Ode to PENNY DREADFUL: Our Family is Broken and the Bell Tolls No More


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[Featured image by Patrick Redmond/SHOWTIME]

I think they told us in the first episode of this season that it would be the end of the series:

I hold it true, whate’er befall;

I feel it when I sorrow most

‘Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.

~ In Memoriam A.H.H.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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Patti LuPone as Dr. Seward, Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm, Harry Treadaway as Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Perdita Weeks as Catriona – Photo: Patrick Redmond/SHOWTIME

I thought that when they started the season with the death of Tennyson that this theme would present itself throughout the season. I felt it was directly related to the separation of Ethan (Josh Hartnett) and Vanessa (Eva Green), but as the season played out that theme applied to all the characters in some way. I did not expect it to also analogize the briefness of the series as a whole.

For myself and I think many of the #Dreadfuls, this is like a lost love. These characters and the artistry that went into every episode do not have an equal that I’m able to call to mind. Much like someone who has stolen your heart so completely that you think they are the most radiant creature to walk the earth, Penny Dreadful stole our hearts in such a way that its absence leaves us a little empty.

This is coming out a couple of weeks after the series finale and the announcement that the story of our beloved family has been told because I needed that period of mourning. At this moment I can’t recall a time when a group of characters felt more like a family than with Penny Dreadful. The beauty that John Logan and the cast gave us was something that, I felt at least, deserved grieving.

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Harry Treadaway as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm and Josh Hartnett as Ethan – Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME

Creator John Logan and Showtime’s David Niven’s interviews with both Variety and Deadline.com on the decision to end the show. While I think the finality of the series could have been split enough to allow the story to be spread over another season, based on Logan’s responses to some of the questions I think that he intended this story to be a trinity. It is rare that redemption and God are central themes in modern television, so Logan’s assertion that this was meant to be three acts causes me to believe that the Holy Trinity concept played a part in that.

Allow me for a moment to expand on that idea, if you will. Regardless of religious beliefs, some of the most prominent shows, especially in horror, seem to gloss over any concept of Good vs. Evil in a religious sense, especially when it comes to Christianity. I’m not going to go into a theological discussion here, but after reading the interview I started to contemplate that. There are shows set in other worlds where the idea/concept of Christianity is given another form, often a negative one, but how often has it been a defining feature? With Penny Dreadful there’s not really a choice; we’re dealing with creatures, mythology, and superstitions spawned by Christianity and rebellion against it. The story being set in Victorian England, where moral repression and Bohemianism existed in a strange dance, it is fascinating to see the central character’s faith and redemption being the axle on which the story turns.

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Josh Hartnett as Ethan and Eva Green as Vanessa Ives – Photo: Patrick Redmond/SHOWTIME

I was going to go into detail about how everything ended but I think I’ll leave that for my horribly behind scheduled episode recaps.

Throughout this season, I wondered where each storyline was going and what revelations would be uncovered through that journey. The last three episodes of the season just seemed rushed. Not the production or even the writing: it was all wrapped up neatly. However, I, and I’m sure many others, wanted more details about the characters. Early in the season, I was impatient to see the next episode because the characters were getting more interesting every minute. We were seeing even deeper into the souls of the characters than they’d already taken us and around every corner was something new for them to grapple with. I think the one thing I’m truly disappointed in is not getting to see Mr. Hyde unleashed by Shazad Latif. 

I agree with the creators’ decision to hold off announcing the end of the show until the finale, letting us enjoy the show without being distracted by knowing that this would be the end. It wouldn’t be the same without Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives; however, it was disappointing to rush through the stories of these characters which they’d spent so much time setting up.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature – Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME

To the cast, creators, and crew:

Thank you for creating something so beautiful that it hurts so much to say farewell. Thank you for bringing this story and these characters to life in such an honest and heartbreaking way. Thank you for giving us a look at the monsters, which live in all our hearts and showing us that those we might see as monstrous, might really be the most kind and vulnerable. Finally thank you for creating something that, while shocking at times, did not rely on shock value to tell a great story.

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