Vanessa Ives, Penny Dreadful Vixen

For this week’s Femme Fatale Friday, I have decided to feature Vanessa Ives from the Showtime series Penny Dreadful.   As I have recently been re-watching the series, it really struck me that Vanessa is an ideal figure to feature for Femme Fatale Friday, especially during October!   A word of caution, there will be obvious spoilers for the series here, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Vanessa Ives is introduced as a very intelligent and skilled woman who enlists the help of Ethan Chandler in what she calls “Night Work” in the first episode.   He soon meets Sir Malcolm Murray and learns that the two are searching for Sir Malcolm’s daughter, Mina.   Mina had been an old childhood friend of Vanessa’s and she had been taken by a vampire, from whom they were set on rescuing her.

Throughout the course of the first season, we get to see much of Vanessa’s supernatural abilities.   She is skilled at cartomancy (the art of reading tarot), able to get visions from Mina (to whom she is psychically linked), and goes through several fits that help her to gain knowledge (even as they wreak havoc on her body).   Towards the end of the season, she is so sick that they believe she will die if she is not exorcized.   She is able to pull through and the show goes onto a second season while deepening the supernatural lore (especially with new developments for Dr. Frankenstein and Dorian Gray, who are characters here too).

It is in season two that we learn more about Vanessa’s history.   Not only did she sleep with Mina’s former fiancé and get taken to an asylum (as we saw in the season one flashback) she also went to train with a witch in the woods after her first vision of Mina.   This is her backstory that explained her abilities and how she honed them.   She was born a witch, not made one.   The season deals with her grappling with evil witches.   In the final season, we finally come face to face with Dracula.   It is shown that he wants Vanessa and will do whatever it takes to possess her.   In the end, she makes the ultimate sacrifice to end the suffering of everyone involved. In truth, her empathy for each of the characters in the show helps them become better people throughout the series. So, this tragic end is one that feels very painful, yet on character, because she has been willing to sacrifice for those she cares about since the beginning of the series. When you look at the series as a whole, you see every side of Vanessa imaginable, from the darkness she runs from (and is drawn to) to all of the good she does for others.

Overall, the series is well-made, feeling like dropping into a Gothic Victorian Wonderland.   Vanessa is the character you most want to watch for and her relationship with Ethan Chandler is well-developed and a great slow-burn romance!   Even her relationship with other characters brings them development, such as the familial one with Sir Malcolm, and the friendships with Dorian, Frankenstein, and his monster!   I hope that you have enjoyed this short post about Vanessa.   Have you watched Penny Dreadful?   What do you think of Vanessa as a Gothic Romantic-style heroine?   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Vanessa in the finale.   I found the image on

Further Watching

  • Penny Dreadful (2014)