christine alexis virgins of the screen.

Penny Dreadful Season 1 cover

This is the first of my #TuesdayCoffeeTalk column which discusses influences and inspiration. In short, it’s a direct line to a writer’s thoughts, and therefore runs the gamut of topics and discussions. To contribute, see guidelines here.



Let’s just get this out of the way: I am Vanessa Ives. No, I don’t have some case of demonic possession, but I’m not exactly normal either. From the moment I started watching Penny Dreadful, I felt drawn to this character. This beautiful darkness – a woman of power, grace, and poise. I see so many parallels between us. Perhaps we don’t hold exactly the same kinds of guilt, but I struggle with light and dark (balancing my INFJ empathy with a learned nearly psychopathic armor). I feel things I shouldn’t be able to feel at a depth that many find overwhelming. Often I externalize these things in an effort to understand them more fully (perhaps a side project of my written work?). My self-control is legendary, falling away only under extreme stress, and in front of those closest to me (of whom there are few).

When I write this, I find myself wincing – cringing at the comparison. How awful! How horrible to feel affinity and likeness with this murderous witch…and yet. Yet… the saving grace is I have my own Ethan Chandler.

The same uncanny ability to protect and function in crisis resides in my husband’s heart. Publicly he always answers with exactly the right thing, playing to people’s needs in a longer game. One might think this is an act of cunning, but it is the opposite – he always has a smile and a caring word. Christian is ever the pragmatist, and always looking at the impacts of even the smallest actions.

And then there’s the other thing. I wouldn’t say that Christian is a werewolf, just like I’m not a witch. Except, we kind of both are. We function together like Vanessa and Ethan function, except we don’t have to battle against apocalyptic darkness and, well, we gave into our attraction in the second season of our acquaintance. Unlike Vanessa and Ethan, we only have humanity, and in that, we save one another.

I have to confess it was painful to watch them separate, to struggle against an attraction that my husband and I embraced. On the one hand, I know this kind of pairing works. I have that hope. I have the happy ending in my real life marriage. But when I watch this show, and see these characters purposefully deny themselves, it is intensely painful to me. The season two finale kept me up several hours in distress.

I identified so strongly with Vanessa and Ethan, I found myself distressed because I watched my own story play out another way. It was an alternate ending in a parallel universe. Witch and werewolf. Alone.

I don’t know how I’ll feel when the show starts back up again. Will I watch it, despite the pain it causes me seeing them in such denial? I don’t know. I just don’t know. Perhaps between now and then, I’ll negotiate my own darkness to a point where I come to a place of peace. It is a project undertaken in isolation.

So for now Vanessa, we’ll walk alone.

Of Vanessa & Ethan
Tagged on:             

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons
Read previous post:
Word Butterfly [POEM]

The following prose poem was written about the kinds of impact and influences words have on reality, recognizing the power...