What They Say:
Ebb Tide – Kaetenay has a vision of impending doom; Vanessa discovers an awful truth.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a strong focus on Ethan the last time around, Penny Dreadful has been fun this season with the American Southwest arc. While I’ll admit that I’d like to see Malcolm in the wilds of Africa as we almost got early on this season, bringing events here (though filmed in Spain) makes for a great change in the visual design of the series and putting the characters that we’ve been familiar with in dour and somber areas of London. While I was disappointed that Hecate went down seemingly so easily, the show did a lot that I liked and gave us a really fun Ethan to watch as everything began to fall apart in its own way and the bodies began to pile up. Ethan’s had a rough run in this series to be sure with the way he’s struggled with who he is and what others want from him, but it was a great episode to see him starting to really take control of it all.
With so much covered in the last few episodes and the push toward the finale underway with next week being a double billing that’ll close it out, the opening minutes alone here are engaging to watch. Lily’s visiting of the cemetery almost feels like it’s a recruitment moment for her as she deals with a mother that lost a child, but it’s more about Lily’s past life with the daughter she lost herself, something I can’t recall if it came up or not. It’s a beautifully done seen visually with all the right mood and manner about it. Following that up with post-coital bliss for Vanessa after her night with Doctor Sweet is delightful since it actually starts with Renfield crawling all over her and giving her a good lick as well since she’s so tasty to his kind. The material between Sweet and Renfield is great in brief as is the way it is between Sweet and Vanessa as well as he rouses her before the staff arrive.
One of the best moments, even if brief, is with Vanessa and John Clare as he’s come to her seeking some comfort and talk after his dealing with his son. While we might expect some fireworks considering what Vanessa learned about her past at the Banning House, it’s something that’s more about her letting go and trying to help him because he was such a help. And a lot of what she got was variations on Lucifer and Dracula seeing sway over her, so she’s not intent on holding much – if anything – against him at this point. It also doesn’t hurt that since she’s quite in love at the moment that it glosses over so many other things.
Lily’s story has certainly taken its twists and turns over the seasons and seeing her raising her army to go out into the world and bring back its toll is definitely engaging to watch since she’s so invested in it and a true believer that’s bringing others into it just as strongly. As she does so, however, we get to see at that very long dining table how Dorian is handling all of this. His quiet retreat of small pleasures has now become so wild and noisy that it’s pushing him bit by bit and you can see him calculating what it is he’ll do next. Some of it just feels as though he’s finally gotten bored of all of this with what Lily is doing as it doesn’t truly involve him in a direct way. And Lily certainly isn’t helping with the way she prods him just a little bit as well before even getting into her larger wary cry with a bit of history baked into it for motivation.
A decent piece of this episode revolves around the impending threat that’s coming for Vanessa that she’s unaware of. Ethan’s intent on getting back to Vanessa and never coming back to his father’s home, though Kaetenay is looking for him to stay within the area for his own purposes. But when he has a vision of dark things in London, he realizes that Ethan’s path truly belongs there, which has the trio making the steamship trip back as quickly as possible. It’s a solid setup but it’s really great when on the ship Kaetenay does some spirit walking and engages in wonderful discussion with Vanessa through it. It’s here that we realize just how much Dracula has made an impact on her, and that the threat is more embedded in her than anyone realizes. It’s a really great sequence with how he interacts with Vanessa and it also ties well to how Kaetenay now deals with Ethan, gaining a better understanding of why he’s in as in love with her as he is. The reinforcement of bad things coming really is strong through this sequence.
And that becomes clearer for Vanessa herself later as Catriona comes to visit and the two get into a good discussion about the research that Vanessa has been doing and digging into some of what Catriona has experienced. There’s still that very otherworldly feeling to Catriona that keeps her out of place with everyone else that we have in the show, odd assortment that they are, and it’s definitely adding to her allure as you want to know the truth of her. I completely get why people are turned off by Catriona and her role here as she brings in all the key things needed for Vanessa to understand as it’s all just too easy, but that mystery of it all is really great to watch from my point of view with what it offers in being different.
When the show shifts to Dorian making it clear to Lily that he’s bored of all of this, as revolutions are just sound and fury, revealing that he’s working with Victor and Jekyll and that they’re all kidnapping her to give her the serum leads to some very tense moments. That she’s chained and about to be neutralized is very well played, especially with Victor’s comments about how they’re going to turn her into a proper woman. That cuts deep for Lily and just reinforces her anger toward men and all that they’re trying to do to her and so many others. It’s a strong enough theme for her character arc in general so seeing her in this position just reinforces for her the mistakes she’s made in trusting even someone like Dorian.
Penny Dreadful is tightening the plot threads well that exist in this season,though as saw previously some of them have been dealt with prior to this episode to good effect. Each of the arcs in this episode offer up some really great stuff within its running time for most of its cast, whether it’s some father and son time for Clare or just a little bit of quirkiness with Renfeld and Seward about his sickly looking aspects. With everyone focused toward the finale as the reveals are made clear for a few of the players here, everything is set to go pear shaped in a big way and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together and if they’ll all survive it.