…And the other third is people acting stupid. The first two-thirds of this episode were gripping, visceral, and sumptuous; the last third was still beautifully acted and shot, but I couldn’t fully appreciate its good qualities because I was too distracted by the characters’ boneheaded decisions. A roundup of the best, worst, and most surprising moments:
1) The startling parallels between Malcolm and Victor’s visions. It’s as intense a scene as anything in the series, and not only Dalton and Treadaway but the guest stars nail it.Maybe I’m dense, but I had never caught on to the ways in which Victor resembles Malcolm. I thought Victor reminded him of Peter, the son so unlike Malcolm. This scene suggests that Victor is far more Malcolm’s true son, in spirit if not in body. The tender assistance that Malcolm gives him in rising when the visions leave reinforces their father-son dynamic.
2) Lily and Dorian stomp on Victor’s possessive dreams and then dance merrily away in their own blood when he shoots them. Aside from being the most striking visual since our introduction to the doll room in “Verbis Diablo,” it reminds me that half of Victor’s purpose this season seems to be to make other characters look good. I commented back when “Glorious Horrors” aired that he managed to be the creepiest guest at a party where the candidates included Evelyn Poole. Here, he makes Dorian– the guy who agreed to enslave humanity basically because he couldn’t find a more exciting sport to follow– look like a perfect gentleman and the ideal date for Lily, who–reveal!– has “always known” how he made her. (And, in my as yet unconfirmed hypothesis, knows how to make others.) Was anybody else unsurprised by Dorian’s invincibility here? While the show’s long teases us with just how immortal he is, his apparent experience of pain in the past made me think that a shot to the chest would at least make him wince. Nope. And the happy couple goes back to dancing. They seem too cold to be the next Spike and Dru, but I gleefully hope they may at least be the next Darla and Angelus. Poor Vanessa– how will she react when she learns that her “rare connection” guy is planning to conquer the world. With another woman. Ouch. Lone gripe: Given Lily’s complaints about the cruelty and indignity of corsets, why is she still wearing one here?
3) This is part of that scene but it deserves its own note: Victor has crossed another line here. He killed Brona, but at least you could *kind* of argue it was a mercy kill: I didn’t think she gave permission, but she was indeed coughing to death. Here, he attempts to murder both Lily, whom he claimed to love, and Dorian, for no better reason than that she didn’t drink enough of the Stockholm Kool-Aid. Of all the protagonists’ act tonight, this one was, IMO, the biggest leap into darkness. Will Victor seek redemption, revenge (good luck there, dude), or just oblivion in his morphine?
4) Ironically, it’s Vanessa and Ethan who feel that they’ve sinned beyond redemption. The worst part of this episode is watching them make decisions that are not only dangerous, but downright moronic. Why did Vanessa go from insisting she was still with God before the showdown to saying she’d discarded her soul afterward? Lady, you shouted down Satan and broke a puppet. Not a puppeted person, just a puppet. Doesn’t sound so awful. As for Ethan, I can kind of see where going to Rusk, who’s caught on to the presence of the supernatural, might seem like a necessary risk… if he were going to explain about the wolf part, point out that he had literally morphed into something other than himself and could control it by being chained up one night a month, and hopefully get some information in return from Rusk. Instead, “It was me.”
5) By contrast, Malcolm’s decision to go to Africa to get his son’s corpse, with Hecate at large, Sembene dead, Victor’s veins collapsing, and Vanessa exhausted and obviously depressed (not to mention possibly still at risk of demonic possession), is at least a typical Malcolm move, no matter how ill-advised. ALL of his living child-figures need him, but going to Africa is a grand gesture that makes him feel better, so he’ll do it. Kind of the way he serves soup to people in the cholera ward but doesn’t see any need to help Victor, who’s like a son to him AND ALSO IN THE FINAL STAGES OF A LIKELY-TERMINAL MORPHINE ADDICTION. Prediction: He won’t actually make it to Africa. Vanessa said in S1 that he was “never really going to go,” and she is a real witch who can really tell people’s real fortunes.
6) I still haven’t figured out Hecate’s grand scheme, or how letting Ethan tear out Evelyn’s throat helped it. After all, the Master in Hell had clearly deserted Evelyn at that point. Hecate could easily have done the job herself. And of all the deaths that might push Ethan over the edge, I don’t think that one ranked very high. Long shot: Given that she seemed ready for travel as she walked away from the burning castle, maybe she foretold Ethan’s voyage to America and contrived to get aboard.
7) I was way off-base with my guess for the Creature, who wasn’t sticking around to recruit, but just getting up the will to tear apart the bars. The minute he wraps his hands around them, you know the Putneys are doomed. Did he spare Lavinia because he still had some unfathomable liking for her, or because he thought that leaving her to discover her parents’ corpses was a crueler punishment than death?
8) The Creature will apparently not be part of a supervillain trio with Lily and Dorian when we head into next season. This is a shame, because I was *so* looking forward to watching Lily wrangle that harem. Instead, he’s headed into a climate even less inviting than that of the Pennyverse’s London. Thank goodness Vanessa had enough sense to not go with him. “The most human man I’ve ever known?” Really? Why, because he knows flower poems? You can do better, Van.
9) But she probably won’t. Having reasonably concluded that she can’t go anywhere that she’ll escape her darkness, she decides to give it a try anyway. This leads to one of those long, gorgeous shots that beats you so hard with symbolism that it ought to give you a concussion– but instead it works, because that’s how this show works. The long extinguishing of the gaslights hit my poor feels, even though I was annoyed by the fact that ALL THE DECISIONS LEADING UP TO IT WERE COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE.
10) “Amunet,” the Satan-puppet calls Vanessa, but she doesn’t answer. Is she the reincarnation of Amunet, or, as she claimed in “Seance,” something “much older?” Did she draw on the devil’s own strength to defeat him, or the powers of whatever god she may secretly be? Nice call back: Kali loses it and starts ululating here, just as she did in the series’ first seance.
11) Another surprise for me: That puppet’s head was hollow. I’d assumed they all contained both brains and hearts (and don’t you know that puppet room REEKS?), but I guess not. Or maybe it had disintegrated on the inside before Vanessa managed to crush its shell? I really wanted her to just bash the evil puppet on the floor and have done with it as soon as it introduced itself, but I’m *trying* to convince myself that it was magically reinforced and couldn’t be broken until her spells took hold. Also, what was up with her hand absorbing that scorpion? Did it mean that she was too tough for the devil’s bug-minions to affect? That she was making a part of him a part of herself? Was *that* possibly the moment when she decided she was damned?
12) I finally got aboard the Vanessa/Ethan ship, just in time for them to split up to what will likely be different continents with oceans between them. Bad timing.