“A Blade of Glass” was a smorgasbord of Vanessa Ives and John Clare (with the occasional appearance of Dr. Seward). It’s so rare on this show to be able to hone in on just two of the main characters and this episode gave us the opportunity to focus on Vanessa and John’s dynamics without distraction.
“A Blade of Glass” – aired 5/22/2016
Written by John Logan
Directed by Damon Thomas
*Spoilers are contained within*
The entire fourth episode, “A Blade of Glass”, of Penny Dreadful consists of Vanessa sorting through her memories of everything that happened to her at the mental hospital. From these recollections we learn more about John Clare as the man he was before he was made into The Creature, and we learn more about the evil that has been tirelessly dogging Vanessa.
We see how kind and loyal John Clare was.
While under a hypnotic trance Vanessa regains her memory of the tortures that she endured at the hands of her doctors at the mental hospital. During this time she came to know and care deeply for the one person at the hospital who dared to treat her with respect and dignity, her orderly John Clare. Unlike the doctors at the facility, he was able to recognize that Vanessa wasn’t suffering from an illness of the mind. Vanessa wasn’t insane. She was simply incredibly lonely and tremendously sad. I believe that John realized that she would benefit from the support of an honest friendship. John recognized that medical science of that time wasn’t actually helping the infirmed but damaging them beyond repair. He tried to encourage her to get better quickly, to behave in a way that would convince the staff that she had gotten better, to behave as if she is ordinary. His attempts to warn and assist Vanessa were touching. This episode makes me like John Clare more and more because we can see how much of a good man he was. As we move further into this season and we discover more about his life before death, I wonder if he’ll continue to be such an amiable character.
Side note: We mustn’t forget to point out the scene where in a moment of despair Vanessa offers herself to John and he turns her down, choosing instead to remain loyal to his family and to preserve Vanessa’s dignity. He gets a round of applause for that! I like this guy.
We learned that there are two separate evil entities that are after Vanessa.
So I know you all are wondering why on earth I’m all about John Clare. In “A Blade of Glass” it did appear at first glance that John Clare was a servant of evil but I don’t believe that’s true. If you look at the scene where we learn that there are in fact TWO separate evil entities that are after Vanessa you’ll see that it isn’t very likely that John Clare is evil. Even Dr. Seward says that Vanessa pictures Lucifer as John Clare, simply because he’s the only person that would visit her and he was the only other face that she ever saw. (Please Lord don’t let John Clare be a servant of evil!) One evil is Lucifer, lord of the dark underworld and he wants to devour Vanessa’s soul and faith. The other evil is Dracula, lord of beasts who feeds on blood and flesh and he wants to possess Vanessa’s lust, flesh and appetites. They are brothers, locked in an angry love triangle with a woman that in her heart and mind wants neither of them.
We see Vanessa become even more determined to destroy the evil that plagues her.
Vanessa outsmarts both of her evil suitors and gains the knowledge of their true designs for her. She learns Lucifer and Dracula are brothers who have fallen from grace and seek to exploit her for their own uses. Lucifer, for her soul and Dracula, for her body but she makes it clear that both have already been claimed by God in heaven. Lucifer and Dracula proceed to threaten and attempt to intimidate her, but Vanessa is having none of it. She tells them to bring it on! They question her. Who does she think she is?! She knows who she is and what she’s capable of. She’s aware of her power. It’s clear that they’ve met their match. Vanessa proceeds to vanquish them from her head and goes about trying to reassemble the pieces of her shattered life.
I love this girl. Vanessa Ives is proof that you can be fragile and suffer through periods of doubt and sorrow but it doesn’t mean that you’re broken. You can be lonely and have a heavy heart but you can eventually find your way back to yourself; you can find a way back to your strength.