Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Penny Dreadful 3x06 Review: “No Beast So Fierce” (Let Us Be Monsters) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

“No Beast So Fierce” 
Original Airdate: June 5, 2016

This was a great episode of Penny Dreadful. It was deliciously campy, the action picked way up, and the Scooby gang is finally on their way to reunite once more.


Vanessa comes to Ferdinand Lyle for help and finds he is packing to leave for Egypt. Lyle is a good friend to Vanessa and I’m sad to see him go. But before he does, he gives Vanessa the recommendation of someone else who can help her with supernatural research.

So Vanessa goes to meet Catriona. She finds Catriona fencing, which shows how she can infiltrate a world dominated by men and dominate them. Catriona wins her match through some “creative improvisation,” and Vanessa’s face shows she is impressed. Catriona seems like she is smart enough and dark enough to be a good match for Vanessa. Catriona studies death, and she gives Vanessa the background she needs on Dracula. With Vanessa in light colors for once and Catriona in dark, I doubt Catriona will be a good influence, but the two friends are electrifying enough that I am down to watch whatever they do. The women on Penny Dreadful are connecting with each other, and the men in their world are being pushed to the sidelines.

Catriona tells Vanessa that the best protection against Dracula is to protect yourself from isolation and surround yourself with people you love. The cutaway from Vanessa after Catriona says this makes it seem like Vanessa will follow the regular script and go back to Dr. Sweet, who she dumped previously and told him it was because of something like love. But instead, Vanessa goes to Dr. Seward. I’m pretty sure I cheered out loud at the TV when I saw Vanessa and Dr. Seward drinking together by the fire. The pair have been kindred spirits over many lifetimes, and in this lifetime they can turn to each other once again and know they are not alone.

Vanessa is back in black when she goes back to Dr. Sweet/Dracula, which indicates she’s back in danger. She implores Dr. Sweet to realize how dangerous it will be to be with her because she is being hunted by a creature called Dracula. When Vanessa says “every time I have given my heart, it has led to catastrophe,” it hurts to know the catastrophe that’s waiting for her with Dr. Sweet. When they have sex, Vanessa’s dress is spread around her like bat wings — a bat signal for the evil to come. But for now, Vanessa feels connected to someone and is grateful. Unfortunately, she is connected to the one person she is running from.


Penny Dreadful’s campiness means it can turn everything up to 11. Justine is like a vision of what men fear feminists are: a man-hating, violent force who refuses to take orders from men and is good with a knife.

Victor and Lily’s storyline is so rich with (not so subtle) feminist allegories. There is so much there, from ideas of consent, women being obedient, and how women deal with anger. Victor wants to kidnap Lily, drug her, and turn her into a docile, obedient woman that is never hateful or angry. Jekyll’s parting words to Victor — that she’ll be unconscious in two breaths, and then she will be yours to do with as you will — are pretty tough to stomach after reading about Brock Turner.

Victor wants Lily to be docile, gentle, and obedient. But Lily has some news for you, Victor: to be a woman is to be angry. Angry that men can dominate you and abuse you, angry that you can never be safe, angry that your life is not your own. Lily wouldn’t trade her sadness for anything because it is entirely hers, and she has earned it. She wants to show her scars and never let men forget what they have done to her. Lily makes me feel like I can breathe fire. Her speech to her growing army is so good I’m going to put it here in full:
“We are not women who crawl. We are not women who kneel. And for this we will be branded radicals, revolutionists. Women who are strong and refuse to be degraded and choose to protect themselves are called monsters. That is the world’s cry, not ours.”
Vanessa had it right when she said Dracula doesn’t want her death, he wants her submission. Victor wants Lily’s submission as well, and she is raising an army to fight that ideal.


The episode opens and closes on Ethan and his father and a very uncomfortable shared meal. Inspector Rusk, Ethan, Hecate, Sir Malcolm, and Ethan’s father and his men have gathered around the dinner table in Ethan’s father’s home — the same table where Ethan’s family sat before they were all killed. After some condescending small talk, the murdering starts in earnest.

Ethan’s father is the first to take a shot after the sheriff threatens to kill him in retaliation for killing his men on the train to get Ethan. After Ethan’s father kills the sheriff, everyone just keeps eating. Dinner as usual at the Talbot residence, I guess. But soon Ethan gives the signal for Hecate and Sir Malcolm join in, and then it’s just straight up war. Hecate takes her witchy form, and Ethan and Sir Malcolm work with their dinner knives. Sir Malcolm is cornered with a gun before Kaetenay shows up in the knick of time. After a battle that spans the dining room and a sitting room, the fighting goes to the chapel — the site where Ethan’s family died.

Ethan’s father barricades the chapel in the same way he did before, and Ethan once again uses the knowledge of his family to get inside. Ethan and two of his fathers, Sir Malcolm and Kaetenay, fight their way into the chapel to face Ethan’s birth father. But when it comes down to it, Ethan walks away from his father, leaving him alive. And that’s when Sir Malcolm steps in to do the deed for him, killing Ethan’s father with a single bullet.

Post Script:
  • John Clare finds his son, who wakes up terrified of his not-dead-but-not-alive father. 
  • “Write often, and think of me only when you dance.” “I shall have to dance more often.”
  • “When you kill your husband with a cleaver and then stand trial for it in New York City, you know what it is to be alone.” Dr. Seward is a boss.
  • “I knew you were too mean to die.”
  • It looks like Vanessa and Ethan will reunite next week!


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