‘Penny Dreadful’ Season Finale Shakes Up Showtime’s Gothic Drama (SPOILERS)

Penny Dreadful Season 2 Finale Review
Courtesy of Showtime

Showtime has renewed “Penny Dreadful” for a third season, which, after Sunday’s finale, provokes some mixed feelings. That’s not because the show isn’t great fun to watch, but rather because there was enough poetry in its final chapter that even with numerous loose ends, it frankly wouldn’t have been a bad place to end things. As it was, the season-long story line involving a Satan-worshipping coven paid off handsomely, before scattering members of the central cast in a manner that will require dexterity to reconstitute them. Fortunately, series creator John Logan appears up to the task.

As rich as the season was, it often didn’t seem to be going anywhere with any urgency, with Logan and his splendid cast luxuriating in the florid dialogue and Gothic atmosphere. So it came as something of relief to see the pace quicken and tension rise in the final two episodes, which forced western gunslinger/part-time werewolf Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and the coven’s psychic prey, Vanessa (Eva Green), to grapple with both their burgeoning romance and individual curses and/or gifts.

That included, in one of the more show-stopping sequences (and SPOILER ALERT if you’re not caught up), the two’s brutal battle against one of Ethan’s past victims, in a desperate two-on-one fight that brought to mind Alfred Hitchcock’s “Torn Curtain.” The finale culminated in a full-out assault to rescue Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton), who the witches’ leader (Helen McCrory, a terrific addition this season) was using as bait to lure Vanessa into her lair.

Still, “Penny Dreadful” is often more about moments than plot, and that was especially true of the finale. Logan has deftly woven small elements of mythology into his narrative, such as the revelation that Ethan’s real name is Ethan Lawrence Talbot – “Lawrence Talbot” being the tortured lycanthrope played by Lon Chaney Jr. in the 1941 monster classic “The Wolfman.”

Ditto for the fascinating romance between Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) and Dr. Frankenstein’s latest creation (Billie Piper), drawn to each other based on their respective immortality, based as much on narcissism, it seems, as anything else. Piper’s dismissal of the good doctor (Harry Treadaway) was both a lovely bit of writing and positively chilling, made all the more poignant by the cruelty inflicted on the Creature (Rory Kinnear) before he turned the tables on his captors.

After uneven patches during the first season, Logan has made these characters his own, abetted immeasurably by the sumptuous trappings and high-quality actors spouting those lines, even if they’re unlikely to receive commensurate awards consideration or prestige because of the subject matter and genre.

That’s not to say “Penny Dreadful” is without flaws. The witches, for example, proved too easy to overcome, the psychological warfare waged against Malcolm dragged on a bit too long, and Hartnett’s makeup has consistently looked more like a grownup Eddie Munster than a fully formed werewolf, especially for those weaned on “An American Werewolf in London” and “The Howling.”

Those observations amount to quibbles, however, given the show’s sensuous pleasures – or how favorably it compares with the movie version of “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” which explored similar terrain.

As noted, the third season will face sizable hurdles at the outset, due in part to the way season two dispatched key players on boat voyages to three different continents. Still, as has been demonstrated by the clever way these mythical monsters have bumped into each other, in “Penny Dreadful,” it really is a small world after all.

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  1. Alex says:

    This show is pathetic and not worth the time of people of any sort of intelligence. If you like to see ideas of authors who could actually create something stolen and slammed together into a single story line by hacks who can’t, then this is for you.

  2. DrRocker says:

    Penny rocks – you don’t.

  3. Mr, Dana Franks says:

    Accolades to the cast and Eva ” marry me” haha…what a talented,magnificent woman. I dearly love brains and beauty combined with that spirit make me I’m sure one in a long list of admirers. I’m from Texas and Mam may I open that door for you! Please start the show and don’t tell me only one more season. I live in a charming midwestern city, the capital of Iowa,Des Moines. I’m a first class cook and dinner for you Eva is always my pleasure!

  4. Can’t wait for another season of Penny Dreadful! Such a beautiful, richly displayed atmosphere! I love it! I have seen every episode of True Blood and this by far knocks it out of the ballpark. Hurry, hurry, hurry! Can’t wait!

    • I can’t say enough about the characters, the scenery, the story line, the setting, the actors and actresses playing the parts so well. I hope I make it until the next season if my cancer will let me! I love this show!
      Best show in ages!

  5. jacquelyn webb says:

    They have to come up with something great to outdo the last two episodes of penny dreadful I love the show

  6. eileen grabe says:

    I love the show…From the very first..i grew up on story’s like Penny Dreadful..When I saw the finale I knew that it had to go another season..can’ wait to see how they bring them back together…maybe take it America following Chandler..

  7. Adam says:

    Whilst some of the review makes sense, i.e. the lack of urgency on occasion, I completely disagree it could have been “ended here”. There’s far too many unanswered questions now and you can’t leave the characters individual predicaments up in the air like this. There’s plenty of story to be told there alone, though it certainly does beg the question of how Logan will bring them all together with only a 9 episode order and a new “big bad” to face. At the minimum, it needs at least the third season to finish up, if it not to continue after that. Personally, I hope it does though, it’s a superb show and Eva Green is amazing, it would be a shame to end sooner when it’s hitting it’s stride.

    • J. Cesario says:

      I completely agree! Although the season finale was tragically beautiful, I definitely don’t want to see it end that way! I felt gutted after that finale–and now I am dying for the third season. If it all ended now, that would be so depressing. These are fascinating, great characters and (the “good” ones) were in misery at the end. There are no two characters that belong together more than Ethan and Vanessa in my humble opinion. :)

  8. SUNSHINE says:

    I really love Penny Dreadful, but did the shows only black character have to die…the only one!

    • Irene Newkirk says:

      I have a feeling he may be coming back though….

      We have finally started to get some interesting insights into his character, it would be kind of a waste to throw him away immediately after that.

      And honestly I’m more upset about the fact that the ONLY TRANSGENDER character was killed off. I was kind of expecting it since it was being hinted… but DAMMIT…. I WISH THEY WOULD HAVE LET ANGELIQUE LIVED…. SHE WAS MY QUEEN(besides Vanessa and Mr. Lyle of course lol)

  9. erwin Lanzer says:

    I love this series, and I suppose I am the lone dissenter here when I say the demise of Evelyn Poole was somewhat anticlimactic. Not that the scene was bad or poorly acted, I was just hoping for a more interesting end to the wickedest witch I’ve ever seen on film or on television.

  10. Scott says:

    What a poignant, heart-wrenching ending. The last two episodes tied the whole season together, and the acting was wonderful. Vanessa kindness to Mr. Clare had me in tears, as did Ethan’s achingly sad decision to not be with Vanessa. My sadness was replaced with joy when I read that it was being renewed for a third season! Jolly good! (Or whatever Victorian London would say). Can’t wait for next season!

  11. milagros says:

    Penny Dreadful has been the best show ever, I never grow tired of the reruns. It’s like you get to notice something different than when it first air. Showtime, thank you for renewing the show. This cliffhanger is sort of a tease of what’s coming up next year. Yes!!!!!

  12. Michael says:

    How anyone thinks This is a good ending if it had ended here is beyond me. Every character end on a cliffhanger Thank god it got renewed. Its a fantastic show and i am intrigued to see what next year brings at us

  13. Jxques says:

    This was such a horrible review lol. Try again next time, Brian.

  14. Owen says:

    What a terrific TV show.

  15. Trustlad says:

    DONE!

  16. DC says:

    Beautifully written, Brian. As poetic, and hardly dreadful, as the series itself.

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