Damon Thomas, James Hawes
Eva Green as Vanessa Ives
Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray
Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray
Rory Kinnear as John Clare
Penny Dreadful’s superb second season ends in a manner that leaves one doubtful about its future. It divvies up its assortment of sundries to the corners of the Earth, each having its own mission that left you thinking that they might never reunite. The challenges faced in Season 3 were designed to create a reason for things to come in Season 4 and to do what this show does so well, combine the familiar and the new.
Penny Dreadful’s greatest conquest is that it took some of the most popular Victorian characters or Victorian literature characteristics and gave them a fresh new feel, while at the same time still hanging onto that what made them great. The plight of Victor Frankenstein, played by Harry Treadaway, and his Creature, played by Rory Kinnear, isn’t like that of Mary Shelly’s tale, bearing the hallmarks of the story while still giving it a fantastic makeover.
Since Penny Dreadful has established itself all unto itself, it’s now the right time for it to reinvent some of its own conventions just like it has the classics. The Season 2 finale wiped the slate clean and it is able to break the characters out of what was beginning to feel like the oppressive Sir Malcolm’s, played by Timothy Dalton, London abode.
The characters of Penny Dreadful
Season 3 premiere symbolizes that exact feelings in how Vanessa Ives, played by Eva Green, has enshrined herself there, Grey Gardens-like, bringing herself through the damp corridors and existing alone amongst the flies and spiders. When Ferdinand Lyle, played by Simon Russell Beale, pays her a visit he makes a joke that proposes they improve her living environment to “mammalian.”
Most of the leads in the series find themselves on their own and in pain just like Vanessa. The Creature is on a boat that has become trapped in the ice. The crew is dying quickly, and Victor is now an addict. In Zanzibar, Malcolm is fidgety and lost, while Ethan Chandler, played by Josh Hartnett, is extradited to the UD leaving behind a trail of bodies, as he’s basically gone from being in the custody of one violent group to another.
Vanessa stays at the heart of the story. The two initial episodes spend a great deal of time with her coming out of the darkness. Lyle suggests a “mental doctor,” who is played by Patti LuPone, who in Season 2 also played the cut wife. The show does a great job of connecting the two characters, which also helps Vanessa and the viewers feel at ease because of the familiarity.
The doctor is curt but is able to easily sum up Vanessa. This is a great reminder of the John Logan’s pointed way of writing the show’s scripts. Tons of time is spent on psychology, philosophy, and spirituality. It has been crafted in a way it that feels like facts when spoken. This is just a single example of the confidence Penny Dreadful has always had related to telling this story, and how it is told.
In addition to LuPone’s doctor, there are several other noteworthy new characters. One is Dr. Jekyll, played by Shazad Latif, appearing as Victor’s old friend. There are a number of reasons why it is worth mentioning that he is Indian, and the series doesn’t gloss over this, especially after losing Sembene last year. Many including me were hoping for this year more diversity among the cast. He also works at Bedlam among “cannibals, infanticides, and the criminally insane” where he is able to carry out experiments.
While Victor’s primary focus is on giving life after death, Jekyll’s desire is to give new life to those overcome by their own darkness, which is a recurring theme in the series. He speaks to Victor about the dual nature all of us have – light and dark – the angel and the devil, and the constant battle that occurs between these two forces. It is the foundation for Penny Dreadful’s tales from the demimonde.
The themes and the story
The mix of the new with the old continues, the series’ first uniting demonic force were vampires, and it’s fitting that during Season 3 the show returns their presence with the defining darkness, that also includes Dracula himself, creeping, slowly, from the shadows of London and pursuing Vanessa in crafty ways – at least for now, which is likely to build to another of Penny Dreadful’s final cacophonies.
Even Vanessa has managed to find a small amount of happiness at the start of the season with a kind zoologist, by the name of Dr. Sweet, and played by Christian Camargo, which should make the Penny Dreadful diehards cause for concern. Is he evil incarnate, or about to be the victim? Vanessa has gone through a great deal, and it’s lovely when she is allowed to occasionally have some moments of normalcy, giving in to her romantic feelings. This is exactly why her time with Ethan was a tear-jerker, and why their parting so extremely intolerable. Vanessa isn’t one to lightly give away her heart, and when her heart is broken, we all feel it, because the series’ character drama is so powerful.
The second episode of the new season sees the threads start to come back together. Malcolm heads to the US with an Apache tribesman named Kaetenay and played by Wes Studi. Kaetenay is from Ethan’s past, and at the same time Dorian, played by Reeve Carney and Lily, played by Billie Piper, continues putting London’s pimps and johns on notice pertaining to the violent vigilante role.
Now all of the pieces are in play — there’s lots to keep tabs on and sometimes it feels awkward. This splendor created by Penny Dreadful is easy to get lost in, drowning itself in the period, in squalor and opulence, in the light and darkness, and yet again, this series is ready to be one of the year’s most spellbinding tales. It doesn’t hinge on action or plot points although there’s plenty of both. It’s all about these broken characters that are shunned, finding strength in their alliances, and fighting the darkness while we join in from the comfort of our living room.