Penny Dreadful Recap: Mental Hopscotch

Penny Dreadful Recap Season 3, Episode 4

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.

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