SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Penny Dreadful Season 3 finale.
To paraphrase The Doors, this really does seems like the end my friends as Penny Dreadful concluded its bloody, bawdy and vampiric third season with the death of one of its major characters. And when I say the end, I mean literally: An on-screen card said “The End” — which can only raise 19th and 21st century eyebrows that the John Logan-created Showtime series may have breathed its last along with lead actress Eva Green’s often tormented and now dead Vanessa Ives.
A clue might lay in the opening credits of the second part of tonight’s finale, which were altered from their usual graphics to a retrospective of the series. Or, in Green’s line to her lover Dracula that “we make our own Heaven and our Hell.” She then adds, of Josh Hartnett’s Ethan Chandler, a man who has long loved her, “let him come, he and I shall write the ending in blood, as it was always going to be.” In their confrontation, Vanessa tells Chandler to “let it end” to deny the forces of darkness “their prize” — with a kiss.
Then again, while Vanessa was fatally shot by Chandler in an act of love, release and prayer, the double episode finale seemingly also planted the seeds this Father’s Day for more adventures with the sometimes werewolfish Chandler and explorer Sir Malcolm Murray (played by Timothy Dalton). Also mourning at Vanessa’s gravesite in the closing minutes of the closing episode tonight, with the vampire threat vanquished, Harry Treadway’s Dr. Victor Frankenstein could be along for that ride too, with the Creature (Rory Kinnear) in the background — an undead being who had just released his dead son Jack in the Thames after the boy succumbed to the poisonous air earlier in the beautifully filmed finale.
Logan told me in an interview back in 2014 that he “charted it up to the third season in terms of where I wanted to take the story, where I wanted to align to some of the classic novels that inspired it and some of the ways I wanted to [create a ] variant [of] those things.” The future of the Victorian iconic supernatural misfits horror series from the Skyfall scribe aside, what we saw tonight alone will leave fans shocked — and seemingly has caused Penny Dreadful‘s social media platforms to go dark.
Also, as always, the panache-filled Penny Dreadful was full of big narrative gestures and poetry this season, which started with the 1892 death of Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson and concluded as William Wordswoth’s Intimations of Immortality was read over scenes of the main characters dealing with Vanessa’s death.
Coming into the finale, the drama was building towards a climax of one sort or another — and a cliffhanger or death. “Why not be who you are?” Alexander AKA Dracula (Christian Camargo) told Vanessa just before he bit deep into her, with her permission, at the end of last week’s “Ebb Tide” episode. An episode that also saw Billie Piper’s Brona Croft/Lily Frankenstein betrayed by her lover Dorian Gray after her prostitute army ran amok through London. The Reeve Carney-played immortal took Lily back to Dr, Frankenstein, where he and Dr. Henry Jekyll were to “tame” her. That didn’t quite go according to plan, with the good doctor letting Lily go after she revealed to him where her need for revenge came from out of her life on the harsh streets and the death of her daughter.
Back at his mansion, Gray dismissed Lily’s followers, killing one of them, but not before taking a knife to the chest — to little effect, as is the case with immortals created in literature by Oscar Wilde. Later, confronted by Lily, Gray explains the “lonely” burden of his state “looking down on a decaying world.” She leaves him to it, with Gray screaming out he will always be there.
Tonight’s 2-parter started with Sir Malcolm, Ethan and Native American mystic Kaaetnay (Wes Studi) back in London. The city was a like a “graveyard,” to quote a local dock worker, draped in a fog of pestilence that was killing thousands as rodents, other vermin and the creatures of the night filled the streets. And, with that, and more than a few very trippy, frightening and stylistic turns, the battle for Vanessa’s soul, the fate of the world, “the end of days,” and the end of Penny Dreadful’s current run began.
With Dalton’s character and Hartnett’s Ethan attacked in Sir Malcolm’s home by vampires, Perdita Weeks’ Catriona Hartdegan came to the rescue. That required a hot poker being administered to stop the explorer from transforming, and Frankenstein being sought to help Sir Malcolm survive. With the full moon emerging from the clouds, Ethan’s encounter with Dracula sees the Hartnett portrayed character makes the transformation to his rather hairy and more vicious self, destroying the attacking creatures of the night. As Sir Malcolm meets up with Patti LuPone’s alienist Dr. Seward to find out more of Dracula’s plan, Ethan gets a little street fighting help from Kaaetnay, who it turns out also has the ability to change into a similar werewolf creature. Later Kaaetnay, he told Ethan that it was he who made the once circus gunslinger the power and curse of being a werewolf.
— Penny Dreadful (@SHO_Penny) June 20, 2016
In the final battle, with Dalton’s character and the others fighting off Dracula’s legions of the dead, Ethan’s “destiny,” as Kaaetnay calls it, became clear — with Ive’s death. Going full circle of sorts, what was also cruelly revealed was that the abduction, Season 1 arc and death of Malcolm’s daughter and Vanessa’s childhood friend Mina was merely a ploy to bring Green’s character close to Dracula. Yet as Dracula choked Sir Malcolm to death, Chandler entered the room with Vanessa bloodied and dead body causing the vampire lord to flee, the clouds to part, the cursed air to dissipate, London to return to normal and the sun to return.
Or, to sum up with the words of another Romantic poet, Lord Byron –
“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies”
Tell us what you thought of tonight’s Season 3 finale of Penny Dreadful and what it means for the Showtime series.