This was a season finale for the record books. So many of our main characters had these closure moments, endings that befitted their entire character arc for all three seasons. And of course, there was that total WTF moment with Vanessa and Ethan and there was that a burial and then … there was this …
CUE MY HULK SMASH. I TOLD YOU ALL I WAS NOT READY FOR THIS! WHAT EVEN AM I SEEING??????
The surprise ending of my favorite show. THAT is what I am seeing. Not a season finale, not a gotcha moment, but a true and utter and complete END of Penny Dreadful.
One thing that Penny Dreadful has excelled at since season one is the surprise endings that leave us wanting more, answering questions and providing a million more. That first time we saw Ethan change in the wolf. When the Creature halved Proteus in two. A million moments with Mina. Dracula’s name and reveal. We have always been shocked and left wanting more. This is no different, except we won’t ever be getting more.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t think of another show that ended in a completely secretive finale. And it hurts. It hurt to very simply not be prepared for the ending. It also hurt to know that we didn’t really see it coming when so many signs were there. Especially when ALL THOSE MANY ENDINGS were happening.
The Endings We Deserved
We said farewell to Mr Lyle a few episodes ago as he promised he was headed to Cairo on special Egyptologist business. I love that he got out of London before the pestilence began, and I feel like his ending – as a bulwark friend for Vanessa was especially fitting. Sweet, caring and final.
But what about: This is one of the threads I expected the show runners to follow further – perhaps season 4 would see us travel to Egypt, see Amunet manifest in Vanessa. See Imhotep rise. This was just one of the possibilities I was harboring hope for.
Victor and Lily
John Logan has made a meal out of his version of Victor Frankenstein. But at its heart, Victor’s relationship with Lily has showcased not his creative agency but her feminist one. Their story ended exactly as it should: not with Lily getting revenge on her creator and not with Victor turning her into the proper Victorian kept woman. But with mercy on both their parts, and with Victor’s perfect line: “It is too easy being monsters, let us try to be human.”
After Lily’s (frankly AMAZING) revelation about the death of her daughter and her plea to remember her, Victor letting her go was the perfect culmination of all his machinations since season 1. He knows his experiments makes monsters of them all; he hates himself for it. Letting Lily go, letting Lily live as herself releases him of his stolen and undeserved dominance. Lily taking control of her fate not by the power of being an immortal, but by the power of being a woman with scars, with wounds and with memories is the ultimate feminist feeling, and the most human one.
But what about: LORD HYDE. The introduction of a Dr. Jekyll whom we never see manifest as Mr. Hyde was a profound disappointment. I certainly expected season 4 to showcase more of this awesome addition to the demimonde.
I tried to think of a better ending for any of the characters, but Dorian’s may be my favorite. He fully became Oscar Wilde’s demon in the last couple of episodes, but his finale takes him fully from a character who is trying to suck all the marrow out of his existence to one “who truly doesn’t care.” He’s seen a thousand Lily’s, and throughout it all, he will just be here. His silhouette, standing alone among his portraits and his wicked secret of the immortal.
But what about: whatever is next for Lily? This perfect feminist creature leaves and … does what? She has a history with Ethan that she remembers, a man she’s sure to encounter due to their mutual connection with Victor. What about where that could lead? Does she go on to be a suffragette? WHAT. I NEED TO KNOW.
Ethan and His Many Dads
The full story of who Ethan is and was and will be was revealed and resolved in these two episodes. We’ve watched Ethan struggle with his past and with the reality of who he was and what he did in America. That came to a head this season, and one father killed the other. He tells Kaetenay in episode 307 that the story is all over. AND DAMMIT … he’s right. It IS over. There is no more to burden him. There is no one left to chase him. His story with his real father is done.
His story with Kaetenay reveals and resolves itself in one conversation. I assumed that Ethan knew who and what Kaetenay was. That he knew how he was changed. Apparently not. But the guilt of his crimes is overridden by his purpose, and by Kaetenay’s in changing him. Another story, told. Done.
His relationship with Malcolm has come full circle as well. Originally a hired gun, this season solidified their father-son relationship. Malcolm keeping Ethan from having to confront and live with the shame of killing his father was his adoption and redemption moment. Doing for Ethan what he could never do for Peter. Their conversation in Vanessa’s bedroom, their promise to live as family. Another ending. Another perfect f***ing ENDING.
But what about: DRACULA. He and Ethan are mortal, “singular” enemies and neither is destroyed or defeated. How can there not be more of their story? “After all, without her, what do we have left, Ethan?” Oh, I guess that’s why.
Oh, God. The Creature. I would like to say that his story is the most tragic, but is it? He goes from the ultimate deprivation and rejection to sublime acceptance, to love. His story this season has broken every heart string I still had left. But being accepted by his son, even as he breathed his last was such a beautiful full circle. He wasn’t just accepted by a random stranger he met post-resurrection, but by the only ones who mattered to him in his former life. Where can he go from here? Find someone else in the world to love him? It’s not necessary. Another beautiful and poignant ending.
But what about: that scene at the graveyard. He sees Victor … and does he not worry that he will try to resurrect Vanessa? Of course, Victor has let that monster in him go, but shouldn’t it be enough of a fear for the Creature that he keeps it from happening at any cost?
There really is no good way to talk about it, is there? Vanessa Ives IS Penny Dreadful. In so many ways, in almost every way, it is wholly her story – the story of how evil haunts and hunts her as she fights it harder than any person could possibly. To have her be freed from its power is truly the only way for her story to end. After all, how much harder could she possibly have fought?
Still, I could have 100% watched the HELL out of an entire SEASON or THREE of Dark Vanessa. A Vanessa that has completely succumbed. A Vanessa that is tied to Dracula, while warring with Satan, while dallying with Ethan. A truly good and evil love triangle between wolf and vampire. WHY couldn’t we have gotten ALL of that goodness???
But what about: Her backstory … why was she possessed and why were Dracula and Satan fighting over her? WHERE did Satan decide to piss off to after all this? So many unanswered questions and the biggest WHAT ABOUT of all: what about her and Ethan’s happily ever after???? Do we have to live in that fever dream forever?
Real Quick Things I Expected to Happen After Ethan Shot Vanessa
- Some demon/angel hybrid to inhabit her body and wake her up
- Superman to show up and reverse the earth’s rotation so she doesn’t die
- A Thriller-esque zombie hand to rise up out of that mound of earth
- Victor to be like “I got this, y’all”
- basically for her to Easter Morning that shit
Real Quick Questions I Have That Are Bascially WHY
- Catriona is a bad ass character. WHY are we not seeing another season devoted to her study of death, Dr Lyle and where Dracula took himself?
- Where is Dracula? WHY can’t we have an entire season of Ethan hunting his ass down?
- If John Logan knew that this was going to be the last season WHY did we get zero Vanessa and Ethan togetherness? Doesn’t he know that we are here for it?
- Vanessa got zero screen time in the finale. WHY didn’t we see the Mother of Evil? And for that matter, WHY couldn’t we have had an entire SEASON of the Mother of Evil?
What would you love to see in the hypothetical season four of Penny Dreadful? Which character had the most satisfying ending for you? Were you totally shocked by the surprise “THE END”?