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'Penny Dreadful' recap: Light shed on Vanessa's dark past

'God didn't answer me,' Vanessa laments. 'But another did.'

Fateful events that render Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) susceptible to evil forces are revealed in “Closer Than Sisters,” Episode 105 of Showtime’s supernatural thriller “Penny Dreadful.”

The installment begins and ends with Vanessa penning a heartfelt letter to Mina Harker (Olivia Llewellyn), a childhood friend now enslaved by a demon.

“I will not rest until you are safe,” Vanessa tearfully writes. “There is no other purpose in my life.”

Vanessa’s own descent into darkness begins in adolescence when she spies her mother, Claire (Anna Chancellor), fornicating with Mina’s father, Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton).

Rather than being repulsed by the forbidden act, Vanessa enjoys watching. And a wicked presence ignites within her.

“Something whispered, I listened,” she writes.

Another pivotal occurrence involves Mina’s timid brother, Peter Murray (Graham Butler). Although lacking physical and emotional toughness, Peter yearns to accompany his father on a perilous expedition to Africa.

When Vanessa tries to seduce Peter in a hedge maze, he awkwardly shies away. Vanessa feels an urge to chase Peter and warn that he’ll die in Africa, but she holds back. Then she prays.

“God didn’t answer me,” Vanessa laments. “But another did.”

Soon Vanessa commits an “unforgivable transgression” that marks her for life. She has sex with Mina’s fiancé, Capt. Charles Branson (Joseph Millson), and the bride-to-be catches them in the act.

Inconsolable Mina cancels her wedding, and when Vanessa tries to make amends, she’s turned away by Malcolm, chastising her as “a cruel little girl.”

Then Vanessa succumbs to an “inexplicable illness” – demonic possession.

“They fear that perhaps it’s your brain, something inside you,” her panicked mother says. She admits Vanessa to an asylum where treatment consists of narcotics and a cruel regimen of ice-water therapy.

When the symptoms persist, Dr. Christopher Banning (Frank McCusker) drills a hole through Vanessa’s cranium. It’s a crude form of brain surgery, circa the late 1800s.

Convalescing at home, Vanessa receives a final visit from Peter before he sails to Africa. When Peter draws close, Vanessa reminds him of their missed opportunity in the maze.

“You should have kissed me,” she says weakly. “Will you kiss me now?”

But Peter isn’t her only caller that evening. A malevolent creature disguised as Malcolm appears. Vanessa denounces him as a “serpent,” “the Prince of Darkness.”

“Have you such contempt for your old friend?” the demon responds, telling Vanessa she always has a choice between good and evil.

“You could have shut the door at any time,” he suggests. “You still can.”

When Vanessa submits to his carnal demands, the noise draws Claire to the bedroom. She sees her daughter engaged in sex with the invisible demon and dies from shock.

Following the funeral, Vanessa encounters a vision of Mina.

“I do not blame you,” Mina says. “Whatever sin, it has been forgiven in your suffering.”

Then Mina tells Vanessa she should have pursued Peter in the maze – something Mina couldn’t have known by natural means.

“The master has taught me much,” Mina says, her voice quivering. “Things no one should ever know. Help me! Save me from him, please!”

Now Vanessa reaches out to Malcolm, who grudgingly accepts her aid in rescuing Mina.

“There was a time when I would gladly have killed you,” Malcolm snarls. “And there may come a time when I gladly shall. But for now I can make use of you.”

Before storing the letter in a box, Vanessa adds a postscript assuring Mina of her father’s love.

“But I love you in a different way,” Vanessa writes, painfully aware of the horrors Mina faces.

“I love you enough to kill you.”

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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