CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR SEASON 3 OF PENNY DREADFUL
So the third season has ended and I’m still reeling for the experience that is/was Penny Dreadful. I knew, coming into the show, that everything about it was going to be tremendous. I love John Logan as a writer. I love his play Red (so much so that I saw thrice it when it was staged in Manila over the course of two years) and Skyfall. I knew I was going to enjoy the dialogue and the narrative flow of the show. I love Eva Green and Josh Hartnett and Billie Piper. I had no idea about Rory Kinnear or Harry Treadaway or that Timothy Dalton was such an amazing actor. I love the era. I love the genre. And I love the source materials — Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, Dorian Gray.
What was not to love on this show?
And you’ve been warned of spoilers and so I can safely say, at this point, that the show is done and the final act of this amazing show has finally come to an end. And I am still reeling from how good it was.
Trust a playwright to take a three season television series and use each season like an act in a play and unfold the stories of women and men in extraordinary situations as they explore the darkest corners of their soul in an effort to find redemption and salvation. There was so much excitement as I was coming into the show because I immediately expected an adventure story, a battle between good and evil, the standard quest narrative and it never was. The show was way more than that. The show was an exploration into personal darkness, for each character, and it was not just a battle between good and evil, but more appropriately, it was a battle towards humanity.
I can’t believe that Eva Green was not nominated for an Emmy in the first season. From the get-go, she was fully committed and brought the show to the edges, pushing boundaries, and electrifying every scene she was in. Everyone in the cast is fabulous — I got to discover how good Timothy Dalton is and what an amazing talent Rory Kinnear and Harry Treadaway are that I’m now on the look out for them in future projects.
By the end of season two, Billie Piper’s character rose up and became divine and Piper was as every bit as magnificent and frightening as a typhoon. She was marvellous and her glorious monologues were given so much power and weight because of her performance.
My only caveat is Reeve Carney, as Dorian Gray, because I didn’t believe him at all. From season one onwards, he was the weakest link in the whole show. I didn’t believe in his Dorian Gray nor was I interested in what should be a very fascinating and intriguing character. And in a show where everyone is amazing, he stood out like a sore thumb.
I love Josh Hartnett so I am afraid to comment but I would like to think I am also fair and objective when it comes to performances and he was solid, standing toe-to-toe with everyone and delivered a compelling character that was struggling with his inner demons as well.
Penny Dreadful was so enjoyable because it was literary in dimension and scope. The show was poetic in its imagery and its narrative. It didn’t simply play out a battle between good versus evil but it showed us the intricacies of the human soul — the darkness within and the light that struggles to burst through — and the horrors that can come with our failings and failure to be, essentially, human.
How does he do it? How did John Logan put this whole thing together and what sort of preparation does one have to do to put out such a fantastic, gripping, provocative show like Penny Dreadful? It makes me wish I could do a television series so that I can explore and unfold characters the way he did in this show. And he was able to do this without taking away from the literariness of the writing. The parallelisms and the lyrical dialogue. The symbolisms. The metaphors. The world was so rich. The characters so compelling. How? How did he do it?
There’s so much I want to say about this show. Three seasons, now that it has concluded, feels like I saw one long, epic play and like all the good plays that I’ve come to love, they don’t have easy answers. They leave you with thoughts and raw emotions that you must process on your own.
Unlike many other television shows that try to get you to feel a particular way and try to give you an answer that you can take away with you, Penny Dreadful leaves you with more questions, with this desire for introspection, and reflection. It’s not just about what happened but about how it made you feel and what you think you understand and it leaves you with images and ideas that you must figure out for yourself on what to do with all of it.
If anything, the series showed me that we are all gods and monsters before we are human beings. We are creatures of the night, each one of us, until we fight for our time in the light. Each character had, at one point, faced the darkest of nights and came out either renewed or lost. Each one suffered great loss and while for those who came out of this redeemed, it didn’t seem like it at all. Our humanity, the greatest gift of all, the greatest of rewards, is a treasure soaked in grief and blood and loss. Hope is always but a sliver, a slight thing, never massive and while it offers no relief, it gives us reason to continue.
I didn’t want it to end. Not yet. But I’m glad that when it did, it did it in this way: honest, moving, heart-wrenching, and all things resolved in a way that makes sense for all the characters.
I salute the artistic team, the cast, and the crew of Penny Dreadful. What a wonderful show and what a ride. My deepest gratitude for presenting something so hauntingly beautiful in my lifetime. I am so happy for my time in the demimonde. I enjoyed every single minute of it.