Considering how slowly this second season of ‘Penny Dreadful’ has progressed and how fragmented its storylines have been, it seems like a very odd choice to take an extended time-out from the main narrative right now. If I were in charge of writing the show, I can’t say I would make that decision.
Episode ‘Little Scorpion’ opens by tidying up the business of Ethan wolfing out in front of Sembene. The next morning, Ethan gets unchained and asks Sembene to describe what he saw. For a man who just witnessed his friend turning into a werewolf, Sembene is awfully philosophical about the experience. He suggests that this transformation might be a blessing rather than a sickness.
In the aftermath of Dorian Gray’s ball – at which, quite frankly, nothing actually happened except that Vanessa had a frightening hallucination and freaked out about it – Vanessa explains what happened to her. Sir Malcolm, still under Evelyn’s thrall, expresses his skepticism. He thinks it’s a simple case of female hysteria. As much as Vanessa insists that’s not the case, he’s a real jerk about it. Eventually, Vanessa announces that she must leave town. Ethan offers to go with her. Victor recommends that she not tell any of them where she’s going, but Vanessa in fact does let him alone in on the secret. Malcolm is quite pissy about the whole situation.
Ethan and Vanessa then travel to the Cut-Wife’s house, and the majority of the episode hangs around with them as they wait for something to happen. Vanessa points out the tree where the Cut-Wife was hanged, and utters the episode’s (if not the entire series’) most cringe-worthy line of dialogue: “I’ve never liked trees since, not one.”
The two swap stories of childhood. (Vanessa was afraid of dolls. Hmmm, I wonder if that tidbit will come back around again?) Ethan teaches her to shoot. Even though she claims to have never fired a gun before, she’s already an ace shot on her first attempt. Vanessa in turn teaches Ethan how to dance. He chops down that tree she doesn’t like, and they play house like a happily married couple.
One night, Ethan suddenly announces that he must go outside and tells Vanessa to bolt the door behind him. He runs out to the hills, wolfs out and kills some sheep. The next morning, he acts like nothing happened.
Another night, a big storm rolls in. Lightning strikes the house and causes a fire. They get it under control but, their adrenaline pumped up, share a passionate kiss for a few seconds before Vanessa pushes Ethan away, declaring “We are dangerous.”
While out collecting herbs during the daytime, Vanessa and Ethan are confronted by Sir Geoffrey, the rich asshole who murdered the Cut-Wife. He uses his pack of hunting dogs to intimidate them. After he leaves, Vanessa wants vengeance, but Ethan gets upset and tells her to leave it be.
Nevertheless, Ethan sneaks onto Sir Geoffrey’s estate that night with plans to kill him for Vanessa. He doesn’t get the chance. Back at the Cut-Wife’s house, Vanessa opens the “Book of Last Resort” (the one by which she officially renounces any connection to God) and utters a spell that causes Geoffrey’s dogs to turn on him and maul him to death. Ethan witnesses the whole thing and knows that Vanessa was behind it. He returns to the house and angrily chastises her for taking a life – an action that will change her forever. He doesn’t wish upon her what happened to him.
A few other brief snippets of story slip in. Ferdinand Lyle makes progress in his translation of the Verbis Diablo. He links the story being told to the Egyptian legend of Amunet and Amun Ra. (I was wondering if that thread from Season 1 had been dropped forever.) Lyle also interprets repeated references to the “Hound of God” as something that might actually harm the Devil. As we already know (but none of the other characters except the witches have figured out), that’s Ethan.
Meanwhile, Dorian takes Lily out on a date, which makes Victor jealous. Last week, I felt sure that Dorian recognized her as Brona, but now I’m left unsure. In any case, he’s fascinated with her. He brings her to the wax museum, where Calaban spots them out together.
On her way home, Lily orders the carriage driver to drop her off at a bar, where she picks up a middle aged man, goes back to his room, and strangles him to death while fucking him. She gets off on this big time. Apparently, being resurrected from the dead has some unfortunate side effects.
That’s it. This episode has some decent character stuff going on, but is quite underwhelming on the whole. I’m not sure how this season went so wrong, but it only has three episodes left to get back on track.