Let's start at the beginning: Where the hell is Eva Green's Emmy?! Because that showdown with the Devil (or whoever that is) was AWESOME! I love that the boys set out to save Vanessa (and Sir Malcolm), and in the end Vanessa not only saved herself but saved them as well. I liked the editing of the Sir Malcolm and Frankenstein scene in Evelyn's study, as way back in S1 there was almost a father/son relationship being forged between these two men. It's fitting that it's those two who are confronted by their guilt: the deaths Sir Malcolm has caused and the lives Frankenstein has created.
The final battle is anti-climatic (more on that below), but I didn't have as much a problem with the resolution being so quick as I've seen others grumbling about. At the end of the day, Penny Dreadful is about these characters--these beautiful monsters--so it made sense that the villain(s) would be defeated within the first 20 minutes and then the rest of the episode is devoted to the character fallout. Albeit, the finale wasn't perfect, but it fit with the overall tone.
The finale seemed to close out Vanessa's interest towards the Devil; for that, I'm glad. We've spent two seasons now with Vanessa being the target of Evil Incarnate(s)'s desire. It's time for a new story.
Which brings me to Dorian: FINALLY his presence is explained. I'll admit, of all the classic horror characters, I'm least familiar (and least interested) with The Picture of Dorian Gray. BUT! I always sensed that Dorian's purpose was his "devil may care" attitude and how that free-spirit rages against Victorian morality. I GET IT NOW: Dorian is a harbinger of chaos and demons. His encounters with Vanessa, Ethan, Frankenstein, and Lily are preludes to their inner demons being unleashed: Vanessa gets possessed, Ethan's animal instincts take over, Frankenstein's jealousy reaches a fever pitch, Lily reveals her anger at the patriarchal society. I look forward to Dorian and Lily's bloody trail.
That leaves me with the Monster/Caliban/John Clare/whatever he decides to call himself next season. First, I did feel bad for him at the end of Ep. 9, and I hate the show's attempts to redeem him after all the creepy and shitty things he's done. Second, I did cackle at how easily Caliban broke out of his cell and killed the Putneys. I did love the ambiguity of him leaving Lavinia alive. What's the biggest punishment: killing her or leaving her alone without an ally or anybody to look after her? Did he spare her because deep down he felt bad for her? Did he recognize that Lavinia's terrible acts were more to do with her upbringing and her parents than who Lavinia actually is, and feel a sense of kinship to her? I don't completely buy Vanessa's later remarks that Caliban is "the most human man" she's ever met*. But I'm glad they've given Caliban more complexity instead of his Nice Guy™ schtick of S1.
*To be fair, Vanessa doesn't know half of the crap Caliban has done.
Finally-finally: I liked the ending to S2, where our group is separated and walking their own paths. I'm a sucker for bittersweet montages, and damn is the montage over Ethan's letter to Vanessa heartbreaking. It's also so fitting. Because as much as the PD group has bonded and fought evil, most of them are keeping secrets that will cause rifts in the group when they're finally unleashed. Nobody knows about Frankenstein's creations; though it looks that's all coming to the surface next season. Ethan's wolf man status is up in the air. I forget how long it takes to cross the Atlantic. . . and then they have to journey to New Mexico. Suffice to say, Inspector Rusk in is for a great, and bloody, surprise. It looks like next season's battle with be waged within the PD group, and I for one cannot wait.
So, as much as I liked Vanessa's showdown with the Devil, the rest of it was pretty lame. This is twice now where we're lead to believe our heroes are about to face THE GREATEST EVIL KNOWN TO MAN. . . only for the resolution to come swiftly. It didn't feel at all like there were high stakes, and the loss that came with the battle had already occurred in the episode before.
Afterwards, the nightcomers were dispatched easily. (Seriously, one bullet was all it took? What the hell was Lyle waiting for?) Though my head-canon is once Vanessa beat the Devil, he abandoned them and left them mortal and vulnerable. For as much as I liked the Sir Malcolm/Frankenstein scene, I did want them more active and defeat the Evelyn's spell, instead of it just fizzling out once Evelyn was killed. My guess as to why that didn't happen is for the final montage. Had Sir Malcolm and Frankenstein faced their demons and won, it would render everyone's "we walk alone" useless. So, I'm conflicted: It was an anti-climatic battle, but it made sense why it was anti-climatic and I don't hate the fallout from the anti-climatic battle.
My biggest issue is the injustice to Sembene (and to Angelique, but hold on for a sec). Look, I get that there had to be a loss and I get that it had to be Sembene given that he was the only one who knew Ethan's secret. Had Frankenstein or Lyle been trapped with Ethan, they wouldn't have stopped Ethan from killing himself in Ep. 9. But, ugh, I have two issues. 1. Sembene out of all of them was the least developed, and the development we got was hastily thrown in. Lavinia got more development, and she's only been in a handful of episodes and not a series regular over the course of two seasons. 2. I cannot stomach the POC character dying for the white guy's development and Ethan now carrying "white man's guilt". And what the hell? Sembene literally scared the Devil out of Sir Malcolm, but he couldn't get through to Ethan in his wolf form. Yet, Vanessa sees Ethan and accepts him--JUST LIKE SEMBENE HAD ALREADY DONE A FEW EPISODES AGO--and gets through to him. I just. . . . It does not compute. Boo, show. BOOOOOOO!
As for Angelique: Again, I get why it happened in the grand scheme of the plot. However, when the major deaths of S2 are the transgendered character, the evil woman, and the black guy, look at your choices, show! I mean, they didn't treat Angelique all that bad. They gave her a sympathetic storyline. But she's mixed in with Dorian, who looks at her like a novelty item (read: "other") to pass the time until something more interesting (and "other") comes along for his fancy. The show could do better, is what I'm saying.
Also, and this is purely speculation, but we may be getting into Native American folklore with Ethan going home and I am hesitant on how that's going to go. As an American, I know we've had--and still do--a shitty past with Native Americans. I don't know what the English/UK perspective is on them; but I hope if the show is venturing into Native American folklore, it is done with sensitivity and honoring that heritage.
One Thing That's Neither Good Nor Bad:
I haven't been 100% sold on Vanessa/Ethan; even though Vanessa's vision of her and Ethan together in the light, contrasted with the reality of their lives in the darkness was striking imagery and my favorite of the season. (Seriously, this GIF set shows it really well.) I figured out why: Brona. I liked Ethan and Brona together, and I did think for a time that Ethan would be the one to recognize Lily and make her remember her past life. I'm glad the writers went with the direction that Lily ALWAYS knew. It returns Lily's agency to herself in a story that began without her agency.
I can see Vanessa and Ethan together--and I wanted it more after that vision scene--but I need closure in the Ethan/Brona/Frankenstein storyline before I'm comfortable boarding their ship. And for Ethan to sucker punch Frankenstein in the face. Yes, that will do nicely.
All in all, I enjoyed this season a teensy bit more than S1. (LOL when does that ever happen?) I'm glad Showtime has already renewed it, and cannot wait to see what horrors S3 brings us next year.