“Penny Dreadful” is one of my favorite shows currently on television, and I’m very glad that Showtime is going to deliver a third season. There’s something gleefully lurid about the Gothic melodrama, which relishes bathing the audience in blood, gloom and horror. There are spoilers below, so if your delicate Victorian sensibilities are offended by spoilers, consider yourself warned, Gentle Reader…
While the first season introduced the key characters:
- Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), demon-troubled woman of mystery
- Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), African explorer and vampire hunter
- Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), animator of the dead
- Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney), supernatural bon vivant
- The Creature (Rory Kinnear), Frankenstein’s first creation
- Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), lycanthropic American gunslinger
The second season had them going in other places. While Eva Green continues to not just chew the scenery, but to devour it and ask for seconds (demanding it in arcane tongues, no less), Timothy Dalton’s character finds himself largely bereft of purpose in the wake of his grim resolution from Season 1.
There are some stellar scenes, great images — the dreadful dolls of the witches, the bloody ballroom, Dorian dancing with Lily by candlelight, and the desolate moors. These moments are potent and marvelously envisioned. There were a few concerns with plot holes, however….
Penny Dreadful Plot Holes, Vicar?
I enjoyed Season 2 nearly as much as I enjoyed Season 1, although there were some pretty gaping plot holes that required some willful suspension of disbelief to weather. The biggest plot hole was how anybody among the team of supernatural combatants could possibly have overlooked that Sr Malcolm was enchanted by the wicked witches. Given that Vanessa had seen them in her past (a compelling episode unto itself), and has a clear knowledge of witchcraft, she and the others effectively overlook the marked change that befalls Sir Malcolm. That’s hard to swallow.
Also, Ethan Chandler, fresh from the massacre he perpetrated at the Mariner’s Inn, skates through the season without any of his peers inquiring about what the hell happened. Given how occupied they are with the supernatural, it’s hard to believe any of them would not have said something akin to “So, Ethan, what happened, there?”
The Frankenstein plot had some nice twists and turns, with its own “Bride of Frankenstein” scenario in Lily (Billie Piper), which had been pretty well-telegraphed with Brona in Season 1. Lily turns out to be the beastly beauty who ensnares Victor and the Creature both in her machinations. And the Creature finds himself in a challenging place thanks to the Putney Clan’s efforts.
Dorian Gray migrates from his position as cultured rake to outright villain in his own subplot, squiring and retiring the drag queen doxy, Angelique, before finding himself a seemingly worthy partner-in-crime in Lily — although I feel like there’s a real threat to Gray in Season 3, given Lily’s determined villainy.
Vanessa has some nice moments with the Creature, a true bonding of spirits which regrettably is severed by Ives, in her characteristically aloof fashion.
The extended table trinket puzzle-solving scenes felt much like filler for me, an opportunity to drag things out a bit and fill the space.
They did some serious, full-on gay sex with Dorian and Angelique, which was sort of amusing, in the sense that Showtime was no doubt willfully pushing people’s buttons with that, while Vanessa and Ethan continue their almost-romance, and the Creature continues to be the most human and heart-rendingly sensitive of souls.
Everybody eventually goes to battle against the witches, and triumphs (at some great cost, to body and soul), before they all scatter to the four winds (literally!) Alas, poor Sembene (Danny Sapani) — your stoic presence will be missed in Season 3.
What’s to Come, Penny Dreadful?
I’ve seen that the great Brian Cox has been added for Season 3 as Ethan’s oft-invoked father. I am sure Cox will make a great addition to the cast. And Dr. Jekyll is going to be present in Season 3 as well, which should keep things interesting. I’m halfway hoping Dr. Moreau makes an appearance in the future of “Penny Dreadful” (what a perfect tie-in with Ethan’s malady), but no sign for Season 3.
I’m curious whether they’ll push the series past Season 3 — much of what had developed within Season 2 felt like it was stretched out across the season, and it’s hard to see what they might do after the next season, although I’m hopeful they push the envelope still further.
Lily is an outright villain, as is Dorian, and I think they’ll be key remaining drivers of the London plot, while the others go in their other various directions — Sir Malcolm to Africa, Ethan to America, the Creature toward the polar regions. My hope is that Dr. Frankenstein shakes off his morphine addiction and deals with what he must (one can only imagine how Ethan will react if he ever makes it back to London and sees Lily), and we’ll see what is in store for Miss Ives.