Penny Dreadful: “Verbis Diablo”
CONTAINS FULL SPOILERS.
Recap/Review by David Paul Hellings.
A scared Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) reveals to Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) that the previous night ‘The Nightcomers’ (the witches serving Madame Kali) visited her and that even her dreams are no longer safe. She seeks reassurances that she deserves peace. Sir Malcolm cannot give her that. All he can offer is his support. He asks her to accompany him to a place in which he finds a kind of peace.
In Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, the doctor and his Creature find themselves dealing with the newly reanimated Brona Croft (Billie Piper, or what would be the Bride in the traditional story). The Creature (Rory Kinnear) is clearly hopeful that he has his partner, but Victor (Harry Treadaway) urges caution and that the Bride will need time to learn again, a suggestion the Creature is none too taken with, warning his ‘Creator’ to ‘tread carefully’. But, the doctor has his own attraction to his latest creation, which can only bring major problems.
Sir Malcolm takes Vanessa to a cholera clinic he helps to run as a form of atonement: a place that helps him to feel “like a better man”. As they serve soup to the poor patients, we see an aspect of Sir Malcolm rarely seen: the humanitarian.
Inspector Rusk (Douglas Hodge) continues his investigation into the massacre at the Mariner’s Inn. Visiting a hospital, he sees the badly disfigured and currently unable to speak Warren Roper (Stephen Lord) in a hospital bed (and looking like a bandaged up Elephant Man), the lone survivor of the attack. Rusk needs Roper to recover so that he can discover who was responsible for the deaths at the Inn. Exit moody policeman.
In Frankenstein’s lab, the Bride is now able to talk (thankfully stripped of the awful Oirish accent Billie Piper was stuck with in Season One and now replaced with a rather charming ladylike one – the magic of resurrection) as she slowly begins her rehabilitation under the watchful eye of the Doctor. She believes herself his cousin Lily and is in need of his teaching and protection in a nicely played scene (one which the absent Creature would not approve if he were there to witness his intended love interest’s obvious bond with Dr. Frankenstein).
At the cholera clinic, Vanessa seems in better spirits, grateful to Sir Malcolm that he took her there, something to take her mind off her own concerns as she helps feed the sick. As he departs to attend to other affairs, Vanessa stays, aware of a man sitting alone, reading poetry. It is The Creature. In a touching scene, well played, they discuss religion. The Creature, having abandoned the Bible for Wordsworth and William Blake, sees no heaven but beauty on Earth. It is a moment that reminds us of the capability of humanity in the Creature and a conversation gratefully received by an appreciative Miss Ives.
In Covent Garden, Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) makes his first appearance in Season Two, sitting at a café studying a photo of Vanessa with a sense of longing and loss as a flirtatious young woman called Angelique approaches and invites herself to join him, where her attempts at seduction are met with refusal, Dorian’s thoughts still with Vanessa. As Angelique leaves her business card with the young man, she advises: “Stay young and beautiful, Dorian Gray. It suits you”. Wise words if you’ve seen the portrait in his attic.
Sir Malcolm arrives at an emporium, where Evelyn Poole (aka Madame Kali) is currently shopping, the accidental encounter arranged on her part. As she attempts to gain his opinion on perfumes she is trying, Evelyn casts a dark spell of devilish incantation upon the unsuspecting Sir Malcolm.
At Sir Malcolm’s home, he, Vanessa and Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) welcome their guest Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale) to gain his expert opinion of dead languages, in this case the language of the devil. Dr. Frankenstein arrives to join the group (all we need now is Alan Quatermain, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Mina Harker, and the Invisible Man and the pseudo League of Extraordinary Gentlemen would be complete!) to oversee Mr. Lyle’s explanation of the history of the not-so mythological language the ‘Verbis Diablo’ (the devil’s tongue). Needless to say it’s not a happy story of Brother Gregory, a monk that spoke the language, went mad, and was eventually burned for being possessed (a story that understandably concerns Vanessa as a possible future – madness and possession, not being torched at the stake). It’s not all bad news as there is one written example in the British Museum (lucky break). Mr. Lyle will get the relics, assisted by Ethan (somebody who has clearly caught the flamboyant Ferdinand’s eye).
Dorian Gray, unable to ignore his lustful inner self, finds his way to the address on the mysterious Angelique’s business card, a high-class brothel. Here he discovers that Angelique is actually a man (something that doesn’t bother Dorian at all, bless him!).
At a country house firing range, Sir Malcolm spends time with Evelyn Poole (a crack shot by the way) where he explains the nature of his marriage and his estrangement from his wife. Evelyn is clearly doing all that she subtly can to draw the unaware Sir Malcolm into her web.
In Frankenstein’s lab, Victor washes The Bride’s hair and dyes it blond, her mind full of his cousin’s memories, him recalling their past. It’s all getting a little too close as she asks who The Creature is, to be told that he was The Bride’s intended and the choice as to whether she has to love him now is hers. Fair to say she’s not too thrilled at the prospect, sowing the seeds for serious conflict to come.
At the British Museum, Mr. Lyle and Ethan search for the relic of the devil’s language. Seeing a shield with the symbol of wolves, Ferdinand observes that the wolf symbol was for protection, leading Ethan to remember when he saw wolves in New Mexico and how they behaved when attacking animals: “They didn’t protect, they fed”. Lyle and Ethan then locate the box in which the ‘Verbis Diablo’ is housed.
Hecate (Sarah Greene), one of Madame Kali’s daughters, follows a couple and their new born baby at night, killing the couple on the Tube (quieter in those days than it is today) and taking the baby.
At Sir Malcolm’s, he, Lyle, Vanessa and Ethan open the wooden crate in which the ‘Verbis Diablo’ is supposed to be housed. Inside are old relics, seemingly needing to be fitted together to provide an answer to the puzzle.
The Creature returns to the lab to find Brona/Lily/The Bride – let’s call her Lily – transformed physically, now well scrubbed and with blond hair. The Creature is enamoured, she’s understandably not, but still polite (always an English virtue, even if not sincere). Victor explains to The Creature that the process of him getting to know Lily will be slow – not as slow as Lily would obviously prefer.
At Evelyn Poole’s, it is revealed that Lyle Ferdinand is working for her, a blackmail victim with photographs of his secret homosexual indiscretions currently in Evelyn’s possession, and will stay secret so long as Lyle continues to lead the heroes in a direction of Evelyn’s choosing. Hecate returns with the now dead baby who Evelyn takes into a room whose walls are lined with Victorian ventriloquist dolls (why not?) and sacrifices it in some kind of ritual, removing its heart and sewing it up inside a doll that has the facial resemblance of Vanessa Ives. As she does, we see the real Vanessa convulse as though she’s been affected physically. The game, as they say in Victorian set pieces, is afoot.
“Verbis Diablo” is a strong enough episode. High points are the increasingly watchable Rory Kinnear as The Creature; the unhealthy relationship that is growing between Victor and Lily; Evelyn’s plans for control of Sir Malcolm and how she will use him to get Vanessa. It’s less of a monster mash than usual, and the better for it. Warning signs: Evelyn Poole drifting towards Victorian melodrama.
This review originally appeared on Haddonfield Horror: