In “Perpetual Night” and “The Blessed Dark,” the writers of “Penny Dreadful” amped up the drama in an attempt to take this brooding horror/period drama out in fine form. In these episodes we lost a few characters, we saw both the dissolution and fortification of several relationships, and we completed the origin story for one of our main characters – finally learning just how he became afflicted with what is both his curse and blessing.
“Perpetual Night” – aired 6/19/2016
Written by Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Directed by Damon Thomas
“The Blessed Dark”
Written by John Logan
Directed by Paco Cabezas
*Spoilers are contained within*
First, I must note that Sunday night’s two hour mini-binge fest was actually Penny Dreadful’s series finale episodes. I was so shocked to find that out because there was no mention of this in any of the promotions for these final two episodes. However the more I think about it, the more I realize that these episodes do feel like a summing up of the storylines of SHOWTIME’s series.
Bowing out with grace and on your own terms: Vanessa
For Vanessa, Lily and Justine, taking control of the chaos that had settled over their lives was of utmost importance. In Vanessa’s life, religion gave her the tools that she needed to fight her demons in both the figurative and literal sense. She found strength and peace in her faith and unfortunately with the loss of her true love, Ethan, her sense of community/support and her faith in God, Vanessa fell prey to an evil suitor, Dracula. In these episodes, with the return of her lover, her family, and friends rallying around her, I hoped to see Vanessa revive. I just knew that she’d reclaim that fervor to defeat the world’s baddies but to my dismay, it was clear that she’s lost it for good. As she stared into Ethan’s eyes, reciting the Lord’s prayer and silently pleading with him to shoot her, to take away her pain, I knew that she’d rather die than to continue facing the monotony of fighting the good fight. Vanessa understood that as long as she was still alive then the dangers to herself and her loved ones would never stop coming. She also knew that some small part of herself wanted to flirt with the darkness, that a small part of her wanted to delight in it and she knew the only way to guarantee that she didn’t lose herself to it was through her death.
Lily, Justine and Dr. Frankenstein
Lily and Justine had similar struggles on this show. They both had been used and abused in their lives by men. Because of these experiences they’d grown to be angry and sought to exact their vengeance on the opposite sex. Lily was so determined to have her revenge that she organized a girl-gang (of other abused women/girls) to serve as her foot soldiers in the fight for retribution. Where Lily begins to go off the rails is when because she begins to betray Dorian Grey, her former partner/ally by repeatedly disrespecting him and treating Justine as if she’d taken his spot at her side. When Dorian eventually betrays Lily by handing her over to her obsessed former lover Dr. Frankenstein it doesn’t surprise me. What does surprise me is that Dr. Frankenstein eventually comes to his senses and sees reason when Lily opens her heart to him. When Lily manages to shake off a bit of her anger and tap into her sorrow, Dr. Frankenstein now sees that the woman that he thought was a pure monster is actually just an ordinary person. When Lily shares her memories of her deceased young daughter, it becomes clear that Lily doesn’t need to be injected with a potion that will emotionally lobotomize her, what she needs is kindness. With that realization Dr. Frankenstein lays his syringe on the floor and releases her.
When Dorian returns to his home he immediately begins to dismantle Lily’s girl-gang and this doesn’t surprise me. What does surprise me is Justine’s response upon hearing the news of her mentor’s capture and her reaction to the disassembling of her new clan. She, like Vanessa, would rather die than to continue on in a life of misery and tells Dorian that she’d rather die on her feet than live on her knees. Dorian looks her in the eyes and grants her wish. I thought this was so powerful and so strong. After experiencing the power that she felt as part of Lily’s girl-gang, Justine knew that she’d never allow herself to sink down so low ever again as to have to fall back into a life of sex work and living at the mercy of cruel men. After leaving the hospital, Lily returns to Dorian’s home, sees that her girls have gone and finds Justine’s body on the floor and begins to confront Dorian. At some point in the exchange she begins to realize that she and Dorian were never very much alike. Lily sees that Dorian aims to live as a person partly detached from the world, and she knew that she that she finds life in her passions – be it passionate joy, sorrow or anger. She elects to walk away from him and his life of apathy. This surprised me because I thought that Lily would have raged against him, at his cold betrayal, but it’s apparent that Lily has evolved. I believe that she could recognize her hand in the discord that happened between herself and Dorian. I think that she realized that allowing herself to become all consumed by anger was just as bad as allowing yourself to become obsessed by love (as Dr. Frankenstein was) and as bad as allowing yourself to become steeped in indifference.
The Dissolution and Fortification of Relationships
John Clare, having recently been welcomed back into the fold with his wife and son finds his happiness short-lived when his terminally ill son suddenly dies and his wife gives him the ultimate ultimatum: Give our son’s body to Dr. Frankenstein to reanimate or don’t come back. As soon as the words leave her mouth I’m sure that John has just lost his family forever. John’s wife won’t hear him, when he attempts to dissuade her from her hasty and distressing decision. He tries to tell her that she would just be dooming their child to a wretched life, where he will be thought of as a freak and creature that possesses no humanity. Despite all of his pleading, she just won’t be swayed. So he gathers up his son’s body and takes him down to be laid to rest in the ocean and to be reclaimed by nature. John Clare’s storyline was so sad to me. For a man who in life was such a good person, it’s quite cruel that he endured such a painful existence in his second life (as the Creature). It’s just not fair. As the show ends, John must endure another painful loss, the loss of his true friend, Vanessa.
The relationships between Malcolm, Ethan and Kaetenay end on a very positive note. They complete the voyage from the U.S. to London and set off to rescue Vanessa and defeat Dracula. From the experiences that they’ve gone through in New Mexico, they have an easy camaraderie. They know that can depend on each other and it shows. In the battle to get to Vanessa, a secret is unveiled… Kaetenay is the were-wolf that turned Ethan into a were-wolf! Ethan realized this when, while fighting vampires in were-wolf form, a grey were-wolf suddenly joins him in the battle. Talk about a shock to the system! Once they shifted back to their human forms Kaetenay explains that he bestowed the were-ability over to him because he knew that Ethan has a good heart and that he knew that this ability would make him a weapon against wickedness, he knew that he would become the Wolf of God. After they suffer the loss of Vanessa, Malcolm, Ethan and Kaetenay’s bond only gets stronger. They realize that they can get through this painful time together.
Are you there Drac? It’s me Z.
So, I bet you’re wondering what happened to this season’s baddie. Well so am I. Apparently, after Vanessa died the evil that had befallen the earth suddenly disappeared and so did Dracula. One moment we see Ethan walk out, holding Vanessa’s prone figure and then a second later ole’ Drac vanished. What the heck was that? For three seasons he stirred up all kinds of heck just to get to this woman and then someone kills her and he just runs off. That doesn’t make sense to me. I would think that the guy would at least want to seek revenge on Ethan for killing her, but no. Dracula just scampered off. I wish we could have gotten a more satisfying end to the Dracula storyline. What do you think?
After three seasons of vampires, were-wolves, witches and evil vanquishing I must admit that I’m sad to see it end. Penny Dreadful was a show that when I first heard about it, before the first episode aired, I remember thinking that it would be a dud. I couldn’t picture how any horror/period drama was going to be creepy (as a horror fan, I’m very hard to scare). Now, three years later, I’m glad I decided to just go ahead and give that show a shot because it became one of my favorite horror shows ever (though nothing could ever top my #1 spot The Walking Dead!).