We’re three episodes into Penny Dreadful’s second season, and I have yet to write about it here! I’ve been recapping at io9, of course, but now – after the show’s best episode ever – seems like a good time to catch up. Super-quick linkspam and notes:

The season premiere, “Fresh Hell”, was an excellent return to the world that upped the stakes in ways that first felt mystifying but are already being sorted out, which is the kind of thing that you can write from the comfort of a three-week remove! While the Give Sembene Something to Do quest is going way too slowly, he’s at least more involved in the Vanessa Ives Experience. (Note that if you missed last season, this season picks up something like five minutes after season one ended, so you’ll be playing a little catch-up in the opening minutes.)

In “Verbis Diablo”, everybody went on dates! It was especially good use of characters meeting for the first time or finally revealing how messed up they were (Victor has officially outpaced even Caliban in the race to Biggest Creeper). It was an especially amazing use of Simon Russell Beale and Josh Hartnett, the oddest couple this show has ever followed, but it was delightful.


But really, so far, this season belongs to “The Nightcomers,” in which Vanessa gets a superhero origin story that’s 90% women and 100% amazing.

Penny Dreadful has been a wonderfully fun series that takes its characters seriously while still leaving room for a sense of humor, a show that loves its tropes but tries not to be a pastiche. But this was the episode that made me feel like John Logan is ready to tackle something deeper and more far-reaching. The Cut-Wife (thanks in part to a performance by Patti LuPone that might honestly be one of her best ever) is one of the most memorable characters the show’s ever given us, and it’s explicitly an episode about choices and their costs, and bonds between women that are productive or destructive or a little of both, without ever losing sight of the Cut-Wife as a person. We utterly believe, after 58 minutes, that this is exactly where the Vanessa we know came from. It’s written like a stage play, in the best way, and if this goes on as it began, we might be in for some seriously great TV.

My recap, which is far more an essay this time out, is up now at io9.