‘Penny Dreadful’ Series Finale: “The Perpetual Night” Gives Way to “The Blessed Dark”

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Alas, none of us knew going in that the last two episodes of the current third season of “Penny Dreadful” would be the last, but it was hard to mistake it for anything else when those two words came onto the screen for the first- and last- time: The End.

As confirmed by both Showtime and writer/creator John Logan, this was indeed the end of the series, which made it a sort of bittersweet endeavor in many respects, not in the least given the way we left things. I suppose in some ways, it was a happy ending- at least for one character- but not so much for the others. Or the viewers, for that matter.

Fair warning- I’m about to get into spoiler territory soon enough. The first of two episodes, “The Perpetual Night,” began ominously enough with the apocalyptic sight of frogs overrunning the office of Dr. Seward (Patti LuPone), as Renfield (Samuel Barnett) munches down on one in front of the horrified doctor, who promptly has Renfield committed.

Meanwhile, Ethan (Josh Hartnett) and Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) returned to London, with Kaetenay (Wes Studi) in tow, convinced that Vanessa (Eva Green) was in trouble, only to see that the same applied to London as a whole, with even the rats scurrying for safe passage out as the threesome arrived.

A dock worker informed them that they’d do better to turn around from whence they came and leave the city, but, of course, they had a job to do, even if they might have been a day late and a half a penny short. Sure enough, when Sir Malcolm and company went to his home, no one awaited them but a dead wolf hung from the ceiling.

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Except that wasn’t entirely true, as a host of bats swarmed in, turning into vampires that the three were just barely able to defeat, with a valuable last-minute assist from Cat (Perdita Weeks), who, after cauterizing a nasty vampire bite on Sir Malcolm, informed them that some 7,000 or more had died in recent days, with a perpetual fog reigning terror and plague on the city.

The source of all that horror was, of course, the infamous Dracula (Christian Camargo), aka Dr. Sweet, who Cat suspected had absconded with Vanessa, but hasn’t been able to track down yet. While Ethan goes to fetch Victor (Harry Treadaway) for help with Malcolm, Cat fills Malcolm in on what he’s missed.

Victor is, of course, preparing to “heal” Lily (Billie Piper) and make her into a “proper woman” again, which is a mixed blessing, to say the least. On the one hand, I certainly sympathize with her plight and those of her fellow “women of the night,” on the other, her way of handling it maybe wasn’t the most constructive in the world.

Even so, the thought of her being essentially neutralized…well, that’s no “proper” way for anyone to live, is it? Indeed, Lily says as much, pleading with Victor that if he takes away her pain, he takes away who she is, and she’d rather be dead than forget everything she’s been through again.

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She relates the heartbreaking story of the death of her only child, who died in the freezing cold while she was out turning a trick to put food on the table, only to end up being beaten and left for dead in the street when her John didn’t want to pay. By the time she gets home, the poor child has frozen to death, as the fire she left burning in her wake had long since burnt out.

But rather than forget such a tragedy, she, quite the opposite, wants to cling to it, specifically to the memory of her daughter, which she fears Victor will take away along with everything else. Crushed by this revelation, Victor opts to let her go, and Lily takes her leave to return to Dorian’s, thanking the good doctor for not going through with his plans in the end.

Dorian (Reeve Carney) himself runs off Lily’s “army of whores” in short order, at least after an attack by Justine (Jessica Barden) proves fruitless, as they realize that Dorian isn’t a “proper” man his own damn self, but….something else.

While the others run for cover and leave his house, Justine tells Dorian that she’d rather “die on my feet than live on my knees,” beckoning him to kill her, which he does by snapping her neck and leaving her crumpled on the floor. (If that quote sounded familiar, there’s a reason for that.)

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Dr. Seward drops by Sir Malcolm’s and informs him and Cat that she might know where Vanessa is, or rather, knows someone else who might know. That proves to be Renfield, locked away in the very same asylum, Bedlam, that Victor and Dr. Jekyll (Shazad Latif) are working out of the basement of.

Meanwhile, Ethan runs afoul of that creepy vampire kid (Sebastian Croft), who promises to lead him to Vanessa, and by extension Dracula. Sure enough, he does indeed lead him to the latter, who emerges from the darkness and fog surrounded by his fellow vampires as they hiss and moan and wait for further instructions from their “Master.”

“The children of the night, what music they make,” says the man himself, quoting one of the most well-known passages from the classic “Dracula.” After telling Ethan that Vanessa has made her choice and he needs to leave her alone- or else- the two tangle for a bit, then Dracula makes his leave to let his minions finish the job.

Unfortunately for them, it’s a full moon, and Ethan wolfs out, handily taking out all comers, with an assist from Kaetenay, who also proves to be a werewolf. The creepy kid takes note of all this, and naturally heads back home to his “Master” to report on the carnage- and Ethan and his friend’s “special” abilities, which is where episode one ends.

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In “The Blessed Dark,” we pick up with John Clare (Rory Kinnear), who had recently reunited with his family after getting advice to that end from Vanessa. Much to his surprise, they had welcomed him with open arms, seeming to promise a happy ending for the long-suffering “monster.”

Alas, as we would all soon discover soon enough, this is not a show for happy endings. Instead, John watches helplessly as his ailing son Jack (Casper Allpress) dies after a long bout with what appears to be tuberculosis, the same ailment that claimed Lily once upon a time.

Naturally, as he has told his wife Marjory (Pandora Colin) of his unholy origins, she pleads with him to take Jack to Victor and “bring him back,” in a scene that reminded me of “The Monkey’s Paw,” with a side order of “Pet Sematary.”

He refuses, saying it’s not a fate he would wish on anyone, but she says either he does this, or he won’t be welcomed back ever again. Poor John Clare- he can’t win for losing, am I right? He leaves, defeated, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that when he does, he’s leaving for the last time.

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The vamp kid fills Dracula in on what he saw and Dracula tells Vanessa, who has clearly given herself completely over to the dark side at this point, looking like death warmed over. Even Dracula’s acolytes keep their distance from Vanessa, seeming to fear her even more than Dracula himself.

Dracula tells Vanessa he knows of the “Wolf of God” and has reason to fear him, having also heard the prophecies. Vanessa simply says, “let him come” and the two await their respective fates, whatever that may be.

Ethan himself confronts Kaetenay, who admits that it was he who made Ethan what he is. It seems that he became a wolf to help his Apache people, only to find that whatever he did, it was never good enough, as his people kept dying and the enemy kept coming.

Then Ethan came and he realized that it wasn’t him who would be the salvation of his people- it was Ethan, so he passed along werewolf gene or what have you. Needless to say, Ethan isn’t thrilled with this revelation, pointing out that he also killed a lot of innocent people in the process.

But Kaetenay points out that it is this very trait that will allow him to save Vanessa and stop the End of Days, which were clearly upon them. Good point, but still- thanks a lot, Chief Regifting Is Always a Bad Thing.

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Dr. Seward works her hypnotic magic on Renfield after he resists their questions and attempts to intimidate them with the threat of his Master’s powers that he will bestow upon him any day now. (Loved Cat’s rebuttal to this: “I whistle away haunts like you before breakfast, love,” which even got a priceless reaction from Sir Malcolm.)

Eventually, the approach works and Dr. Seward is able to get a lock on where Dracula is hiding- at a local slaughterhouse. The group head out to find Ethan and go there, running into Victor on the way out, who joins the party, having nothing better to do at this point. (Dr. Jekyll does inform Victor that his father has died, leaving him everything, including the title of “Lord Hyde,” after berating him for not going through with his plans for Lily.)

Lily returns to Dorian’s place, finding Justine dead, and Dorian fills her in on what happened. She lays into him for his betrayal of her, but he points out that he’s seen this sort of thing before, many times over, and it always ends the same way- with a lot of people dead and no real change besides.

He laments his immortality, which is now her cross to bear as well, and how it is inevitable that they will lead a passionless existence, mentioning how, time and again, he has fallen in love, made friends, and even fathered children, only to see them all grow old and die while he stays the same age.

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Lily seems to differ in her opinion and leaves, after kissing him goodbye. Dorian says she’ll be back eventually- and he’ll be waiting when she does. Is he right? Hard to say, but that is the last we see of the lamentable Dorian for the series.

Sir Malcolm and company meet up with Ethan and Kaetenay and the two make plans to siege the slaughterhouse, with the former going in through the front door, while the latter go in from underground, via the sewers. Malcolm lets everyone know he won’t think less of them if they back out now.

Delightfully speaking for all New Yorkers everywhere, Dr. Seward says: “I’m a New Yorker. We know our way around random gunplay.” Did I mention I kind of love Dr. Seward? She also has a great moment shortly thereafter where she drops a f-bomb on Dracula, when Malcolm gives everyone one last chance to bail when the chips are down. “F*ck him,” she says, in hilariously deadpan fashion, which literally made me LOL.

Sure enough, Dracula is waiting for them, and his “children” surround them at all sides. He informs them that Vanessa wants them unharmed, and he is willing to honor that if they leave now, but needless to say, that isn’t happening. Chaos and carnage ensue, in spectacular fashion.

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In the melee, Ethan arrives and helps Malcolm’s group just in time to save them before going after Dracula himself. It doesn’t go well, but by then, the rest of the group has the upper hand and are able to return the favor and distract Dracula long enough for Ethan to get by him and go to Vanessa.

Ethan finds her at the end of a candle-strewn tunnel in a open, dome-like chamber, where she stands, looking like a dead woman walking. She informs him that all of this is her fault, and that Vanessa is no more. There is only darkness left within her. At this point, the only way to end things and stop the Apocalypse is to kill her.

Ethan begs to differ, but Vanessa won’t be swayed and grabs his gun and hands it to him. She tells him to kiss her, then pull the trigger. He kisses her and the two recite the Lord’s Prayer together, and sure enough, Ethan pulls the trigger, realizing that death really is her only way out at this point- anything else would just be prolonging her suffering.

As much as I suppose this was inevitable, it was still kind of a shock, what with Eva Green being one of the main leads of the show, and, most would say, it’s heart- such as it is on a show like this. Keep in mind as well, that I had no idea this was to be the last episode of the show ever, either, so it was doubly surprising. At this point, I still hoped she could be saved.

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Alas, such was not to be the case, and Vanessa instead died in Ethan’s arms. As some solace, she mentions seeing “our Lord” waiting for her, which kind of reminded me of a similar sort of scene in the “Twin Peaks” movie, which coincidentally Showtime will be bringing back as a series, so… silver lining, sort of?

Dracula corners Sir Malcolm and starts to strangle him to death, then immediately stops as he senses something wrong. He glances up and sees Ethan carrying a limp Vanessa and bolts out of there while the getting is good. I know some people were probably disappointed he got away, but this is Dracula we’re talking about- of course he did. How else is he going to fight Buffy in the future?

The sun rises and the clean-up begins outside, as the fog lifts in London. Everyone goes their separate ways, with Ethan and Sir Malcolm returning to his never-more empty house. Ethan sits in Vanessa’s room until nightfall, as Sir Malcolm joins him and they try to figure out what their next move will be- and who they both are without Vanessa in their lives. Ethan says he will stay- Sir Malcolm is his family now.

We see John Clare bury his son at sea, setting Jack’s body adrift in the ocean as he weeps for him after kissing him goodbye one last time. Then John returns to London, seeing, much to his horror, that Vanessa has joined the ranks of the dead as well, as he witnesses her body being carried away by a horse-driven carriage with see-through walls, which put me in the mind of a fairy tale, a la “Snow White” or “Sleeping Beauty.”

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As everyone gathers around Vanessa’s final resting place, saying their goodbyes, John recites a poem, William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood.” We end with everyone filing off, one by one, with John visiting last, ever-alone, after everyone else has left the gravestone, and the words “The End” appear for the first time- our first signal that this is, in fact, truly the end of the series.

Were there still a lot of unanswered questions? Sure. We don’t really know Lily’s fate, or Dorian’s for that matter. We get a sense that Ethan and Sir Malcolm will forge a path forward together, but what about the rest of the team? And is poor John Clare always destined to be alone, even after finally coming to terms with his current situation?

It was all a bit on the sad side, for my tastes, but then, I suppose it was doomed to not end well no matter what. At least they didn’t do the whole “Lost” thing, where they kill off damn near everyone on the show.

But there’s no denying that Vanessa’s unexpected death packed a huge punch, and that the entire episode had a sense of finality to it, from the mournfully beautiful opening credits, which replaced the traditional opening theme with a sad lament by Tom Kitt, as sung by Sophie Meade; to the elegiac final scenes, as John recited the poem that closed out the series.

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Creator John Logan has since gone on record as saying it was always planned this way and that there was never any intention to go beyond three seasons, which may well be how he was able to land such a fantastic cast. Whatever the case, it was a beautifully-done show, and quite underrated, IMHO, not really getting the attention it deserved along the way.

Perhaps now that it has come to an end and people know that it is a relatively self-contained three-season series, clocking in at a moderately stealth 27 episodes, others will get wind of it and binge-watch the show, eventually giving it the reputation it deserves.

For me, it was kind of like an infinitely-better version of the graphic novel “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” than the ill-advised one we got as a feature film back in 2003. Not saying it was a rip-off, mind you, just a cool alternate version of a similar idea.

The cast was impeccable, the production values impressive for a cable show, and it was well-executed throughout. Sure, the quality of the individual episodes varied throughout the run of the series- don’t they always?

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But overall, this was a very consistent and eminently watchable show that was manna from heaven for horror fans, especially those of the old-school variety, though there was plenty here to enjoy for those who didn’t mind a healthy dose of sex and violence with their retro-horror, to be sure.

I certainly look forward to whatever John Logan does next- word is he’s doing an adaptation of a book by punk rock legend Patti Smith, which could be interesting- and I hope that he eventually does something in the same wheelhouse, though whatever he does should be interesting, regardless.

That said, I will absolutely miss “Penny Dreadful” and while it might not have been perfect, I honestly don’t know that I’d change a thing all the same. It will be missed.

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What did you think of the final episode of “Penny Dreadful”? Were you also shocked to find it was the final episode of the series, period? Or did you suspect that would be the case? Are you satisfied with the way things ended? Or would you have liked to see more?

What would you have liked to see if the show had continued? Was there any particular storyline that you thought could have been promising, had it continued? (We never really got to see “Dr Jekyll” become “Mr. Hyde” for instance, and there were intimations that Lyle was about to encounter The Mummy.)

Sound off down below and let me know what you thought and thanks for reading!