Penny Dreadful, Season 1, Episode 8 – Season Finale
Air Date: Sunday, June 29, 2014, 10PM E/P on Showtime
Anticipating what could possibly top the frightening events that transpired in the penultimate episode, “Possession,” had me speculating and reassessing several points of view I have had about the characters throughout the entire season. The season finale, “Grand Guignol,” provides an answer to a certain lingering thought I've had about a certain American sharp shooter, and there are several surprise turns of events, including a change of heart for more than one person.
In my other reviews of Penny Dreadful, I’ve wondered about the fate of our dear Brona (Billie Piper). Initially, I thought she might become a pet project of Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) but after Brona’s illicit encounter with the seductively mysterious Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney), I thought perhaps her illness would be absorbed by the same devices that heal Dorian down in the mirrored room. After watching “Grand Guignol,” it’s nice to know my first instincts were spot on.
Victor’s first born creature, dubbed Caliban (Rory Kinnear) by his theater friend Vincent Brand (Alun Armstrong), has come home. Caliban crosses the line with his crush, theater actress Maud Gunneson (Hannah Tointon), thus ending his career as a stagehand. There is a bittersweet moment between the creature and his maker that forces you to look at Caliban in a whole new light. His birth was horrendous and his life a struggle, but a harsh lesson in love and rejection softens him. Caliban, himself, is forced to look at his own fallacies and behavior. This reflection seems to have lessened the bitterness in Victor’s heart as well.
The events in last week’s “Possession” fueled speculation about not only Vanessa’s (Eva Green) future but also Ethan’s (Josh Hartnett) knowledge of Latin. Where did he learn it from? As they venture out in search of the vampire’s lair in “Grand Guignol,” Vanessa uses this opportunity to express her gratitude for Ethan’s help: “Thank you for your kindness when I was ill.” But Ethan’s reply is puzzling — “Was it kindness, I wonder?” Does Ethan wish he had pulled the trigger? Did staying those four weeks to help Vanessa tear him away from taking care of his beloved Brona who now lies dying in her bed? As Ethan prays over Brona, again speaking in whispered Latin, does he hold resentment for spending so much time away aiding Vanessa? I don’t think he does. I think Ethan is glad he saved Vanessa but worries it won’t be the last time she’ll need saving.
Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) doesn’t mince words with Vanessa when he lets it be known he’ll do whatever it takes to save his daughter Mina (Olivia Llewellyn). If he thought Vanessa would be hurt by his words, he’s sadly mistaken. I think she knew all along she was a pawn waiting to be sacrificed to save daddy’s little princess. Does Mina really want to be saved? What transpires at the Grand Guignol theater when Sir Malcolm leads the team – Vanessa, Ethan, Victor, and Sembene (Danny Sapani) – to hunt for the vampire creature holding Mina will surprise you. I’m very happy the writers have stayed true to ancient vampire lore. It seems Sir Malcolm has a change of heart as well.
Vanessa must keep her distance from Dorian. “Between us, there is a rare connection. I won’t deny it, but that very intimacy released something…unhealthy in me; something I cannot allow.” I don’t think Dorian’s ever been rejected. His reactions are unlike anything we’ve seen from this strange and beautiful man. He’s kept himself at arm’s length from everyone emotionally yet with Vanessa, something in him changes. I don’t know if anything in the mirrored room can heal what ails him now.
Ethan gets some unexpected American visitors sent by his father, who remains elusively at bay. Ethan’s father is desperate to have Ethan return home but why? What is Ethan running away from? What happened with his father? While we don’t get answers about those matters, we do get some answers regarding something I’ve been speculating about for a while. Do you remember in “Séance” when Ethan woke up on the docks looking worse for the wear? Do you remember in “Resurrection” when Ethan, Sembene, Vanessa, and Sir Malcolm encountered a pack of wolves at the zoo and how Ethan approached them? Let’s allow all this to marinate in your mind. Monsters do exist; I’m curious to know the answers to how and when Ethan became one.
Penny Dreadful has given us a top notch first season and in “Grand Guignol,” it leaves us much to look forward to in the coming second season. The acting, the cinematography, set designs, costumes — everything about Penny Dreadful surpassed my expectations tenfold. The final scene poses a very interesting dilemma for Vanessa. To be ordinary or remain…touched; that is the question.
Let me know what you thought of “Grand Guignol.” Leave me a comment below or tweet me @judybopp. Looking forward to hearing from you!
To stay current with Penny Dreadful during its hiatus, go to the official site http://www.penny-dreadful.com/.