SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of last night’s Penny Dreadful Season 3 finale. Like the credit at the conclusion of last night’s Season 3 finale said, “The End” has truly come for Penny Dreadful the series. “I can absolutely confirm it is really over, the end — that’s all she wrote,” says John Logan, the creator of Emmy-nominated show revolving around a group of iconic 19th century supernatural misfits.
The Oscar-nominated Gladiator and Skyfall writer’s Showtime saga closed last night’s two-hour finale with Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives character shot dead by Josh Hartnett’s Ethan Chandler, the sometimes werewolf who has long loved her, to save London and the world from Dracula, his night creatures and the end of days. After the burial of Ives amidst a reading of William Wordsworth’s poem Intimations of Immortality by Rory Kinnear’s Creature, the screen went to the words “The End,” spurring speculation among the show’s dedicated fan base of a greater closure.
And that day has now come, as Logan and Showtime boss David Nevins told me. You can watch a video below of the last days with Logan, Green, Hartnett and more discussing the end of the show.
As for Logan and Nevins, they explained to me how they decided it was time to end Penny Dreadful and, never saying never, whether it could return in some form or another down the line. They also revealed a bit of where Logan is with his adaptation with Patti Smith of Just Kids, her 2010 bestselling memoir of New York City in the 1970s. The book and the forthcoming limited series focuses on the singer/poet’s close relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, the acclaimed photographer who, among many other works, shot the classic portrait of Smith for her 1975 debut Horses album.
DEADLINE: So Vanessa Ives is dead, but does that mean Penny Dreadful is truly over?
LOGAN: I can absolutely confirm it is really over, the end, that’s all she wrote. The whole idea to have this be the end of the series applies to all of the characters not just for Vanessa Ives and I felt the ending was for Malcolm and Ethan was Ethan got the father that he wanted and Sir Malcolm got the family he needed and together they came to a nice thing of stasis.
Some poems are meant to be haikus and some are meant to be sonnets and some are meant to be enormous epics, and this was always meant to be a sonnet. It was something of grace and beauty. I think we’ve been able to achieve that in a really masterful way with the artists that I work with, everyone’s work. I think this is the right ending so for me to revisit that world again would seem inorganic, I think.
NEVINS: At the same time, this is a show that’s going to live on and it’s going to live on streaming platforms. It’s going to be on Showtime. You can watch it whenever you want and I think it will continue to be re-watched and also discovered for the first time over the course of the next 10 years.
DEADLINE: John, with the work you are now doing on adapting Patti Smith’s Just Kids for Showtime, was part of ending Penny Dreadful now about refocusing your priorities in the channel’s pantheon? Could we see a revisited Penny Dreadful sometime down the line?
LOGAN: Well Showtime is my TV home. This is where I started and I think this is where I want to continue working. So, I’ll tell you if David Nevins comes to me in five years and says “hey remember Penny Dreadful? What are your thoughts?’ I would happily engage the conversation.
NEVINS: I’m always happy to speculate, there is no this is done. I’m always happy to speculate; I feel like it is a rich world that I think will live on for a very long time.
DEADLINE: So it’s over but you guys are willing to talk about it later?
NEVINS: Yeah. Who knows? I’m always willing to talk about anything.
DEADLINE: John, you told me back in 2014 that you had charted Penny Dreadful up to three seasons, but did you always plan on this being over after three seasons?
LOGAN: For me artistically, it was sort of middle of the second season, so about two years ago when I was planning out the third season I realized where it was heading, because at its core for me the show has always been a woman grappling with her faith and at the end of the second season Vanessa stepped away from Catholicism, from religion, and so the third season had to be for me about her clawing her way back to God.
DEADLINE: David, how did John break the news to you?
NEVINS: John laid it out for me as he was pitching Season 3. He came in, maybe a little bit less than a year ago, and he said I feel like this needs to be the end of Vanessa Ives, and if it’s the end of Vanessa Ives then it’s the end of Penny Dreadful. I went through a short period of sort of, “Are you sure you want to do this? What about continuing on?” In a very short amount of time he persuaded me that this was the bold choice to make and you listen to your creators. Then it just became a question of how do we handle that information.
DEADLINE: You mean how you would reveal the end?
NEVINS: Yes, do we do the traditional thing which would be as we’re launching Season 3 announce this is the final season of Penny Dreadful? That’s what the traditional playbook would say. I feel like every show kind of has its own rules and its own rhythms and to say that, given what I knew the ending of Penny Dreadful was going to be felt like a massive spoiler and it felt disrespectful to the experience that people were having with the show.
I knew it’s going to be very emotional and I imagined Sunday to be even somewhat traumatic because people have a very deep emotional connection to these characters, but it seemed like why should we spoil that? Why should we sort of lessen the blow? Because that’s what TV and certainly good storytelling is about — creating an emotional experience. So it’s going to end with a card that says the end and let people live in that experience and then we explain that on Monday morning.
LOGAN: I support fully what David’s saying but for me from a slightly different perspective which is really entirely to do with the fans. Because I’ve done two Bond films. I’ve done a lot of big films, but the fans of Penny Dreadful are very passionate and they feel an intimate connection with these characters. What I hear from them frequently, both at Comic-Con and just sort of on the street, is they love the theatricality of the show that we’re not afraid to make the bold gesture.
That’s what the ending of this series is, it is meant to be a strong, bold, theatrical ending because I think that’s what our fans like and to water that down with an announcement or having them know I think would be an act of bad faith.
NEVINS: You know what would be great?
NEVINS: If we got John to visit maybe downtown New York 1970. That would be awesome.
LOGAN: (laughs) I’d love to do that. That’s the other thing I tell people. I say like you know what? With all respect to Vanessa Ives and Ethan Chandler, I’m really happy at spending a little time in the Chelsea Hotel with Patti Smith.
DEADLINE: So what is the status of Just Kids right now?
LOGAN: Deep in writing. The process is being very hand in glove in with Patti. We’re very old friends. We’re very tight so we spent weeks and weeks and weeks taking it apart and putting it back together and forming it into a dramatic beast. It’s a beautiful book and it must become a different animal to become a work of drama. We’re working on that process and we are writing away as I speak.
DEADLINE: David, how do you think Penny Dreadful fans are going to react to not just the death of Vanessa Ives but the end of the show?
NEVINS: I think they’re going to go through the same stages of grief that I went through when I first heard it. You’re upset. You feel emotional. You have a sense of bereft. I love that show. But hopefully you come through it and you realize you know that was incredibly satisfying, even uplifting — 27 episodes, 27 hours was the right amount of time to tell this story.