[For Penny Dreadful “No Beast So Fierce” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
No Beast So Fierce. When Vanessa turns to an old friend for help she is introduced to a new ally.
The upheaval, sexytime, and tumult of episode six for Penny Dreadful this season revolves around the seven sins. Vanessa gives in to Lust and The Creature’s Pride takes a bitter, gut-busting hit. Hecate, Rusk, Ethan’s father, and The Marshal all succumb to vengeful Wrath. While Victor Frankenstein and Dorian struggle with the push and pull between Envy and Greed. Then, although not Sloth in the traditional sense, Dr. Seward and an enchanting new character, Catriona give Vanessa the same lazy ass “friendly” advice. It’s not their fault, really and they mean well. But when it comes to sins, intentions aren’t what counts. Fact is, their advice reeks of careless words wrapped in a papery thin guise of friendship.
Luckily, there’s a bright side to sintown. We get to hear the best line of the season thus far when Malcolm finally sees Kaetany is alive after all, “I knew you were too mean to die,” Murray says. There are many more memorable and even funny lines in “No Beat So Fierce”. It’s one of those episodes where if you’re not careful you may find yourself talking to the screen. One moment you could cheer Lily’s half/feminist and half/fucked up tirade about vengeance and violence against women. The next you’re gasping “No, you’re not. You never are,” to the oblivious Vanessa describing herself to Lyle as, “quite safe”. Nothing is ever safe on this show and the characters are all so preoccupied with sinning that, although they mean well, their “assistance” just makes things worse. The seven deadly sins get in the way of progress or healing, just like in real life. Because the “No Beast So Fierce,” scenes resound with so much power, we’re dividing this recap by scenes rather than roles.
The episode opens with a brief glimpse into Renfield’s Gluttony. After he gives Dracula the news about Vanessa’s latest She knows your name, Master. She called you Dracula. Renfield gets his unquenchable bloodlust temporarily sated when Drac offers him a “fat and juicy” fresh victim hanging from a meat hook. While he’s munching away, we wonder if Dr. Seward will see any difference in Renfield soon. She’s brilliant, after all, and her entire job revolves around observing human behavior. When will she see that he’s becoming less and less human?
Speaking of Dr. Seward’s observations, one of the inherent limitations every therapist faces is the myopia of their patients. Seward can only know what Vanessa tells her. So, when they share a drink together and Dr. Seward explains how she killed her abusive husband and stood trial in NYC. Although shocking, it’s not wholly surprising to Vanessa because she saw this scene from Dr. Seward’s past in the asylum episode. Vanessa just didn’t know it was her husband she’d killed. Speaking of just not knowing, this is a scene where Dr Seward unknowingly gives Vanessa horrendously lazy advice. It’s the kind of Sloth that’s unavoidable. She means well but advises Vanessa to “go and have drink with that handsome doctor from the museum,” because Vanessa must learn some people are trustworthy. She gets the same well-meaning advice from her newfound friend, the death-obsessed and exceptional fencer, Catriona, who advises Vanessa to seek out those she loves as protection from the notorious Dracula. Too bad neither of them know that the only “love” Vanessa has right now is Drac himself.
At first it feels like a celebration of love, seeing The Creature clutch his invalid son tight to rock him back and forth with comforting words and promises of medicine. Then it gets a little darker as his son whispers that he knew his father “the angel” would come to him as he died. A child dying is a bit of a downer, especially given the wretched existence of our beloved Creature. Can’t the guy get even a few minutes of happiness and love in this lifetime? Well, no. Because when the boy finally opens his eyes and sees The Creature’s face after only having heard the voice of his father coming from this person. He screams in horror. This, of course, is a crushing blow to our beloved Creature. He’s bereft because it’s not just his Pride that’s broken but also his heart.
The biggest and baddest scenes of the episode are the two bloodbaths at Talbot Ranch. Penny Dreadful loses four major characters to Wrath: Hecate, Rusk, The Marshal, and Ethan’s father – Dickhead Talbot, as we like to call him. It’s almost overkill the way bullets blaze across the Talbot Ranch dinner table and one wonders how this could’ve been avoided. The simple answer is that it couldn’t. Ethan’s father hated the Apaches and had everything to do with their destruction, literally murdering his way into owning all the land he nows claims as Talbot Ranch. So, of course Kaetany comes for revenge and blasts into the house taking down ranchers galore. Soon after most of the others also bite the dust. Dickhead Talbot kills The Marshal and then Hecate takes a bullet to the heart from Rusk while defending Ethan. As she dies Hecate tells Ethan Hell awaits them both before drifting there herself. Interestingly, she exited this mortal coil in naked demon form but Ethan kissed her scary-ass face goodbye anyway, sad but unafraid. Soon after we have the final Talbot massacre. All that’s left are some ranchers and Dickhead Talbot hiding in the ranch chapel. The trio Ethan, Malcolm and Kateany find them quickly and when the bombastic Mr. Talbot berates Ethan, he can’t bring himself to shoot his father. But Dickhead gets a bullet between the eyes anyway, care of Malcolm’s Wrath. In the end this mighty trio of men are the only one’s left alive. Malcolm Murray and Kaetany saved their son from his own father. Irony’s the real winner tonight.
Vanessa falls under the Lustful spell of Dracula’s Dr. Sweet facade. It’s noteworthy that he doesn’t really lie to her. Yes, his vague banter with promises to never leave her side and love her forever lack clarification. But that’s just because he neglects to mention that he is, in fact, Dracula. Other than that small detail, the guy’s totally on the up and up. They have sex right there on the taxidermy room floor with the stuffed wolf watching (clearly not a coincidence) and Vanessa takes cowgirl position, her skirt spread over them for the sake of Victorian sensibilities. So, yes, sex. But no, not sexy. Afterward Vanessa cries and Dracula wipes away her tears. All we can think is that there are more where those came from and likely falling in torrents real soon.
Justine may not be immortal but she’s certainly enthralling, a sociopath – sure, but we’ve all got our flaws. She could have her own show and Lily would be its biggest fan. Her taunting and teasing make Dorian, Envious because Lily likes it a little too much. So, Dorian confronts Lily saying HE’s the one who belongs beside her. Dorian expects Lily to fall into his handsome, immortal arms and declare her undying devotion but instead she defends Justine saying Justine’s more her match than Dorian could ever be. This doesn’t sit well with him and we predict a showdown between he and Justine in the weeks ahead. If anybody can figure out how to destroy Dorian Grey, it’s that furious little minx, Justine. She’s Greedy for a kill with Dr. Frankenstein too. He shows up to kidnap Lily and gets caught in a deadly Warrior Girl spiderweb. Lily has already begun assembling her ex-prostitute army and they’ve battened the hatches, easily taking him down with a knife to the throat. Greed is the only reason they let him live because he could potentially help their army. Dr. Frankenstein can make people immortal, after all. Who better to wage war against sadistic men than an army of gorgeous sex mavens that can’t be killed? At least that appears to be what Lily’s got brewing in the back of her mind when she lets him live…
“No Beast So Fierce” feels like a dream while at the same time awakening us to what’s really happening on Penny Dreadful. So beautifully written while the acting and orchestration work together like art, it’s breathtaking how easy they make it look when this is all unbelievably difficult to pull off. The writers manage to pack complex and relevant information into every onscreen second and at the same time make us feel a thousand emotions while sitting on the edge of our seats. We’re still poised there, in fact, because in the preview scenes for next week we see that Vanessa and Ethan will reunite soon. Dracula against Ethan represents the swordfight to end all swordfights and who will Vanessa want to win? It’s an amazing testament to the show that we even wonder.