Penny Dreadful “Little Scorpion” Review (2×07)

15 Jun


“All of those things that mark you when you’re young, that make you who you are…you never escape them.”

Seeing as a lot of Penny Dreadful is structured around the idea of identity, it comes as no surprise that “Little Scorpion” is concerned with who we are as people, particularly the dark sides of ourselves that stay with us forever. It’s represented physically by the way Vanessa is possessed by a demon–by “monsters inside”–but it also has a deep emotional aspect that forms its foundation in the complicated histories of these characters. In this episode, it’s also symbolized by the storm that rages after a few days of apparent happiness and fun, and it’s nicely summed up by the way Vanessa describes the thunder, lightning, and rain: “primordial…every bit of civilization gone, and everything true coming out”.

Still, even in the lighter moments, there’s a sense of foreboding that permeates the air around Ethan and Vanessa. First of all, the cottage they’re staying in was home to the burned alive Cut-Wife, and that history contributes to the dark, heavy feeling that appears at every turn. In addition, when Ethan teaches Vanessa how to shoot–she’s pretty damn good at it–his advice to her is the following: “Stop being human. Become something else…an animal that has to survive, a predator. No emotion…survival”. And finally, when the two start to get into it while standing in the rain, Vanessa forcefully pulls away and warns “We are dangerous!” There’s simply no escaping the demons inside, and it’s an idea conveyed brilliantly by Hartnett and Green throughout. It doesn’t matter whether they’re bantering or warning each other about dangerous shit; they play off each other extremely well, and they’re a joy to watch.

The final sequence of the hour is well crafted, and the cutting between Geoffrey’s death, Ethan about to kill Geoffrey, and Vanessa chanting the Verbis Diablo serves to unite all these moments under one cloud of darkness. Earlier on, Vanessa says that sometimes, she just wants “to put an end to it” because she “can’t live forever violated”, but at the end of the episode, we see that this darkness still can consume her. And afterward, Ethan grabs her, looks into her eyes, and warns her about the emotional numbing that comes with killing other people: “It’s all just repetition. You’ll never get your soul back, not ever.” It’s an unsettling end to an episode full of both joy and terror, and it’s a fascinating set up for the final three episodes of the season.



-One character I want to see more of is Sembene. We get a really intriguing cold open in this episode between him and Ethan, but while I do like the mysterious aura around him, I also want the show to delve a bit more into who he is.

-I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Josh Hartnett really surprised me when I started watching this show, and he continues to do so every week. I did not expect this great of a performance from him coming in.

– “Why does a scorpion sting?” “To protect itself.” “To kill its enemies.” Important distinction there that plays into the themes I wrote about in the review. The dark side of you doesn’t only come out during moments of self defense, after all.

The conversation early on about Malcolm is pretty important. “I’m the closest thing to a family he’s got left,” Vanessa states. “Memories of his past–including me–are clouds he doesn’t want to face…my god, let him be happy”. Even in a world as dark as this one, there’s always happiness and connection to be found; at the same time, the past can still be something that follows you wherever you go.

-Lily choking the guy mid-coitus is also a representation of that dark side.

– “We are not like others. We have claws for a reason.”

Photo credit: Showtime, Penny Dreadful

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