For once, I am at a loss for words.
And no, I don’t exaggerate.
I am literally speechless.
Last night, I watched what I thought was simply the season finale to Penny Dreadful, which is one of my favorite television shows. And that is saying something, since I don’t care about most television shows. I read books. I hold things to a very high standard.
In other words, it takes a lot to impress me. A lot.
And Penny Dreadful impressed me. It impressed me, and did so much more.
I fell in love.
I fell in love with the characters. I could see a bit of myself in every one one of them. Even the ones who were not “human.”
I fell in love with the dialog. This is one of the most quotable shows I have ever watched.
I fell in love with the setting. This show has gorgeous visuals, there is no other way to put it.
I fell in love with the story lines. Some of the story lines were better than others, but I loved them all.
And I may have taken this show for granted.
Not that I expected a long run, but I thought we would get more seasons. If a show is this good, we get more seasons, right?
Well, no. Last night, I watched the finale to season 3. Turns out this is also the series finale.
In other words, I said goodbye last night. And it was gut-wrenching.
I had an ugly cry.
My nose got stuffed up.
My eyes turned red and bloodshot.
My makeup ran all over my face.
In other words, it was beautiful.
Gut-wrenching still, but beautiful and cathartic.
Endings usually are.
So, without any further ado, I bring you my recap and review of the series finale of Penny Dreadful.
And, as always:
Dr. Seward finds her receptionist, Renfield, in her office listening to her sessions with Vanessa. Renfield exhibits odd behavior and attacks Dr. Seward. Dr. Seward realizes that she is dealing with a supernatural creature, and is able to fight him and capture him.
Ethan, Kaetenay and Malcolm arrive in London and immediately notice that things have gone awry in London. They are told that the air has become poisonous, killing thousands of people. They hurry back to Malcolm’s mansion, concerned about Vanessa.
Once Ethan, Kaetenay and Malcolm arrive at Malcolm’s mansion, they are almost immediately accosted by vampires. Malcolm is bitten, but saved by the arrival of Catriona, who cauterizes his wound. Dr. Seward also arrives, and tells the group that she has captured Renfield, who can help them find Vanessa.
Caliban dines with his family, and they discuss moving away from London, Caliban’s son Jack expresses a desire to return to the beach when he is well. However, Jack becomes overtaken by his consumption, and Caliban helps him to bed.
Ethan leaves the mansion to find Victor, as he feels that Malcolm needs a doctor. A mysterious boy is awaiting him at Victor’s apartment, and promises to lead to him to Victor.
Dorian returns to his mansion, and demands that the women who have gathered there on behalf of Lily leave. Most leave, but Justine stays, and challenges Dorian’s authority, stating she will not return to her old life and that she would rather be killed by Dorian. Dorian obliges her, snapping Justine’s neck.
Victor holds Lily captive in Henry’s lab in Bedlam. He tells Lily that the serum will make her better, but Lily disagrees. She then proceeds to tell Victor the story of Sarah, her daughter who died in infancy. Lily was forced to prostitute herself so that she and her daughter could survive. One night, Lily was badly beaten by one her of customers. By the time she arrives home, Sarah has died from the cold, and Lily is heartbroken. Victor has a change of heart, and lets Lily go.
The mysterious boy leads Ethan right to Dracula, and Dracula unleashes his creatures upon Ethan. Ethan fights back, but turns into a werewolf because it is the full moon. He is joined by another werewolf, who turns out to be Kaetenay. Both wolves fight off the creatures, and transform to their human selves. Ethan realizes that it is Kaetenay who cursed him and is angered. Kaetenay tells Ethan that he cursed him in order to help save the world, and that Ethan has the ability to help Vanessa, despite his curse.
Victor tells Henry that he has allowed Lily to go free. Henry chides Victor for this, telling Victor that his work in science will amount to nothing. Henry then tells Victor that his father has died, leaving his estate to Henry. Henry demands that Victor address him by his proper name: Lord Hyde.
Dr. Seward leads Malcolm and Catriona to Bedlam, where she has locked Renfield in a cell. They also meet up with Victor, Ethan and Kaetenay. Dr. Seward hypnotizes Renfield, and deduces where Dracula is holding Vanessa captive.
That night, Caliban awakens in the middle night and checks on his son. He discovers that his son has passed away from consumption in his sleep. Marjorie and Caliban make plans for his burial, and Marjorie demands that Caliban ask Victor to resurrect their son. Caliban refuses to do so, stating that he will not curse his son to eternal life. Marjorie then tells Caliban that if he does not resurrect their son that he can leave their home.
Malcolm, Kaetenay, Ethan, Catriona and Victor hunt down Dracula. They are again accosted by vampires, but fight back using various weapons, such as guns and stakes. Ethan escapes the creatures and finds Vanessa in a room lighted by candles.
Ethan tries to persuade Vanessa to escape with him, telling her that he will protect her from the dark forces that seek to possess her soul. Vanessa tells him that this is impossible and the she wants her suffering to end. Together, they recite the Lord’s Prayer, and Ethan shoots Vanessa with his gun, ending her life. Before she dies, Vanessa tells Ethan she sees God, and He is waiting for her.
After Vanessa dies, the sun comes out from behind the clouds, and Dracula flees.
Lily returns to Dorian’s mansion, where she finds the body of Justine. She tells Dorian that she cannot be with him any more, and leaves. Dorian is skeptical, and predicts that she will return to him.
Caliban buries his son at sea, against the wishes the wishes of Marjorie. He returns to living his life in the shadows.
A funeral is held for Vanessa. Malcolm says that he will not return to Africa, as he will stay in London to properly grieve Vanessa and the rest of his family. Ethan states he will also remain in London, as he considers Malcolm his only family now.
The episode ends with Caliban visiting Vanessa’s grave, reciting a Wordsworth poem, in honor of his friend.
So many thoughts…such as long blog post.
And I don’t really care about the length. After all, this is my last post in regards to this show, so I may as well make it count, right?
This post will probably wind up being a bit emo, so let’s talk about some of the lighter moments in the finale, as there were a few. After all, you can’t have a series finale be all about the feelsies, right?
I loved the action scenes in this episode. In fact, I think they were my favorite part of the episode. I can be a sucker for moments that don’t require mountains of tissue.
One of the best action scenes was the Werewolf Bowl.
That’s right. Game of Thrones got its Bastard Bowl. Therefore, Penny Dreadful gets its Werewolf Bowl!
Ethan was kicking ass on his own, but then he is joined by the “gray wolf.” Who is none other than Kaetenay! How about that?
And it turns out that Kaetenay was actually responsible for Ethan’s curse, and that he had a good reason for putting that curse on Ethan…who knew?
I also loved the gun fight that took place between the Scoobies and Dracula’s groupies. Malcolm and Victor were bad ass, but in my mind, they did not hold a candle to Miss O’-Nine-Tails, aka Catriona.
On a side note: did anyone else think of Danny Glick when they saw that kid vampire, or was that just me?
That’s right, I misjudged Miss O’-Nine-Tails. Turns out that she was not on the side of evil, but on the Scoobies’ side the entire time. And a valiant fighter.
She swung from rafters, for Pete’s sake. And cauterized Malcolm’s wound without a second thought.
In other words, she was a total fucking bad ass. The only bad thing I can say about her now is that she was only in a handful of episodes…sniff…
In fact, Buffy herself would have been proud…a turn of the century Slayer? Hey, I can dream, right?
Oh, and let’s not forget Renfield.
Renfield munching on a frog and tendering his resignation to Dr. Seward…priceless!
As always, the visuals for this show did not fail to impress me.
In particular, I was struck by the scenes of Ethan walking down the street, with the Japanese lanterns in the background. The contrast between the colors was beautiful, and made things look that much more eerie.
One thing is for sure: the visuals on this show have spoiled, and pretty much everything I watch will be held up to the standard that Penny Dreadful has set.
I would also like to talk about character arcs for a moment.
For instance, the ones I find fascinating are Dorian’s, and Caliban’s (we will talk more about Vanessa later.)
On the surface, these two may not have very much in common. But that’s on the surface.
Both are immortal. Both have lived in the shadows, so to speak.
In fact, when the show started, Dorian and Caliban lived in the shadows. And neither cared very much about the lives of others, although often, they would use other humans as a means to an end.
However, one character took a different path from the other, and became a better person for it.
That’s right, Caliban is the one who experienced growth. In fact, out of all the characters, Caliban may have been the character who experienced the most growth.
Slowly, throughout the series, Caliban found his humanity, through the memories of his family, and his relationship with Vanessa. The same cannot be said of Dorian, however.
Caliban has learned from his experiences. For example, he chooses not to resurrect his son, even though it costs him his relationship with his wife. Dorian does not learn from his experiences, however. When he grows tired of Lily, he discards, along with Justine and all the other women who had a been a part of Lily’s army.
And while both Dorian and Caliban may continue to live in the shadows, only one has seen the light. And that would be Caliban.
Ok, time to talk about the feelsies…
And there were so many of them, in what turned out to be the series finale for a spectacular show.
Finally, we got a little more information on Lily, when she told the story of what happened to her daughter. Did anyone else feel the oxygen getting sucked out of the room, or is my imagination just that vivid?
The story of Lily’s daughter was tragic. It also brought up an interesting point: our memories, both good and bad, make us who we are. And to rob someone of his/her memories, as Victor intended to do, would be a cruel act. Myself, I have plenty of bad memories, as I am a domestic abuse survivor. But if I were robbed of those memories, I would not be me. Like Lily, being a shell of myself, and not having those memories, some of which are painful, but essential to my being, would be the cruelest punishment of them all.
Then there was Caliban. Which made me cry more, the death of Vanessa, or the sight of Caliban burying his son at sea?
I don’t know, but the two are pretty close.
I thought a bit of Pet Sematary, which I read earlier this year, when watching this episode.
Caliban was kind of the anti-Louis Creed. He resisted temptation, and gave his son a proper send off, so that his son would not be damned for all eternity. And boy, was this painful to watch. I heard a splintering noise and figured that was the sound of my heart breaking wide open.
Before I conclude this post, let’s talk a bit about Vanessa and her arc.
Now, I wasn’t happy that Vanessa died. In fact, I was anything but. I hated it!
I hate this ending, but I also feel that this was the only ending. While this ending sucked, it was definitely the right ending.
Some may vehemently disagree with me on the ending, along with the fact that John Logan did not let us know that this was the last season of the show.
However, I agree with Malcolm: Vanessa never would have found happiness, had she lived. She was doomed for all eternity, and would have been fleeing from the darkness all of her life. Not even Ethan would have been able to protect from those forced that sought her soul.
So Ethan performed the ultimate act of love: he shot her and ended her suffering. However, he used his powers as Lupus Dei to bring her back to her God, so that she found peace before her death, and (hopefully) salvation in the afterlife.
And I agree with John Logan that this was really Vanessa’s show. Vanessa touched the lives of many, including Ethan, Malcolm, Caliban and even Dorian. So without Vanessa, there is no show.
Announcing the end of the series would have been a spoiler of sorts, as any intelligent person (probably) would have deduced the death of Vanessa. And where would the fun have been in that? Personally, I enjoyed this season. Knowing that it was the last season would have put a damper on my fun, although I still would have watched it.
The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.
And what better way to end the series, than to have Caliban recite a Wordsworth poem, in honor of his friend?
Vanessa touched the lives of everyone she met, but I believe that she had the greatest effect on Caliban. When she was a patient in the Banning Clinic, he was the orderly tasked with caring for her. However, it could be argued that she helped him much more than he helped her, as she brought out his humanity even then, making him the best man he could be.
And even after he became an un-dead Creature, Caliban’s relationship with Vanessa still made him a better man. It inspired him to reunite with his family, even though that ultimately proved painful, with the death of his son and the loss of his relationship with his wife. However, these losses served to bring Caliban back from the dead, so to speak, and proved that he was not in fact the monster everyone saw on the outside, but someone more human than almost everyone else on the show.
Nothing is more beautiful than a man who recognizes what true humanity is, and strives to make sure that everyone is afforded it, no matter the cost to himself.
Well, that’s it. That’s it for Penny Dreadful.
We have been so lucky to have been blessed with such a wonderful show. The acting, the visuals, the dialog, the writing…all of it was superb, and I would not change a thing, as this show has been simply perfect.
So, I am tearing up a little, but I bid the series goodbye, and am thankful to have had the privilege to watch it, and spend so many hours writing about it and discussing it.
The series may have been cancelled, but it will live on in my heart forever.