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Penny Dreadful 1×04 “Demimonde” Recap: Ethan Has An Unexpected Encounter

Vanessa’s infatuation with Dorian Gray continues to grow. Professor Abraham Van Helsing is hired to work with Dr. Frankenstein. And Fenton draws his master to Sir Malcolm’s mansion.

Dorian Gray is a terrible sex party host

An orgy of attractive people are writhing about in Dorian’s grand hall, which you’d think would be a great night for anyone. Instead, Dorian is bored, because this is probably his typical Tuesday night. Afterwards, he goes through a secret passageway leading to his infamous portrait – the one which disfigures and ages as Dorian himself sins and remains young. We don’t get to see the painting, of course, but I’m sure we will at some point. Perhaps the season finale?

Vanessa Ives learns botany

Vanessa is seated outside a church when she meets a little girl named Lucy (Lucy Westenra from Dracula, perhaps? Though she’s supposed to be Mina’s best friend, and this Lucy is a little young for that). Lucy makes a few keen and vaguely creepy observations – like Vanessa wants to go into churches but won’t (or can’t), Lucy’s nanny is a “beast,” and her dead mother isn’t going to stay in the ground for long.

Lucy is eventually called away. Vanessa spies Dorian nearby and trails him to a greenhouse, where their conversation is full of sexual innuendo, as I suspect all of their conversations will be. Notable moment: Vanessa mistakes deadly nightshade to be just a harmless and sensual flower, which fits in with the overlying theme of nothing being what it seems and everything having a dark and deadly side.

Victor Frankenstein is (still) up shit creek

The hematologist Victor Frankenstein consults with is none other than Professor Van Helsing, vampire hunter of Dracula fame. Unlike the 2004 film where Van Helsing was portrayed by a considerably younger and fitter Hugh Jackman, Penny Dreadful‘s Helsing is an older man played by David Warner. Using a solution called Hannah’s Wink, he identifies the blood sample Victor gives him as having no coagulation, which would make it ideal for creatures who drink blood. The Professor goes on to say that Malcolm is looking for a cure for something he doesn’t understand, but that Helsing knows intimately.

Victor leaves the building when he notices his “monster,” Caliban, lurking outside. Caliban again threatens Victor if he doesn’t make a bride for him soon.

Fenton’s affliction

Victor tests his blood transfusion theory out on Fenton, using Malcolm’s blood instead of Ethan’s because Ethan refuses to. RED FLAG. SUSPICIOUS BEHAVIOR. These guys really need to start looking into Ethan, though I guess they already have their hands full.

While they wait for Fenton to wake up, Malcolm and Victor discuss the recent mother-child murder case that has the police stumped. Ethan continues to make it really obvious something’s up with him when he reacts violently to their speculation that the murderer might be human. Vanessa arrives at the house just after an argument between Ethan and Victor ends in Malcolm weirdly asking Ethan to go on a trip with him to Africa.

When Fenton wakes, it becomes apparent the treatment did not work.

Malcolm and Victor are too busy playing house to notice Fenton is escaping

Later, as Malcolm and Victor continue to research a cure for Fenton’s blood-eating, Malcolm confesses that he lost a son in Africa, and he only invited Ethan for protection, not because he cares about him. “Mr. Chandler means nothing to me, he’s a finger on a trigger. You are not.” I’m not sure where these father-son-brother connections are coming from, but they feel really forced.

They eventually notice something’s amiss when there are sounds coming from Vanessa’s room upstairs. Investigating gets them attacked by Fenton and a horrifying looking vampire (could this be Dracula?!) but they manage to fight Fenton off, killing him in the process. Possible-Dracula escapes. When Vanessa returns home, Malcolm tells her the creature was after her, and that Mina might possibly be manipulating them.

Brona and Ethan go on a date and it doesn’t go well

Brona opens up to Ethan about her past and how she had been engaged to an abusive man before she ran away and became a prostitute. Ethan comforts her, then asks Brona out on an official date to the theater.

The date goes swimmingly at first; Brona shows child-like enchantment over the play, which ironically enough is called “The Beast Within,” but during intermission, the pair run into Vanessa and Dorian in the lobby. Remembering her encounter with Dorian, Brona feels out of place amongst Ethan’s upper class friends, leaving the theater and telling Ethan to leave her alone unless he pays her for sex. She ends up collapsing on the street and coughing up blood after running away.

Dorian ditches Vanessa for Ethan (blasphemy!)

Ethan’s left on the street staring dejectedly after Brona. When he laments to Dorian about wishing he was someone else, Dorian whisks him away to a gambling ring where dogs maul and devour rats, of all things. Ethan is overwhelmed by the sight of animals ripping other animals apart and the fucked up people around him enjoying it all, and ends up in a barfight.

Dorian takes Ethan home, offers him absinthe and music, and watches as Ethan falls apart remembering – among other things – Brona’s recent rejection, the string of recent murders, the wolves at the zoo, and waking up with claw marks pressed in his palm. WHAM BAM WEREWOLF MA’AM.

Ethan strides up and angrily grabs Dorian’s throat, which then turns into angrily kissing Dorian, which then becomes oddly tender kissing of Dorian. And then they do the do.

Memorable Quotes

Caliban: What a simple thing it is, to snap your neck. You are so fragile, you mortals. Such things of skin and air. Such things of the past. The future belongs to the strong, to the immortal races. To me, and my kind. Look upon your master.

Ethan: We’ve all done things to survive. There are such sins at my back it would kill me to turn around.

Brona: It’s a sad spectacle, Ethan. Why don’t we just admit it? You’re fucking a skeleton every night, for fuck’s sake. There’s no goddamn future in it for either of us. From now on, you fuck me like anyone else – after you’ve paid.

Dorian: I suppose we all play parts.
Ethan: What’s yours?
Dorian: Human.

Vanessa: I’m not the only one in this house she has a reason to hate. I betrayed your daughter once. You ignored her your entire life. So have the courage to face your own sin before you cite mine so easily.

Malcolm: There are times I wish Mina had been born with your cruel spirit. You are the daughter I deserve.

Rating: B+