If ever you had to choose one opening scene by which to convince your friends that a TV show was worth watching, Possession’s opening truly does Penny Dreadful justice. Eva Green puts in another stellar performance as the disturbing Vanessa Ives, who, since her sexual encounter with Dorian, has become uncontrollably possessed.
At the very end of last week, we saw Vanessa rise off the floor, pivoting in midair in front of a very anxious Malcolm. Possessionbegins at what must only be a couple of minutes on from this point. Now lying on the sofa, arm flung behind her head speaking to an upright, wary Malcolm as if it were a therapy session, she rambles about the frailty of women and the hidden beauty of death.
Although it’s a conversation not unusual for a show of its nature, it is however obvious that Vanessa is still being controlled by some supernatural force. The way she speaks, and her calm exterior only a few minutes after experiencing a physical influence by that dark force indicates that things are still not right with her. And this we become sure of when her monologue about women gets more personal to Malcolm, and she comments about all the whores he’s slept with in his time as an explorer. Some details of which we, or even Vanessa, would never know had it not been for the demon inside her keeping tabs on those close to her.
Whilst she shares the deep dark secrets about the characters around her, we’re learning the truth of these people. Although we’re scared, we also feel privileged to know such private information. This trick is used throughout the episode, on more characters than just Malcolm, such as Victor and Ethan for example. Not only does this shed new light on these characters but it also allows us to differentiate between normal Vanessa and devil Vanessa. But, at this point in the season, is there really any divide between her alter egos?
Unsure of what to do with her, Malcolm confines Vanessa to her room and invites Victor over to do the most doctorly diagnosis we’ve seen from him so far, given that his usual line of work involves vampire blood or bringing the dead back to life. He identifies the root cause as her psychosexual trauma and deduces that her erotic encounter with Dorian triggered her possession. This is what we already knew, but it’s good to know the characters are now on the same page.
Ethan then comes to the scene, and they all rush to Vanessa who lets out hair-raising screams that echo throughout the house. Hugging her knees with her head between her legs, she curls up next to her bed, rocking back and forth whilst trying to keep her demon at bay. When Ethan approaches, she teases him about his own intimacy with Dorian from a few episodes back. Now in a more contorted shape she lashes out, turning up the scare factor as the demon introduces violence. Victor sedates her before she hurts anyone and they strap her to the bed and watch over her each night, trying to work out a plan to save her.
It comes as a surprise then, now that Vanessa is the most threatening and frightening character of them all, that one of those nights when Ethan is on watch, he comes forward as the devil himself. Of course it’s not truly Ethan, but rather the fallen angel disguised as Vanessa’s American confidant. It’s a welcoming twist completely out of the blue. The devil takes advantage of Vanessa at her weakest, trying to lure out her ‘mother of darkness’side permanently.
Aware that Vanessa is now almost a lost cause, Malcolm, Victor and Ethan agree to get her a priest and request an exorcism, something of which they are all skeptical but still think of as necessary as a last ditch attempt to help her. However, when the priest arrives he forbids it, for it’s illegal unless permission is granted, and instead offers to hear Vanessa confess her crimes. The bureaucracy of the Church angers Victor but he does what he offers and confronts the sick, weak Vanessa lying helplessly on the bed. She looks ready to give in, like all hope is lost and ready to die. Out of nowhere she springs from the bed, biting the priest and pouncing at her three dear friends. Malcolm and Victor are ordered by Ethan to flee and, once alone, he exorcises the demon himself, then walks out of Malcolm’s home into the abyss of the night leaving us all very confused.
While Vanessa recovers in her sleep, we see her dreaming a sequence of flashbacks involving Mina and the theatre, a premonition of what is to come. When she emerges from her room and confronts Malcolm, she reveals that she knows where Mina is.
This penultimate episode is as near faultless as Closer Than Sisterstwo weeks ago. We were treated almost exclusively to Vanessa’s terrifying narrative, yet the story as a whole moved along sufficiently enough for it to have not felt static like in last week’s episode. Vanessa’s demon indulged us with information that either revealed a new side to a character, or exposed secrets to those around them. This cleverly ties in with a speech Ethan lectured Malcolm with last week about trusting each other, as it’s the only way they will defeat the evil they’re up against. Now that they’re all aware of each other’s secrets, or at least the ones we know of right now (except for Ethan’s sudden ability to perform an exorcism), our heroes can go into the finale more ready than ever to overcome the dark forces that hold Mina captive.