A Theory on Penny Dreadful

Warnings: heavy spoilers for Season 1 and some NSFW illustrations

So I’ve just finished the first season of this wonderfully dark, psychological and erotic series. All characters are sympathetic if not likable and I’ve taken a liking to a particular Mister Gray, a.k.a Dorian Gray, the series’ interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s famous novel’s titular character. So far we haven’t seen much of his involvement with the main plot, except seducing Ethan Chandler *cough* the Holy-shit-scene in episode 4 *cough* and (accidentally) provoking Amunet (or whatever entity inhabiting Vanessa’s body) through a hot, sexy and S&M-esque encounter with Miss Vanessa Ives. Since he’s among the main cast and will definitely return for season 2, we have a safe bet that Dorian Gray will be given a much significant role later on. I for one have come up with a theory.

Those of us who have finished episode 7 also learn that Vanessa is the host/reincarnation to the ‘devil’ that shares her body. For the sake of convenience, I will address it as Amunet since the show hasn’t revealed any other name for it. As it is explained in episode 2, Amunet is the consort of Amun-Ra and when the two deities join together, it is the End of the World. The Devil that has been tormenting Vanessa so far, taking the forms of her friends Sir Malcolm Murray as he made his presence known to her the first time and Ethan Chandler the second, is likely to be Amun-Ra, as his offer to rule the world of darkness together if Vanessa gives up fighting fits nicely with the Egyptian prophecy of Apocalypse.

That said, here is my theory: Amun-Ra is hiding in some sort of a host just like Amunet in Vanessa (though it seems he’s free to act independently) and it explains why our heroes have not been able to find him yet. And Amun-Ra’s host is no other than Dorian Gray.

Keep in mind that these are all my theory based on the canon material so far.

  1. Let’s take a look at the promotional posters of season 1. Everyone has something that symbolically links to their part in the series, right? Like Victor Frankenstein holding a heart, Brona Croft having a bloody handkerchief in her hand. Now, what does Dorian Gray have? A snake that leaves two marks on his clavicle.

Aside from this poster, there’re a few others that depict Gray with a snake in his hand. Rather than a random choice, it is a carefully crafted symbol that is supposed to tell us something about Gray. But what is it? Snake symbolizes deceit and it can allude to Dorian Gray’s deceiving nature – an immortal who has been around for God-know-how-long but appears in front of others as a beautiful young man who doesn’t seem to be past twenty-five. And his ability to heal any injuries (revealed in episode 6) is quite similar to a snake’s shedding its skin. So yes, if we have to choose an animal motif for Gray, the snake is probably the best choice.


However, let’s not forget that the snake is associated with Amun-Ra, as he is referred to as “the original serpent prince”. Also, according to legends, he also possesses the ability to regenerate, much like a snake’s shedding its skin…or Dorian’s healing himself.

A smaller detail if anyone pays closer attention is that Dorian seems to prefer licking his partner in sexual encounter (sans Ethan, but again, who knows for sure). The first time is when he approaches Brona and decides that he should have sex with a patient with consumption, he licks her lips as if savoring the taste of her blood. Later, when he asks for Vanessa’s permission to kiss her neck, he runs his lips along her neck for a few seconds before flicking his tongue at her skin. Erotic aspect aside, this gesture of his does resembles a snake’s flicking its tongue out.

Check out this gif for Dorian’s licking Vanessa: Gif

  1. As Dorian and Vanessa’s attraction to each other is built up over the episodes, it’s no surprise to us when they finally end up in Dorian’s bed, doing the deed. This sexual encounter, sexy as it is, brings about a disastrous consequence on Vanessa’s part: she’s possessed by Amunet and the deity’s control over her is not temporary but strong and persistent. Instead of babbling people’s secrets or flinging lewd words at others like the first time we’ve seen her possessed self, this time she can manipulate objects in a poltergeist-manner, make bloody tattoos appear on her skin, crawl the wall The Exorcism-style and so on. Gives the gentlemen at the house a really hard time, really. This has never happened before, according to Sir Malcolm Murray, and apparently, sex with Dorian Gray has somehow strengthened Amunet, as Vanessa also realizes later, when she breaks up with her one-night lover (the sad look on Dorian’s face and his tears). In Autopsy of the Scene, the show’s creator John Logan elaborates that due to Vanessa’s idea of sex as a grievous sin, she’s made weakened and vulnerable and thus Amunet takes the chance to rise. Nevertheless, when she has sex with a random passer-by in episode 2, we see no such effect. It happens when her partner is Gray and only with Gray we see Vanessa demonstrate such capacity for violence and sadism, yet another aspect of hers we have not witnessed. And this appears to further cement the theory that Amun-Ra is indeed Dorian Gray.


Now, suppose Dorian was Amun-Ra’s host/reincarnation, then his immortality by the mysterious portrait could be easily explained. Though the original novel gives no clear explanation as to why Gray’s portrait can keep him young and beautiful white it bears his age and degradation, if we go with this theory, we can safely assume that Amun-Ra granted Gray his immortality. Unlike Vanessa, who refuses to comply with Amunet’s possession, Gray accepted Amun-Ra’s influence on him in exchange for youth and immortality, like allowing Amun-Ra to take over some time, or to weaken Amunet’s host’s resistance.

Now, another hint that Dorian might be aware of the whole Amun-Ra-Amunet affair is when Ethan asks him what parts he plays in life. Dorian’s answer is “Human”. Dorian was once human, if the show agrees with the original source, and it’s a little odd when he says so because even if he is immortal and doesn’t age or die now, he hasn’t gone too far from humanity. So, I’m inclined to believe his answer might hint to something else, something entirely not human, like Amun-Ra.

Well, these are, by far, a theory and with the show’s progression, it’s unlikely we have the answer to whether this theory proves to be true or not very soon.

For the meantime, let’s sit back and be prepared to be enthralled by season 2.


4 thoughts on “A Theory on Penny Dreadful

  1. You’re making a lot of sense here, but with the snake symbol, isn’t it too obvious if Dorian is Amun-Ra? I’m inclined toward the theory that are connected in some way but they might be two different “entity”.


    1. I did pose that Dorian was the host, like Vanessa is to Amunet. So they were two beings sharing one body. Except Amun-Ra could take the body anytime :v. I think it’s strange that Gray doesn’t pay Vanessa any visit in her time of possession (he said he did – offscreen so we’re not sure), especially after the abrupt end of their intercourse. If in that time he himself had been taken over by Amun-Ra then it would explain a lot.

      Still, you shouldn’t have read this you know. This is pure, undiluted spoiler.


  2. Dorian is not Amon Ra. He´s just one of his friends, “Lucifer did not all alone”. If he would be Amon Ra Vanessa would be being impregnated with Legion (the fruit of Amon Ra and Amonet as the Verbis Diablo´s prophecy). So the only sex between Vanessa & Dorian did not get nothing, just her possesed but any son. Legion will represent the most greatest demon of demon pregnant with all the demons unknown and known by the men who pretends in his stupidity defeat God (nobody can) . So in this point there are two masters: Dracula & Lucifer, both Fallen Angels banished from the heaven by the same Gods. Both Amon Ra aka Lucifer has his own army (the wtiches) and Dracula the yours (the vampires) . Dracula is the second brother who “drink wine while the night”, the blood´s symbol. Vanessa has born for create life, she is the reincarnation of Amunet, she has the scorpion that really belongs in the egiptian´s phanteon to Serket, another godess different. So, Logan is joining two godess epyptian in only only: Amunet and Serket in just Amonet. but we can not forget how God plays in this game too. The Lupus Dei is his soldier, nobody will can win to him and take Amunet. God loves Ethanessa as couple. There was a rumor, that one child would be in the two last episodes of Penny Dreadful, Claire Chandler. The actress, Amber Fernee has the Vanessa´s look and the name of her mother, Claire. And the Ethan´s surname so, maybe was in the future her daughter. This would destroy every prophecy. If Amonet would be impregnate by her bodyguard, the Lupus dei, both masters would lost the power.
    Dorian will be a villain, but he is just a soldier of “Amon Ra” aka Lucifer who gave to him the youth eternal in change her soul, maybe another fall angel Pretty similar to Kali´s association with her master. But Logan is deleting the scenes where the child Claire Chandler was out, so the story now is becoming bored and repetitive. With a child fruit of Ethan & Vanessa, the God´s power would be more undefeat yet as my humble opinion.


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