Penny Dreadful S30E07 “Ebb Tide” REVIEW

Penny Dreadful S30E07 “Ebb Tide” REVIEW

0 comments 📅14 June 2016, 22:56

Penny Dreadful S30E07 “Ebb Tide” REVIEW

Lily gives a monologue

stars 3.5
Airing in the UK on Tuesdays on Sky Atlantic 

Writer: John Logan

Director: Paco Cabezas

Essential Plot Points:

  • Lily talks to a grieving mother in a graveyard, telling her that downtrodden women who have to bury their own children will soon “rise”. She stops at a grave on her way out – her daughter Sarah, who died aged one.
  • Vanessa wakes up in Dr Sweet’s office (after being licked by Renfield in her sleep – gross, dude!). She tells Dr Sweet that she hasn’t slept that well in years. She’s happy, bless her. Well, that won’t last, mark our words. Also, how can anybody sleep well in a corset? Weird.

Waking up in a corset

  • When she arrives home, John is waiting for her, saying he’s in need of a friend. He tells her that he’s found his family, and she urges him to go and talk to them. She also ascertains that he has no recollection of knowing her from the asylum.
  • Kaetenay tells Ethan that he has a bigger destiny (“You may be done with Hell but it is not done with you!”). Ethan just wants to get back to London to see the woman he loves; Kaetenay, after having a troubling vision of him with Vanessa, goes with him.
  • Dorian watches unhappily as Lily gives a rousing speech and sends her multitudes of prostitutes out to attack their clients. They return with a mountain of right hands that they’ve taken as trophies. Dorian tries to talk to Lily about what is going on but she’s busy, so he heads out into the night…
  • John turns up and surprises his wife. Once she’s over the shock, he tells her everything, and she accepts him for what he is now. The family is reunited.
  • Kaetenay does a spell and astral-projects his way to London, where he talks to Vanessa. She’s cagey, and when he returns he tells Ethan and Malcolm that she’s, “halfway his already”. By “his” he means “the dragon”, aka Dracula. Ethan is desperate to get there as soon as possible to save her.
  • Catriona visits Vanessa and mentions that Dracula lives in the “house of the night creatures”. Vanessa remembers Dr Sweet saying he’s setting up such a house for the museum, and the penny (dreadful) drops…
  • Dorian is out walking with Lily and tells her he’s bored with her shenanigans. Before she can talk him round again, Victor appears and chloroforms her! So that’s where Dorian went… what a double-crossing dog! Now Lily is in the hands of Frankenstein and Hyde: not a fate we’d wish on anybody.
  • Vanessa confronts Dr Sweet, who tells her he’s in love with her and just wants them to be together, as they’re the same kind of creature. He talks and talks and, rather than shooting him, she lowers her gun and exposes her neck…
  • … and Dracula bites her.

Dracula bites


“Ebb Tide” feels a darn sight more like the penultimate episode before the grand finale than it does a mere episode seven, building to a huge crescendo (no, Vanessa, no!) and moving all those chess pieces into place for their final hour. And yet we still have two more episodes to go, so Lord only knows what evil delights still lie ahead… We can’t wait!

Let’s get the subplots discussed first, then: most movingly, John reconciles with his family and, for the first time since Penny Dreadful began, we see him truly happy and at peace. Probably the most amazing thing about this sequence is that John tells his missus exactly what happened to him: no lies, no half-truths – he just lays it all out. How refreshing to see someone in this show opening their heart like that, and not being disappointed or hurt straight afterwards! John’s wife has our respect for embracing him rather than running away screaming, too.

Of course, while our cockles might have been firmly warmed, little Jack is still very poorly. So expect tragedy to loom soon…

There’s also a nice scene between Ethan and Malcolm in which the two bond over the fact that Malcolm killed Ethan’s dad to save him from having to commit patricide. (Wow, people bond over the weirdest things on this show.) Ethan reaffirming his love for Vanessa is also welcome after his dalliance with Hecate – because let’s face it, she just brought out his bad side – and when he tells Kaetenay that his family aren’t the Talbots or the Apache, but that little gaggle of friends back in London, it’s such a relief to hear. Ethan really did go off the rails in the first half of this season but hopefully he’s back on track now: we’re rooting for a Dracula Vs The Wolfman in the finale. Get your pom-poms out, supporters!

Dorian’s double-cross of Lily was signposted for a while, but it’s still an exciting moment – not least because he doesn’t give her the reasons we’re expecting. Instead of “the army of depraved whores” scaring him or making him feel emasculated, as we were pondering in last week’s review, he’s actually just bored. He’s sick of revolutions and drama: he wants something bigger… “cosmic darkness”, no less. (Which actually makes us ponder the idea of bringing Cthulhu into this show to solve all his cosmic darkness needs. Wouldn’t that be great?)

And finally we get to Vanessa, who has her moment of clarity, realises Dracula is her beloved Dr Sweet, and promptly goes to yell at him rather than doing what we would’ve done and playing along until the perfect opportunity to kill him pops up. Nope, none of that for our Miss Ives: instead she faces him dead-on. Catriona suggests that she needs to be a spy but Vanessa fails miserably here – unless this is all another double-cross, of course.

And boy, doesn’t Dr Sweet become Dr Sweet-Talker? As he declares his love and respect for Vanessa, describing how they’re both the same dark creature, he actually sounds pretty damn convincing. Usually when a villain tries to talk his victim round to his side of things you’re booing and hissing the whole way, but Old Drac has such a honey-coated tongue that you wonder what you’d do if he was coming out with all that charm in your direction. “I will love you till time has lost all meaning,” he croons, and the fact Vanessa lets him bite her seems a foregone conclusion after that. Did he read some Jane Austen before he let rip with all that love stuff? Blimey.

Of course, as noted above, Vanessa could be faking. We still have Kaetenay’s vision to come, with her house seemingly under attack from Dracula’s forces, so will she double-cross the dark lord? Roll on next week…

Ethan and Kaetenay

The Good:

  • Dorian, after weeks of being a background figure with a slightly mardy expression, finally finds his groove again. The lack of remorse after his betrayal of Lily is strangely heartening to see. We’ll bet dollars to doughnuts, however, that Justine won’t be happy when she sees him again…
  • Renfield telling Dr Seward over and over that he feels “right as rain” is rather reminiscent of Max Headroom. Also: creepy.

The Bad:

  • While it’s all rather dramatic that Kaetenay uses magic to tell Vanessa that the cavalry are on their way, why didn’t they just send a telegram before they left New York? These aren’t the dark ages, guys.
  • Given that Lily sent out her army of prostitutes to remove the right hands of their clients during the course of one night, it would have been a nice touch to actually see more evidence of this carnage than the pile of hands on Dorian’s dining table afterwards. How did the women do it? Was there panic on the streets? Were the police running everywhere in vain? Surely many – if not all – of the men died in the process, so why aren’t there mobs with flaming torches on the streets hunting down sex workers? Maybe we’ll get to see some of the fallout next week; this can’t have gone unnoticed!

And The Random:

  • Just because this is a fantasy show, it doesn’t mean reality can’t get a look-in from time to time. The ship Ethan, Malcolm and Kaetenay take from New York to England is the RMS Umbria, a real vessel that made 145 round trips to New York before being decommissioned in 1910. She had a dramatic life – helping out during the Boer War, surviving propellor failure at sea, rescuing stricken vessels and, most notably, being the intended victim of a Mafia bomb in 1903 (luckily it was found).
  • Best Quote: Kaetenay, aways a man with a quotable quote: “One Apache can save us all. You are that Apache, my son.”
Review by Jayne Nelson

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