SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers of the series finale of Penny Dreadful. Read at your own risk!
One of my favorite TV shows, Penny Dreadful, just ended the series this week. While I particularly enjoyed episodes 8 and 9, I was left shocked and surprised to find out that the supposedly season 3 finale of the show was actually the series finale.
First of all, let me just say that when it comes to production value, the two-episode series finale of Penny Dreadful was fantastic. In fact, the entire show is a class unto itself that set it apart from the usual horror fares on TV. The foreboding settings, the superb camera shots, the costumes, the tone, the drama, the literature where it is based on, and the eloquent dialogue were what made this Gothic show my favorite. I have never seen a horror TV show made with such exquisiteness like Penny Dreadful. That’s why it is so upsetting to know that the series just ended.
I would have accepted season 3 to be the show’s final season if it weren’t for the fact that the last two episodes felt like they were rushed and hastily wrapped up. I was excited to watch the back-to-back episodes not knowing that they would be the last. I thought season 3 was going to end with a cliffhanger. I was wrong.
The eighth episode titled “Perpetual Night” was such a thrill that I was riveted while watching it. Despite the fact that Vanessa Ives was nowhere to be seen in this episode, I loved it just the same. Lily’s scene in the bedlam was gut-wrenching. I really felt for her and her pain, and I understood why she was angry and wanted revenge on all the men who wronged her. Kudos to Billie Piper’s acting on this one. She played Lily so perfectly. And I’m so glad that Victor Frankenstein eventually freed her. It was so selfish of Victor to keep her with him and force her to love him.
I was disappointed that Justine was killed by Dorian Gray. I wanted her to stay as a survivor and be Lily’s companion away from Dorian. She and Lily represented women’s strength to go on despite of adversities. I would love for them to continue on and make a life of their own without resulting to carnage. Catriona’s scenes were also wonderful. She was like Buffy the Vampire Slayer when she was fighting off the vampires that were attacking Sir Malcolm, Kaetenay and Ethan Chandler. She was a badass. It’s such a shame that I would never know more about her background now that the series ended.
The revelation on how Ethan became a Wolfman came a little too late, though. I’ve been wanting to know about this since season 3 premiered. But still, it was a welcomed explanation.
I thought John Clare, a.k.a The Creature’s story was going to be a happy one as soon as he returned to his family. But that was not to be. On the other hand, deep down I wanted him to join Sir Malcolm’s league in fighting evil. He would have made a perfect ally and friend of Vanessa.
“The Blessed Dark”
Now this is the episode that I have the most gripe about. “The Blessed Dark” would have been the perfect cliffhanger to cap off the third season of Penny Dreadful. If only it was written as such. John Logan, the creator of the show, might have tied the loose ends when it comes to Ethan but not with the other characters.
The ninth episode immediately picked up where episode eight left off. Ethan eventually came to terms about his wolf origins and focused on saving Vanessa from Dracula. Lily went back to Dorian’s sprawling mansion only to find her army of women gone and Justine dead. How Dorian decided too quickly that he wanted her back still puzzled me. Then came the revelation that Dr. Jekyll inherited his deceased father’s title as Lord Hyde. But then this classic dual story of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde never bore into fruition in the show. All those talks between Victor and Henry about the duality of every person were rendered pointless. It was left just as that.
I got a kick out of Victor encountering Sir Malcolm at the bedlam. I thought, finally the league is back! That league was now joined by Catriona, Kaetenay and Dr. Seward who eventually realized that Vanessa was indeed being hunted by Dracula.
The inevitable showdown between Sir Malcolm’s assembled league and Dracula’s night creatures was rather underwhelming. While I very much enjoyed Catriona’s fight scenes (man, she kicked so much vampire ass!) and was rather amused at Dr. Seward fighting side by side with Victor and Sir Malcolm, the expected one-on-one showdown between Ethan, a.k.a the Wolfman and Dracula never came.
Since the show’s second season, it’s been built up that the Wolfman would be the only one who could defeat Dracula. Thus, fans of the show including me (aptly called Dreadfuls) were expecting a big fight between the two in this episode. It was supposed to be an epic battle between good and evil. I was so disappointed that Dracula merely threw Ethan around then that was it. Ethan didn’t even turn into the Wolfman in that scene. But he managed to get inside Dracula’s lair and found Vanessa.
I just love the Gothic elegance and beauty of that scene between Vanessa and Ethan. The candles, Vanessa’s flowing white dress and long black hair were a sight to behold. Vanessa really looked like she was the bride of Dracula in that scene.
In episode 7, I thought she really gave in to the dark when she allowed Dracula to bite her neck. But in this episode and in this particular scene, I realized that all was not lost with her. When Vanessa asked Ethan to kill her so that Dracula and all the evils would stop hunting her, I thought he would never do it. I thought he would never pull the trigger. But Vanessa begged him to do it. And he did. She died in his arms while Sir Malcolm and the others were fighting the vampires.
That was a really emotional scene. I was in a roller coaster of emotions and couldn’t believe that the show actually killed off their main character. But then I thought that maybe Vanessa just faked her own death to ward off Dracula. Maybe it was just a twist in the story that could be explored further in season 4. I also thought that maybe Victor could resurrect her from the dead and that would be the story in season 4. But then I saw the “The End” title card. I was still in denial at that time. I thought, surely they couldn’t end the show like that. But they did.
After watching the episode, I found out online that the show just announced that the back-to-back episodes were actually the series finale of Penny Dreadful. I was in total shock. How could they end the show like that? And without warning! There was no prior announcement whatsoever. I was (and still am) not satisfied with John Logan’s explanations regarding the reason to end the show. The final episodes left me with so many questions.
Burning Questions from the Series Finale
1. What happened to Dracula?
When Dracula saw Ethan carrying Vanessa’s dead body, he just ran off. Sir Malcolm wasn’t able to kill him. So that means Dracula is still alive and could still wreak havoc in London along with his night creatures. Since Vanessa is gone, will he just stay at the museum and be Dr. Sweet?
2. Will Ethan continue to turn into a Wolfman and kill people? Will he ever find out that Victor brought Brona back to life?
It would be interesting if this scenario happened in season 4. This could further put the pieces of the puzzle together. Imagine Ethan finding out that Brona was alive and Vanessa learning from Victor that Lily was in fact Brona. Imagine also if Victor could cure Ethan with a serum and prevent him from becoming the Wolfman.
3. What will become of Dorian Gray?
Since the first season, all he did was host parties, seduce women, and dance. Nothing really significant happened with him. His character was never fully developed. I would have liked to see that painting again and see the origins of how he became to be immortal.
4. What is Lily’s new purpose?
She left Dorian and Victor. Now what? Where will she go? Will she create another female army and continue her plans?
5. What will happen to The Creature/John Clare?
The Creature only knew of Vanessa’s death from a distance. His friendship with Vanessa was really sweet and touching. I would have liked that story to be explored further. And should he be curious to know how Victor knew Vanessa? He saw Victor at the funeral so he must have thought there was a connection between the two.
6. What is Victor’s plan now that he freed Lily? Will he still help Henry/Dr. Jekyll in his quest to tame the madmen at the bedlam?
Will Victor ever seek out The Creature again and make amends? I’d hate to think that he would leave their strained relationship at that.
7. Who is Catriona?
Ever since she was introduced in season 3, I was curious to know more about her. Where did she come from? And apart from fencing, where did she get her fighting skills? Her introduction did not give much explanation. It was hinted that she previously encountered Dracula in the past. There must have been a connection.
8. Will Dr. Jekyll ever become Mr. Hyde?
I was really expecting this story to play out eventually. Imagine Sir Malcolm and his league coming after Mr. Hyde. That would have been worth seeing.
9. Is Dr. Seward really the reincarnation of the Cut-Wife?
I wanted to find out if Dr. Seward had hidden supernatural powers and if in fact she was the reincarnation of the Cut-Wife. I really didn’t buy that she was merely Vanessa’s psychiatrist.
10. Will Ferdinand Lyle ever find out that Vanessa is dead?
Ferdinand Lyle’s “jaunt” to Cairo prevented him from getting involved in the finale showdown and witnessing Vanessa’s death. Since he was indefinitely on assignment in Cairo, how would the sad news reach him? And will he encounter The Mummy while in Cairo?
In his rare appearance in season 3, it was hinted that The Mummy might be another character addition to the show. Fans picked up on that hint and expected it to be so.
11. What happened to Lucifer? Why did he not try to steal Vanessa from Dracula?
Lucifer’s last appearance was when Vanessa was in the mental asylum and he manifested himself in the body of the Orderly. I really didn’t get why Lucifer was afraid of his brother Dracula. It’s supposed to be the other way around. Lucifer existed since the beginning of time and therefore more powerful than Dracula, who was a mere mortal before he became a vampire. Also, since he wanted Vanessa for himself, why did he not attempt to take her away from Dracula?
12. Did Kaetenay return to America or did he stay with Ethan and Sir Malcolm?
After Vanessa’s death, it was not shown whether he returned to America or not. Since they weren’t able to kill Dracula, did he stay with Ethan so he could help them fight evil?
Well I guess I will never know the answers to these questions since the show ended its run. I just find it ambiguous that the series finale was planned since halfway of season 2. If Logan planned the ending early on, why introduce new characters at all? These new characters and even the old ones like Dorian were never fully developed. They could have focused on developing the core characters of the show instead of introducing new ones that are now half-baked.
I am so bummed that Penny Dreadful is over, but I still consider this show to be one of the best on TV. Eva Green’s stunning performance as Vanessa Ives was truly amazing and unforgettable. The range of emotions she displayed and the depth she portrayed the character throughout the show was unremarkable. I’m not a fan of hers but after watching this show, I have a newfound admiration for her.
Considering practically every old show these days are getting a reboot, here’s hoping that Penny Dreadful would eventually do the same.