A Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) flashback episode tells the story of how she got her witchy ways.
Let’s bitch it out…
I’m of two minds about ‘The Nightcomers.’ It’s an example of a beautiful, well-acted episode of cable television, but it also feels like a slightly indulgent, strangely timed entry in the Penny Dreadful world. Was this a story that absolutely had to be told here and now? Certainly in the present day Vanessa is hurting from her encounter with the Nightcomers and she tells Ethan (Josh Hartnett, the only other regular cast member glimpsed) the tale to provide some context for her trauma. I guess I’m just not sure that we needed 55 minutes of Vanessa learning the tricks of the trade and an ending that was forecast from the moment that Vanessa walked past the scarred, sloped tree (I explicitly wrote “that’s a nice hanging tree” in my notes).
Let’s accentuate the positive, though: Patti LuPone is amazing. As the curt, abrasive Cut-Wife (née Joan Clayton), LuPone brings a protective, wounded quality to her hard-shelled Daywalker witch. In addition to providing an education to Vanessa (as well as smacks to the head), the Cut-Wife offers some light history on Evelyn Poole. The pair were members of the same coven before the Cut-Wife was cast out for refusing to follow the devil and become a Nightcomer. It’s useful information, and yet spending so much time to learn so little feels a bit wasteful, especially so early in the season when the threat in the present is still escalating. I won’t lie: the incantation from the end of episode two left me breathless for more and ‘The Nightcomers’, while entertaining and beautifully done, left me a little deflated.
- Most of the scenes with Poole paint her as a cartoonish villain: strutting evilly through the cattle field, taking them out with her poisoned ring, or inciting a stupid lover, Sir Geoffrey Hawkes (Ronan Vibert), to do her dirty work with a horse whip and light S&M.
- I did like the subtle infusion of feminist discourse sprinkled throughout. The Cut-Wife explains that she isn’t popular with the locals, especially the men, because she does things for the women that they take fault with. And yet they continue to bring the girls by.
- To add insult to injury: the girl that Cut-Wife and Vanessa help with her abortion is the one who lights her afire. Women: stop being cruel to each other!
- Now we know why the scorpion is in the opening credits: the animal is the nickname that The Cut-Wife gives her and becomes her symbol of protection.
- The Cut-Wife (letting Vanessa enter): “I know you’ve been with a man so you’re closer to the beast than the angels.”
- The Cut-Wife: “We’re not courting, I don’t need your name.”
- Poole (insulting The Cut-Wife’s physical deterioration): “You never change, except in every way that counts”
Your turn: did you enjoy the detour into the past? Do you think Patti LuPone will be recognized for her stellar work? Do you feel like you know more about Poole’s past? Did you call the ending of the episode a mile away? Sound off below.
Penny Dreadful airs Sundays at 10pm EST on Showtime