Daniel Theophanous reflects on the end of Penny Dreadful as he reviews the final three episodes of season three…
Episode Seven begins with the revelation that Lily had a one-year-old girl. The opening scene sees her laying flowers over her baby’s tombstone, possibly explaining Lily’s vengeful plan towards all men throughout season three. Despite Billie Piper’s Lily being a fascinating character, the situations that creator John Logan puts her in, feels stale. Lily’s efforts to build up troops of London women, predominantly prostitutes, especially in the lush surroundings of Dorian’s house, leaves us truly unconvinced. It would have been nice to see more visual elaboration on the story; possibly a more Suffragette style swarms of women protesting or even an all-female military coup causing havoc in the streets of London. Instead we are given a luck-lustre, pseudo-movement, just for the sake of giving Lily a storyline, which sort of involves Dorian.
Rightly so, this luck lustre-ness of this pale female revolution bores Dorian and he is becoming increasingly annoyed with the constant congregation of harlots in his house. Feeling fed-up and used by Lily, Dorian calls upon a favour he is owed by Frankenstein, from when Dorian spared his life from breaking into his mansion in episode six. With the help of Dr Jekyll, Frankenstein abducts Lily takes her back to his lab and thus putting an end to her supposed plans for female world domination.
We find Vanessa, ignorantly blissful and completely immersed in her romance with Dr Sweet. Still unbeknownst to her, Dr Sweet is in fact the evil Dracula. Christian Camargo’s Dr Sweet/ Dracula unfortunately doesn’t satisfy; his Dracula is scrawny, measly and too thin, contrary to one would expect from the role of Dracula; possibly a more dashing, debonair, devilish, darker and physically bigger. It is not so much that Camargo does a bad job rather than he looks miscast. Further evidence of this, is in the chemistry between him and Vanessa; it appears slightly forced; it’s as if Vanessa is trying to convince herself of her feelings for him. This could be intentional as we know or maybe we hope that there is still a flame for the better suited Ethan Chandler, who is on his way back to England from America.
This romance may prove to be short lived, as a visit from Catriona, the vampire expert, her research on Dracula sheds light on to new information. Clues in Catriona’s conversation make Vanessa finally figure out that Dr Sweet is in fact the evil Dracula. A confrontation with Dr Sweet following this discovery doesn’t pan out to what the viewer may have hoped. Vanessa, feeling defeated, decides to surrender to the dark side and joins Dracula.
Surprisingly, we are treated to a double bill, episodes eight and nine. We sadly come to realization that these two episodes are in fact the last two of the entire series…ever! Episode eight opens with a brilliant and effervescent scene where Dr Seward enters her office to find her assistant, Renfield in a catatonic state, is listening to the recordings of Vanessa under hypnosis. Renfield, unwillingly reveals to her that he is a vampire and servant to Dracula and that they are holding Vanessa hostage. He then proceeds to attack Dr Seward, almost strangles her, but she manages to beat him over the head with a heavy object, rendering him unconscious.
Patti Lupone’s Dr Seward is marvellous as the inquisitive psychotherapist; in her dramatic and austere Victorian attire, she balances softness with caution; she obviously really cares for Vanessa, beyond psychoanalysing her, almost like a mother figure but at the same time keeps her professional distance. Renfield’s appearance however does away with all the caution and she realizes that Vanessa is in desperate need for her help. Sadly, Logan never explores the correlation with Dr Seward and the witch Joan Clayton from season two; as there were indications of this, in this season’s first episode when Vanessa first encounters Dr Seward at her office and recognizes her as Joan.
Malcolm, Ethan and Kaetenay dock in to London, after their mammoth adventure in the wild west, to find the place empty and fog filled. Ominously they make their way through the greyness to Sir Malcolm’s house, to find it void of Vanessa but instead pest-ridden with vampires. The vampires start to attack all three and are eventually saved by the arrival of Catriona, the series’ vampire slayer. Dr Seward visits the house, seeking for Vanessa but finds the four of them instead. She tells them that Vanessa is in grave danger and that they must save her.
Lily is still held captive, and Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll have plans of injecting her the serum they created to transform her back to a plain mortal. Lily reveals to Frankenstein that she had a daughter and tells him of her tragic death and all this vengefulness is seeking justice for her death. As he is about to inject her with the serum, he changes his mind and sets her free.
In the last and final Penny Dreadful episode we find Renfield tied up and unwilling to confess to Vanessa’s whereabouts. Dr Seward injects him with a sedative serum and she manages to hypnotize him. Through his visions confesses to Dr Seward were Vanessa is held captive; in an abandoned London slaughterhouse.
Ethan, Sir Malcolm, Dr Seward, Kaetenay, Catriona and Frankenstein come together and make their way to the slaughterhouse to rescue Vanessa. Once they get there, the six start to wrestle and kill the vampires who are guarding the entry to Vanessa. Ethan manages to distract and makes his way to Vanessa. Even though viewers can guess she is happy to see him, she tells him she will not leave as the evil forces will always be after her, wherever she goes. Vanessa is convinced that she is actually part of the darkness and that she is what brings this darkness to the world and begs Ethan to kill her alone as she wants all her suffering to end. So Ethan reluctantly shoots her in the stomach and she dies in his arms, immediately the fog lifts and light descends upon London.
There we have it, the end of Penny Dreadful! Despite the moments of brilliance of season three, mostly involving Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives, compared to seasons one and two, three was weaker in plot, there was less evolution of the characters and also less visually stimulating. It is understandable that Logan would choose to end the series here, as Vanessa was Penny Dreadful and without her it would simply be a different show. However, the Penny Dreadful series is truly an awesome show; stunning to watch with abundance of dark and mystical characters, portraying a majestic and gothic London.
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