SPOILER ALERT: I’ll be giving big reveals of the season finale. Be sure to watch before reading.
On Sunday, June 29, 2014, Showtime horror series ‘Penny Dreadful’ concluded it’s first season with the EP 8 season finale ‘Grand Guignol’, and the episode was a perfect distillation of all the pleasures, and problems the series has had thus far.
In a series that has emphasized how isolated one can be, even in the company of friends and associates, ‘Grand Guignol’ was about coming together, with the entire cast engaging as one to accomplish their personal and shared missions.
The major plot arc involved Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and Sir Malcom (Timothy Dalton) converging on Mina’s location, and seeking to end her suffering, they teamed up with Ethan (Josh Hartnett), and Victor Frankenstein to free her. But it was easier said than done. After Malcolm killed the Nosferatu like creature we assumed was the vampire leader, we discovered that Mina’s curse remained unbroken, and she lashes out, and grabs Vanessa.
Upon threatening to kill Ives, Sir Malcolm gathered the courage he needed to make the decision to murder Nina in order to free her, and to save Ives, or as he put it; “I already have a daughter”, bringing his relationship with Ives from contentious and vengeful to paternal.
In one of the more tedious plot points, we see Caliban (Rory Kinear aka Frankenstein’s monster) getting fired from the theater company after making advances at a actress he fancies. I for one, find the show completely grinds to a halt when we’re stuck with this self-pitying creature. He has neither the capacity to frighten, or the ability to evoke empathy as the Frankenstein of literature, or as played by Boris Karloff.
Thus when we he visits Victor to complain some more, his creator tells him he can’t forgive him for murdering Professor Van Helsing (one of the series major mistakes, given David Warner’s portrayal was one of the series highlights), and raises a revolver to end his life for the second time. Caliban implores him to, saying it “would be a blessing”, and unfortunately Victor spares his life out of pity. Sigh. And then goes about fetching a Bride as per the creature’s wishes.
This brings Victor to Ethan, who is grief-stricken with losing Brona to consumption. Victor seizes the opportunity, and takes her corpse as the guinea pig for Caliban’s mate. We’ll have to see if she can put up with his sad-sack nature once she’s reanimated.
And Ethan’s plight was finally revealed, and my suspicion’s were confirmed that he was a werewolf, as shown when he attacks two bounty hunters who wish to take him back to America to pay for surely wolf-attack-related transgressions.
Ives rebuff’s Dorian Gray’s advances, telling him that his presence endangers her to become possessed again, and he can’t believe that his winning streak is running out, or as she states that this is what “rejection” feels like, which his face reveals he’s never experienced before.
In the final scene, she approaches a priest, asking if he would take on the task of performing an exorcism upon her. Taken aback, he explains how dangerous the task is, which could result in her dying. And then intriguingly, he asks if she truly wants to be free of this curse; “Do you really want to be normal?”saying her plight also made her quite special; “It’s like being touched by the backhand of God”. She gives him a thoughtful stare before fading to back as the credits roll.
‘Penny Dreadful’ can be a frustrating watch at times; it has all the pieces in place for a unique horror series; gorgeous production values and A-class acting talent. But series creator John Logan would be wise to pick up the pace, amp up the scares, and trim the fat on less interesting subplots. Perhaps Season Two will do just that. One can hope, at least.
What were your thoughts on the ‘Penny Dreadful’ finale? Tell us in the comments: