A break from the usual goings on with a flashback episode that detailed some of Vanessa's history with witches. If you loved last season's Closer Than Sisters, chances are you'll love this one a little more. I certainly did.
Written by John Logan
Directed by Brian Kirk
Despised & Needed: Every aspiring powerful person needs a mentor and flashing back to a couple of years ago, a confused and distraught Vanessa went to the moors to seek out the cut wife - a powerful witch (and abortionist) in order to better understand her powers and to try and save Mina. Can I just compliment the show on Patti LuPone's casting here? Having her play the role of this powerful witch who took Vanessa under her wing was an absolute stroke of genius and seeing both LuPone and Eva Green play off each other was just superb. Both women were incredible from start to finish and props to the episode for not going for a completely cliched mentor/student relationship between the Cut Wife and Vanessa too. Also the fact that Vanessa's scorpion got it's own backstory was a nice little twist among a few others.
Adder Sisters: One of the biggest twists in this episode was the reveal that Evelyn Poole and the Cut Wife were actually sisters, both of whom fighting over Vanessa. With Evelyn determined to please her Master and Cut Wife equally determined to train Vanessa not to succumb to the Devil. It turned out to be one hell of a battle of wits between the two of them and a part of me is hoping that a later episode will expand (more likely through flashback) on the relationship between Evelyn and her sister. I also noticed that despite there being at least two moments here, the episode made a point of making sure that Vanessa and Evelyn never actually saw each other as well.
Holding The Cane: While this wasn't exactly a sex heavy episode, we did get one scene where Evelyn and the landowner she was manipulating/sleeping with indulged in a little caning as the former worked her charm into getting the latter to do her bidding and take out her sister. We've seen a lot of Evelyn's ruthless and sadistic streak in the first two episodes this season, so killing a field of cattle and coercing her lover into organising a witch hunt to execute her sister felt perfectly in character for the scheming Devil worshipper.
A Fiery Death: Sadly the downside to this being a flashback episode was that someone had to die in order to slightly further Vanessa's story in the present day and that person of course turned out to be the Cut Wife herself. We did learn prior to her being tarred and burned alive that her name was Joan Clayton and she entrusted Vanessa with a dangerous book that will clearly later be useful in taking down Evelyn. Watching Joan the way she did was horrible (and this hasn't been a comfortable week for cable shows) and LuPone was nothing short of amazing but as a guest actress, she pulled in a performance that clearly warrants an Emmy nomination if ever one was needed.
Telling The Story: With the exception of both Evelyn in flashback and Ethan at the start of the episode in the present day (this episode oddly didn't end with his reaction to Vanessa's story), the rest of the main cast were pretty much absent from this episode. That leads to one thing - with seven episodes left for the season, I do hope that at some point another of the main characters gets an episode than focuses on them. Right now either Ethan, Dorian or Victor for that accolade. However aside from that, this was an amazing piece of television that continued to highlight the complexity of Vanessa Ives but now is definitely the time to see both her and Evelyn finally face off though.
Next week, Vanessa does some shopping with Victor and refuses to accept that she's being hunted.