Penny Dreadful: The Nightcomers
May 20, 2015 12:36 PM - Season 2, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Ethan questions Vanessa about the bloody scorpion glyph drawn on her bedroom floor. This leads Vanessa to remember the time she sought out the Cut-Wife of Ballantrae Moor for help with her powers and her search for Mina.

A flashback episode in the same vein as 'Closer Than Sisters' from S1, this episode reveals more about Vanessa's life and why she's so terrified of the witches. We meet both the Cut-Wife, a centuries old witch ('Daycomer') and abortionist who is hated and feared by the very same villagers who make use of her services, and her enemy and former coven sister Evelyn Poole, who is determined to get hold of Vanessa for the Devil, having sold her soul for eternal youth and power. The Cut-Wife teaches Vanessa the Verbis Diablo and her arts of tarot-reading and herbs as Evelyn schemes to bring about her rival's end in her own unique way.
posted by along came the crocodile (15 comments total)
A observant poster to IO9 noticed that the scorpion glyph is very likely taken from the Fifth Pentacle of Mars from The Key of Solomon - because it is terrible unto the demons, and at its sight and aspect they will obey thee, for they cannot resist its presence.

I thought this episode was pretty damn amazing in all kinds of ways.
posted by along came the crocodile at 12:42 PM on May 20, 2015

I loved this one, too. But this whole thing is a giant retcon from season one. I do like that they've established that she owns the house, so hopefully we'll see it again.
posted by Catblack at 7:54 PM on May 20, 2015

But this whole thing is a giant retcon from season one.

Yeah, I enjoyed the episode but I was slightly distracted by continually wondering if Vanessa either didn't notice Madam Kali constantly lurking in the background, or if she just hadn't recognized her out-of-context when they met again at the seance in Season 1. Could be either I suppose, but it's that kind of thing that makes it always dangerous territory to have big reveals contained in flashbacks.

Still a good episode though. Great atmosphere, gorgeous scenery. The fact that the woman that got the abortion from the Cut-Wife and Vanessa was later the one to drop the torch on the Cut-Wife at the end was brutal, but completely fit.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:42 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Vanessa never sees Evelyn Poole in this episode, so why should she recognise her in season 1 ?
posted by Pendragon at 1:47 AM on May 21, 2015

Except when she watches through the door when the Cut-Wife confronts the three witches outside her house...but you can argue that Evelyn's hood concealed her face well enough to make her unrecognizable. And then later they make a point of showing Evelyn standing in the back during the burning, but you can assume Vanessa wouldn't have seen her in the crowd. And then right after the burning Vanessa looks out of the house and sees the three witches again, but again presumably can't see faces under the hoods. So yeah, it seems she never actually sees her in enough detail to recognize her, but she comes awfully close a number of times, which I found a bit distracting.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:26 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

She (Evelyn) makes a point of covering her face and being in the background and all that, but Vanessa is a bit more perceptive than your usual person, BUT THEN AGAIN the other witches are EVEN MORE PERCEPTIVE so maybe it cancels out? Honestly, I'm not the biggest fan of the writing in this show because it seems to rely upon vagaries like this.
posted by destructive cactus at 10:12 AM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

As far as I can tell, neither Evelyn nor Vanessa get a good enough look at each other to be able to identify the other by sight, and neither do they get each other's names. However the Nightcomers can psychically sense Vanessa's presence whereas she does not appear to be able to sense them.

This leads me to wonder whether the seance in S1 was a set up by Evelyn Poole to meet Vanessa and test her after tracking her down. Poole is definitely scared of Vanessa's power. She also has a puppet of Ferdinand Lyle if I remember right.

I found the episode itself incredibly moving even though it was reasonably obvious what was going to happen to the Cut-Wife. The quality of the acting just elevated everything.
posted by along came the crocodile at 11:46 AM on May 21, 2015

If you're a "real" witch, why not use some of that power to defend yourself? I'm not going to throw away my knife if someone is trying to kill me even if the devil gave me the damn thing. If you don't have power than stop helping the stupid villagers. The witch's actions were just incomprehensible to me. Stop helping the damn villagers and start defending yourself. I'm not seeing where Evelyn got the short end of the stick--she wasn't burnt alive.

I did find it amusing/a tad campy that Vanessa started her story with "a long, long time ago, in a land far, far away."
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 6:40 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wondered at the amount of time that Vanessa spent with the Cut Wife to be taught so much lore. Also, Vanessa did not take the books but left them all behind. Maybe it is the book collector in me, but I would grab any piece of knowledge I could since my main instructor just got burnt alive. Further, I thought it was strange that the villagers and Sir McSweaty Rapey did not kill Vanessa and settled for branding her. Leaving a loose end there.

The thing about Penny Dreadful is that women are the cruelest to each other. All female to female relationships in this show are not the safest nor stable.

Now, none of the witches can cross the stones but full humans can. Can we assume the villagers will not be looting Joan's house?
posted by jadepearl at 3:22 PM on May 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yes I also thought it was counter intuitive that she left the books in a place where they can be burned , stolen, or even just damaged as the house falls apart from disrepair. Seems to me if someone gave me a warning like Vanessa got, I would want as much knowledge on my side as possible and leave nothing more to chance than nec.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:51 PM on May 24, 2015

I'd assume the villagers would be too spooked to go into the creepy abandoned witch's house. Though Vanessa re-applying the scorpion sigil led me to believe she was preserving the house so she could return for the books when she needed them.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:06 PM on May 29, 2015

Also, riding crops do not work that way but, damn, that was a great scene.
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posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:58 AM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wow! Grazing lands, enclosure, women, abortions, the class system. This one is heavy.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:21 PM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

(This was the best one so far.)
posted by From Bklyn at 12:02 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

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