when i innocently logged into netflix today to watch the new episode of penny dreadful, i had no idea what was in store for me. i thought it was just another episode of the week. it seemed like there were still some more episodes in store, counting them by number. of course, looking at what last week’s episode had set up, i should have suspected something. suddenly there was a big climax and the dreadful words ‘The End’.
it took a while to process.
however, now that i have gained some distance, i have to admit that it was a spectacular finale. i’m sad that i don’t have an episode to watch forward to next week & that vanessa died though. vanessa died! what! i was considering possible deaths for almost all the other characters (really crossing my fingers for frankenstein), but vanessa! i did not see that coming at all. it does make sense, but it did seem like a very bleak ending. earth has nothing but suffering in store, so better to take an early train to heaven. the religious thinking behind it is so typically 19th century; fascinating in such an otherwise modern show.
speaking of that big plot point, the scene in which it played out is done fantastically. the way ethan goes up the stairs, all the candles, vanessa in the white dress, the prayer at the end, & the acting of both of them… wow. the aftermath, in which the other characters grieve for her, is also beautiful. it’s the little things, like how frankenstein hugs ethan before he leaves. aww. in a sidenote, that hug was also one of those things that redeemed frankenstein a bit. he was such a jackass this season.
there are so many cinematographic things that i could praise in these two last episodes. london covered in fog. the woman singing to her child integrated with the edited opening credits. our heroes entering the slaughterhouse. dorian in his empty room flooded with light. the burial. the creature reciting the poem at the end. so many things. this whole season was on a much higher level than the previous ones. i loved all the new characters too. catriona hartdegen, oh my god. her character is slightly anachronistic, but so fabulous. i love her intelligence, attitude, & how she saves so many male characters at some point. dr. seward is also badass. inventive interpretation of the dr. seward of bram stoker’s dracula. i love how many more coloured people there are this season too. of course they had to do something after killing off the one black character, but i choose to see it in a more positive light.
as for the storylines of the other characters, they were wrapped up nicely. i was glad to see the vulnerability & change in lily. brute strength aside, she becomes a much stronger character towards the end. we also got to see a new side of dorian, though he of course goes back to how he always was. fitting for his character. the creature has a predictable sad ending. however, it was interesting to see how he deals with it.
frankenstein i have already touched upon. this season he was significantly more monstrous than his ‘monsters’. he pissed me off more with each episode. yes, he was devastated by all that had happened, but that is no excuse. in the second to last episode he finally recognised how wrong he had been, in another beautiful scene with lily. & then he is reunited with our heroes, just in time. interesting how he then immediately seems to become more heroic himself. it does seem that it was his isolation more than anything that led him down that dark, dark road. anyway, his clumsy way of fighting later provides some chuckles in that otherwise dire situation. luckily he has miss hartdegen to save him.
& then there are ethan & sir malcolm. it is touching when ethan calls sir malcolm ‘father’. even for the viewer it is comforting that, though vanessa died, they still have each other. vanessa! before the episode had ended, i already thought there was no way they could go forward from here. penny dreadful is vanessa’s show after all. it’s good that they ended with this season. the plotline of vanessa eternally being hunted by some demon/the devil was already getting stale in this one. looking at it as a whole i did love it though. it had its faults, & it had jackass frankenstein, but it is definitely worth a re-watch. the whole of the show is. it is so complex, centered around loveable, intriguing characters, & an aesthetic delight. i do think this show will stay one of my all-time favourites.