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Penny Dreadful Review: “And Hell Itself My Only Foe”

In which the wolfman hits the fan.


It’s already the penultimate episode of Penny Dreadful season two (time flies when you’re being chased by satanic witches!), and things are not going great for our lil’ scooby gang.

Our group must be torn asunder before reuniting to defeat the Big Bad in next week’s Big Finale, so “And Hell Itself My Only Foe” does its best to prove its title incorrect. Each of our faves face their own inner demons, their personal foes, and finds themselves largely unequal to the task. Vanessa (after, so like Malcolm, charging into the witches’ den without backup or a plan) must face Poole and her room of horrifying dolls who call her out for being a murderer. Malcolm is still freaking out over his dead family, only to be joined by Victor, who quickly begins to freak out over his undead family. Lyle faces death at the hands of the witches for triple-crossing them, a fate little better than what awaits him should they release his secret.

And Ethan faces his wolf in the most dire of circumstances – trapped with Sembene in a stairwell, forced to chomp on his one true friend. I really hope this isn’t the end for Sembene, who manages to absolutely crush every single line he’s ever given. It would be a shame to kill off the show’s only character of color a week after killing the transgender character, so I’m really praying that Ethan just transforms Sembene into a wolf himself. We also learned about Sembene’s own tortured past this week: he says he was a slave trader who sold his own people to the West. I have some trouble with this, as the Black African Slave Trader is largely a myth perpetuated by the West to assuage their own guilt over slavery, but I suppose it was too much to hope that Sembene would be 1000000% amazing and just turn out to be Aquaman or something.

And though Vanessa did rush head first into this final battle (Ethan’s “oh for fuck’s sake echoed my own thoughts exactly), she did show once again that she can fight for herself just fine in this week’s opening scene. Funny how Ethan didn’t seem to mind Vanessa murdering a dude so much the second time, when she was murdering someone who had wronged him instead of just her, isn’t it? I loved everything about that sequence, but especially the absence of music – it made the whole thing seem much more real. But killing off Ethan’s other wolfy friend hasn’t put Rusk (the anti-Holmes) off the case; he’s learned Ethan’s true last name (Talbot, of course), and is just asking to be murdered next.

On the other side of the moral fences this week, we’ve got Hecate coming for Poole’s crown and Ethan’s heart and likely succeeding in neither venture; Poole might be obsessed with youth, but she knows with age comes wisdom, and Ethan loves Vanessa, so tough cookies, witch. Then there’s my blind bestie, Lavinia, who gets to live out the dream of every girl who’s been mercilessly stalked by a Nice Guy, and slams John Clare into a prison cell. Sorry, bud! Of course, now that his last trust in humanity has been dashed, I’m sure he’ll be crawling back to Lily’s Let’s Take Over the World Club, which apparently now includes Dorian Grey, as well.

Tune in next week for the big finale, and what will undoubtedly be a big cliffhanger. And so I will leave you with this flawless and always-correct GIFset from Tumblr:




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Sam Maggs is a writer and televisioner, currently hailing from the Kingdom of the North (Toronto). Her first book, THE FANGIRL'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY will be out soon from Quirk Books. Sam’s parents saw Star Wars: A New Hope 24 times when it first came out, so none of this is really her fault.