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Penny Dreadful Special: Vanessa & Dorian Recap

Hello my dears,

This is a Christmas gift for dreamsofghostsandstars from her sister pixietarantino. (So much love to you both, I hope you enjoy it.)

What I love the most about Penny Dreadful is how it creates a magical connection between its lonely, often scared, helplessly isolated characters and the audience. In every beautiful, elegant moment the characters speak to us as well. Every hand that reaches out to another and every soothing word that is spoken on the show feels like a compassionate embrace through the screen. Each character is beautifully unique so their interactions bring out something different in each other and reveal more to us in the process. That’s why even though I might not actively ship anyone I love every moment they share on screen.

Now, if we specifically talk about Dorian and Vanessa, I have to say they are one of those pairings I’ve been excited about from the beginning.

So let’s remember when they felt each other before they met in the Seance. (I’ll make this a gif recap because how else would I be able to preserve the beauty?)

Is it the supernatural aspect of both characters that they immediately recognize in each other? Or is it like a hot people thing? We’ll never know. (Yes, I know it’s the supernatural thing. Shh.)

And then it’s like “Oh no, he/she’s hot. I must introduce myself.

“My name is Dorian Gray.”
“Vanessa Ives.”
“It’s a pleasure, Miss Ives.”

Erryone’s lookin’ for you, u sweet deadly muffin.

Just watch the scene and be charmed:

This scene completely took my breath away the first time I watched it. And the second time. And the…

Anyway basically it goes like:

Dorian: I couldn’t help but notice your skepticism.
Vanessa: Am i skeptical?
Dorian: About the room. Rather aggressive in the chinoiserie. And geographically capricious to say the least. In this one room, there’s Japanese, Siamese, Egyptian, Balinese, And something I take to be last season’s Panto of Aladdin.


WHAT. *ugh* So frustratingly cute.

Vanessa has three moods during this scene.



And this:

Vanessa: Are you a friend Of Mr. Lyle’s?
Dorian: Never met him before tonight. It was more of a random invitation.
Vanessa: Do you get many of those?
Dorian: Entirely.
Vanessa: You could say “no”.
Dorian: I never say “no”.

That head tilt. Shameless.

It’s also when Vanessa probably senses Dorian’s unnatural charm so she takes a step back, trying to see what his deal is. But he just does what he does best and takes a step forward with the most amused expression on his face.

It’s like “Your resistence to ma beauty is no trouble, maam. I’ve got other ways.”

It goes on like:

Then he steals our hearts when he lets Vanessa know he’s not just a pretty face. He’s actually pretty darn observant/insightful.


Vanessa: I wasn’t skeptical about the room.

Dorian: What then? Shall I guess?

Vanessa: Have on, Mr. Gray.

Dorian: You do not belong here. Even less than I. You are not frivolous. Your eye is careful and appraising. This is not a careful room, although there is much to appraise. That can divert you for only so long. You do not like it here. You are closed to it…

And as he speaks he reaches for her hand.


And he continues as he whispers into her ear:

“Yet… you’re the only woman in this house not wearing gloves. Your hands want to touch, but your head wants to appraise. Your heart is torn between the two. You were skeptical because you thought… This was going to be a wasted evening, but now you’re not so sure.”

Basically he’s a pretty great seducer. Can you blame Vanessa? I can’t.

Then it’s really cute how they casually hold hands and Dorian just takes her with him like they’re highschool sweethearts. (Imagine him as a jock and Vanessa as a cheerleader.)

Then things get too creepy for a first date.

HAND ON HAND? Basically Victorian second base.

And possession is of course more of a third date thing.

It’s oddly hot though?

No? Just me and Dorian? Okay.

Later Vanessa runs off and has sex with a stranger on the street while Dorian watches.

That’s how you know for sure.

Fast forwarding to the fourth episode, it’s Vanessa’s turn to stalk Dorian so she follows him to a botanical garden.

Look at her being a creep. Adorable.

I just love this image of her watching Dorian caress plants.

Now take a deep breath before you watch the next gif:


Dorian spends some quality time with flowers.

You can almost see him talking to them.

Then Vanessa steps in and makes him smile really big as he asks if she’s interested in botany. LOL.

Vanessa: Mr. Gray?

Dorian: Miss Ives. What an unexpected pleasure. Have you an interest in botany?

He was definitely waiting for her to find him so I’m not sure about that “unexpected” pleasure. Dorian’s like a carnivorous, pretty little flower after all.

Then they get into deep stuff.

Dorian: Let me show you something extraordinary. I like to see one extraordinary thing every day. (AGAIN WITH THE DEEP, INTENSE SEX STARE HERE) What I find so fascinating about flowers is their duplicity. (Like yours, hmm?)

Vanessa: Duplicity?

Dorian: Well, their hidden depths, at any rate. Here, look at this.

Dorian: Mmm, it’s beautiful.

Vanessa: You can do better.

♩ ♪ ♫ Touch my body. ♩ ♪ ♫

Dorian: Give me words.

Vanessa: Delicate, subtle fragrance. Like a berry, but not a woodland thing. Not a thing of the forest, something of the jungle.

Dorian: What does it say to you?

Vanessa: Touch me.With your finger. Softly. My scent on your neck. Open your lips.Taste.

Dorian: Atropa belladonna. Deadly nightshade.

(Yup, beautiful flowers seducing you might be deadly. Lesson learned.)

Dorian: It’s the adder beneath the rose, isn’t it? All of this. They can seem so enticing and luxurious, yet within, there’s a dark thing waiting.
Vanessa: Things are so rarely what they seem.
Dorian: Which of us does not have our secrets, Miss Ives?

Which of us doesn’t hide a painting that holds their soul? Hmm? This guy sure does.)

Dorian: Rothschild’s slipper. The rarest orchid on Earth, and thus the most expensive. It’s only found in one place, a particular mountain in Borneo. It can take up to 15 years to bloom. All that time, perfecting itself. A lifetime for six perfect flowers.

Vanessa: How long will it bloom?

Dorian: A moment.

Vanessa: Is it poisonous?

Dorian: *Looks at her* Like all beautiful things, I hope so.

(Honestly, this weirdo. Of course he’s talking about Vanessa here but be careful what you wish, son.)

As he says goodbye, Vanessa is still in trance.

Later she goes to the theatre to find him and he feels her because of their weird romantic/demonic connection. 

Doesn’t he look so satisfied like “Yeass she wants the D-orian.”

Ah, my babies. You’re so cute.

But then what happens? Ethan the cupcake shows up to seduce Dorian and we realize Dorian has the attention span of a five year old in a candy shop when it comes to love interests. Do I complain? Hell naw.

I mean, I like Dorian with everyone but these two have something different.

Vanessa, you flirt.

Their little game of “who’s stalking who” is so cute I might puke rainbows.

Of course, when you’re Dorian, it’s possible that with every step you take you’ll run into one of your exes. It’s actually possible for you to be in the same scene with all of your love interests at the same time.

And then again, who can resist this?

*Sigh* I’m frustrated again.

(You can find my detailed recap of “Demimonde” here)

The next day, he comes to take Vanessa out for an adventure. (By adventure he means having her photo taken. Thank God he’s saved his more violent hobbies for Ethan.) He takes this opportunity to subtly tell Vanessa his secret.

(Recap of this episode in great detail here.)

Vanessa: What will you do with this little bit of my soul?

Dorian: Protect it.

Vanessa: And you? Have you been photographed much?

Dorian: I prefer paintings. Photographs are so ironically impermanent. They capture one moment in time to perfection. A painting can capture eternity.

Vanessa: I’ve never been painted, I couldn’t say.

Dorian: But you do understand eternity, I know that. The workings of time.

Subtle, you’re not. Then again Dorian’s never subtle.

He tells her he knows she understands eternity/him.

At first Vanessa’s like “lalala you have pretty eyes” but then his intensity startles her.

It’s important to remember Dorian’s words about duplicity here because Vanessa is her social, elegant self at the moment and it’s not the place for her other, possessed, frightened self to be exposed. She keeps it hidden so well it takes a moment before she can question what Dorian is truly telling her but we all know that no matter what she thinks or “feels” about Dorian, there’s a part of her that would deny that knowledge. Still, Dorian’s attempts are worth applauding. It must be stressful for him to come out as a soulless immortal.

Later they share another moment where she asks him out.

They have dinner that night and we witness another beautiful dialogue that reveals more about their perspectives on being special and the loneliness that brings.

Vanessa: I think, Mr. Gray, there are tremors around us. Like the vibrations of a note of music. Hidden music. Some might be more attuned to them than others. What do those people do, those who have been chosen?
Dorian: They endure uniqueness.
Vanessa: To be alien? To be disenfranchised from those around you, is that not a dreadful curse?
Dorian: To be different, to be powerful. Is that not a divine gift?
Vanessa: To be alone.
Dorian: To be seeking.
Vanessa: What?
Dorian: Another.
Vanessa: Like you?
Dorian: Who shares your rarity.
Vanessa: Then you are no longer unique.
Dorian: Nor are you alone.

So yes, Dorian is lonely and Vanessa would rather be lonely than ordinary. (I love this scene so much.)

Dorian’s heart eyes:

I really like how Reeve acts in this scene because every word feels like it’s slipping through his teeth and Dorian’s giving Vanessa those answers he wouldn’t just give anyone. This is what I love about the character and seeing him being portrayed like this is simply lovely. You can almost touch the dark intensity and hunger beneath the surface.

After dinner Vanessa goes to his mansion or castle or whatever Gothic Ken palace he lives in.

Vanessa: Are they not unnerving? Always looking at you.
Dorian: I like to be looked at.
Vanessa: Not I.
Dorian: Yet you wear that dress.
Vanessa: That was for your eyes.

They talk like old married couple and this moment reminds me so much of Morticia & Gomez Addams, I almost expected Dorian to whisper “Cara Mia” and kiss attack Vanessa’s arms.

And look how peaceful she looks here.

Dorian: What sort of music would you like?

Vanessa: Meaning who do I want to be at this moment… Dorian Gray, who do you want to be?

Dorian: Myself, without limits.

Vanessa: Then put on music for dancing.

Dorian: What do I give away?

Vanessa: Nothing.

He woke up like dis.

Dorian: You have exceptional composure.
Vanessa: Do I?
Dorian: Poise, I mean.
Vanessa: Control.
Dorian: Yes. What if you were to abandon it?
Vanessa: I couldn’t.
Dorian: Why? (persistent little s**t)

Vanessa: There are things within us all that can never be unleashed.
Dorian: And what would happen if they were?
Vanessa: They would consume us. We would cease to be and another would exist in our place, without control. Without limits.

During this episode I actually thought they were the perfect candidates for Amunet & Amun-Ra but then again, I’m still not completely clear on that storyline.

Cut to:


She did warn you, Dorian.

They have some kinky sex and Vanessa lets go of her control so she’s possessed again (probably her sense of guilt doesn’t help either) So when Dorian visits the next time it’s more than awkward.

His face makes me laugh every single time. (Previous recap of the episode is here)

And when he sees Vanessa’s “I don’t need your devil summoning sexy times in my life” face, he’s deeply hurt and mostly confused.

He rambles on, waiting for a reaction. It’s almost painful to watch.

Dorian: I went traveling, you know, since I couldn’t see you. Yes, umm, Italy at first. Bought some manuscripts.

He even asks her to read his future. Or have lunch with him. Anything. But Vanessa’s answer remains the same.

Her face is hilarious to me with all the glorious “just got possessed” hair running wild and free like some kind of barbed wire warning him not to come any closer.

But he’s relentless.


Dorian is so much fun to watch sometimes.

He tells her he’ll be waiting in the botanical garden but she just leaves.

♩ ♪ ♫Heartless” plays in the distance ♩ ♪ ♫

Later (laughing forever at his “woe is me” face ):

They meet later.

Flowers and their opinions, amirite.

Vannessa: Do you feel I owe you an explanation?

Dorian: For what?

Vanessa: My sudden flight from your house.

Dorian: You owe me nothing but your company this afternoon.

Vanessa: Yes, that’s your way. The pleasant neutrality that risks nothing.

Dorian: Then allow me to risk everything.

Vanessa: Mr. Gray, I am not the woman you think I am. And with you, I am not the woman I want to be. It’s too dangerous.

Dorian: I have no fear.

Vanessa: But I must. Between us there’s a rare connection, I won’t deny it. But that very intimacy released something unhealthy in me, something I cannot allow.

Dorian: You will not be able to deny it. (Don’t be a douche, Dorian)

Vanessa: I’m sorry, I will…

Vanessa: Poor Dorian. You’ve never known this feeling before, have you?

Dorian: I don’t know what I’m feeling.

“It’s rejection. Goodbye, Mr. Gray.”

Wow. That was tough.

But I do love your hilarious sad face, Dorian/Reeve. A+ He looks like a kitten here.

Look at all that liquid emotion. *feels* Also I love Dorian’s rings. They’re so pretty and look great on his pretty hands.

Later in the second season, the first time we see Dorian, he’s understandably feeling sad as he gently touches Vanessa’s photo.

It’s kind of sweet.

And they finally see each other again a few episodes later, when Dorian pays her a visit to invite her to his ball. (Recap here)

Her face is saying “Don’t tempt me, go away.” Because even though she has feelings for Ethan here, (and you all know how I love that relationship beyond words) her attraction to Dorian is still there. All the same, you can see her relief when he mentions another woman.

At this point I admit I expected a little drama. Dorian was already involved with Angelique but this is Dorian so was I suprised when he had heart eyes for Lily instead? Nope. So no, the angsty scenes I expected to see had nothing to do with Vanessa & Dorian romance.

Instead all we got was Dorian’s love games with Angelique & Lily while Victor died of jealousy and Vanessa had much bigger problems to deal with.

*Sigh* He’s such a mess. Whatever he’s planning with Lily kind of makes me want to cry. It’s probably because I’ve been expecting a little bit more from his story with Vanessa and I felt like there was some kind of a BIG plan for them in the future. I’m not talking about something fluffy and warm like she has with Ethan where he protects her. On the contrary, I’m kinda hoping Dorian will be more involved in the Devil storyline and maybe we’ll see more of the rare truths we got out of him when he’s around Vanessa? Give me those dark connections! I’d like that.

For now, I want to close my eyes and trust John Logan to take me somewhere safe and beautiful with this show, where everything connects and these characters have bigger parts to play in each other’s stories because it’s so much fun when they’re around each other.


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4 thoughts on “Penny Dreadful Special: Vanessa & Dorian Recap

  1. I enjoyed reading your insights as much as I enjoyed shipping Dorian and Vanessa! 🙂 You noticed many nuances of the writing and acting that added depth to these characters which I did not see or understand. Thank you for this post! I look forward to reading more.

  2. Totally love this analysis of their meeting, blending and parting. As a romantic, I loved the trope of two strangers meeting, recognizing the the immediate connection between them, yet carefully waltzing around each other, appraising and assessing each other until that connection just ignites. Gotta admit, I also watched that episode “several” times. And damn, Reeve is a sexy and seductive mofo!

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