Penny Dreadful Recap Season 3, Episode 4

Penny Dreadful Recap: Mental Hopscotch

Set almost entirely in the Banning Clinic, this week’s Penny Dreadful, “A Blade of Grass,” not only explored Vanessa’s heartbreaking relationship with the orderly who would become the Creature but also revealed a surprising connection between the two “men” pursuing her within the white room. What was it? Read on…

‘GOD HAS FORGOTTEN ME HERE’ | During her hypnosis session with Dr. Seward, Vanessa recalled the orderly encouraging her to eat and, when she refused, reluctantly administering a feeding tube. Though he tried to remain detached and professional, it was clear that he was a caring soul. He even broke the rules to offer her a blanket after she underwent hydrotherapy — and was attacked by the patient when he later had to reclaim it (since she was a hanging risk). After she was put in a straitjacket, he spoon-fed her and tried to get her to see her treatments as science, not torture. She wasn’t having any, however. They’re “meant to make me normal,” she scoffed. Which to anyone else wouldn’t sound like a bad alternative to restraints and a padded cell.

Despite the orderly’s best efforts to keep his distance — for instance, per regulations, he wouldn’t discuss his wife, Marjorie — he of course wound up getting to know Vanessa little by little, and allowing her to get to know him. Then, it all got super wiggy: After she confessed that she’d been touched by Lucifer, he said that he believed her. “After all,” he added, his eyes going demonic, “I was there.” At that, Vanessa begged Seward to stop the session. But the shrink had been trying and couldn’t — her patient had entered a fugue state. Desperate to help, the doc asked what Joan Clayton would have told Vanessa to do. “Be true,” Miss Ives replied. So that, Seward said, was what she had to do — be true, and she would emerge from this unscathed. In any case, Seward promised not to leave her for anything in the world.

‘WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE IS ALL THAT WILL EVER HAPPEN TO ME’ | As time passed at the Banning Clinic, Vanessa’s treatments escalated to the point where she was left more or less bound and gagged. Taking pity on her, the orderly — himself again — broke the rules once more to tenderly brush her hair, apply some makeup and convince her to look in a mirror. “This is who you are,” he said. “Please don’t forget that.” Though he wasn’t a poetry fan, he even read her poetry (children’s poetry, but still). He also promised that, while he hated his job, he wouldn’t leave it until she was allowed to leave the clinic as well.

On another occasion, Vanessa lamented that she’d only ever been with one man in her life, then removed her hospital gown and embraced the orderly. When he stopped the incident from progressing beyond kissing, she snapped that she should have died a virgin like Joan of Arc. In response, the orderly pleaded with her to get better, or Banning would perform surgery that would render her one of the “broken things.” At least pretend to be cured, he begged. When their conversation turned to why the devil would be so interested in her in the first place, the demon manifested itself in the orderly again to answer the question: “Because I love you.”

‘YOU’RE NOT EVEN A BLADE OF GRASS TO HIM’ | When Vanessa declared that she was not afraid of Lucifer, he replied that he didn’t want her to be. On the contrary, he wanted her to join him of her own free will, to smite God. At that, otherworldly laughter erupted, and the bed slammed against the wall. Um, God? No. It was a carbon copy of the orderly — now there were two of him, neither of which actually were him. No. 2 taunted No. 1 — his brother, it turned out — saying that even the ignorant wouldn’t believe in him forever. So Vanessa should instead “be [No. 2’s] bride, and then all light will end, and the world will live in darkness.” No. 2’s name? As you might have suspected, Dracula.

When Vanessa declined what both of the sibling rivals considered offers she couldn’t refuse, they hurled threat after threat, to no avail. “You think you know evil — here it stands,” she spat before beginning to speak in tongues and levitating. Her nightmarish reverie having peaked, Vanessa could awaken now, Seward told her. But no, the patient wasn’t done there, she insisted.

‘I DIDN’T COUNTERFEIT NORMALITY WELL ENOUGH’ | When next the orderly visited Vanessa, her head was shaved; her surgery, scheduled for the following day. She tried to fake being cured, she said. But it was all over for her when she spoke of her faith. In turn, the orderly informed her that he was leaving. The evening before, he’d been helping his son build a toy ship and explaining that it was the kind of boat that explored all over the world, “even the frozen North.” Do people live there? his boy had asked. No, the orderly had replied. It was too cold and lonely. And then he had wept uncontrollably, for he’d realized that someone did live where it was cold and lonely all the time — Vanessa. So he had had to quit his job.

Before the orderly left Vanessa’s room, he promised that the last face she saw before going into surgery would be that of “someone who loves you,” and the two of them shared a bittersweet kiss. Now, Vanessa was ready to snap out of her trance in Seward’s office. Downing the stiff drink that the shrink poured her, Miss Ives said that she remembered everything — not hazy, dreamlike images but everything. And she knew who she was up against. She even knew his name: Dracula!

What did you think of the episode? Didn’t Eva Green and Rory Kinnear just tear your heart to shreds? Hit the comments.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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61 Comments
  1. Soraya Malvaiz says:

    Just amazing acting, this show should be lauded with awards and accolades for the last 2 seasons but this third season is just mind blowingly good.

  2. Alichat says:

    My god…..the range that Rory Kinnear’s character has gone through in these three seasons. I thought for sure we were going to see that Vanessa had killed him when she was in the Banning Clinic. I’m so glad she didn’t. I think we’ve learned more about this character than we have any in this entire show…..except Vanessa of course.

  3. erica says:

    Do you realize that there were only 3 people in this episode?! GREATNESS!!!

  4. Joe says:

    Wow. This was dull.

    • Mark says:

      Very boring.

    • Et al. says:

      There are plenty of shows on the air with explosions or laugh tracks to keep your little brains engaged. Try them instead.

    • dru mont says:

      WRONG!

    • KCC says:

      It gave us a lot of insight into Vanessa’s struggles and the relationship between her and the orderly allows for some interesting possibilities later between Vanessa and the Creature. All that being said, I don’t know they had to take the full hour on it. It seemed to drag on a bit. I guess they didn’t want to break the mood by cutting to a different story line. They wanted the audience to feel what Vanessa was feeling: isolated, frustrated and bored.

  5. Simon Jester says:

    Fantastic. I love these little bottle episodes (like the Breaking Bad “Bug” episode, or Mad Men’s “Suitcase” episode). They always bring out the very best in the performers.

  6. juless says:

    great episode!!! this show gets better and better

  7. jwill says:

    Every epidode is great.

  8. Debbie says:

    My only complaint about this episode is that by the time “performer of the week” appears, Rory Kinnear’s performance will be just a dim memory to those who decide such things. This was such a beautifully written, well performed episode, that you scarcely noticed that there were only three actor featured this week.

    • Mathew says:

      Agreed. Should be a four-way tie this week Rory and Eva, Tatiana (Orphan Black) and Caitriona (Outlander)

  9. Carole says:

    The fact that people thought this was boring just confirms my suspicion that what many people want is a video nasty on screen with mindless action. One of the reasons I hate The 100 so much is because the characters just commit torture and kill people like it was a day to day activity and it never really touches them. Just say sorry and carry on. This was as always mesmerising. Eva puts every drop of herself into the acting. When you see actors just spitting out lines you really appreciate the effort.

    • dru mont says:

      People apparently don’t want to see good acting anymore – they are too cynical, too jaded, too uneducated. They have NO taste. They are the same fools voting for Trump.

      • Dana says:

        Trump a caricature of a President who is obviously sharing the same beautician/barber as Ferdinand Lyle.

      • KCC says:

        Sweeping judgements regarding people you’ve never met with opinions different than yours, apparently well educated people with impeccable taste that are not cynical or jaded and can be fools too.

  10. Wow. Wow. WOW! Rory Kinnear has incredible range (and so does Eva Green, btw!). He successfully played no less than three characters in this episode and it came across very believable! I was watching three actors in the same body! So touching and emotional that I’ve spilled a LOT of tears. I had to get a tall glass of refreshing and replenishing water afterward. Love this series so much. Hooked till the end of days! Can’t wait for next week although this episode will stay with me for a very long time.

  11. Hurley says:

    How does Eva Green not win every award!?!?

  12. James D says:

    That episode was so incredibly beautiful. John Logan continually proves he is one of the best storytellers. and what a perfect opportunity to show off two of the best actors alive, this should be shown to every acting student at every acting program because that is how its done. so good.

  13. Jeanna says:

    Both Eva Green and Rory Kinnear devastated us with their stunning performances in this episode. Not just performers of the week but performers of the year. I thought Tatiana Maslany and Caitriona Balfe couldn’t be topped this week but I was wrong. Just in awe.

  14. Iris Sudds says:

    This episode was soooooo beautiful, I am still crying. The kindness and compassion Rory showed to Eva was so unbelievably touching. Oh, if only there was this kind of kindness and compassion in the world. The BEST acting I have seen in a long time and I can’t even tell you what movie it was. Such an INCREDIBLE episode, words cannot even express how beautiful it was.

    • I agree. Emmy nomination please.

    • kathleen says:

      so for the first half hour of this episode I resigned myself to feeling anxious, bored and stupified by the visual monotony of mostly a few monochromatic colors in this claustrophobic room made me almost want to turn the T.V off. Even the camera angles made my skin crawl. I kept thinking aren’t they now going to show us another character and storyline, this is driving me crazy, it’s torture!…….

      then I realized this was the whole point of the this one episode: I was feeling what Vanessa was feeling and Rory’s character was emphasizing with so much- the loneliness, anxiety, physical pain, exhaustion and claustrophobic boredom I experienced brought me into feeling I was part of this and inside the characters.. IN fact the range of acting and the fact that Logan is brilliant by letting the episode feel so slow and monotonous for the first 45 minutes that the viewer was a wet dishrag by the end of it when the demons she faced show their true faces and true desires for her..
      I agree wholeheartedly with the other people who wrote that this was a fantastic and brilliant episode with incredible acting and story arc.
      The cinematography was incredible ( as it always is in this series) but I really like how they washed out the colors and even Eva Green’s white skin and black hair matched the almost black and white feeling to the screen. Her eyes were even deliberately washed out from their normal amazing green..

      As with everything in this series you can find meaning and character and story development in the smallest things. I feel nothing is ever overlooked.
      In spite of all the other interesting characters that we get to know in this series it is really and truly Vanessa’s story which gets deeper and more convoluted as we process her life though her courage and inner life and the demons that pursue her.
      .
      Juxtapose this to the storylines which all have the potential to blow up with incredible consequences!- dr. jekyl and dr. frankentein still screwing with mind and body and so righteous in their experimentation both due to traumatic early youth ( they really need to explore this).
      then the whole story now with the rest of the characters in the U.S west and the ultimate show down with Ethans father. And there good versus evil as well.
      Last and not least, the curious coupling of Dorian and Lilly and the building of their army towards what end exactly? ( I think their acting is amazing however this story is the least understandable at this point in time- although John Logan said that Billy Pipers storyline this season is his favorite)

      It’s completely fascinating. I rarely blog but since this site seems to have show devotees I am putting in my two cents.

      • Dana says:

        Wonderful summation. On the mark.

      • whoDat says:

        Jeez! That was so well written. Well done! Completely agree! This eps storyline situation is a nightmare come true. Helplessly and continuously tortured and nothing you can do about it no matter what you try. I was longing for vengeance that never came. Excruciating!

        • kathleen says:

          Thank you! I love this show and this episode in particular, although really hard to watch some of the time, was so brilliant and yet.. risky too, in terms of keeping the audience engaged long enough.
          So nice too to find other people who follow the show!

      • Kiwi3 says:

        You summed it up perfectly.
        This episode was brilliant. It left me in tears.
        And both Eva Green and Rory Kinnear deserve awards for this episode alone!

  15. I love the character development on this show and even though it may seem tedious at times, the very capable cast make it work. I do hope, by next season, that everyone accepts their destiny and they turn into the League of extraordinary gentlemen kicking butt all over the world.

  16. I agree and love to watch the show then read the script on the second view to ensure I had not missed anything. While no one can dismiss the superb thespians and the screen writers dedication to their crafts, ( bravo, well done) I just need to see more of a connection this far into watching. Then again if I were to get my wish it might be the end of the series which I would miss much more.

  17. Jim Carr says:

    Eva Green has no peer……the new Meryl Stereo!

  18. Laura says:

    How anyone can call this episode boring is beyond me…This show just gets better and better with every season and this could be best episode of the entire series. It was absolutely riveting. Clearly the people who thought this was boring should be off watching some mind-numbing, intelligence-insulting procedural instead.

  19. Aaron says:

    It was an amazing episode. Those who can’t understand the subtleties of this episode may find it boring. The mastery of this episode lies in the emotions that it brings out in the characters. If you found this episode boring, you lack personal human emotional depth.

  20. G. Smith says:

    Absolutely Amazing was this episode, i hardly pay attention watching tv nowadays when i have a cell phone in my hand but my lord this episode had my eyes glued to the TV.

  21. This episode was amazing….but Im ready for all the characters to be back together…at least Vanessa, the Creature, Frankenstein, Ethan, and Malcolm

  22. John Summers says:

    I very much enjoy this show, with I suppose several criticisms. But referring to this episode, I admit, I started to trail off and lose interest and then at the end for the reveal, honestly, I didn’t get it.

    Can someone please answer me 2 things: 1-So the cute guy she’s been flirting with is Lucifer/Dracula who’s been taunting her and possessing all this time or? Please someone explain. 2-Why was she in an insane asylum to begin with and did she get a lobotomy or it never happened or? I’m sorry, but I was totally lost.

    I for one look forward when the characters all reunite to fight evil. That to me is the strongest aspect of the show. And the addition of Patti Lupone who’s single episode last season was BRILLIANT!

    • John Summers says:

      Lastly, I hope this is the last ‘possession’ episode. The Exorcist did it best and no other movie or tv show that employs that plot ever make it very entertaining, nor interesting. Just saying.

      • kathleen says:

        So here I really agree with you. In particular I am getting tired of the levitating and the really annoying ” satan” language which as you say, seems derivative. First of all I don’t understand what she is saying so the longer she goes on and gets crazier looking as she does it the more I am at a remove from the plot. It seems to scare the bad guys off though.
        Eva Green does crazy and possessed like no one else though. Her eyes get almost scary huge and her mouth goes down and for someone so so so beautiful she really looks gruesome. The only thing left is to foam at the mouth. But maybe I missed that.

    • kathleen says:

      so the cute guy at the museum she has been seeing, but cut off the relationship with ironically because she thought her dangerous life could harm him, is Dracula. I can see where this is confusing. Since the first season we have found out that Lucifer wants her as his bride. Then later we find out that when Lucifer fell to earth ( God cast him out of heaven and he said he would then reign in Hell) he actually had a brother!

      And who is this brother? This is where the series starts to mess with you. The two brothers represent the two sides of man: the spirit and the flesh. Lucifer wants Vanessa’s soul or spirit: Dracula represents the physical but since he is evil he is the “Beast”. ( and I really want to point out the beauty of what John Logan is doing by putting the series not only in the Late Victorian era but also using the common literature and common interpretation of the bible of the time as well) . Dracula wants to make Vanessa his bride with his carnality- and make her too lust after flesh and blood. ( in the books and movies Dracula has all these brides and has brought them to him because they find him so alluring and he may want their body but he really wants their blood and then their service to him- this is why Dracula is made so sexy in all these film adaptations)
      The aide ( or will be Creature after Victor puts him together) is possessed by both brothers and manifests as both. This happens whenever the eyes turn black.
      What Lucifer really looks like I don’t think we know yet. Perhaps we don’t really know what Dracula looks like either, but for now he is kind of this tall attractive guy with very good manners and a mysterious way about him.

      I think we see in this episode too that Vanessa is attracted to the physical part of this duality with the brothers but rebukes it. With Lucifer she says in one episode you can have my body but not my soul! I think with Dracula it’s no you cannot have my body either.

      As with being in the asylum this goes back to the first season. After seducing her best friend Mina’s fiancée she has left herself through her jealousy and fear of being alone open to being possessed by Lucifer. Who, one thinks, has just been waiting for a good opportunity.
      Since that point she is found to be mad because she acts just like a possessed and therefore crazy person. In fact the doctors tell her mother she is manifesting a psychosexual hysteria ( this is something that Freud treated by the way so it was considered a female version of ” crazy”.. Her parents bring her to Banning’s clinic, where she tells him I am not mad but possessed by the Devil. Which you get the impression he knows, since he quickly sends the parents out of the room and she goes on to tell him things about him that she would not know but the Devil, being somewhat all-knowing does.
      They show in those episodes the icy baths the torture of hydrotherapy and so forth ( by the way all things done for crazy people up until about 50 years ago- in fact they also used to put them into Insulin shock thinking this might cure the madness caused by late syphilis- something definitely going around in late Victorian England and not curable until Penicillin was discovered after WWI by Alexander Fleming. Tertiary syphilis is what Al Capone died of. By that stage, Penicillin does not help.
      They also show her in those episodes with a shaved head getting electroshock therapy ( still done today) and then getting a drill piece rotated into her brain. Have no idea about this but they did find in cavemen instances where there were holes drilled into the brain. I think they did this to let the spirits out. Okay sorry way off topic here…
      However lobotomies are not done that way so I don’t think she had a lobotomy. They appeared to be going into her parietal or temporal lobe. ( I am an M.D. but not a neurosurgeon).
      Plus she does not at all act like someone who has had a lobotomy.

      So in this season they are showing the other side of what happened and what she is actively repressing so the need for the Shrink so well played by Patti Lupone who uses hypnosis to take her back into that five month period to find out what it is she is repressing.
      Voila, it’s that the devil and his brother Dracula are both pursuing her .
      Now last season with Mrs. Poole pimping for Lucifer hoping to get eternal youth she fought off and you felt vanquished Lucifer but as a consequence she lost her connection to God- and this season she is grappling with this. So maybe now Dracula is making a play.

      I find the Dracula sort of interesting myself. I thought from the episode perhaps he wanted revenge for the fact that she helped to kill Mina, who one thinks was Dracula’s bride.
      However it appears he has had his sights on Vanessa for quite some time and that actually Mina was to bring her to him. In fact, I don’t quite remember but I think she said as much.

      So long explanation here, I hope this helped.
      Why do I know all this? I really don’t know. I just find this show truly fascinating and I know all these literary characters from College.

      • John Summers says:

        I appreciate your explanation. So the cliff notes version is, Lucifer is the one who wants her soul, and Dracula wants her body but they both possessed the attendant? I’m still not getting it but I’ll continue to watch the show and again, I hope for the reunion of the group. I found this past episode to claustrophobic and torturous to watch.

        • LABete says:

          I don’t think the brothers really possessed the orderly. They just appeared to Vanessa in her mind in his form. If you noticed, after her whole “vision” she and the orderly were still just sitting together at her bed and he was asking her why the Devil would be interested in her. I also noticed that when Lucifer takes someone’s form, his eyes are black; when it’s Dracula, his eyes are red.

          • kathleen says:

            I didn’t notice the eyes were red and I thought I was paying attention! Good catch. I agree and I guess I felt that was understood that this is in her mind. In her other possessions the devil has impersonated someone close to her at first trying to trick her. But in the one episode in the first season where her mother sees her naked and looking like she is having sex with an invisible person ( and then dies! ) that is where they do show us that this is in Vanessa’s mind or not visible to other people. I will look for the red eyes!

      • whoDat says:

        Another excellent post. Thank you.

    • Nicki says:

      The background was pretty much laid out by Ferdinand Lyle’s research to help fight the witches in Season 2, (There was a scene where they were all standing around a table and looking at artefacts that helped explain the story.) This is when we also found out Ethan is the Hound of God and Vanessa’s protector.

      Two brothers – Lucifer (also named Amun-Ra in Egyptian mythology) who occupies the spiritual realm and Dracula, who occupies the human realm (and who was the behind the scenes bad guy from Season 1 who whisked Mina away) both seek the hand of Amunet who is currently incarnated in Vanessa Ives. They both believe, for a reason we don’t yet really know, she will bring them greater power.

      Vanessa vanquished Lucifer – for the moment – at the end of season 2 after she destroyed the doll that looked like her that Evelyn Poole had made.

      Now Dracula is pursuing her again – in part I think for revenge for Mina (the wife with a voice like a bird who died) and for his own ends.

      Vanessa went to the asylum after she had her breakdown after she seduced Mina’s fiancé and was possessed for the first time. Some time after she was released from the asylum she sought out the Cut Wife to learn from her in order to harness her powers and protect herself.

      Some time after the Cut Wife was killed, Mina disappeared (I don’t think we know how long).

      And there we are at the start of the series where Vanessa seeks out sharpshooter Ethan to help her and Sir Malcolm find Mina.

      • John Summers says:

        I do vaguely remember all that you’re referring in the past episodes, perhaps I’ll revisit them one day. Thanks again for your thorough explanation.

      • Aynne Pryce says:

        What were the conditions for her leaving the asylum? I didn’t see her recovery or course of treatment after the attendant was to leave. I feel so up in the air about that! Please clarify. Thanks!

        • kathleen says:

          She got out of the asylm after she had her electroshock therapy for which they shaved her head. You see this in earlier episodes. she was catatonic when she came home but still possessed. Her mother witnessed her possession by the devil when he poses as Sir Malcom ( vanessa can see him but her mother can’t so what she sees vanessa doing is similating sex) and her mother then faints and dies. Next we see the funeral and the father wanting nothing to do with vanessa.
          And so she recovers and then the next thing is that her friend Nina contacts her through dreams to tell her she is in danger- and that is whole first season. So to really understand the scene in the asylm you have to go back to the first season.

  23. Jennifer miller says:

    My sister and I watched this episode again Friday evening it is my absolute favorite. Rory Kinnears performance was amazing just as Eva Green’s was phenomenal. I was on the edge of my seat. I can’t say enough good things about this episode