Last week’s episode of Penny Dreadful will now and forever be one of my favorite flashback episodes ever in the history of television. In an acting tour de force (I’ve always wanted to say ‘Acting Tour de Force’), Episode 4 ‘The Cut Wife’ was all things wonderful with Eva Green, Patti Lupone and Helen McCrory. These women crushed it in this episode and one confrontation between Madame Kali (McCrory) and Joan Clayton (LuPone) had me lifting my jaw off the floor and turning to my husband to say, “Watching Helen McCrory and Patty Lupone dance a scene is so much better than any Mayweather/Pacquiao fight” Granted, the boxers’ set the bar low but you know what I mean. My husband turned to me and replied, it’s like a living f*cking Keats poem! He was right. It was a verbal spar that raised my heart rate to an uncomfortable level. Not one physical punch was thrown. It was one giant mind-messer.

The episode starts with Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) telling Ethan (Josh Hartnett) about the first witch she ever meant and if there was ever an perfectly delivered gothic introduction to a flashback, this was it – then off to the creepy anti-Harry Potter flashback!  Ives searches and finds Clayton, also know as ‘The Cut Wife’ for all the abortions she gives to the women in the village (for which she is also ostracized and spat upon even though the villagers need her – typical). Ives believes that Clayton will have the answers to who or what she is becoming. Clayton plays creepy, non cuddly Dumbledore to Ives’ angst-ridden, grave and possessed Harry Potter. Clayton teaches, Ives learns.

THEN! Madame Kali shows up and tries to get Clayton back to the coven which she was part of way back when. Clayton says no. THIS is the acting tour de force/verbal spar/Keats scene that is a must watch. Kali can’t hurt Clayton or Ives because of the wards that the Cut Wife has set up around her shack so it’s all words and mind -games.

Kali convinces her husband who owns all the land in the area to kill Clayton. Kali also dominated her husband in the bedroom, whip-style. Poor Clayton was burned alive but here’s an interesting note. The person who yelled “Burn the witch” and who lit the fire was the young female villager who had previously sought Clayton’s ‘Cut Wife’ services. This was so typical. The people that need something the most are always the loudest to rage against that very something publicly. It’s all about fear. You see it in politics today: “Anti-Gay Rights Male Senator Found to be in Relationship with Male Intern.” Sadly, some things don’t change. Well done, Penny Dreadful.

I applaud Penny Dreadful for doing this flashback episode so early in the season. It was absolutely enthralling and will add so much weight to how we view Vanessa Ives. The three episodes of Season 2 have hurled Season 1 to the stone ages. It’s an absolute disturbing, frightful and lovely ride that I don’t want to get off. I envy folks who discover this show in the future and get to binge watch!

On next week’s episode:

Lyle reveals that the Verbis Diablo relics tell a very dark and disturbing story that affects Vanessa; Rusk interviews the survivor of the attack at the Mariner’s Inn; Hecate tries to get closer to Ethan; Angelique and Dorian’s romance grows. Back at Sir Malcolm’s mansion, Vanessa, Ethan, Sir Malcolm, Sembene and Lyle carry on their evening as something evil lurks within, ready to strike.

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Audrey Kearns