery, the orderly pays her a visit and tells her that he has tendered his resignation, as he believes that his employer is engaging in inhumane practices.  However, he promises Vanessa that he will not leave before she receives the anesthesia, as he wants that last face she sees to be the face of someone who loves her.  Vanessa kisses him, and both weep.

Vanessa then comes to in Dr. Seward’s office.  The doctor is startled and apologizes for the cigarette burn she gave to Vanessa in an attempt to rouse her.  Vanessa states that she remembers everything, and reminds the doctor that she has told her in the past that people name things that frighten them.  Vanessa says that she is no longer frightened, and that the creature who had frightened her previously is named Dracula.


My Thoughts

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And on so many levels, too.

First of all:

All.  The.  Feels.

Now, Penny Dreadful is kind of a feelsie show, but this episode really outdid itself.  Really outdid itself, in fact.  Let me count the ways…

Now, Vanessa and Caliban (whenever are we going to find out his government name?) have had a handful of scenes together.  In particular, there was the poetry scene last year (somewhere along the line The Creature developed a taste for poetry, who knew?)

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And there was the scene in the last episode of the second season, where the two shared a dance…

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 5). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_205_1509

But now, we have this episode.

I don’t normally care about awards (Emmy, cough, cough) but really, this episode not winning SOME kind of award is simply criminal!

I mean, this episode was (mostly) done by two actors (although Patti Lupone did a fabulous job, as always.)  It mostly took place in one room.  And the special effects were minimal (although the shadows that appeared when Lucifer and Dracula took over were pretty cool.)

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And this episode was mind blowing.  In fact, it may be one of the best episodes that the series has ever put out.  Which is saying something.

We also had one actor (Rory Kinnear) play three different roles in one episode.  All in his orderly get up.  This brings the number of roles played by Mr. Kinnear up to four (The Creature, the orderly, Lucifer and Dracula.)  Is there anything this man can’t do?

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Let’s talk about Mr. Kinnear for a minute, too.

Many of the accolades for this episode are probably going to my girl Eva Green (and this is not necessarily a bad thing), but Mr. Kinnear simply blew me away after I watched this episode.

I have always had great love for Caliban.  He is one of my favorite characters on the show.  But, to be honest, I never thought (or cared) much about his pre-Creature life.  I knew that he had one, but it never really crossed my mind.

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Until now.  And I had made some assumptions last week.  And we know what happens when you assume…ASS!

This character arc was NOT what I expected.  For some reason, I had thought that maybe Caliban’s job as an orderly had hardened him.  At the beginning of the episode, my assumption was correct.  He was pretty rough with poor Vanessa there for a bit, with the force feeding and having to subdue her when she scratched his face.

But, as this show likes to do, it all got turned upside down.  And in a good way.  The orderly began to read Vanessa poetry.  And he brought a wooden spoon from home, so Vanessa’s mouth wouldn’t be hurt.

And the brushing of Vanessa’s hair and application of make-up, to remind her of who she was…beautiful.  Although when he removed her make-up and clumsily mussed her hair back up again…I think that was actually the most heart-wrenching part, as it symbolized Vanessa having to shed her humanity yet again.

I also loved his story about building a ship with his son, and the realization that people (as in Vanessa) are often forced to live where it’s cold and lonely.  But having even just one person who believes in you can make the cold and loneliness vanish, at least for a little while.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_307_1030

This episode may be considered to be “Vanessa-centric”, and that thought would not necessarily be wrong.  However, I consider this episode to actually be more about Caliban than anything.  Clearly, the time he spent with Vanessa changed him, and he came away a better person because of that.  And his character became much more interesting because of that.

Of course, I need to throw some accolades at Eva Green.

As if you couldn’t figure that out…

I don’t know how she does it.  Very few people can make crawling on a ground, being nose to nose with what may be (literally) evil incarnate, look classy, but Eva Green has that ability, and should get an award for it, if such a thing exists.

And even when she is clawing a poor orderly’s face, she still manages to evoke sympathy.  I mean, who does that?

My girl, that’s who!

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Before we are done here, I want to talk about the ending a bit.

It would have been easy (and logical) for the episode to end after Vanessa threw down some shade via the Verbis Diablo.  But this is Penny Dreadful.  So nix easy, and (sometimes) you can nix the logical with that, too.

It was pretty clear to me that, along with being Caliban-centric, this episode was about Vanessa not forgetting her humanity, even though she has not one but two forms of (literal) evil incarnate fighting over her.  The scene at the beginning with Dr. Seward telling Vanessa that she would not abandon her for anything (another gem in this episode, aka Patti Lupone proving she is worth her paycheck) was some pretty good foreshadowing of this fact.

Christian Carmargo as Dr. Sweet and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 2). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_302_5122

Vanessa has clearly spent much of her time alone in her struggles, with no one to turn to.

Then, enter the orderly.  Although I still believe that this episode is actually Caliban-centric, as his time with Vanessa effected a massive change in him, it is pretty clear that Vanessa benefited from this friendship as well.

I think that perhaps Vanessa needed a reminder that relying on others is not necessarily a bad thing, so her mind forced her to remember someone who was kind to her.  Someone who loved her.  Someone who was willing to sacrifice for her.

In short, someone who reminded her that she is worthy of love and support, no matter what other-wordly forces that would try to lame claim to her.  A worthy human, in other words.

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So that’s it for Blades of Grass.  Join me next week for the review and dissection of episode 5, titled The World is Our Hell.

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

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