Penny Dreadful 2×3 Review: The Nightcomers
“The Nightcomers” was an extremely uncomfortable and sometimes violent episode, and I absolutely hated it at first. It felt as though the writers were trying too hard to be edgy and it just came across as strange and overdone. The more I watched, however, the more I took it as an allegory between the powerful and the powerless and it made much more sense. I actually ended up really liking the story far more than I ever realized I would.
The only time we see any of the regular cast members outside of Vanessa is at the very beginning. Ethan pleads with Vanessa to tell him what is going on with her and the witches. Thus begins Vanessa’s dark tale, and the rest of the episode is a flashback.
Some time in the past, likely after Vanessa’s prior battle with possession, she goes in search of answers as to what makes her different. She hears about a witch who lives a bit isolated on a moor in Devon, so she goes to seek her out. It is Patti LuPone guest-starring as the Cut-Wife, the witch who teaches Vanessa everything she knows. The Cut-Wife is pretty mean and really wants nothing to with Vanessa, but agrees to help her when she becomes convinced that Vanessa is special. She admits that she learned the craft, but recognizes that Vanessa was born with it which brings her immense pain. Their relationship is complicated, because it is not friendly by any means. In fact, the two seem at battle of wills throughout most of the episode.
Eventually the nightcomers show up on the moor at the Cut-Wife’s house. And who else should be the leader of the nightcomers but Evelyn Poole. It turns out that Evelyn is the sister who betrayed the Cut-Wife, and it seems was the reason that she was banished from the coven. A large portion of the episode was dedicated to the devil’s language. The Cut-Wife warns Vanessa not to learn it and not to speak it. It is the difference between a daywalker (a regular witch) and a nightcomer (the evil witches who follow the devil). We know that in the future Vanessa speaks the language, so hopefully we will get some answers as to how this ties together.
Toward the end of episode, as the Cut-Wife lies on her deathbed, she warns her “Little Scorpion” about what is ahead and presents her with a book full of poetry of the dead. She makes Vanessa promise to never open and read it, unless it becomes her last resort in the battle between good and evil. In the end, the townspeople burned the Cut-Wife alive and branded Vanessa on the back with the symbol of a cross.
“The Nightcomers” was basically an anthem about feminism. The reason that the Cut-Wife’s name is such is because she performs abortions. All of the men in the town hate her for it, and the women are afraid of her. She even schools Vanessa on the vile sides of society that dislike the old, the weak, and the different. In the end, I felt like it was a very powerful, standalone episode. I don’t feel that we necessarily needed it the context of the story arc, but I am glad that we got it for Vanessa’ characterization, if anything. I appreciate Vanessa as a character more now that I know this was her past.
Erin has reviewed many shows over the years including Orphan Black, iZombie, Penny Dreadful, and Killing Eve. She has a keen eye for on-screen chemistry, and loves to tackle the subject of casting. She is also our horror aficionado. She live tweets shows, and loves to share her feelings. Erin has a BA in History, and likes to analyze the lore behind historical fiction. She attends San Diego Comic Con every year and has also attended C2E2 and WonderCon.
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