TV Review: Penny Dreadful: Season 2, Episode 3

Season 2, Episode 3: The Nightcomers

SUMMARY: Vanessa's (Eva Green) past with Evelyn Poole's (Helen McCroy) coven is revealed, as she tells Ethan (Josh Hartnett) about her time learning witchcraft under The Cut-Wife (Patti LuPone).

REVIEW: More and more, this season's Penny Dreadful seems like a victim of bad timing. Season two has been a marked improvement over the first, but by Showtime's decision to air it directly against the final few episodes of the epochal Mad Men and on the same night as the buzzier Game of Thrones, it's not getting the kind of word of mouth it needs to become as big as it deserves.

This is really too bad as it's been on a run of truly excellent episodes, and this week's is no different. Last season's best episode was the one that showed Vanessa's tortured history as a victim of Victorian medicine as she fell prey to satanic possession. Likewise, this is another solo installment for the incredible Eva Green, with her past as a student of witchcraft being revealed. It's shown that following her initial possession, Vanessa sought-out a legendary witch called “The Cut-Wife” who works as an abortionist in Victorian Devon. The sister of the satanic Evelyn Poole, The Cut-Wife is a kind of “good” witch, and sensing Vanessa's potential and compassion, she teaches her all of her secrets before meeting an untimely end as she's burned at the stake by the very villagers she protects.

Once again, kudos is due to the minds behind Penny Dreadful for allowing it to be so completely Eva Green's show. It's funny, but when the show started I assumed she'd be playing a kind of vampish role, which until now were the types of parts Green found herself typecast in. Outside of a few indie roles, Green's never been given the opportunity to play such a well-rounded character, and she carries the show beautifully. This is another amazing episode for her.

However, as good as she is the episode is absolutely stolen by a brilliant one-off (I presume) performance by Patti LuPone of all people as The Cut-Wife. LuPone disappears into the part so completely that I had no idea it was her until I checked out the episode credits on the IMDB. She's wonderful, giving the Cut-Wife so many layers. At first she's as scary as Helen McCroy's Poole, but as the episode goes on it's gradually revealed that she's absolutely selfless as the kind “good” witch Vanessa's on the path to becoming, making her even more of a target for Poole's coven who already desired her due to her brush with the devil. It's revealed that Vanessa has powers that she's not even aware of, and it'll be fun to see how she uses them as the season goes on.

Overall, this was another terrific episode, with my only complaint being that LuPone was so good as The Cut-Wife it's a shame that she had to be done away with so quickly. Oh well, she certainly made an impact. If there's any justice, LuPone will cop an Emmy nod this year for best guest star on a series. She certainly deserves it.



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