Monday, May 30, 2016

Penny Dreadful 3x05 Review: “This World Is Our Hell” (What’s Past Is Not Forgotten) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

“This World Is Our Hell”
Original Airdate: May 29, 2016

Last week was all about Vanessa, but this week focused on Ethan. Ethan’s fathers — Sir Malcolm, Kaetenay, and his birth father — are all battling for Ethan’s soul, but Hecate is the one who wins Ethan’s devotion.


Ethan and Hecate are still wandering in the desert, running from the law and toward Ethan’s father. As Ethan faces death in the desert with Hecate, he must face his past to move forward. Ethan and Kaetenay finally discuss their relationship to each other — and this explainer for all of Ethan’s relationships was very welcome.

Apparently, when Ethan was younger, his father signed him up for the military. His cruel commanding officer led his troops to slaughter an Apache family while they were sleeping. When the killing was over, Ethan washed his hands of blood in the river. But like Lady Macbeth, his hands will never feel clean of the blood he has spilled. After his officer killed a young boy with a rock and bragged that this massacre would get them medals, Ethan killed him. And then Ethan went to the Apaches and begged to die.

The family Ethan killed was, of course, Kaetenay’s family. Kaetenay thought it would be crueler to let Ethan live with his sins than to kill him. So the Apaches took him in and forced Ethan to fight for them to atone for his actions. His Apache father, Kaetenay, taught Ethan the Apache ways, and the former enemies formed a sort of bond. But the U.S. government kept sending the military to kill members of the Apache tribe, and Ethan’s new family was killed one by one. Facing extinction, they turned cruel.

Ethan suggested they get weapons and supplies by raiding his birth father’s home in a plan that was only supposed to involve stealing, not killing. But when his Apache family arrived at Ethan’s former home, they tortured and killed Ethan’s family, leaving only his father alive.

Meanwhile, back in London, Frankenstein and Jekyll also battle with sins of the past – but the sins of others, not their own. Frankenstein has developed a serum that will make Jekyll’s experiment subjects forget their bad nature forever. By forgetting their past, the men will wake up truly innocent. Only when faced with the option to take the serum himself, Frankenstein says he wouldn’t do it.

Which is the real difference between the two friends. Jekyll would want to forget the racism and cruelty he has been subjected to. Jekyll and Frankenstein have a complicated history, and even though Frankenstein says he wouldn’t want to forget his past, he certainly isn’t learning from it. He is still doing experiments that remove the parts of men that make them who they are, and he still wants to apply the serum to his love, Lilly.


Ethan, on the run from the government and his guilt, has nowhere to run except back to the place that birthed his worst memory. He and Hecate head to his father on horses that are dying of thirst. The sheriff and his men are following Ethan, and Sir Malcolm and Kaetenay are following them all. When they fall, they fall like dominoes — one after the other, when Ethan chooses to knock one down.

Hecate wants to liberate Ethan’s truest self — and coincidentally also sign him up for a lifetime of serving the devil. Maybe Ethan is weak in his dehydrated state, but all it takes is for her to flutter her eyelashes to convince him that the best way forward is to give himself to Lucifer so he will never feel guilty again.

Tired of feeling shame, and also just plain tired, Ethan agrees. He cooperates with Hecate and gives his blood so she can cast a spell on the sheriff’s men. When Hecate is done, snakes come out of the ground to kill them all. But their spell is thwarted because they didn’t account for Sir Malcolm and Kaetenay, who were descending on the men at the same time. Kaetenay was bitten, but Malcolm and the two British officers are still alive and still chasing Ethan.

Sir Malcolm and Kaetenay turn up right when Ethan and Hecate are about to die of thirst. Unfortunately, Ethan’s father’s men turn up then, too. They bring Ethan home and give him water and rest so that he can face his father once more.


When Ethan wakes up at his father’s, he says he is ready to put his plan in action. He means to kill his father and devote himself to Lucifer. Only his conversion isn’t all that convincing. Part of what makes Ethan who he is is his guilt as he grapples with the evil that comes out during the full moon. He struggles with his mistakes and his choices because he is a good person who wants to do good. Like Vanessa, he makes choices every day to stay away from the darkness. It seems hard to believe that he, after a lifetime of choosing the light, would turn to the devil so easily. I don’t know if Ethan is gaming Hecate or if he really is ready to become Lucifer’s servant. Only time will tell what Ethan’s future will be.

But he better make a decision quickly, because his father has made him face the slaughter of his family and is holding a gun to his head.

Post Script:
  • This episode was full of necessary exposition, but there’s not too much else going on. 
  • Ethan, when will you realize that Vanessa can help you turn to the light!
  • I missed Vanessa in this episode. Hopefully next week we will see her and Lily again.


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