Monday, June 30, 2014

Penny Dreadful: Grand Guignol: Some Thoughts on the Season Finale

From the trailers and previews I sensed Showtime would very likely have an enormous hit on its hand with Penny Dreadful. I like being right.

Once I wandered into the show for its pilot/premiere, I knew there was no turning back for me. With its delicious combination of characters drawn from romantic/Gothic literature, thrown in with original characters the writers were able to put new twists and turns creating something with the pull of the familiar and the daring of the unknown. For lovers of dark, classic literature the draw was clearly irresistible.

The (too short) season ended tonight in one of the better finales any show this season has had. It answered enough questions introduced throughout the season, it revealed secrets many of us had long suspected, and more than all this, it provided an emotional arc as strongly dramatic and gripping as anything currently on television.

In under an hour Penny Dreadful showed its heart and, in more than one scene, broke mine. Chief among these was the rejection and firing of Dr. Frankenstein's Creature who, out of options, reluctantly returns to his creator. Victor, who up until this moment had nothing but contempt and rage over his creation was finally given the upper hand and the opportunity to destroy him. I feared the writers would go ahead and finish this chapter - it would have been the easier solution. Instead, Frankenstein's (very well read) monster utters the series' most profoundly moving and poignant speeches - an exegesis on heartbreak and loneliness, moving his creator - and me - to tears.
"I have nowhere else. I have no one else. Is that not the saddest of all, creator? I am again cast on your barren shores . . . What dreams I had of my mate, of another being looking into these eyes, upon this face and recoiling not. But how can that happen? For the monster is not in my face, but in my soul. I once thought that if I was like other men I would be happy, and loved. The malignance has grown you see, from the outside in, and this shattered visage merely reflects the abomination that is my heart. Oh, my creator, why did you not make me of steel and stone? Why did you allow me to feel? I would rather be the corpse I was than the man I am. Go ahead, pull the trigger. It would be a blessing."

There were other highly emotional moments as well; notably the deaths of Brona, and (finally) Mina, but the show did not skimp on the blood and violence with an exceptional vampire showdown, bloodbath, appropriately and effectively staged in the grand guignol theatre of the episode's name, Ethan's bar bashing of his two would be captors, then his big reveal as a werewolf before finishing them off. This for me was particularly satisfying as many of us who thought this from the beginning were called crazy (and worse) and now look! (Insert smug smile here).

Additionally, we witnessed a sea change in the relationship between Sir Malcolm and Miss Ivy, who in the final minutes once again turns to religion, wanting to own her guilt and change through the power of exorcism. During her conversation with the priest, he comes to understand her earnest desire for this, but asks of her the ultimate question o: "Do you really want to be normal?"

All in all, Grand Guignol was an entirely satisfying completion to the first season of a show that I look forward to revisiting for seasons to come.

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