Finale Thoughts: Penny Dreadful goes into Perpetual Night, leaves us in the Blessed Dark

Spoilers will crawl out from their hideouts.

(Photo: Patrick Redmond/SHOWTIME)

(Photo: Patrick Redmond/SHOWTIME)

All this season, I’ve been waiting for the show to find its footing again. I’ve been waiting for some sort of moment that captures what we had previously, that fight against insurmountable odds made with brutality and elegance at the same time. Dracula just didn’t feel quite as scary, quite as chilling as the previous seasons. Actually, the final battle with the man previously known as Dr. Sweet seemed liked a shorter rehash from season one, left for last minute. Did we accomplish anything? In the end, Dracula is not defeated. In the end, he just whooshes out of frame never to be seen again. Was it really all tied to Vanessa? No, not really. We’ve had our anti-heroes go against the devil himself and the nightcomer witches of last season. I’ve been expecting that level of spine-tingling chill that came with knowing all that to find not really anything at all to fear this season.

(Photo: Patrick Redmond/SHOWTIME)

(Photo: Patrick Redmond/SHOWTIME)

Was it necessary at all to have Ethan be the one to kill Vanessa? Couldn’t she have done it herself and at least be the owner of her own destiny? We are expected to believe she’s at rest. Were the showrunners concern with the old adage that suicide victims are condemned to Hell? Furthermore, it almost seems an afterthought that after an entire season where Ethan has to face his past and his father, he suddenly would need to come running back to be in the finale.

(Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME)

(Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME)

Victor finally lets go of Lily. To do that, Lily has to bare her own soul just so that Victor can show some humanity again. She literally has to save him. I won’t lie, Victor has been a broken and unforgivable but interesting character, but he has not behaved like a good person… ever. So when we finally have Victor reconsider and lay down the infamous needle, it didn’t catch me by surprise that Lily would grab at his neck (it did surprise me she let go so quickly though). Victor did not deserve the forgiveness he got. He never does. Also, Jekyll has been severely underused this whole season and his story almost ends with an afterthought. His father died and now he becomes Lord Hyde. All that in one exchange with Victor. Really? Also, what was Jekyll’s motivation to turn Lily into a Stepford Wife? None whatsoever, yet he’s supposed to be mad about it.

(Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME)

(Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME)

I had several qualms with Sir Malcolm Murray. First and foremost, why does he turn to Dr. Seward to let her know they won’t be able to protect her during the battle? Victor is the weak link here. At some point he all but drops his gun and ends up defending himself with a pipe. How he doesn’t get killed is a miracle. Why oh why was Victor needed in the last battle? He’s a hindrance rather than an asset. Even Dr. Seward ends up saving his sorry ass. Victor was more useful taking care of the ill or preparing some god awful serum – holy crap, they could have used Frankenstein’s serum on Renfield and tied this up a lot better. Anyhow, going back to Sir Malcolm, he’s also reluctant to accept Catriona’s help. At least we got to see Catriona in action. Eat your heart out, Sarah Michelle Gellar.

(Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME)

(Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME)

Dorian started as Lily’s ally to ended up being an antagonist who undoes everything she’s done. Victor is delusional about Lily but Dorian’s perception was crystal clear. I don’t know who hurt her worse. Dorian actually disbands Lily’s army without a second thought. Ok, yes – Justine is the sole voice of protest. She ends up exactly where we’ve known she would draw her last breath since the moment she stepped into the House of Gray – dead on the floor with a broken neck courtesy of Dorian. If Lily was a downright saint to forgive Victor’s stalking and intended kool-aid-via-needle transformation, I think she was almost insane in not having a go at Dorian after finding him with the corpse of Justine. Specially when Dorian ends their conversation confidently stating that she’ll be back.

(Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME)

(Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME)

The relationship between Ethan and Kaetenay was jarring and strained already but it felt already done and overused. I feel like making Kaetenay a wolf man was unnecessary. In the end, was he even an asset? He could’ve been, had they left the fighting to only him and Ethan. That being said, I still think Vanessa should’ve handled herself on her own wits with Catrina and Seward providing more than necessary backup. Or just with the help of certain poetry-loving reanimated individual.

(Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME)

(Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME)

The Creature/Caliban/John Clare was left alone for most of the season. He could have been far more of an asset in the final battle than half of the people that were involved. He would have been easily convinced to do so except that nobody knew he had become a friend to Vanessa. What was the exact point of just isolating him in his own story? He gets to speak the final words in the show as he recites William Wordsworth’s Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood as he sees the rest of the cast at the burial site. Did you notice how obvious was the separation between the main cast and the guests stars for the season at the cemetery? Why does this feel like a Jon-Snow type of death where we expect her to come back?

But it’s not to be. Or is it? We got The End before the credits started to roll. Show creator John Logan has already stated this is the end of the series. I feel there’s so much more story to tell that I almost want a do-over of this last season. It just feels like we’re forcing ourselves to end a series without a proper ending.

Finale Thoughts: 

  • No way anybody started this season knowing this one was the last. No. Way. Actually, I doubt anybody involved knew this one was the last when it was being filmed.
  • Vanessa Ives’ death is self-sacrificial but she should’ve gone down bringing down her tormentor. On that same note, Dracula should’ve been defeated. One can argue that he was since he was cheated out of his bride, but I’m quite certain he could come back from that easily. Vanessa has had much scarier antagonists during the previous seasons. She’s already gone against the devil itself. The idea to paint Dracula at the same level was sound back in A Blade of Grass but has since waned and died.
  • Ethan Chandler has had a much fulfilling journey which concluded with him facing his own father. Actually, these could’ve been the ending too, but I feel like we had to cram an individual plot for everyone without getting them involved until the last minute.
  • Sir Malcolm Murray running into Dr. Frankenstein at the asylum and enlisting him on a battle. I winced, that was almost painful to watch. Also, Sir Malcolm telling Dr. Seward that they wouldn’t be able to protect her in battle. She’s the one that ends up saving Victor.
  • What was the point of letting us know that Dr. Jekyll would inherit his “rightful title” as Lord Hyde if there was no next season?
  • Catrina Hartdegen needs to introduce herself to every other character since nobody has managed to get all these characters acquainted until the very last minute. Also, we get to see her fight in true Buffy Summers fashion. Once. The series is now over.
  • In any other series (*cough* Game of Thrones *cough*), both Victor and Dorian would’ve died by Lily’s hands. Unless either of them was named Jon Snow. No? Dead then. As unbelievable as I though it was for Lily to forgive Victor, I found it even more ridiculous that there was not a word of scorn at Dorian disbanding Lily’s troops and killing Justine. For a moment, I though Lily had injected herself off screen.

That will do- no, wait… One more thing before we close the book here.

An alternate ending I dreamed up:

  • Victor doesn’t participate in the battle. He uses the serum on Renfield to know where Miss Ives is. He stays behind, but the Creature joins the fray. The vampires are exterminated.
  • Vanessa Ives defeats Dracula alone and kills him, but dies as well. Her ‘rescuers’ arrive too late, but she still gets to die in Ethan’s arms.
  • Lily and Dorian look at each other over Justine’s corpse. They start to fight and knock over some candles that start a fire. They continue fighting as the house burns down. We don’t see what happens.
  • Henry Jekyll is furious at Victor or deliriously happy after hearing his father is dead (or both) and starts knocking things over in his lab. Accidentally he gets stabbed with a failed version of the serum and starts screaming. We don’t see what happens.
  • After the funeral, also attended by the Creature but not by Victor, everyone leaves. Night falls. Suddenly some shapes are visible. Two are men with shovels who approach the grave. Behind them is Dr. Frankenstein. He looks at the grave and says: “Dig.”

That will do for now.

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