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Penny Dreadful 1×06 “What Death Can Join Together” Recap: Vanessa Unlocks Darkness

Vanessa’s latest vision leads Sir Malcolm, Ethan and Sembene to explore a plague ship in search of Mina. Meanwhile, Van Helsing reveals to Dr. Frankenstein more details about the creature that has taken Mina. Later, Vanessa’s night with Dorian unlocks something dark within her.

Vanessa and Malcolm stand in the bloody aftermath of the vampire showdown in her (now former) bedroom. Malcolm asks Vanessa to try and find out more about what’s hunting them, but Vanessa is rightfully unnerved and just wants to get away as soon as possible. Malcolm angrily reminds her that Mina’s life is at stake, and that he’s lost his entire family – to which Vanessa shouts that she’s lost hers as well.

Elsewhere, poor Brona Croft is curled up in her room and hacking up a lung. Ethan Chandler enters with his tail between his legs – it’s the morning after his tryst with Dorian Gray, as he quietly admits to Brona. Well, the hanging out with him part, not the having absinthe-influenced sex with him part.

As Ethan again starts to gruffly wax poetic about his past and present sins, Brona interrupts (thank god) to say that everyone sins and Ethan is a good man despite what he’s done. Considering there’s like a 92% chance Ethan is a werewolf who’s responsible for the recent murders, “what he’s done” could be a sin indeed.

Some time later, Vanessa has calmed enough to attempt a tarot card reading. She pulls the Five of Cups and The Moon, and hears the sounds of an animal snarling as scores of people scream in pain. When she tells Malcolm about it, they muse that the reading might be referring to something terrible happening on a ship, perhaps on the Port of London. They’re interrupted when Dorian Gray swans in to sweep Vanessa off her feet and whisk her away on an adventure.

Oh, Vanessa. Bless your infatuated little heart. Malcolm somehow refrains from giving Dorian the shovel talk, even though he really should because Dorian is most definitely going to be bad news bears.

Cut to Victor Frankenstein about to perform an autopsy on our dearly departed Fenton as the camera zooms in on his long suffering face. Victor reports the results to Malcolm, saying that Fenton had malnutrition and anemia, and doesn’t appear to be preternatural but was somehow able to call for his master. Victor muses that they might have used some form of communication humans can’t see, like with a bat’s echolocation.

Malcolm thanks and dismisses him when they’re done, saying he has no other use for Victor – a stark change in the last time they had a scene together, when Malcolm implied he thought of Victor as a son. Victor looks distraught. I’m still sitting here wondering why they’re pushing this father/son angle so hard when it doesn’t feel like there’s any connection there.

The pretty actress that Caliban is obsessed with approaches him to ask him to fix a stage prop for her. She’s visibly nervous about being around the guy – as is Caliban of being around her – but she kindly tells him about her brother’s steam ship accident, believing that Caliban suffered a similar injury. “After [the accident] he always looked away, like you do. I missed seeing his face, my brother.”

Oh, man. I like her. If she dies I’m gonna be sad.

Later, the actress is in her room as Caliban spies on her from behind a window. He watches as she opens his gift – The Poetic Works of Milton, page marked on a drawing of Lucifer, her brother’s namesake – and then watches as she embraces her lover when he enters the room. Caliban leaves to cry, alone.

The adventure Dorian is taking Vanessa on is for her photograph to be taken, which doesn’t seem like much of an adventure to me considering all the quests Vanessa’s been on lately (though, considering how her life is always in peril on those “adventures,” the mundane is probably welcome). In a brilliantly framed scene, the photographer explains to Vanessa how the process works and that she could “look at the camera, or look away, it’s up to you.” Dorian chips in with “it’s for eternity, after all… your choice.”

Not only does Vanessa decide to look into the camera taking her picture, she turns her head fully and stares directly at the audience. It’s probably the most unnerving bit of this show thus far, and that’s including all of the body-ripping and demonic possession seance-ing.

The photograph and rest of the date apparently goes well; Dorian walks Vanessa home, laughing. Vanessa asks him out for dinner that night, and he agrees.

Victor, meanwhile, is scoping out potential subjects to be Caliban’s bride as he waits to meet with Van Helsing. When Helsing arrives, he begins to tell Victor the truth about his wife Hannah, and about the creatures Malcolm and company are hunting. The word ‘vampire’ is finally spoken aloud! Unfortunately for Helsing, Caliban’s patience has worn thin after the actress’ rejection, and he appears out of nowhere to snap Helsing’s neck right in front of a horrified Victor. Rest In Peace, Professor Van Helsing. At least he was able to hint at a way to permanently kill vampires before he died: stake them in the heart and cut their heads off.

Malcolm waits until Vanessa leaves for her date (there’s an adorable but mildly inappropriate father/daughter vibe from this scene as Vanessa twirls in her cleavage-making dress for Malcolm) before summoning Sembene and Ethan to storm the Port of London. What’s this? Does Malcolm suspect Vanessa’s loyalty/sanity, or is he trying to protect her? Either way, he’s definitely starting to cut her out of his plans. Also, can I talk about how much I love the music that plays here? I love it a lot.

Malcolm calls Ethan out on his broodiness (about time someone said it) as he, Ethan, and Sembene make their way to the docks to “explore a plague ship.” Ethan explains that he’s worried about Brona, who is getting worse.

Vanessa takes Dorian out to dinner in a fancy schmancy restaurant, where their topic of discussion for the night is uniqueness. Vanessa and Dorian’s weirdly loaded conversations are always… well, weird, but I really like this one, guys. I like it so much I’ve transcribed the entire thing in the memorable quotes section of this recap.


As Vanessa and Dorian finish off their night by having kinky sex back at Dorian’s place, Ethan, Sembene, and Malcolm battle vampires on the ship. The ship accidentally gets set on fire during the fight, which prevents Malcolm from reaching the other side of the ship when Mina and the vampire keeping her captive finally do appear. Mina is whisked away again.

Vanessa and Dorian are still in the middle of sex when she hears the voice of a demon speaking to her, saying, “Hello, my child. I’ve been waiting. What games we will have now.” Horrified, Vanessa runs away from Dorian. Dorian walks naked to his secret portrait room and stares at his painting as the wounds on his body heal.

Malcolm has his back turned on Vanessa when she stumbles back home, so he doesn’t yet notice anything amiss when he tells Vanessa that there are things he’s been keeping from her. It’s not until he turns around that he finds Vanessa levitating three feet above the ground and spinning in the air.

SEE I TOLD Y’ALL DORIAN WAS BAD NEWS BEARS. He just unlocked Boss Level: Satan in Vanessa Ives. Next week’s gonna be insane.

Memorable Quotes

Sembene: I have been thinking about your daughter. Say you find her, but say she cannot be saved.
If I find her she will be saved.
Sembene: No. For all the blood we share, for all the miles we have walked, Malcolm, we are not the same. Where I come from, we know, some people cannot be saved. Say your daughter is one of them. What then?
Know what you are going to do.

Dorian: I prefer paintings. Photographs are so ironically impermanent. They capture one moment in time to perfection. Paintings can capture eternity.

Victor: I was cursed with poetry very young. Creates extremely unrealistic expectations.

Victor: Do you believe in fate? I don’t mean justice. I mean retribution. Facing the consequences of your actions that have produced catastrophe. A sin that is everlasting, one that you have made immortal. There is a line from Shelley that haunts me, a single line from Adonais. I cannot get it out of my head. ‘No more let life divide, what death can join together.’

Malcolm: [Brona] will cease being who she is.
Ethan: Then I’ll love who she becomes.

Malcolm: Chicanery. [adding this just because I love the word ‘chicanery.’ I don’t think I’ve heard it before now and it’s a wonderful word and I’m going to use it all the time]

Vanessa: I have a complicated history with the Almighty. [youdontsay.jpg]

Vanessa: I think, Mr. Gray, there are tremors around us. Like the vibrations of a note of music. Hidden music. Some might be more attuned to them than others. What do those people do, those who have been chosen?
Dorian: They endure uniqueness.
Vanessa: To be alien? To be disenfranchised from those around you, is that not a dreadful curse?
Dorian: To be different, to be powerful. Is that not a divine gift?
Vanessa: To be alone.
Dorian: To be seeking.
Vanessa: What?
Dorian: Another.
Vanessa: Like you?
Dorian: Who shares your rarity.
Vanessa: Then you are no longer unique.
Dorian: Nor are you alone.

Vanessa: If you want to do a thing, do it because it is your desire, not my allowance. You must risk rejection.

Caliban: Do not weep. I have learned that skill. It brings no solace.

Rating: B++