Spoilers and scorpions, oh my.
Penny Dreadful 2×3: The Nightcomers dwells deeps into the witches’ lore further this week. To be perfectly honest, the Cut-Wife in this episode would historically be any of the midwives of old. Women that knew about herbs and spiced and delivered babies. Or in the Penny Dreadful lore, a Cut-Wife is someone who performs abortions.
The episode is a flashback of Vanessa Ives triggered by recent events to older days where she seeked out the help of a witch to find out who she was. It takes a while for this jedi-padawan relationship to be established, but it’s obvious from the start the old woman knows Vanessa is more than just a regular tourist in the occult. She almost immediately baptizes her with the scorpion moniker (ok she paints a cross on her forehead but you know what I mean).
The old witch ends up taking Vanessa in. The way she doesn’t want her name (“we are not courting”, she says) already speaks volumes about how society’s rules don’t apply here. Soon enough Vanessa realizes the woman is hated by the townsfolk. They cross themselves when they pass by her and spit on her.
As it happens, Evelyn Poole is there. She’s a nightcomer, a witch that has accepted to be in league with the Master – the enemy we never see. Evelyn and the old witch know each other. Once they belonged to the same coven, until Evelyn went to the dark side. Apparently Evelyn is only at the peak of her powers at night. That doesn’t stop her from murdering cattle to provoke the townsfolk againts the old witch and assumes the role of dominatrix with Sir Geoffrey, the local aristocrat and lord. Vanessa has her own encounter with Sir Geoffrey. He means to rape her, but she bites his hand and pulls a knife on him.
Eventually Evelyn turns Sir Geoffrey against the old woman, he conspires with the priest, and they all go to Costco to get torches and forks. The old witch’s health is failing. She confesses to Vanessa that her name is Joan Clayton and that when she passes away, the land is hers. The mob surrounds the hut and pronounce her a witch. With Evelyn watching in the background, they hang Joan by her arms to a tree and set her on fire.
Vanessa herself is left alive, but a cross is branded on her skin heated on the fire that kills Joan. Vanessa finds the deed that granted the lands to Joan with her name crossed and Vanessa’s written atop it. But she doesn’t want to stay. After taking a glance at the book that Joan warned her against only using in her darkest hour and pocketing the tarot cards, she leaves the hut.
On the stones at the entrance, she cuts her thumb and draws the scorpion. In the background we hear Joan’s last words again: “When Lucifer fell, he did not fall alone. They will hunt you until the end of days. Be true.” Ok, not quite a the-force-will-be-with-you-always inspirational speech, but I guess given the circumstances the best one Vanessa needed to hear.
Great backstory overall, but I really want us to get back to London.
- Evelyn is shown killing cows with her ring. That is scary enough. I didn’t need the scene with Sir Geoffrey being dominated because that is supposed to paint him in a bad light. Let’s not demonize what people do in the privacy of their own home.
- Evelyn and Joan’s “duel” at the protection stones. Evelyn letting Joan know that Vanessa is who the Master wants most of all.
- I want Vanessa Ives to give some pointers to Sansa Stark. Sorry, not really relevant but I’m still peeved over this week’s Game Of Thrones.
That will do for now.