Penny Dreadful - The End
Saying goodbye to Penny Dreadful was difficult for me. To be honest, I enjoyed the world it lived in. Yes, it was ghoulish, violent and deeply macabre. But it was also heroic, hopeful and curiously optimistic.
It here was one underlying theme that Penny Dreadful pursued it was, no matter how dark or impossible things got, there was always that sliver of hope that was worth fighting for.
Oh, and, let's not forget the deep sense of family too.
To be fair, it was the characters that really drove this show and it will be painful to let them go. That's if they are really gone. In the first of the two closing episodes I distinctly got the impression they were setting up a spin off series featuring the glamorous and resourceful Catriona Hartdegen. Her character received a lot of attention replete with quippy lines and heroic derring-do. It was almost distracting the amount of attention she received.
But not quite.
Nothing could replace the steely figure of Sir Malcolm cutting through the London fog in search of his greatest prey. Or Ethan Chandler, wrestling with the beast within, his greatest weapon his human heart. Or even Victor, retaining his humanity despite his struggle to remake its physical form. Then there is John Clare, The Creature, the self loathing monster whose spirit rang with poetry.
And, of course, Vanessa. The tortured evening star to whom everyone gravitated. Her faith would be at one time broken but always renewed. Often mistaken for someone that needed protection but possessed the greatest of courage of them all.
Well, before I descend too far into some morose sentimental abyss, let's take a look at the last two episodes.
At last, the boys are back in town. Sir Malcolm must have come up with quite a bit of pocket change to spur his steamship on.
No sooner had they returned to the manse when the were beset by the half-human "Familiars" that Dracula has populated his corner of the underworld with. It was clear they were outmatched by zombie like creatures by their ferocity and numbers.
Oh, Sembene, how you are missed now.
One particular miscreant I've dubbed, "Uncle Fester" gave Ethan a particularly hard time.
Enter Catorina Hartdegen. I think her catch phrase is, "I'm the person that just saved your life." They may have slightly oversold Cat near the tail end of this series. Ethan and Malcolm were right to stutter, "Who are you?" Her effectiveness and involvement were rather sudden but if the intention was to plant the seeds for a spin-off series, then mission accomplished.
It might take a year or so to develop a new series but with Kate Beckinsale returning as Selene in another "Underworld" movie the time might be right to introduce another kick-ass heroine. If they can convince Reeve Carney, Harry Treadaway, Rory Kinnear and perhaps some guest spots from Josh Harnett and Timothy Dalton then please yes, make this show happen.
You'd have to include Simon Russell Beale's Mr. Lyle also. Fresh from his sojourn to the unforgiving sands of Egypt, Mr. Lyle would be an invaluable asset. And after all, he introduced the world to Catriona in the first place!
I suppose I must apologize to Ms. Hartdegen. I had proposed she may be a wolf in sheep's clothing and betrayed Vanessa to Dracula. She did not. I guess I should be thankful for that. There would be no hoped for spin-off if she had!
Oh, The Humanity
While the fate of Vanessa and the world remain our major plot point there are certain other subplots that must be addressed.
Victor finally has his dream girl in chains. Lily, for her part, is trapped in a nightmare she thought she left to her past. Both struggle with their humanity. Victor seems to have lost his. His obsession with making Lily a kept woman has severely clouded his judgement. Ironically, he has slipped the chains of his other obsession, his heroin addiction, and substituted his need for a partner.
I fear ultimately Victor was a lonely man. His genius for science was led astray by this loneliness and I think his experimentation with reanimation was just a way of finding a kindred spirit.
Lily counters the very spirit Victor wishes to enhance will be crushed if he "converts" her. Lily provides an interesting counterpoint to that of the other creature, "John Clare." She is revenge driven and her blood lust has pushed her to act sadistically towards men. She never lost touch with her human side and evidenced by her graveside visit to her lost daughter Sarah.
Mr. Clare suffered much from amnesiac symptoms. He was late in retaining his memories and when he did he still defined himself as a monster. I don't think Lily ever did. At the very least she was at peace with it.
Try as he might, The Creature could not fully recapture his elusive dream. So very close though. So very close.
I'm not sure of his relationship with his wife, she was a curious sort, but he definitely was devoted to his son. He managed to fill his head and that of his boy with dreams of gaiety and romps through the park.
Dorian is a man drained of everything. Losing a little blood wouldn't matter either.
In her last act of defiance, the kitten that was Justine drew her claws and struck her last blow against the cruelty of men. Pity it counted for nothing. Dorian reacted with the indifference that marks his existence.
Faced with defeat and the prospect of returning to the fetid back alleys of London, Justine chooses death. Dorian grants her wish. Was he being merciful? I don't think so. I think he fancied himself as a wish granter. A genie from the bottle that provided minor miracles and then took them away.
But miracles do exist none the less.
Lily's tragic story of how Sarah died alone was enough to break the spell Victor had cast over himself. The man who played God found the tender mercy that all men should possess. Victor had regained his humanity.
Now the moment we've all been waiting for.
Dracula versus the Lupus Dei.
Well, not quite. Partial cloud cover saps Ethan of wolf like strength. So disappointing. Who didn't want to see this fight happen? Why pass up this opportunity? Dracula tosses Ethan aside and leaves him to his Familiars.
Then the clouds part!
Ethan tears into the horde but their numbers are too many and they begin to overwhelm him. Then, like the improbable sound of horns sounding the approach of the Knights of the Vale, help arrives.
I did laugh a little.
Of course Kaetenay is a Werewolf!
The Blessed Dark
You look a little drained Miss Ives.
It was odd not to have an episode without Vanessa. Especially with so little time in the series. (As we were to learn.) Miss Ives is now a creature of Dracula but she does not seem fully over to the dark side. She teases Dracula over her fear of Ethan and in doing so proves she is not a mere minion.
While it was good to see Vanessa again we don't get to spend too much time with her as Ethan's Wolf origin must be attended to as well as Lilly's time with Dorian.
Ethan grieves over the monster he has become. Kaetenay explains he thought his inner Wolf was to defend his people, the Apache. He then came to realize there was a greater purpose involved. He must make Ethan a Wolf also because God needed him for a greater purpose.
That's all well and good but it doesn't explain exactly how Ethan was changed. Did Kaetenay have to bite him? Was there an Apache ritual involved? How did Katenay become a Wolf?
A disappointing conclusion to the Wolf story. I thought for sure Ethan had gone home to learn his family roots and their involvement with the Wolf. Instead we are given a truncated expalnation that was no doubt given to the quick end ing to Penny Dreadful. Logan was no doubt given the word PD was going to end by Showcase somewhere midseason and had to wrap things up in a hurry.
It's too bad.
Lily returns to Dorian and finds Justine dead.
This story line met a stilted end also. As the season progressed I became frustrated with the lack of substance or progress with these two. When we learned of Lily/Brona's daughter this part of the overall plot took an exciting turn.
Now we'll never know what was to become of the two.
Dorian does tell Lily of his ennui with immortality and how he is doomed to be an, "Unchanging portrait of yourself." But Lily never got to see "The Portrait" and Dorian never confronted her with it. She may have been the one to break the chains of immortality for Dorian and keep him from that "Eternity without passion."
Now, as Dorian puts it, "I'll always be here." That was his way of saying Lily can always return to him. I doubt she will. Her immortality has taken on a different shade. She may be doomed to life eternal but at least she has her humanity.
Maybe she will finally cross paths with Ethan. Those two never seeing each other since the end of season one was mind boggling. Just about everyone else managed to cross each other's path.
Where will Lily go now? Will she attempt her own Arctic quest or will she seek out her kindred spirit in The Creature?
Here's another shortened plot line that was not fulfilled.
We never got to see Dr. Jekyll become Mr. Hyde. It is a real mystery as to why John Logan never pursued this part of the story. Victor recognizes Henry as "Lord Hyde" after Henry's father finally dies. But that's not what we were counting on.
We wanted to see Henry stick that needle in his own eye and and release the beast that was lurking beneath the surface. Now he is just off to do his rounds.
That's it? Why couldn't he have taken the needle and then do his rounds? I would have loved to have seen Henry transform into a monster complete with a stethoscope around his neck.
"I must attend to my patients. Ta, ta, Victor!" That would have been hilarious.
Come on Catriona Hartdegen sequel.
A little late for that!
I was really hoping The Creature would take his son to be cured by the Doctor not reanimated. Although some father and son time in the park as two monsters would have been as entertaining as Henry doing his rounds as a beast.
But the creature would have none of that.
"And have all the humanity burned out of him?"
"To become an unholy freak."
Not in his immortal lifetime.
The creature did the right thing in bringing his son to the Thames. No earthly burial for that child. The risk of his son being dug up was too great and The Creature would not have him suffer the same fate as he.
Speaking of which!
We never got to see how The Creature came to be! What happened to him after he left the asylum? What led to his demise? Was it at the hands of Dracula? Was that monster responsible for making sure the remains fell into the hands of Victor Frankenstein?
Things would have come to a glorious full circle if that were true. But as we have learned, John Logan does not always complete his circles.
The Final Battle
The Guns of the Magnificent Seven!
Or six really. There was way too much marching about in this final episode. It took on the look of an old western movie. "Here we come and we mean business!"
It was a little silly but at least they didn't do it in slow motion. That would have been too much to bear.
So, thanks to some hypnotic detective work by Dr. Seward our formidable group learns of the location of Dracula and Miss Ives.
An old meat rendering plant. No shortage of blood spilled there I suppose.
A wild melee ensues. I tried to find a video of this climatic battle but was unsuccessful. If one appears, I will be sure to add it.
Ethan and Kaetenay took a seperate entrance into the plant and as fortune would have they appeared through a storm grate (blood grate?) just as they were needed. Earlier I made an allusion to Game of Thrones and how the cavalry rides in just in time, all the time. Recently I learned through the "Cast of Kings" podcast, that George R.R. Martin is a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. The cavalry always rides to the rescue and I mean always. It seems John Logan is a fan of both. Separating Ethan and Kaetenay from the rest didn't make much sense to me. But if the narrative called for a dramatic entrance to save the day. Then there you go. Another symptom of a rushed ending.
Before I forget, here's another narrative choice that puzzled me.
Sir Malcolm interrogated Dracula about his daughter, Mina. Dracula confessed the taking of Mina was meant to draw Vanessa to him.
To me, if I remember correctly , the vampire from season one had nothing to do with Dracula. There was never a hint of his involvement. This seems to be a retcon wherein, now we are to understand that vampire was a minion of Dracula. I suppose this time Logan is completing a circle but it seems a little off to me.
What can we do? The series is over and we have to accept it.
Sadly for Dracula he has a finite amount of Familiars so he has to join the fray himself.
Naturally, he acquits himself quite well but, oh dear, he's not much of a tactician is he? Drac takes his eye off the ball and Ethan does an end around. It would seem hard to believe Dracula would allow his greatest foe to sneak behind him but I guess he really wanted to give Sir Malcolm a thrashing.
Here's something else I've been wrestling with.
Vanessa concedes she is one of the broken things and a creature of the night. The scorpion.
She had allowed Dracula to take her but as we see above she is not so far gone in that she realizes things must come to an end. Is she over to the dark side or not?
Kaetenay had told Ethan while they were still out West she was a creature of the light. So why is she object of an eternal Satanic quest? Or in this case, Vampiric quest?
Okay, let's say conquering a creature such as Vanessa would turn day into perpetual darkness. That's fine. But it still doesn't answer the ultimate question.
Readers of this blog may recall I was hoping Vanessa was one of the Fallen that was banished from Heaven. The others, such as Lucifer or Dracula, were creatures of the darkness that had lost their souls. But Vanessa had not. The Darkness had their eternal quest to convert Vanessa as a stepping stone to their re-entry into Heaven and defeating God. That was their apocalyptic end game.
But this theory was never tested and the explanation as to "Why Vanessa" was never explained. Another frustration.
As an adjunct to this, I think we are to infer Ethan's true purpose was to make sure Vanessa makes it to Heaven and not just protect her. I guess that's a protection of sorts. It at least confirms Vanessa still has her soul. As she lays dying in Ethan's arms she tell him she sees God.
Quite a privilege. I always imagined standing in line waiting to speak to St. Peter. But if Vanessa is truly special then maybe she gets to see God.
I'm okay with that.
Ethan presents Vanessa to Dracula and The Magnificent Six.
So what does Dracula do? He fades away. Almost literally. We see him pass before Victor and he is gone. No one last snapped neck before you go Drac? He must really take losing very hard. He doesn't strike out at Ethan or Sir Malcolm he just goes away.
To where? Back to the museum? That would be awesome. "Oh well, I still have my day job."
With Vanessa's passing the daylight returns.
And commerce returns to London!
I loved these long shots but a few close ups would have been nice. And I don't mean the ones where crews were cleaning up all the muck on the streets.
The Tower Bridge as seen above, is still under construction. That means it is around the time of Sherlock Holmes. I wonder what he was doing during all of this? Maybe when Catriona gets her own series he will appear. He did take on The Phantom of the Opera in a Nicholas Meyer book called The Canary Trainer.
Penny Dreadful went to great pains to show the boys don't know what quite to do with themselves now that Vanessa is gone.
There was a of sitting about and staring into space. It was very somber and very, very sentimental.
But we did learn or see three important things.
Reincarnation does not have a place in the world of Penny Dreadful.
Sir Malcolm had mused about it referencing Hindu religion. Perhaps he was thinking Vanessa could come back in some way. Victor was dismissive of it. He's right, this was a very Christian oriented show. Plus, Vanessa spoke of seeing God. One God that is.
I know some were hoping things were in an endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. But with the deliberate exposition dismissing reincarnation I would say that is out of the question.
Ethan hugged it out with Victor in a very brotherly way. I was heartened to see this and it gave me a lump in my throat. They should embrace each other as they had been through a lot together. Of course, we never would have got this scene if Ethan had found out what Victor had done to Brona. That's planning ahead John Logan. I always thought Ethan and Lily should see each other but maybe this is better. I'm a sucker for sentimentality.
Ethan is also staying in London with Sir Malcolm.
That's good. Malcolm thought of Vanessa as a daughter and now he has a son again. If the band stays together in London it will make it easier for them to reappear in any Catriona spinoff. It makes you wonder what happens to Kaetenay. Back to America? His world is gone there. He really seemed like one of the Last of the Mohicans which would be a call back to his role in the movie when Wes Studi played Magua.
Can you see Catriona and Kaetenay traipsing about London ridding the city of evil doers? I can. Maybe they will be off to the continent to track down Dracula.
Ah well, one can only dream.
The sentimentality continued to Vanessa's funeral. One last moment for the Magnificent Six.
I'm glad the big three of Victor, Malcolm and Ethan got their due.
But the last moment belonged to The Creature, Mr. John Clare.
The two souls joined together by poetry for a last time. Is it the last time? Might they see each other in Heaven? The Creature went to great pains to define himself as a monster without a soul. But I don't believe that. He always showed great humanity when he was with Vanessa and obviously had much love for his son. You can't have that unless you have a soul.
We may as well go out with the poem as narrated by The Creature. It's from Wordsworth's "Ode on Imitations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood." It's quite fitting in its wistful melancholy and a nice way to say goodbye.
If this truly is goodbye.