On the surface, “Closer Than Sisters” is another frustrating episode of Penny Dreadful in terms of jump-starting the narrative momentum that started to stall a couple of episodes ago.
It helps that said character is played by Eva Green, who gets to cut loose once again.
Vanessa’s backstory emerges as she writes a letter that will never be mailed to Mina, and a number of questions raised by the seance in the second episode are answered.
Vanessa grew up next door to Mina, and their families were extremely close.
Vanessa discovers just how close when she happens upon Sir Malcolm and her mother getting it on in the hedge maze.
(That clears up one bit of confusion from the seance.
Not that having an affair with the next door neighbor is admirable, but it’s definitely a relief that Malcolm wasn’t having incestuous relations with his daughter.)It should be a traumatic incident for a child, and in a way, it is.But in another way, Vanessa tells us, “I enjoyed it.” And in that wicked moment her demon slips in… Not everything is cleared up, but the nature of Vanessa’s betrayal comes into focus.She first tries to recreate the moment in the maze with Peter, but it’s “the season of Peter’s inadequate beard” and other inadequacies as well.Peter is a disappointment to pretty much everyone; he’s not the fearless adventurer his father would have wanted as a son and partner in exploration (as we already know, Vanessa fills that role better than Peter ever could), and he chickens out on hedge maze sexytime with Vanessa.So Vanessa (or the demon within, if they are even separable) sets her sights on Mina’s fiancé Captain Branson and his luxurious mustaches.(In the world of Penny Dreadful, a man’s potency is directly proportional to his facial hair.) The form her betrayal takes isn’t especially unexpected, but it does explain why both Sir Malcolm and Vanessa feel responsible for what has happened to Mina.