Penny Dreadful Season 1 Episode 7 “Possession”
We start this episode with Vanessa and Sir Malcolm talking in the sitting room. Vanessa seems physically fine, but the things she’s saying are strange. It seems like she’s being possessed, although it’s unclear exactly by what. Vanessa starts accusing Sir Malcolm of essentially raping his way through Africa, and proving Peter to rape the native women too so that he could prove his manhood. Books start flying off the shelves in the study, papers start flying around the room. It’s clear that Vanessa is being possessed by something powerful. When it looks like Vanessa is going to do real harm to Sir Malcolm, Sembene charges in the room and slaps her, knocking her unconscious.
Sembene and Sir Malcolm bring Vanessa upstairs and call for Victor. He comes to examine her, and she apologizes for her earlier spell. She seems to be ok now, but then she starts talking about the doctor’s virginity and trying to bite him. Thwn she tells him that a line from Shelly keeps haunting her, “No more let life divide what death can join together.” It’s the same line that Victor said to Van Helsing last episode, and it implies that Vanessa knows about Victor’s little creation. She’s clearly not herself yet. Victor leaves the room, aghast, and goes downstairs to Sir Malcolm to discuss her condition. Victor believes Vanessa is suffering from a psycho sexual breakdown. Sir Malcolm says she had gone out with a man the night before, so they both believe that diagnosis makes sense. The two men decide it’s time to call Ethan for help.
When Ethan arrives, he goes up to Vanessa’s room to see her. She is crouching by her bead. She looks pale and bloody, and her hair is matted. She seems happy to see him and takes his hand, but then starts asking him insinuating questions about his night with Dorian, and threatening to tell Brona. Ethan is clearly shocked, he hasn’t told anyone about that night. She starts screaming in another language, which we later learn is Arabic, and the men have to restrain her to the bed.
Sir Malcolm tells Victor and Ethan about that the Egyptologist said: that Vanessa may be a modern day incarnation of Amunet, an Egyptian goddess. If Amunet ever came into contact with Amun Ra, it would mean the end of the world. The men decide they will keep Vanessa alive as long as they possibly can, so that she can fight off this possession. Ethan asks Sir Malcolm if he knows what Vanessa was saying to him. He said yes, she was speaking Arabic. She was saying “let me die”.
Vanessa continues to suffer as the weeks go by. It doesn’t appear that Sir Malcolm, Ethan, and Victor leave the house or even sleep during that time. Victor develops a morphine habit. Ethan and Sir Malcolm discuss why they’re even trying to keep Vanessa alive. Ethan clearly cares about her, but it’s unclear why Sir Malcolm is so committed to making sure Vanessa gets through this.
Vanessa wakes up to Ethan sitting by her bedside. She seems to be back to her old self, at least for now. She thanks him for his kindness. Throughout this whole ordeal, he has been the only one to truly care about her. She asks him to pull the trigger and kill her if the time comes. Ethan smiles, slyly. “And send you to heaven?” he asks. She says if you believe in that sort of thing. He says he does, and that he believes in that other place too. He smiles again, and his eyes turn black. Vanessa’s old friend the devil is back. She realizes what’s going on and panics, saying she will fight him off again. He wants her to be his queen of darkness, and promises her immense power. Vanessa relents and they kiss and embrace each other.
The camera zooms downstairs and we see Ethan sitting on the couch, just to clarify that the devil was in Vanessa’s room and not Ethan. The men hear screaming upstairs, they see Vanessa writhing in pain. She leaps from her bed and crawls across the ceiling, then leaps onto the floor. All the veins in her body become large and bright red. The veins on her chest form hieroglyphics, just like on the skin of the creature that Frankenstein dissected in the first episode.
Time passes, through we’re not sure how much. Ethan and Victor are downstairs talking. Frankenstein’s monster is outside the house, stalking his creator. The stress is clearly getting to Victor, so he asks Ethan for a favor. Next thing you know, Ethan’s giving Victor a shooting lesson. It’s a fun moment in a dark episode.
Sir Malcolm is upstairs with Vanessa. She looks very, very sick. He asks her to reach out to Mina, now that she is in the space somewhere between life and death. She looks frightened and calls him a cruel man. All of a sudden we hear Ethan say “Get the fuck away from her”. He’s been listening the entire time. He drags Sir Malcolm out of the room, and tells him that if he’s been keeping Vanessa in this state on purpose, Ethan will rip his throat out. The men agree the best coarse of action is to call a priest.
The priest arrives thinking that he is there to perform the sacrament of last rites. The men explain the situation to him: what they really need is an exorcism. The priest refuses, saying it is forbidden. They let him in anyway to perform the last rites. When he sees Vanessa, he takes pity on her and pulls his chair close to her bed. She is restrained, what danger could she possibly be? She rips his cheek off with her teeth.
Vanessa easily escapes her restraints and starts attacking all the men in the room. They all manage to get out except Ethan, who pulls his gun on her. “Vanessa, I know you’re still there!” he screams. She begs him to shoot her, to put her out of her misery. It looks like he’s going to. Instead he pulls the St. Jude token off his neck that Brona gave him and places it on her forehead. He then starts praying in latin. It certainly looks like he performed an exorcism on her. Where did he learn how to do that? Vanessa collapses on the floor.
Ethan grabs his coat and flees the house, into the snowy night. We see Vanessa sleeping soundly in her bed, dreaming of recent events. The next morning we see her go downstairs to talk to Sir Malcolm.
“I know where Mina is”, she says.