Spoilers… one last time.
We’ve seen the crazy and the demonic appear in the screen for seven episodes of Penny Dreadful. I am sold, not on a potential series, but on a series that was consistently great at all times and excellent for more episodes that other TV shows can ever wish for. The quality of the dialog brought about a certain air of rich and lush that made some scenes feel like works of art.
As Miss Vanessa Ives gives Sir Malcolm Murray another hopeful clue as to the location of her daughter Mina, we can’t stop wondering what will these two characters do when their mutual usefulness ends. That will be resolved before the credits roll, but first we’ll finally get one resolution from Sir Malcolm that’s long overdue: if he can’t save his daughter, he will end her suffering. The clue is a line from a play… a play that points back to the Grand Guignol theater.
Sir Malcolm procures himself of one additional asset: an automatic loading gun prototype. In a coincidence that seems not a coincidence at all, he once again meets Madame Kali from the sèance from the second episode. She’s obviously up to something, but we can only assume this is foreboding of a future threat to be encountered next season. Not surprisingly she tries to inquire the whereabouts of Miss Ives and Sir Malcolm wisely opts to deny any knowledge.
It’s also not a shocker than when Vanessa confronts him about the secrets the veteran explorer keeps after hiding a picture of Mina and Peter, she gets a blunt truth. Sir Malcolm is ready, and almost willing, to sacrifice Miss Ives to save his daughter.
Vanessa has been short and quick to dismiss Dorian Grey when he comes calling, but she does meet him at the botanical garden. The outcome however is that she still wants no part of him. It seems that this is the first time that Dorian has been rejected by someone, and he doesn’t know how to deal with that feeling.
As all roads are meant to converge at the Grand Guignol theater, one inexplicably diverges from it. After harsh words from the young actor Simon, Caliban gets a visit from the pretty actress Maude with an orange as a peace offering. Caliban also gets a kiss in the cheek. Shortly thereafter, he decides clumsily to try to seduce her, an attempt that ends in an awkward rejection after Caliban forcefully gives her an unwanted kiss.
There’s a moment here in which Caliban seems to turn into a monster as he seems he could easily kill her but he doesn’t. The damage is done and he is sacked from the theater. The whole rapidness of events here makes me think that originally Caliban was going to become part of the later confrontation when the hunting party descends upon the theater but in the last minute it was decided he should be out of the picture before they arrive. We do get a glimpse of another vampire boss as he leaves.
Caliban goes to the one person he knows, despite the fact he does not want to be there at all. Dr. Frankenstein is somewhat sympathetic but there’s a catch – he’s got a gun and a bullet meant for his creation. As Caliban explains his loneliness, he also renders the act of getting a mate as futile. He’s also aware that Victor has a gun to his head and asks him to pull the trigger. Victor doesn’t. Instead, moved by something that I’m not quite sure is compassion or empathy for his own inner deviousness, he lowers the gun and asks Caliban to stay as he is called by Ethan.
Ethan Chandler has been renting a room with Brona Croft. Her condition is gradually much and much worse. He is been followed by two bounty hunters. He calls upon Victor to help Brona, but the young physician determines she’s beyond help at this point. He dispatches Ethan on some errand just to get him out of the room. Then he tells Brona of a place between heaven and hell, and a prize to be paid. As he smothers her with a pillow in a “gentle” but still self-serving act of murder, it actually puts Victor’s character on perspective. He is, very much so, a monster himself even more than his own creation.
Ethan mourns the death of Brona as Victor offers to take care of her body. He then goes for a drink only to run into the bounty hunters, who claim to be sent by his dad. One of them, an Apache that apparently was “pacified”, produces shackles. Ethan appears to comply only to knock them down and escape.
Finally, the hunting party of Ethan Chandler, Vanessa Ives, Sir Malcolm Murray, Sembene and Dr. Victor Frankenstein is ready to do some vampire slaying at the theater. As Sir Malcolm is about to put a bullet in the vampire boss, Ethan falls onto a trapdoor to end up surrounded by vampire brides. The odds are against them until Sir Malcolm manages to drive his sword-cane through the vampire boss. The vampire brides fall to the ground… except one.
From the darkness, Mina appears and easily grabs Miss Ives by her neck. She’s beyond help, and ready to deliver Vanessa to the master vampire (which means we haven’t seen the master vampire yet?). Sir Malcolm hesitates but a second and then shoots Mina. Still alive, vampire Mina tells Sir Malcolm that she’s his daughter. “I already have a daughter,” says the explorer, finishing her off.
Later on, Sir Malcolm confesses he was never going to go to Africa. Finally both Sir Malcolm and Vanessa can mourn the passing of Mina.
But as two of the characters seem to want to put their darkness behind them, Victor is embracing his as he reveals Brona’s corpse to Caliban. He then prepares to operate. It’s not clear what drives Victor to decide to create a bride for Caliban, but I’m quite certain it is not compassion. He has somehow accepted this is what he does. Dr. Victor Frankenstein is in.
Meanwhile, Ethan is once again confronted by the two bounty hunters. He then reveals his nature. He is a werewolf. And by the screams from the Mariner’s Inn, he’s letting his animal self run wild unabated.
But the final scene belongs to Miss Ives, as she finally decides to enter a church and have a talk with a priest. The reverend seems a lot more familiar with the rite of exorcism, and willing to administer it. He tells Vanessa of the time in which he assisted in administering it, which resulted in the death of everyone involved. If she wants to go down this road, it might take months and even years before the deal is final.
Before they continue, he poses a question to Vanessa: “If you have been touched by a demon, it’s like being touched by the backhand of God. It makes you sacred, unique … do you really want to be normal?” She draws breath. Screen fades to black. Credits roll. Dammit.
Highs: Sir Malcolm Murray. He’s a killing machine, now completely resolved to finish this hunting/rescue mission. Sembene, gets one cool entrance as he drops down the trapdoor Batman-style to start slashing into the vampire brides. Victor Frankenstein living up to his name and becoming more of a monster than his own creation. Ethan Chandler finally gets his werewolf reveal and it’s worth it. The always amazing Eva Green as Vanessa Ives.
Lows: Caliban’s tenure at the Grand Guignol ends in a quite rushed fashion. Why put him there, where all lines meet and then cast him away before the final confrontation? Was there a different outcome in store in case the series had to end abruptly? The confrontation with Mina was a bit anti-climatic. Dorian Grey was a bit ho-hum in the end, as he’s left as a bit of a footnote. I expect him to follow Vanessa around like a lost puppy next season.
The finale handles itself more like an epilogue, giving us an amazing ride where it was the trip and not the destination that mattered. It was, all things considered, a finale that closed old business and puts new business on the table. Now we have to wait for next year.
That will do for now.
- July 10: The entire Fantasia movie lineup is revealed.
- July 15: The tickets for Fantasia go on sale.
- July 17: The 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival begins!