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All By Myself: PENNY DREADFUL s2 Finale

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Warning: Spoilers, Most Dreadful

1pennydreadful2100004rjpg-9c6cd0_640wThe season 2 Finale of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful was gory, frightening, and sad, even if some of the characters’ actions were a bit predictable. Their ultimate fates seemed almost like an ending to the series, so it was with relief that I read — before watching — that the series has been renewed for another season. Oh, there were plenty of loose ends that would allow for a “cliffhanger” finale, and this season’s finale surpassed the first season’s in many ways. But the entire “family” that’s been formed over this season was torn apart, leaving virtually all characters completely alone, both physically and emotionally.

Sembene

images-12Yes, grab your tissues, my Dreadfuls, for Sembene (Danny Sapani) is, indeed, dead.

Not that we would have expected him to survive having his throat torn out by Ethan (Josh Hartnett) after Hecate (Sarah Greene) locked them in a narrow passage of stairs, closed off by un-breachable doorways.

Still, it’s sad. The relationship between Ethan and Sembene has been one of the most interesting stories in the season. It’s delightful to see that men can honestly and deeply love each other without sexuality being involved.

images-25Poor Ethan was devastated by the fact that he’d killed Sembene, though he could not have prevented it. He attempted to — by trying to commit suicide before he changed into a wolf — but Sembene stopped Ethan, reminding him, “You are chosen by God.” All the while knowing that there would be no way to defend himself from Ethan.

images-3What we didn’t know was how attached Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) was to Sembene. He’s always referred to him as a servant, albeit a trusted one. But after Malcolm was released from the locked, enchanted room — where his dead family members were trying to convince him to kill himself and join them — he was shown holding Sembene in his arms. Weeping. I don’t recall seeing Sir Malcolm weep in this series, not even when his children died.

Sir Malcolm was on a boat at the end of the finale, taking Sembene’s body back to Africa.

This showed his great respect and love for Sembene, since Sir M didn’t even bring his own son’s body back from Africa for burial.

Evelyn & Hecate

images-6I think most viewers were reasonably confident that Evelyn (Helen McCrory), the leader of the Night-Comers, would not be able to successfully capture Vanessa, and not only because her own daughter Hecate opened the door that allowed Ethan as Wolf to come into the doll-factory and tear out Evelyn’s throat.

No, Evelyn was already failing before her throat got ripped out.images-2Because Vanessa — whether she is good or evil — proved herself more powerful than Evelyn and than the “Master.”

images-4Evelyn had already begun to age, screaming at her failure to deliver Vanessa to Lucifer as his bride, when Hecate showed herself the more clever opponent by releasing the Lupus Dei to kill her mother. With Evelyn out of the way, Hecate packed up her mother’s box of witch-y instruments, set fire to the doll factory, and strolled out of the house, singing “The Unquiet Grave,” which we heard Evelyn singing in the premiere, as she bathed in a tub of blood.

No doubt Hecate has her own plans for serving Vanessa up to the Master, whether it be Lucifer, who rules in Hell, or his brother, the Dracula figure, whom we have not actually ever met, and who rules on earth.

Victor, Dorian, & Lily

images-1Poor Victor (Harry Treadaway). As if being tormented by his creations in Evelyn’s locked room (while Sir M was being tormented by the ghosts of his family) wasn’t painful enough, he was released from that enchantment to a much more painful reality.

Lily (Billie Piper) does not love him.

Never has.

Never will.

After Victor went to Dorian’s (Reeve Carney) mansion and found the two newly pledged immortal lovers dancing, he shot Lily. Then Dorian. I guess Victor forgot that Lily, at the very least, was immortal. He quickly discovered that Dorian was as well. As he stumbled out, the two “lovers” danced on, blood spilling on the hardwood floor from their wounds.

BN-JF942_billie_G_20150705220005Afterward, no doubt thinking of the lovely but heartless Lily, Victor stuffed himself with enough morphine to make me wonder if he’d die of an overdose.

Too bad it wasn’t enough to ease his broken heart.

Ethan & Vanessa Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_207_4078

So what was Lucifer’s great temptation for Vanessa (Eva Green)?

To be normal. To have an ordinary married life with Ethan. To have children. To be happy.

And it was really creepy to have the fetish-Vanessa-doll talking in Eva’s voice as the “Master.”

How much more satisfying for the viewers and for the show itself when its entire theme is the evil within each of us. How much better than to portray some winged beastie from religious documents over the centuries. Vanessa confronts the Master of Evil, and he speaks to her in her own voice, from an image of her own face.

It worked.

imagesOnly one evil could really tempt Vanessa.

The evil in herself.

Vanessa proved herself a worthy opponent to her own inner demons. Matching the devil-doll virtually word-for-word in Verbis Diablo, Vanessa was able to vanquish the doll, then crush it, saying, “No, meet your master.”

images-9Realizing and releasing her own inner evil may have caused Vanessa to weep, but it didn’t stop her from winning.

Ethan

images-7When Vanessa found Ethan again, he was in her room at Sir Malcolm’s. She invited him to share a life with her, knowing full well what he is. And with him knowing full well of what she’s capable.

But what would any love story be without its obstacles?

In this case, Ethan apparently cannot live with his own inner beastie, now that he knows what it is, and now that he’s killed Sembene. Ethan turned himself in to Inspector Rusk, confessing to the murders at the Mariner’s Inn. Ethan expected to be jailed or hanged, perhaps, before the next full moon. But the Inspector had an Extradition order ready and waiting.

An extradition order for Ethan Lawrence Talbot, which is Ethan’s real name (and a tribute to the 1930s Werewolf films starring Lon Chaney, whose character’s name was Lawrence Talbot).

images-5The final scene of Ethan was with him in a cage in the hull of a ship, his head shaved — or so it seemed — and Inspector Rusk sitting in front, watching.

On their way to America.

John Clare

images-19It was rather surprising that the Putneys, beasties though they be, were able to imprison Frankenstein’s first Creature, now going by the name of John Clare (Rory Kinnear). After all, even Lily is frightfully strong, and she was only a small female in her former life.

So it actually was not a surprise that, in the finale, Clare — after agreeing to be a “good little freak” and help train the other freaks, soon to be present in the Putney dungeons — simply broke down the doors of his cage and swiftly broke the necks of Mr. & Mrs. P.

Their blind daughter Lavinia, who had so treacherously betrayed Clare by pretending friendship before locking him in the cage herself, was left alone, unharmed, screaming for her parents as Clare walked away.

By leaving her alive, the Creature has once again proven that he is more humane than most of the human characters in the show.

images-10One of the most poignant moments of the finale came when Clare, who has decided to leave all mankind behind, met Vanessa for the last time. He asked her to go with him. She declined.

Clare was shown on a ship in the Arctic, which is where the Creature ends up in the novel after the death of the book’s Frankenstein.

It was a sad and lonely scene.

I do hope he’ll long to return to humanity.

After all, he’s the most human of any of the characters.

And he’s one of the show’s most interesting “creations.”

Vanessa

images-9No, she can’t have Ethan. Not as a normal woman with a husband and children. Perhaps, she can’t have him even though each knows the darkness and evil that lies at the other’s center.

At least, not yet.

Ethan is caged, on a boat bound for America, unbeknownst to her.

1pennydreadful2100004rjpg-9c6cd0_640wFurthermore, Sir Malcolm has abandoned his great house to take his friend and companion Sembene back to Africa. His ward, Vanessa, whom he claims to love like a daughter, is alone.

Completely alone.

Not as the new Cut-Wife of Ballantrae Moor.

But as Vanessa.

The one whom the Master still seeks above all.

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Monsters, All: PENNY DREADFUL s2e9

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Warning: Spoilers Most Dreadful

Penny-Dreadful-serieThough the penultimate episode of season two of ShowTime’s wonderful gothic horror series Penny Dreadful, created and written by John Logan, was officially titled, “And Hell Itself My Only Foe,” it actually revealed that almost all the characters are capable of being monsters.

Even those you would least suspect of having any evil intent.

Roper

images-10Of course, we know Roper (Stephen Lord), a Pinkerton hired by Ethan’s father to bring him home, even if in manacles, was a bad guy. Even with the scars from his attack when Ethan changed into a wolf, there wasn’t much reason to empathize with the guy. After all, he threatened Ethan even after he knew what Ethan was capable of doing. Roper crawled in through the window of the Cut-Wife’s isolated cottage, indicating that he’d been following Ethan (Josh Hartnett) and Vanessa (Eva Green), and threatened to kill them both.

Unknown-1He ordered Vanessa to manacle Ethan, but I guess this Roper guy lost some of his brains in the attack at the Mariner’s Inn. Even manacled, Ethan proved himself a formidable foe — and that’s without his turning into a wolf. Vanessa just kicked herself some ass, too, without any spells or enchantments, and without using the gun as Ethan had taught her.

Unknown-3She stabbed Roper repeatedly in the chest. And if those wounds weren’t mortal, Ethan helped her out as much as he could with his hands manacled.

If I’m ever in a fight, I want these two at my back.

images-1Though Vanessa “mourned” that they were both murderers now — almost as if she’d forgotten that she’d set Sir Geoffrey’s dogs on him and killed him by a Verbis Diablo spell in an earlier episode — the two only defended themselves against another monster: Roper.

I call self-defense.

Vanessa

images-6Vanessa thinks she’s a monster now, though she’s always acknowledged that she had “demons” inside, because she murdered Roper. That must be her weak spot because that’s what Evelyn got the fetish to say to Vanessa in the basement: “Murderer.”

Vanessa was more of a monster for going alone to Evelyn’s house, ostensibly to rescue Sir Malcolm, but instead putting all her other friends and defenders in jeopardy by forcing them to go, without a clear plan, to the Night-Comer’s home to rescue Sir Malcolm and Vanessa herself.

How monstrously thoughtless of her.

Hecate & Evelyn

images-4Oh, that Hecate (Sarah Greene), she is one wicked, little girl. Not only did she intensify the conflict with her mother Evelyn (Helen McCrory), she came right out and insulted her, calling her a “Dinosaur” and warning her that “Dinosaurs should know when Mammoths are hunting.”

Evelyn was a little too preoccupied “feeling [Vanessa] coming closer” to be on sufficient guard.

images-23Besides, Evelyn didn’t know till later in the episode that Hecate had gone to visit Ethan, easily getting by all their defenses and fetishes, which only have power, as she told Ethan, “for those that believe in them.”

Even when Hecate told Vanessa, in front of Evelyn, that she’d gone to Ethan and kissed him, she neglected to mention that she’d also told Ethan, who is clearly now regarded as the Lupus Dei, that she would worship him and help him destroy God.

I guess she didn’t think that information was important to her mother, revealing Hecate’s treachery goes deeper than Evelyn thinks.

images-20I suppose Hecate’s also missed the definition of Lupus Dei — The Wolf of God — and the fact that he is a Protector. Lyle (Ferdinand Russell Beale) explained this when he and Ethan were in the basement of the museum, gettting ready to steal Father Gregory’s “puzzle” of Verbis Diablo and Ethan saw the shield (or family motto) with Latin on it about wolves. Lyle said the mottoes and shields weren’t so much to scare the enemy as to protect the bearer.

Ethan is the Protector.

Too bad little monster Hecate doesn’t know that.

Lyle

images-17All the viewers have probably been thinking that Lyle was a monstrous bad guy, what with his letting himself be blackmailed by Evelyn into betraying Vanessa.

Of course, the other characters and most of the viewers probably guessed that he was a closet-homosexual long ago: he has a terrible crush on Ethan, and flirted outrageously with him, which Ethan seemed to mostly find amusing. images-24

None but the viewers knew Lyle is Jewish until this episode, and viewers only discovered it after Ethan instructed everyone to use every spiritual practice and belief he knew to help protect Vanessa from the Night-Comers. While Ethan was using Native American chants and passing smoke over himself and the entry-way, Lyle snuck down to the basement where, glancing around beforehand, he donned his yarmulke, kissed his prayerbook, draped his prayer shawl over his head, and began to daven and pray in Hebrew.

UnknownWhen Lyle and Dr. Frankenstein were left alone at the front of Evelyn’s house — while Ethan and Sembene went to find a back entrance — Lyle paused to say the opening lines of the Kaddish, also known as the “Mourner’s Kaddish,” the Jewish prayer for the dead, which is actually more about praising God than about the dead, so it was literally and symbolically appropriate considering they’re entering a witch’s house and facing death. Afterward, when Lyle looked at him, Victor made a comment like, “Far be it from me…”

imagesNone of the characters surrounding Vanessa knew that he was “in league,” albeit involuntarily, with Evelyn, to help her capture Vanessa, but the viewers knew his secret.

images-6For the last couple episodes, however, he’s shown that he’s actually on Vanessa’s side: he urged her to leave the ball, telling her she wasn’t safe there; when Vanessa said she had to leave London, he encouraged it, telling her that she should go immediately and without telling any of them her destination; and since he actually didn’t know where Vanessa had gone, Evelyn was unable to get that information out of him with her threats of torture.

images-12In E9, he confessed his duplicity. After Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) questioned their ability to trust him now, Vanessa was quick to forgive him, saying, “No one here is above guilt.”

images-5When the men went to “rescue” Vanessa from Evelyn’s house/castle, where Vanessa had gone alone to “rescue” Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton), Lyle went with them. Though he declined Ethan’s offer of a gun and took what looked like a pocket-knife.

images-6Lyle’s consistently been demonstrating that he is not, in fact, a monster.

Just a man with secrets.

And jittery nerves.

The Putneys

images-24How ’bout them Putneys, eh?

Them Putneys (David Haig as Oscar P, above R; and Ruth Gemmell as his wife, Octavia) with their wax museum of horrors and crime scenes and “beasties.”

Them Putneys with their pretty, blind daughter Lavinia  (Tamsin Topolski) who’s so sweet to the Creature, now going by the name John Clare (Rory Kinnear)…

images-54Sweet, blind Lavinia, who made no comments when she touched Clare’s face, but “grew uneasy” when she felt how cold his hand was, and told her parents there was something wrong, something “dead” about him…

images-43That Lavinia showed herself to be one of the most vicious monsters of all, along with her parents, when she lied and manipulated John Clare into a “secret” part of the museum, claiming to want to know what her father was building, telling Clare, “You are my true friend,” just before she locked him in a cage.

He’s going to be part of their “Freak Show.”

Against his will.

If that weren’t bad enough, Lavinia, little horror-show that she is, insulted his poetry, too.

John Clare

images-33Poor John Clare (Rory Kinnear), Frankenstein’s first Creature. All he wants is love. All he wants is companionship. All he wants is poetry. All he wants is to “fit in,” even if it means learning how to dance.

images-27What does he get?

Nothing but betrayal.

He’s metaphorically been in behind bars for the entire two seasons.

At the theatre watching the performers,

images-20In his basement “living quarters,” sobbing after the “ingenue” Maude rejected his advances,

images-17Watching Lily (Billie Piper) go out with Dorian (Reeve Carney) after Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) made her specifically to be Clare’s mate.

images-18Now Clare is in a real cage.

Imprisoned by real monsters, who consider him nothing more than a freak, when he is the most loyal, loving, passionate “creature” of them all.

Sir Malcolm

imagesSir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) should be a monster. After all, he did rape and pillage and murder his way across Africa. He did neglect and emotionally abuse his family. He did use Vanessa to find his lost daughter Mina. He did shoot his own daughter in the head, to protect Vanessa.

Now Sir Malcolm’s cowering in a locked room in Evelyn’s house, surrounded by the ghosts of his family, all of them reminding him of his past misdeeds.

images-8Instead of dancing at a phantom ball with his family members, which is how he broke Evelyn’s enchantment last episode,

images-15Sir Malcolm is trapped with the ghosts of his family, screaming so loudly that the other characters can hear it all through the house.

This is the only part of the show that didn’t work for me.

Unless his “breakdown” is due, in part, to more enchantment, Sir Malcolm is too much of a monster himself to be broken by ghosts, even if they are the ghosts of his family, and even if they are telling him the “monstrous” things he did to them.

Because, you see, Sir Malcolm already knows what he is.

And he already knows what he’s done.

Lily-Brona

images-16If, despite her brilliant tirade against men and how they “use” women in e8, if any viewers or other characters had any doubts that Brona-turned-Lily (Billie Piper) is, indeed, a monster, they can toss those doubts out with the metaphorical window. This episode, Lily sought out Dorian (Reeve Carney) herself.

reeve-carney-as-dorian-gray-in-penny-dreadful-season-2-gallery-photo-courtesy-of-showtimeTaunting him with the line, “You tell me your secret, and I’ll tell you mine,” she made love to him on the floor of his portrait gallery, then bit off his ear.

Ouch!

She called him her “Monster” and told him to go heal himself.

Any viewers who had not read the book The Picture of Dorian Gray got to see his own portrait in the episode when he killed his transgender lover Angelique (Johnny Beauchamp) for discovering it. Anyone who didn’t know he was a monster before certainly knew it then.

In e9, we learned that Lily knows perfectly well that she was Brona in her former life, that she was a prostitute in her previous life, and that Frankenstein did something “monstrous” to her.

images-9Looks like she’s out for revenge, this little Monster.

Against all men, whom she wants to “kneel before [her].”

As Dorian so obligingly did.

Before she bit off his ear, of course.

Sembene

images-25For two seasons now, Sembene (Danny Sapani) has claimed that he “had no story,” as he told Ethan when asked. But since they are the only two real warriors in the show, they have become close. Ethan trusted Sembene to tell him what happened during Ethan’s blackouts.

images-1Sembene revealed that the scars on his face are not tribal initiation marks, as I’d thought and stated in a previous blog, but marks of a slave trader.

Hated by his own people as well as by whites.

In short, Sembene has been a monster for most of his life, even if he’s attempting to atone for his sins and treachery now.

The growing bond between Sembene and Ethan has been marvelous.

Hecate ended that by trapping the two of them in a narrow passage of stairs, knowing that the moon was going to be full that night. Realizing that he could not stop the change, and not wanting to hurt Sembene, Ethan attempted to commit suicide.

Sembene prevented it, reminding Ethan that he was “chosen by God.”

images-11Then, as Sembene braced himself for the inevitable, Ethan changed into the monster-wolf that he is, and tore out Sembene’s throat.

Even if Sembene claimed that he, too, had once been a monster, I’m so sad…

The Finale

images-3I have no predictions about what will happen in the Penny Dreadful Season 2 Finale — my heart’s still broken because Ethan killed Sembene — so I’ll leave you with this teaser from ShowTime.

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The Lion Hunts Tonight: Showtime’s PENNY DREADFUL “Memento Mori” S2E8

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Warning: Spoilers

(Updated to include Video of Lily & John Clare)

images-18Wow, I didn’t think Showtime’s brilliant series Penny Dreadful, created and written by John Logan, could get any better this season, but last night’s episode, “Memento Mori,” was stunning and  relentless. Actually, only one person got killed, but everyone was reminded of death because the lions were relentlessly hunting.

Many people have expressed their disappointment that Vanessa (Eva Green) and Ethan (Josh Hartnett) were not in “Memento Mori,” but they had virtually the entire previous episode, “Little Scorpion,” to themselves, so I found it rather refreshing to concentrate on some of the other characters, most of whom are directly involved in the storyline which involves Vanessa and Ethan, but almost all of whom are peripherally involved.

Harry Treadaway as Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 8). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_208_0149So Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway, above L) has gotten his heart broken by a lying Lily (Billie Piper, first photo, center), who had sexual relations with a stranger whom she strangled during intercourse. Victor confessed his suffering to Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton, R), who then explained that he, too, is suffering from the disease of love.

images-10In previous episodes, however, Sir Malcolm has been happy and carefree in his love for Mrs. Poole (Helen McCrory). Not so in “Memento Mori.” He expressed his dismay that he is no longer his “mono-maniacal self,” since that’s who he really is. He was so much a comfort to poor Victor as a fellow traveler on the path of those who suffer for love.

images-2Sir Malcolm is also missing his dead family members, like his wife Gladys, daughter Mina, and son Peter. All of his family, actually. He was glancing sadly and pensively through their photos. His own personality and ego may be much stronger than the Night-Comer (witch) Evelyn Poole imagined when she enchanted him.

images-13Despite massaging the heart of his fetish, then ripping it from the doll’s body and holding it in her hand while she attempted to completely submerge Sir Malcolm in her spell, he was able to break free, with Sembene’s (Danny Sapani, below) help: Sembene wrestled Sir Malcolm after he went nuts and tossed over the table containing the story of the Verbis Diablo, scattering their carefully constructed puzzle; dragged Sir Malcolm across the hall, kicked open a door, pushed Sir Malcolm in, and shouted, “Know who you are.”

images copyAs Lyle (Simon Russell Beale), Victor, and Sembene (L to R, below) watched, Sir Malcolm roamed around an empty, dusty room, where — in his mind — he was seeing and interacting, in a miniature ball, with his own dead family members.

penny-dreadfulHe broke free of Evelyn’s enchantment, she was aware of it, and fought with her daughter over that fact when her daughter suggested rather brazenly that her mother was perhaps too old and not attractive enough to maintain her hold on Sir Malcolm. Maybe, the daughter Hecate (Sarah Greene) suggested, she herself should give it a try with Sir Malcolm. She got shoved out of the room by her face for that impertinence.

Sarah Greene as Hecate in Penny Dreadful (Season 2, Gallery). - Photo:  Courtesy of SHOWTIME - Photo ID:  PennyDreadful-hecate-0038Actually, the only person who got killed last night — though they all might have been reminded that death is always imminent — was poor transgendered Angelique (Johnny Beauchamp), left alone for the second night in a row while her lover Dorian (Reeve Carney) took Lily (Billie Piper) out to dinner again.

Alas for poor Angelique, she’s inquisitive and clever as well as beautiful: when the wind in a room without windows blew out some candles, she discovered the secret door that led to the room which hides the picture of Dorian Gray.

The picture that allows Dorian to remain forever young, beautiful, immortal — unmarked physically by all his internal ugliness. When Dorian returned home and found that Angelique had discovered his secret, he poisoned her, despite the fact that she said she could still love him.images-12

The picture itself, shown for the first time last night, wasn’t that interesting. But then, unless you’ve read the book, you wouldn’t think Dorian had ever done anything except drink and eat to excess, have sex with members of both sexes and genders. You wouldn’t know the lies, betrayals, murders, drug use, alcohol abuse, etc because Dorian’s a rather minor character in this show, and his story isn’t much tied in to that of the other characters, except peripherally.

The only thing that was interesting about Dorian’s portrait — and I was the only one in our household who found it interesting because I’m the only one who’s read the book and who’s also seen previous film adaptations of it — was the chains on Dorian in the painting. That was an intriguing touch, since Picture-Dorian was pretty tame and dull, to be completely honest. It looked like a ragged mummy or dirty ghost.

The chains symbolized Dorian’s evil being trapped in the portrait, but they also represent the fact that Dorian is chained to the portrait of himself: if anything happens to it, Dorian ages, gets ugly, and could die.

images-16The most stunning part of “Memento Mori” was Lily (Billy Piper), who should have looked like the demonic photo below instead of the sweet one above.

images-11She’s broken Victor’s heart and caused him to attempt suicide (there seemed to be pills on the floor around his unconscious form when the Creature (Rory Kinnear) threw a bucket of water on him to wake him: then Victor vomited, which made me suspect he’s attempted suicide out of despair).

images-14Lily is a Creature, like her intended, the original Frankenstein creation, now going by the name of John Clare (Rory Kinnear, first photo above R, and below), who, despite his rages at Frankenstein himself, has often shown himself more passionate, loyal, loving, and decent than many of the human beings in the show.

images-7His love for poetry, his philosophical musings, his intellect, his suffering all make him a tragic hero extra-ordinaire, and I compliment creator-writer John Logan for his brilliant interpretation of this Creature, so different from the origin source, Frankenstein by Mary Wollestonecraft Shelley, so much more sophisticated, and so wonderfully acted by Kinnear. The Creature is one of the most fascinating and interesting characters in the series.

Lily, however, was the surprise of the night. Not only did she seem to prefer her murdered stranger dead, nuzzling and love-talking his nude body after she killed him, she blatantly lied to Victor about where she’d been all night, then turned Monster herself when the Creature came calling.

images-18It was a tour-de-force performance, with Creature-Clare dumbfounded — even, perhaps, frightened — as his Intended Bride, Lily, ranted about how women suffer because of men; as she tossed him about as if he were a rag-doll; as she questioned him about his dream that they’d walk country fields “quoting f***ing poetry to f***ing cows.”

Yowza!

Her rant against the societal expectations of women, the inequities they suffer, and men’s roles in all of it — with a few hints of dead prostitute Brona’s Irish accent — was phenomenal writing, social commentary, and acting. Then, as if Creature-Clare weren’t terrified enough, and the viewers not shocked enough, Lily then started making love to him, literally and figuratively, calling him her “ugly little monster” and saying that no one would ever love him like she did.

She also said lots of things about their having children, taking over the world, and being the future, but I’m not sure if the Creature got all that since she was sitting on his lap, making the beast with two backs, as she predicted their glorious future together.

As monsters.

Indeed.

(Lily rages @ John Clare)

Warning: Language

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When the Hunters Become the Prey: Showtime’s PENNY DREADFUL Season 2 Premiere

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Warning:
Spoilers Gory & Galore

images-28Showtime’s hit series Penny Dreadful, whose second season premiered last night with “Fresh Hell,” might be advertising itself with photos of the major characters stating No Rest for the Wicked, or videos where the characters move in slow motion, in blurred and changing images, saying, “The Devil is in us all: that’s what makes us human,” but the real theme of Season 2 was revealed last night in the premiere, and it seems to be changing from its initial season.

In Season 1, most of the characters were hunting: for Sir Malcolm’s “taken” daughter Mina, for Creatures suspected of working for the unnamed “Master,” for a cure for Mina should she be found, for a mate for Frankenstein’s Creature, for Ethan’s secret that made him say things like “There are such sins at my back that it would kill me to turn around,” for Dorian’s secret to eternal youth and perpetual boredom, for a way to save Vanessa from her inner demons.

Last night the premiere of Season 2 revealed that virtually all the hunters from last season have now become the prey.

images-21The premiere episode of Penny Dreadful Season 2 flowed seamlessly from the finale of Season 1 as if several months had not intervened. The writing was flawless, though the story itself still has a couple weaknesses.

Vanessa & the Night-Comers

penny-dreadful-season-2-570x379Poor Vanessa (splendidly played by the talented Eva Green) had enough trials and tribulations last year with the “Master” hunting her for his bride, and with, unbeknownst to her, the “Devil” — in the form of Amunra — hunting her, as his mate “Amunet.” Also, her own inner demons were released each time she viewed someone having sex (Sir Malcolm with her mother in the hedge-maze) or participated in the sex act herself (with Mina’s fiancé Captain Branson, or with Dorian Gray) — releasing the psycho-sexual demons that the Victorians so feared, especially in females.

images-6Last night, a woman from S1 E2 “Séance,” Madame Kali (Helen McCrory), who seemed so innocuous when Sir Malcolm (played by the excellent Timothy Dalton) met her later in the season and she revealed herself to be merely “Evelyn Poole from Brighton,” was shown to be “hunting” Vanessa for nefarious reasons.

images-12We first saw Evelyn chanting in a language we did not recognize, but which we later learned is Verbis Diablo — the language of the Devil, or God’s language turned inside out after Adam was cast from the Garden. Evelyn’s chanting caused Vanessa to stumble and fall as she was leisurely strolling through the snow.

penny-dreadful_612x380When Ethan (Josh Hartnett) came to tell Vanessa that he must go away so that he doesn’t hurt anyone he loves, the two were attacked. Vanessa was obviously the main target, and Ethan was considered — by Vanessa and the attackers — as her “protector.”

images-19We later saw Evelyn bathing in the blood of a murdered woman — like Countess Erszabet [Elizabeth] Báthory, one of history’s most notorious female serial killers — while casually smoking a cigarette (also considered unfeminine, radical, and rebellious during the Victorian age).

images-27The bald, nude, scarred, female attackers who went after Vanessa are shown, first at the side of the street, then in Evelyn’s home, as beautiful women, one of whom — Hecate — is addressed as “daughter” by Evelyn, and another of whom is murdered by Evelyn for “failing” to capture Vanessa.

penny-dreadful-season-2Vanessa is so terrified by the attack, and by the fact that she vaguely understood their language and rebuked them in it herself without really knowing what she was saying, that she keeps herself locked in Sir Malcolm’s house. His faithful servant Sembene (Danny Sapani), who got a new coat this year — and more lines last night than he got the entire season last year — kept watch over her inside the house. (Ethan kept watch outside.)

images-16When Sir Malcolm finally arrived home — he’d been burying Mina at their home in the country, and being told by his wife Gladys to stay away from her for the rest of their married lives — Vanessa flew into his protective arms. It was a touching moment.

images-26Vanessa has, indeed, become Sir Malcolm’s “daughter” this season, but instead of hunting for her, as he had to do for Mina last season, he has only to protect her from the “Night-Comers” or “Witches” who are themselves hunting Vanessa.

images-15Later that episode, though Vanessa tried to protect herself by drawing a bloody scorpion on the floor between two candles as she prayed, the naked Night-Comers appeared behind her: they are the evil behind her back this season. And it seems Vanessa’s prayers will not protect her since, as she was praying, Evelyn was pledging Vanessa to her own “Master” — Lucifer.

images-13Vanessa had blood on the floor. Evelyn had blood on the forehead. Vanessa was praying in Latin to God — or at least to Jesus Christ on the crucifix before her — but Evelyn seemed to be “praying” in Verbis Diablo to Lucifer. As of the end of the show last night, Evelyn’s “prayers” and pledges seemed much more powerful. It seems that Vanessa has even greater cause to “be afeard” this season than last. More than one version of the Devil seems to be hunting Vanessa this year.

Frankenstein &
the Creature’s Bride

images-11All last season, Frankenstein’s “first-born” Creature (brilliantly played by Rory Kinnear) — called “Demon” by Frankenstein himself, and Caliban by his fellow theatre workers — insisted that Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) create an immortal mate for him, partly in retaliation for Frankenstein’s cruel and heartless abandonment of the Creature after his “agonizing” creation/birth, and partly to alleviate his subsequent loneliness and isolation from the rest of mankind.

The Creature slowly fell in love with the actress Maude, and it seemed she might become his “bride.” Though kind to him occasionally, because he reminded her of her brother “Luke” whose face was burnt in an industrial accident, Maude rejected the Creature’s amorous advances. And got him fired.

images-3Frankenstein was forced to seek another candidate for the Creature’s mate. He chose Ethan’s lover Brona (Billie Piper), a prostitute dying of consumption, hurrying her death along by smothering her with a pillow, instead of more mercifully overdosing her with morphine to which he himself is addicted.

imagesIn the premiere of S2 of Penny Dreadful, after the Creature helped lower Brona’s scarred body into a vat of water, Frankenstein announced that they had to wait for an electrical storm before anything more could be done. I’m not sure what the Y-shaped scar over Brona’s breasts and down her chest and abdomen are, unless Frankenstein replaced her consumption-ravaged lungs. Otherwise, Brona the intended Bride is un-scarred. Unlike the Creature himself, whose appearance frightens and disgusts onlookers.images-17

Alas, for the poor, love-lorn Creature, Frankenstein himself seems to have fallen in love, or in lust, with the lovely Brona. Talking to her, telling her he’ll miss her when she was made into the Bride for the Creature, touching her dead body in an openly sexual way (without her consent, since she’s… dead), Frankenstein’s inappropriate lustful behaviour seems to be setting up a vicious conflict for this second season. I’m guessing that the beautiful Brona will be desired by both Frankenstein and by the lonely Creature.images-4

The storm eventually came, with both men screaming loudly for her to come back to life Now! And slowly Brona’s hand, head, then her entire naked body appeared out of the electrified water. No doubt, both Dr. F and his Creature will want her. Whether she will want either of them remains to be seen, since Dr. F pointedly remarked that he didn’t know whether she would retain any memories of her previous life. She may decide to hunt her love, Ethan.

images-8

The Bride v the Blind Girl

Having lost his job at the theatre because of his love and sexual advances toward Maude, however, the Creature was forced to seek alternate employment. He found work at a family-owned wax museum. The proprietor hopes that his new “crime scene re-creations” — along with the Creature’s face — will draw new customers. His wife scolded the husband for choosing an employee with such a face, and was scolded in return.

UnknownA more significant conflict appeared, however, when the Creature, calling himself “John Clare” for employment purposes, met the proprietors’ daughter, who is blind. She needed to “touch his face in order to meet him,” and made no remark or reaction when she carefully examined his severely scarred face.

images-29Because the daughter is not only blind but very beautiful, I suspect that she will come to care for the Creature, and he for her — even if he is torn with guilt about feeling “unfaithful” to his Bride Brona.

Of course, if Frankenstein’s feelings lead to a conflict between himself and the Creature for the Bride, who knows what will happen between the Creature and the blind girl? Will the Creature still be hunting for a mate, will he accept the potential love and affection of the blind girl, or will he continue hunting Frankenstein for taking the Bride Brona?

Ethan as Wolf-Man / Were-Wolf

One of the Wolf-Man's first victimsLast season, a vicious killer murdered and dismembered a mother and her young daughter. It was gruesome. At first, it was believed that The Ripper had returned. In one of the  episodes, the group hunting for the missing Mina was drawn to the London Zoo in the middle of the night, where they expected/hoped to find Mina and the (vampire) Creatures.

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives at the London Zoo at night, just before the encounter with the wolves Instead, they found a pack of wolves. Ethan ordered everyone to stay still. Then he lowered his body and held out his hand. One of the male wolves, snarling, approached and tentatively took Ethan’s hand gently into its mouth, acknowledging Ethan as the Alpha male. The Alpha male wolf.

Unknown-1From that episode on, bloggers and reviewers of the show predicted that Ethan’s secret was that he was the Wolf-Man, though there is no literary piece of the period dealing with such a creature. There is a Penny Dreadful which features  a Wolf-Man — Wagner the Werewolf — but no literature. Guy Endore’s 1933 novel The Werewolf of Paris was the first literary exploration of the Wolf-Man.

I assumed that the bloggers, critics, and reviewers who were proclaiming that Ethan was the Wolf-Man had to be mistaken since creator & writer John Logan had repeatedly stated that Penny Dreadful mixed Victorian literary characters, re-imagined, with his fictional characters.

The Wolf-Man v Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Dr_Jekyll_and_Mr_Hyde_poster_edit2At that point, I was still convinced that Logan would introduce one of the most famous novels of the period which explores the nature of good and evil, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The Wolf-Man simply did not fit into the entire scheme of the first season of Penny Dreadful, where the characters chose to do good or evil. The Wolf-Man is cursed or bitten or somehow turned into a violent and dangerous creature against his will. He doesn’t consciously decide to go around during the full moon, tearing people apart and eating some of their internal organs.

In Stevenson’s novel, however, Dr. Jekyll makes a conscious choice to explore the evil aspects of his personality by concocting a formula which will allow his personality to separate into two parts: one entirely good, the other completely evil. Mr. Hyde is the evil, immoral part of Dr. Jekyll.

The importance of Jekyll and Hyde versus the Wolf-Man to Penny Dreadful and Ethan Chandler’s secret is choice. Choosing to do evil, choosing to harm others for selfish reasons, intentionally hurting others to achieve personal satisfaction or pleasure at the others’ expense — these were all themes of Penny Dreadful S1, and all of the characters made those choices repeatedly (though Dorian Gray’s evil or cruel choices were not actually shown: I know this from the novel itself).

Just as the characters in Penny Dreadful consciously chose to do evil and to hurt others to satisfy their own selfish desires or to exact revenge, Dr. Jekyll chooses to allow his evil side to come out. As Edward Hyde, he seriously hurts children, dismembers women, and murders famous politicians. Hyde enjoys it.

Dr. Henry Jekyll enjoys it, too, because it allows him to do whatever evil he wishes — as Hyde — while maintaining his good reputation and respected standing in society as Dr. Jekyll. Unfortunately for Jekyll, Hyde also has free will, and he chooses to take over Jekyll’s life to the point where Hyde can gain control of their shared body at will, without any potion, and Jekyll is unable to get it back. Jekyll commits suicide when he realizes that the good part of himself is being subsumed by the evil part of himself.

Therefore, if the bloggers and reviewers who predicted that Ethan’s secret was that he was a Wolf-Man, it took away Ethan’s choice to do evil, which went against the very premise of the show in season 1. It also eliminated the literary basis for his story since no Wolf-Man literature existed till 1933, and the show takes place in 1891. Also, throughout S1, Ethan objected to extreme violence — unless it was in the interest of self-preservation or to save those he’d been hired to protect — as well as to cruelty, especially in the case of the captured Fenton (Olly Alexander), whom the others tortured and experimented on, in an attempt to find a “cure” for Mina, whom they’d not even discovered yet.

Unknown-1Imagine my dismay when, in the penultimate scene of the S1 finale, Ethan did transform into a Wolf-Man and murder the Pinkertons his father had sent from America to forcibly bring Ethan home, as well as everyone else in the restaurant-bar-hotel where Ethan was staying.

UnknownIt wasn’t just a disappointment because Ethan’s being a Wolf-Man didn’t fit with the theme of the rest of the season 1 of Penny Dreadful. It was a disappointment because so many people had predicted it weeks beforehand, and they were correct.

Ethan & his Blackoutsimages

It appears that S2 of Penny Dreadful is also eliminating Ethan’s choice to do evil, separating him from the remainder of the characters. He told Vanessa that he has blackouts, during which he assumes bad things happen, because there’s a lot of blood, and that he is the one who’s done them, since he’s the one who’s still alive.

images-2The final episode of S1 showed that in addition to being a paid hunter, Ethan was also one of the hunted: the Pinkertons sent from America by his father were hunting him, determined to chain and drag him back home. This year, those hunters are dead, but since there was a survivor — mentioned once by Police Inspectors, and shown only briefly, completely bandaged, in a hospital bed — Ethan may be more prey than hunter this season.

Dorian

Reeve Carney as Dorian GrayThe only major character we didn’t get to see in the premiere episode of S2 of Penny Dreadful was Dorian Gray, whom I also felt was greatly neglected and unexplored last season. Anyone unfamiliar with Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, for example, had no idea what that secret, hidden portrait he was always looking at displayed.

The portrait is of Dorian, of course, and shows his external evil and ugliness in the portrait without its showing on his own face or body, but without reading the book itself, viewers could have thought it was a portrait of God, angels, Jesus, or the Devil. Of course, they could tell from the scene following his sexual encounter with Vanessa last year that the portrait has the power to heal physical wounds, but beyond that… Nothing.

Season Two Predictions

UnknownOf course, Penny Dreadful may be changing its theme of all the characters’ choosing to do evil this season. That would mean that the “weakness” of not giving Ethan a choice concerning evil would not longer be a weakness. Sembene has already been given more lines, so perhaps, he will “have a story,” this year, unlike last season. Dorian Gray has not yet appeared — which surprised me since creator & writer John Logan worked every other major character in the series into the premiere. In any event, unless Dorian radically changes his character, he will still be a hunter, seeking personal pleasure even if it involves the pain or death of others. Otherwise, only the Night-Comers — of which Evelyn Poole aka Madame Kali is the leader — are choosing to do evil as far as I can determine.

Ethan’s “curse” of being a Wolf-Man and his blackouts prevent his choice. Vanessa has become the prey rather than the “cruel little girl” who intentionally caused best friend Mina’s distress and ultimate entanglement with the “Master.” Frankenstein is attempting to give the Creature a Bride, though Dr. F is getting a little too involved with her himself, before she’s even brought back to life. Sir Malcolm has become Vanessa’s surrogate father rather than her judge and jury, constantly and cruelly reminding Vanessa of her “sin” and “betrayal.”

Since the S2 premiere so carefully integrated the various storylines set up in S1, I was surprised that we never saw Dorian, but I’m sure he’ll be along shortly. He’s probably just picking up some more manuscripts in Italy.

What I don’t know is if Dorian, too, will become one of the prey rather than one of the hunters.images-23Catch up on Season 1 of Showtime’s horror-thriller Penny Dreadful on Amazon ($1.99-2.99/episode, SD v HD). Watch the premiere of Penny Dreadful S2 “Fresh Hell” free on Showtime Anytime.

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So Many Monsters: The PENNY DREADFUL Finale

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Warning: Spoilers Galore

Cast of PENNY DREADFUL (L to R): Danny Sapani as Sembene, Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, Billie Piper as Brona Croft, Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Rory Kinnear (in doorway) as Frankenstein's Monster/Creature, Harry Treadawell as Victor Frankenstein

Cast of PENNY DREADFUL (L to R): Danny Sapani as Sembene, Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, Billie Piper as Brona Croft, Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Rory Kinnear (in doorway) as Frankenstein’s Monster/Creature, Harry Treadawell as Victor Frankenstein

The finale of season one of Showtime’s new Gothic horror thriller Penny Dreadful was both exciting and, I’m sorry to say, a bit disappointing. I was looking forward to the finale so much that I watched the Penny Dreadful Marathon the day before. And I’d already watched virtually every episode at least two or three times. I loved the dialogue, the characters, the ever-improving writing, the entire concept of the show itself. Despite the fantastic episodes “Séance” (2), “Closer than Sisters” (5), and “Possession” (7) — where the literary storylines and imaginary characters seemed, at last, to be meshing — the flaws that have plagued the show from its inception were still sadly present in the finale.

From the beginning of the show, I’ve admired the costumes, the atmospheric settings, the makeup, and the hairstyles. All of that placed Penny Dreadful‘s world firmly in the Demi-monde — the world between light and dark, between the living and the dead — of Victorian England. All of those wonderful things are present in the finale as it revisits some of its earlier sets: the theatre, most particularly, where Sir Malcolm and his crew once again encounter the vampires they’re hunting.

The cast, too, has been strong. Led by the powerful performances of Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives — father and childhood friend of the lost or kidnapped Mina Murray (from Bram Stoker’s Dracula) — the remaining ensemble cast includes Josh Hartnett as American gun-for-hire Ethan Chandler with Billie Piper as his consumptive lover Brona Croft, Harry Treadaway as Victor Frankenstein and Rory Kinnear as The Monster/The Creature (from Mary Wollstonecroft Shelley’s Frankenstein), Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray (from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray), and Danny Sapani as Sir Malcolm’s servant Sembene. Guest appearances included David Warner as Dr. Van Helsing from Stoker’s Dracula.

Cast of PENNY DREADFUL (L to R) Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Billie Piper as Brona Croft, Harry Treadawell as Victor Frankenstein, Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, and Danny Sapani as Sembene.

Cast of PENNY DREADFUL (L to R) Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, Billie Piper as Brona Croft, Harry Treadawell as Victor Frankenstein, Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, and Danny Sapani as Sembene.

Early in the season, the disparate stories were too disconnected. Some characters disappeared for episodes at a time. Others seemed to have no point even being in the series. In the finale, more of the stories came together. The writing was a bit stronger, and the performances more impressive.

The only literary character who simply never fit in well is Dorian Gray. His portrait was never shown the entire season — not even in the finale — and unless one is familiar with Wilde’s book, the portrait that Dorian sometimes looks at in private, and which heals his wounds from rough sexual encounters while he gazes upon it, could very well be a portrait of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary. In reality, it is of Dorian himself, and should reflect all his moral ugliness and physical injuries, while he himself remains outwardly beautiful.

Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray

Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray

Unless the viewer is familiar with the book, however, Dorian Gray’s story in Penny Dreadful makes no sense whatsoever. His portrait should have been shown in the finale so that viewers not familiar with the book would know what he’s always looking at. I still don’t know why Dorian Gray was in the show, even after the finale.

The only character with less screen-time and less of a story than Dorian Gray is Sir Malcolm’s African servant Sembene. Even when Ethan Chandler asked, in “Possession” (episode 7) what Sembene’s story was, he replied, “I have no story.” Sadly, that is true.

Danny Sapani as Sembene

Danny Sapani as Sembene

I had hoped there would be a revelation concerning Sembene’s and Sir Malcolm’s connection. Alas, there was not. Sembene did get to help out killing more female vampires (who, for some unexplained reason, all look exactly alike) when he accompanied Sir Malcolm on a final hunting expedition for his daughter Mina. That might be Sembene’s entire story: killing female vampires, and answering the door when someone comes to Sir Malcolm’s big mansion.

For a long time — in fact, for the first 7 out of 8 episodes — Dr. Frankenstein could have been Dr. Fill-In-The-Blank, or Dr. I-Can-Check-Your-Pulse-And-Make-Up-Theories-About-Women’s-PsychoSexual-Disturbances-Too, or Dr. Anybody-Who-Happened-To-Have-Made-A-Sentient-Creature. He was rarely with his Creation, brilliantly played by Rory Kinnear — who lurked throughout the entire season rather than viciously menacing (except for murdering Van Helsing) while waiting for Frankenstein to make a Creature Bride.

Harry Treadaway as Victor Frankenstein

Harry Treadaway as Victor Frankenstein

It wasn’t till the finale that Frankenstein actually demonstrated some of the arrogant evil and selfish cruelty his character exhibits in the novel. So Frankenstein’s character was weak during most of the season, but finally reached its potential in the finale when he smothered Brona Croft, already dying of consumption, instead of mercifully letting her die of an overdose from his own stash of morphine (to which he is addicted).

Rory Kinnear as Frankenstein's Monster, also called The Creature

Rory Kinnear as Frankenstein’s Monster, also called The Creature

Throughout the season, Frankenstein’s Creation and the male vampires who are mistaken for “The Master” are referred to as “Creatures.” In the finale, Rory Kinnear’s stunning performance demonstrates that The Creature, though he claims to be filled with malignancy and rage, which, he reasons aloud, explains his exterior ugliness, is actually more decent, faithful, empathetic, and affectionate than any of the other characters.

The humans in Penny Dreadful are the “creatures” in this drama: cruel, heartless, unfaithful, disloyal, unempathetic, violent, unkind. In short, they are the “monsters,” and Sir Malcolm, despite his elegant looks, dress, and language, is one of the most vicious of them all.

Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, searching for his lost daughter, Mina, taken by (unnamed) Dracula, called the Creature.

Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray, searching for his lost daughter, Mina, taken by (unnamed) Dracula, called the Creature.

In the finale, one of Sir Malcolm’s nastiest secrets is revealed, in a show where everyone has secrets. He bluntly tells Vanessa, who has been helping him search for his daughter Mina, that, given the choice, he will (a) choose Mina over Vanessa, (b) that he would kill Vanessa if it would save Mina, and (c) that, in fact, he’s hoping he will get the chance to kill Vanessa.

Yes, there be many monsters here, indeed.

Imagine, then, Vanessa’s — and probably every viewer’s — surprise when, at the crucial moment, having found Mina, who is attempting to harm Vanessa in order to subdue her and take her to The Master, Sir Malcolm shoots his own daughter Mina dead. I was so happily surprised that I cheered. Perhaps Sir Malcolm himself was astonished by his “choice” of Vanessa over Mina in the finale.

Throughout the season, various characters have stated that “each has his secrets,” “each has sinned,” and, despite regrets, none can “unmake the past.” After a while, it got tiresome hearing so many people saying the same thing so many times. Then Frankenstein said something amazing: that each person was morally bound forever to those he had hurt. Very intriguing philosophical commentary. One that fit the show and the finale well.

Though Penny Dreadful is set in the Victorian era and was influenced by the literature of the period, the characters constantly quote Romantic poetry. In the Romantic period, which took place earlier in England than in America, artists of all genres and media believed that man could commune directly with the Divinity — however it was perceived — through nature.

Thus, Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley were extremely popular poets, and their work has often been recited in Penny Dreadful. Keats, who was dying of consumption, had some of the darkest yet most erotic poems, while Wordsworth had some of the most optimistic ones, despite their expressing regret for lost childhood or unrealized dreams. The Romantic poetry quoted and beloved by these monstrous, constrained, secretive, deceptive, yet ultimately fascinating characters — who constantly question each other about their faith in God as well as the meaning of life — was a wonderful irony couched in beautiful and famous poetry.

In the finale, Frankenstein’s Creation recited some lines himself — not from a Romantic poet — but from Milton’s Paradise Lost. It was very effective.

I’m not going to pretend that there were no weaknesses in the finale. There were, and, unfortunately, they were major ones.

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives at the London Zoo at night, just before the encounter with the wolves

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives at the London Zoo at night, just before the encounter with the wolves

In one of the earlier episodes, the group is drawn to the London Zoo in the middle of the night, where they expect to find Mina and the (vampire) Creatures. Instead, they find a pack of wolves. Ethan orders everyone to stay still. Then he lowers his body and holds out his hand. One of the male wolves, snarling, approaches and tentatively takes Ethan’s hand gently into its mouth, acknowledging Ethan as the Alpha male.

The Alpha male wolf.

From that episode on, bloggers and reviewers of the show began predicting that Ethan’s secret was that he was the Wolf-Man, though there is no literary piece of the period dealing with such a creature. There is a Penny Dreadful which features  a Wolf-Man — Wagner the Werewolf — but no literature. Guy Endore’s 1933 novel The Werewolf of Paris was the first literary exploration of the Wolf-Man. I assumed that the bloggers, critics, and reviewers who were proclaiming that Ethan was the Wolf-Man had to be mistaken since creator & writer John Logan has repeatedly stated that Penny Dreadful mixed Victorian literary characters, re-imagined, with his fictional characters.

I was convinced that Logan would introduce one of the most famous novels of the period which explores the nature of good and evil, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Mysterious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The Wolf-Man simply does not fit into the entire scheme of Penny Dreadful, where the characters choose to do good or evil. The Wolf-Man is cursed or bitten or somehow turned into a violent and dangerous creature against his will. He doesn’t consciously decide to go around tearing people apart and eating some of their internal organs.

In Stevenson’s novel, however, Dr. Jekyll makes a conscious choice to explore the evil aspects of his personality by concocting a formula which will allow his personality to separate into two parts: one entirely good, the other completely evil. Mr. Hyde is the evil, immoral part of Dr. Jekyll.

The importance of Jekyll and Hyde versus the Wolf-Man to Penny Dreadful and Ethan Chandler’s secret is choice. Choosing to do evil, choosing to harm others for selfish reasons, intentionally hurting others to achieve personal satisfaction or pleasure at the others’ expense — these are all themes of Penny Dreadful, and all of the characters make these choices repeatedly (though Dorian’s evil or cruel choices are not shown: I know this from the novel itself). Even Ethan’s consumptive lover, Brona Croft, tells him how she went out and intentionally had sexual relations with a stranger for money after her fiancé in Ireland physically hurt her.

Just as the characters in Penny Dreadful consciously choose to do evil and to hurt others to satisfy their own selfish desires or to exact revenge, Dr. Jekyll chooses to allow his evil side to come out. As Edward Hyde, he seriously hurts children, dismembers women, and murders famous politicians. Hyde enjoys it.

Dr. Henry Jekyll enjoys it, too, because it allows him to do whatever evil he wishes — as Hyde — while maintaining his good reputation and respected standing in society as Dr. Jekyll. Unfortunately for Jekyll, Hyde also has free will, and he chooses to take over Jekyll’s life to the point where Hyde can gain control of their shared body at will, without any potion, and Jekyll is unable to get it back. Jekyll commits suicide when he realizes that the good part of himself is being subsumed by the evil part of himself.

Therefore, if the bloggers and reviewers who predicted that Ethan’s secret was that he was a Wolf-Man, it took away Ethan’s choice to do evil, which goes against the very premise of the show. It also eliminates the literary basis for his story since no Wolf-Man literature existed till 1933, and the show takes place in 1891. I just couldn’t believe that Ethan’s secret would be that he was a Hollywood-Lon-Chaney-style Wolf-Man.

Imagine my dismay when, in the penultimate scene of the finale, Ethan did transform into a Wolf-Man and murder the Pinkertons his father had sent from America to forcibly bring Ethan home, as well as everyone else in the restaurant-bar-hotel where Ethan was staying.

It wasn’t just a disappointment because Ethan’s being a Wolf-Man didn’t fit with the rest of the show: it was a disappointment because so many people had predicted it weeks beforehand, and they were correct. That’s just bad writing.

One of the vampire Creatures

One of the vampire Creatures

(Note to creator and writer John Logan: my boyfriend was really annoyed that, after viewing the “unimpressive vampire Creatures” all season, he didn’t get a sufficient look at a “really cool Wolf-Man with good makeup and everything,” and he “didn’t get to see Ethan as the Wolf-Man tear all those people apart” after “sitting through countless vampire killings.” In fact, my boyfriend didn’t even realize Ethan was turning into a Wolf-Man. He had to ask me what was happening because he couldn’t tell. And I wasn’t absolutely sure myself until the full moon was displayed above the building where the killings were taking place.)

Another constantly circulating prediction that, unfortunately, turned out to be right was that Brona would die of consumption and become Frankenstein’s Monster’s bride. Actually, the consumption didn’t quite finish her off: Frankenstein himself did, for the express purpose of getting the “subject” to accede to his Creature’s demand for a bride just like himself.

Again, the pundits were correct early on in the season. That makes it bad writing, not good guesswork since there were no clues that Brona would be his bride. After all, the Creature had a crush on a young woman from the theatre, not on Brona.

Billie Piper as Brona Croft

Billie Piper as Brona Croft

The last disappointment in the finale of Penny Dreadful was Vanessa’s going to a priest who actually asked her if she really wanted to get rid of the evil inside her. I almost laughed out loud. Since when has a Catholic priest, fictional or real, ever asked someone if he wanted to keep the devil inside him or have the devil exorcised?

Though Vanessa didn’t answer the priest, it was a disappointing “cliff-hanger.” Throughout the season, she has chosen to remain as she is, with her knowledge of the dark side of human nature, even if it does cause her to have fits, seizures, and to be possessed. Whether she is possessed by the Devil, the Master, or Amunra — who wants her to be the Mother of Evil — is not clear.

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, "possessed"

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, “possessed”

With the death of Mina, the relationship between Vanessa and Sir Malcolm changed, as if Vanessa’s decision to hurt Mina when they were younger was the only reason Sir Malcolm and Vanessa chafed at each other. Their animosity seemed to have suddenly and miraculously disappeared. They even hugged as Sir Malcolm wept and Vanessa comforted him (though she actually held him, while, with his arms around her, his hands were in fists). Sir Malcolm even talked about their getting a Christmas tree. Vanessa responded by suggesting they “invite the boys over to decorate it.” If that conversation had made any sense, I might have laughed. As it was, I began to fear for season two of Penny Dreadful.

Mina is dead, so no more searching for her. What is Sir Malcolm’s purpose in life going to be? Brona is going to be Frankenstein’s Creature’s re-animated bride. Ethan has been revealed to be, not Jack the Ripper, not Edward Hyde, but the Wolf-Man who ravaged the mother and child in the beginning of episode 1, and the prostitute at the beginning of episode 2.

One of the Wolf-Man's first victims

One of the Wolf-Man’s first victims

If Vanessa chooses to have the evil inside her exorcised, then she basically has no part in the show. If she chooses to remain as she is, then there will be more episodes where she’s possessed. Those episodes were some of the best of season 1, but three of them were plenty, thank you very much.

Suddenly, the gaslights dim, the candles flicker, the wind howls, the full moon comes out from behind the clouds, the glass table cracks, the windows shatter, Vanessa’s head turns 360°, Sir Malcolm faints, Sembene does not answer the door, and I have a terrible vision of season 2 of Penny Dreadful.

It’s going to be nothing but The Exorcist, The Bride of Frankenstein, and The Wolf-Man.

Unfortunately, I’ve already seen all those films.

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