'Penny Dreadful' S2E3: The Nightcomers

★ ★ ★ ★ ½


Once Upon a Time and Arrow can move right out of the way because Penny Dreadful is the true master of using flashbacks. Rather than just using them in order to add backstory to characters all the while metaphorically tying in lessons that apply to the present, Penny Dreadful uses them to explain and expand upon their world in profound ways.

The witches are, as you saw in "The Nightcomers", a very fascinating part of Penny Dreadful’s lore. However, because of their first two episodes of introduction, appeared as repetitive and dependent on other factors rather than enchanting and standalone. If the witches were to be bettered, they would need to be contrastive from the other monsters in Penny Dreadful. This episode helped change that.

After Ethan, thankfully, asked Vanessa what was with the whole blood-scorpion thing, she explained her story of how she came to know so much about magic. Patti LuPone shined as Vanessa’s teacher, much unlike her slightly forgettable (yet well acted) role in American Horror Story: Coven. LuPone’s much better off playing a witch than a fundamentalist Christian with a sloppy storyline. As Vanessa learned the craft, we learned the origin of her tarot cards, the differences between daywalkers and nightcomers, and that Evelyn’s seance at the party in season one may not have been an accidental encounter since Evelyn has been wanting Vanessa for a very long time.

Penny Dreadful S2E3

The episode also explained Evelyn Poole’s background as well. She is a member of a coven who made a deal with Lucifer to have eternal beauty. If that sounds familiar, it should as Dorian Gray’s background is going to be explored eventually. It’s going to be interesting to see how he came about gaining eternal youth. Poole is also the sister of the "Cut-Wife", who got her name for performing abortions, and the Cut-Wife was branded then cast out to live out a mortal life when she turned away from her coven’s when they began worshiping Lucifer.

Evelyn’s powers reach far beyond expectation and are very subtle, unlike her daughter and the others, and rely more on manipulation rather than brute force. It leads to some very fun results. Evelyn began controlling Sir Geoffrey, and then the townspeople, and then she acted out the rest of her plan. It’s great to see that Vanessa’s encounters with the Nightcomers go further back than she believes and it shows a potential direction for how Evelyn’s relationship with Sir Malcolm will go.

Vanessa’s complete departure from the area is befitting of her, as her one goal at that point in life was to find and rescue Mina. While the Necronomicon did appear out of nowhere, the possibilities that can result from using it are seemingly endless and fascinating. The flashback was a bit "insertive", character history-wise, but worked extremely well.

The flashbacks in Penny Dreadful work so well for the series that they could most likely do the same for any of the characters and have it be just as interesting. Ethan’s and Dorian’s backgrounds still remain untouched, so hopefully more on them will eventually come.

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