Josh Hartnett, Eva Green/Showtime

Everyone is getting some this week except for Frankenstein’s monster, as if he didn’t have enough problems. John Clare does have a tentative first date with Lily, but it’s clear from the start that she’s just not that into him. Having agreed with his creator that it’s up to Lily whether to continue the (completely fictional) relationship they shared before her “accident” wiped away her memory, Clare does his best to sell her on his shortcomings through flattery. “Kind eyes can look on anything and find it beautiful,” he insists, gilding the lily with a made-up tale of a time she showed him kindness when others taunted him. If she’s moved by this account it doesn’t show, and by the end of their meeting Clare has been exiled to the friend zone.

It’s not all bad, though, as he has found a kindred spirit in Vanessa, with whom he has another encounter in the cholera dungeon. It’s about the least romantic locale imaginable, and yet Clare is moved to recite some verse by his namesake (“I Am,” from which this week’s episode title is taken), after which Vanessa treats him to some dance lessons. It’s not that Vanessa has any romantic inclination toward him (as we see later in the episode, her interests lie elsewhere), but at least she’s able to look past his physical defects and treat him with respect and affection, which is more than he’s likely to ever get from Lily.

That’s because the inevitable finally comes to pass when Lily takes refuge from a lightning storm in Victor’s bed. Earlier, Victor had shown off his “cousin” to Vanessa, who had helped pick out her new wardrobe in the previous episode. They’ve met before, although neither of them appears to remember it, last season when Vanessa was introduced to Brona Croft at the Grand Guignol. (After excusing herself from the table, Vanessa gives a look back at Victor and Lily that could be interpreted as her remembering the previous meeting, although the expression on her face suggests something more along the lines of “Good for you, Victor.”) Even if Vanessa doesn’t recall (and granted, she’s been through a lot since then), there’s no doubt Chandler will if and when they’re reintroduced. That may be the least of Victor’s problems, however, once his first creation realizes his latest one is no longer sleeping in her own bed.

Another relationship is consummated with a little help from the black arts as Evelyn Poole scratches Sir Malcolm with her ring, presumable dosed with something conjured up to lower his resistance. Little does Sir Malcolm realize he’s about to be a single man again: Poole has cracked open the head of a particularly creepy Gladys Murray voodoo doll and stuck burning pins into its brains (yes, the doll has brains), with the result that the real Mrs. Murray is driven mad by seizures and hallucinations to the point that she takes her life by slicing her throat open.

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A somewhat more healthy relationship continues to blossom between Dorian Gray and Angelique, although the public nature of it finally catches up to them at the opera where Angelique is recognized and spit upon. Back in Gray’s gallery, a humiliated Angelique appears dressed as a man, but Gray assures her he cares for who she is, not what she was born as. These scenes continue to have no real bearing on the rest of the show and play a bit like a Very Special Episode spaced out over the course of the season, at least until the lovers take off their clothes and all bets are off. It’s interesting to see how director Damon Thomas presents the various sex scenes visually: the more comfortable the characters are in their own skin and with their sexuality, the closer the camera and the more explicit the scene. In the case of Gray and Angelique, it’s about as graphic as Showtime gets. At the other end of the spectrum we get a high overhead shot of a fully-clothed Victor humping spasmodically atop Lily. Evelyn Poole and the mind-clouded Sir Malcolm are somewhere in between.

Vanessa and Chandler don’t hop into bed together, at least as far as we see, but things are trending in that direction. One reason for all this hanky-panky is that there’s not much else for our heroes to do but wait. Now that the Nightcomers have obtained a lock of Vanessa’s hair for her fetish (or voodoo doll), it’s a certainty that they’ll be back for her. The team members hang totems and idols and perform various rituals to prepare the mansion against attack, although to Chandler’s mind what they really need is “a shitload of weapons.” (Yes, he’s definitely the American of the bunch.) As such, “Above The Vaulted Sky” is largely a transitional episode. Like Vanessa and company, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, but as usual Penny Dreadful casts such an effective spell of dread and foreboding, it makes the anticipation as compelling as any payoff.

Stray observations:

  • Inspector Rusk’s investigation into the Mariner’s Inn murders finally leads him to Chandler, who is one of only two registered guests at the time still unaccounted for. (The other, of course, is Brona.) Not only does Chandler now have Rusk on his case, but the leather-masked survivor of the massacre is stalking him as well.
  • Lyle continues to work the puzzle and finds a phrase that has also been used by the Nightcomers: “lupus dei.” Chandler translates it as “hound of god,” but maybe the word he’s looking for is werewolf?

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