Monday, July 4, 2016

Requiescat in Pace, Penny Dreadful.

As I do when finishing up any work of literature, art, film, music that has grabbed hold of me for a spell, I spend a good while ruminating on it, and so it's been today with Penny Dreadful.

As has been made too, terribly clear, ours has become a society populated more and more by people who think they know better than the creator of a story, how that story should go. It happens, most notably, in great television series such as this one.

Since the airing of its series finale, there have been dozens of online articles, op-ed pieces, in all the usual (and not so usual) online sources (Variety, Wired, etc.) by outraged fans complaining (more like whining) how they feel cheated by the (pick one) rushed, hasty piecemeal, end of the series. There have been outcries of how many loose ends there were with certain characters, how Vanessa should not have been killed off, or if she had to be, why not continue the stories of Sir Malcolm and Ethan and everyone else still alive at the tale's end.

This is the stubborn, limited rationalization by those who want a thing to go on forever at any cost to keep their favorite characters going and relevant. The show no longer really becomes about "the show" but the characters one falls in love with and/or identifies best with. I take issue with this kind of thinking.

For myself, I thought it ended wisely . . . brilliantly, even. The shows creator and principal writer, John Logan said he saw Vanessa's demise while still writing Season Two, stating at the shows heart it is about Vanessa's struggle with faith, her eternal wrestling between God and the Devil. In this sense I believe there was no choice but for Vanessa to die, but not owing to some moralistic Victorian thinking on a "woman's place," but rather as the necessary sacrifice in order for good to triumph over evil.

I'm not a religious man, but Vanessa's final words "Oh, Ethan . . . I see our Lord!" had me choked with emotion, because THIS was what she wanted from the beginning. Those who would argue otherwise, clearly haven't paid attention to what her struggle was all along, beginning with the very first image we see of her in the pilot: kneeling before a crucifix praying fervently, as one possessed.

Logan himself stated that he was not tempted to write anything beyond Vanessa's burial, and the peroration by The Creature, reciting a verse from Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality . . . " would be a betrayal of her story. I think he knew what he was doing and thank him for Vanessa was a character created to break our hearts, and hearts do not break up neatly or easily. They weren't meant to.

The complaints aren't just coming from average fans and viewers, but also renowned writers and critics who felt as though the series played a joke on all of us by not allowing us to know this was the finale, Mr. Logan's response to this was that if audiences knew going in this was the end of the season, it would have spotlit the ending. spoiling it. This kind of audience selfishness offers further proof of a public more obsessed with self-gratification than in comprehending the fact they've been offered a beautiful gift, little different different than complaining the chef didn't serve you six lobsters but only two..

There is so much to praise in this series, from Owen McPolin and company's amazing lighting design and stunning cinematography (at several points reminding me of Patrice Chéreau's Bayreuth production of "Der Ring des Nibelungen"), Abel Korzeniowsk's powerful, theatrical score, Jonathan McKinstry's atmospheric production designs, and the rest of the team. I can only applaud all of those involved in bringing this fascinating, beautiful, complicated tale to the small screen.

Requiescat in Pace, Penny Dreadful.

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