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08 July 2015 @ 03:15 pm
Beloved, know your master  
Penny Dreadful Finale (and overall season) thoughts, let me unpack them:

The Good:

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.

The Bad:

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.
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Current Music: "The Unquiet Grave" - Helen McCrory
rhoda_rants on July 13th, 2015 02:35 pm (UTC)
Part 1 of Epic Comment
First thought: I need to create some PD icons to use and share around here.

Second thought(s): OMG THIS SHOW!!!!

Seriously, where IS Eva Green's Emmy already? She clearly should've gotten one by now--although I have it explained to be recently that the show was technically too short last season to be eligible (only 8 episodes), but yeah, this show in general, and her in particular, are past due for some recognition.

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.
This sums it up nicely. It makes perfect sense for things to end this way, and intellectually I like that this "ending" both defeated the Big Bad of the season and was bittersweet and awful for other reasons, because obviously these characters still have a lot of the same issues they did before, but it *feels* weird. It's less satisfying that the Hollywood ending I've been trained to expect. And I'm both in awe of it for that, and a bit frustrated/anxious for the next season.

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.

I worked out a theory a little while after seeing the "coming out" party episode but didn't really share it with anyone because I had a *feeling" but wasn't sure I was right (that 'What are you up to, Mr. Gray?" thing I mentioned once or twice): He's the Trickster figure in this universe, that guy who stirs up things just because he can, for the sake of stirring them up and just seeing what happens. There may be a larger purpose to it all--Vanessa dealing with her demons, Ethan dealing with his past, Brona/Lilly dealing with her place in Victorian heirarchy, etc.--but his goal is to push them towards what they're all afraid of, not to solve their problems. That's what Tricksters do--they don't tell how to work out your problems, but they bring them out into the daylight so you have no choice but to acknowledge them. I am VERY looking forward to what's going to happen with Victor as a result of this. It's not quite what Dorian's purpose was in the book, but since he's a peripheral character, rather than a central one, it makes perfect sense.

I don't quite buy that Brona/Lilly knew exactly what was going on the whole time--I think she remembered it when she went to that party, and the rest of her storyline spiraled from there. I know she said that she knew it the whole time, but I just don't buy it. Unrelated, I love that bloodstained white dress. I want it.

(Comment too long, I'll be back!)
rhoda_rants on July 13th, 2015 02:36 pm (UTC)
Part 2 of Epic Comment
Totally agreed on both Sembane and Angelique. I had a feeling she was doomed the moment her character was introduced, honestly, but yeah--still not cool, show. It's frustrating, because it's been so inclusive in so many other ways, but yeah, I have to call it out for having one 1 POC character and then killing him; and only 1 transgendered character, and then killing her, in a very short time span. Not. Cool.

I'm a little worried about the Native American folklore that I know is coming for Season 3, and yet I'm kind of excited about it too? We've gotten so many hints of backstory as to who Ethan really is, where he came from, what his father's deal is, why he knows Latin, how he became a werewolf in the first place, etc., but we've never actually SEEN that part of him. We've only seen him talk about it in vague, hushed tones and circular non-answers. I don't know what the UK perspective is on that part of US history either. Guess we'll find out!

One more thing on Brona/Ethan/Vanessa/Dorian/Whoever--I am fully on-board with Ethan/Vanessa, and also with Brona/Dorian (Or Lilly or whatever she's calling herself. Brona + Lilly = Brony? Wait...), and I'll tell you why: First Girl/Guy Wins. It doesn't always work, and I didn't realize this particular trope was working on me in this show, but technically, back in the first season, the first potential love interest Ethan met was Vanessa. And the first potential love interest Dorian met was Brona. I didn't may much heed to the latter, because it's Dorian, and EVERYONE is a potential love interest to him, but at the same time--both eventually wound up back together. (At least, I assume Ethan/Vanessa will happen eventually, and that we the audience are meant to expect/want them to.)

I know you don't feel that way, and I get it--Ethan/Brona were so sweet together, despite being doomed, and yeah Victor needs to get suckerpunched--but when I thought about that in terms of tropes and setup and foreshadowing, I was weirdly impressed.
Erin: film: The Wolfman - Gwen Conliffexerinmichellex on July 13th, 2015 04:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 2 of Epic Comment
Oh, yeah, I knew Angelique wasn't going to be around for long, and I figured Dorian would kill her. I also figured Sembene was dead at the end of Ep. 9. I saw a lot of fans believe Sembene would come back as a wolf; so I know they were extremely disappointed by the finale.

Very excited for Ethan's backstory. It seems like he and the Immortal Twins are our main storylines for next year. I wonder if Ethan, being "Lupus Dei", is the only one that can destroy them? I know Dorian is tied to his painting in the novel, but maybe the show is going to go in a different direction/ending.

I don't know what the UK perspective is on that part of US history either.

I'm. . . cautiously optimistic. I think if John Logan does his research from an American's POV he should be in good shape. The show is good about showing man's evil deeds and not shying away from "no, this is wrong." And even Ethan seems traumatized by his time killing the Natives. But, I do hope they show the Native Americans outside of Ethan's "white man" eyes, and they're treated fairly and, well, like actual human beings that lived a long time ago.

Heh My Ethan/Brona/Vanessa thing came to me while I was writing this, so I was like "oh, that's where that comes from" and included it. I'm more disappointed that the show didn't go the route of "Ethan sees Lily and she remembers who she was, and then Ethan sucker punches Frankenstein. The End." I'm cool with how things actually turned out; I just need to get over my "fantasy storyline", you know? I am sure once S3 comes around I'll be on the Ethan/Vanessa train.

About the "First Girl/Guy Wins": Personally I'm sick of the "male lead and female lead get together" storylines when there are multiple characters involved. I wish we had more shows where the male and female leads are a platonic badass team. (Elementary has spoiled me, I think.) You're right that the foreshadowing is done very well. Just, eh, I want more "friend partnerships" versus "lovers partnerships" in the media.
Erin: film: Sweeney Toddxerinmichellex on July 13th, 2015 04:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 1 of Epic Comment
The Emmys are notorious for snubbing "genre" shows, too. (See: Orphan Black, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, etc.) Game of Thrones happens to be the exception, but I think it's the medieval setting + HBO factor it has going on. Now that PD got its 10 episodes, I hope (but sincerely doubt) Eva Green gets some recognition.

It's less satisfying that the Hollywood ending I've been trained to expect.

Yeah, this. I think we've been condition that season finales are BIG! events where the tension doesn't get released until the last 5 minutes. I was disappointed how quickly things resolved; but I understood why it was so quick. Even last season was a bit of a let-down after the build-up. John Logan, who writes the whole thing, needs to work on his endings because you can make things end quickly and also deal with the character stuff in a satisfying way for everyone.

Heh. I like your idea of Dorian being the Trickster, and this is probably what I meant; I'm not up on my Greek/Norse mythology like you are. From now on, I'll consult you on applying Greek/Norse mythology to our TV shows. ;)

I like your metaphorical assessment of Dorian's "coming out" party. It explains a lot: not only did Dorian's picture finally get revealed, but he also latched onto Brona and became "more relevant" to PD. It's clear he's been looking for someone similar to him--immortal--and he's finally found her.

Also agree re: Lily - but I think it's just confusing how Billie Piper was playing Lily in the earlier episodes. There are hints of it, like when Lily is trying on the clothes Frankenstein bought her, but, yeah, I totally believed it was at Dorian's party when all the light bulbs went off. Maybe she did known, and as I pointed out re: Dorian, being around Dorian brought it up to the surface and she decided no more Miss Nice Re-Animated Corpse?

LOL I thought Dorian and Lily's white attire was a little too on the nose. But the blood trail, as obvious as it was, was pretty cool and amazing. Dance on, you kooky kids.