Penny Dreadful Finale Recap: Fangs for the Memories

Over and over again in its first season, Showtime’s gorgeous and ghastly Penny Dreadful has shocked us. With the murders of Proteus and Van Helsing. With Ethan and Dorian’s absinthe-drenched hook-up. With performances by Eva Green as Vanessa that are so preternatural, she risks being accused of sorcery. Yet the series still managed to save a few surprises for the finale. So read on, why don’t you, and savor once again the thrills, chills and battles of wills that ran through “Grand Guignol” like so much blood through a vein.

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BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO | Not once but twice in the hour Vanessa gives persistent Dorian the brushoff. The second time, she explains that, in spite of the rarity of their connection, she dare not pursue it. It’s “too dangerous,” she says, for it releases something within her that is “unhealthy.” (Considering that that something is a demon, that’s putting it rather mildly!) When he appears to not quite understand what’s happening, much less how he feels about, she kisses him (goodbye) and explains, “It’s rejection.” After she leaves him, he’s further taken aback to discover that he’s shed a tear.

LIFE AFTER LOVE | Encouraged once too often by Maud, Caliban uses stage makeup to try to compensate for his deathly pallor – with disastrous results. When she laughs at him, he forcefully steals a kiss, and before you know it, there’s screaming, choking, and Frankenstein’s monster is out of both a job and a home. Since he has nowhere else to go, he shows up at Victor’s laboratory. And, instead of lash out or even object when his maker points a gun at his head, the heartbroken monster asks him to pull the trigger. “I would rather be the corpse that I was,” he says, “than the man that I am.” Finally feeling empathy for his creation, Victor hastens Brona’s demise and sets about resurrecting her to grant Caliban’s wish for an immortal mate.

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON | As if Ethan didn’t have enough to contend with, what with Brona’s passing, he’s also being tracked by bounty hunters sent by his father. The first time they attempt to apprehend him, they just get lightly pummeled. But the second time? Oh dear. As they threaten to drag him away like a monkey, he transforms into a werewolf, and… well, judging from the amount of blood that’s spilled, it doesn’t end well for Ethan’s pursuers.

UTTER DRAC | Early on, Sir Malcolm admits to Vanessa not only that he’s willing to sacrifice her for Mina’s sake but that he might be hoping that it comes to that. Not exactly what you want to hear as you’re about to storm the Grand Guignol in search of vampires, but hey, at least now Vanessa knows where she stands. As expected, the theatre is full of blood-suckers. And, though for a moment it looks grim (especially for Ethan – good thing these beasties seem disinterested in actually biting anyone), Sir Malcolm impales the leader of the pack just in time to save the day. Er, night. That’s when things get really interesting. Mina emerges, safe and sound, and joyfully embraces Vanessa. Then her eyes go dark, and she’s revealed to still be a vampire. “You brought her to me,” she tells Sir Malcolm. “You’ve done well.” However, just as she’s about to sink her fangs into her ex-BFF, Sir Malcolm shoots her. “I’m your daughter,” she protests. “I already have a daughter,” he retorts. Clearly, Sir Malcolm and Vanessa’s relationship will never be the same. (Later, they even share a tearful embrace.) So all’s well that ends well for them, then? Well, not quite. Concerned about the possibility of being, um, repossessed, Vanessa goes to church to inquire about getting herself an exorcism. And, while the priest seems pretty willing to consider her request, he also points out that being touched by the devil makes her, in a backhanded way, sacred. Does she want to give that up? Or, as he puts it, “Do you really want to be normal?” Before Vanessa can answer, that’s it. The episode and the season are over!

Okay, your turn. What did you think of the episode? The season? Were you surprised to find out that Ethan is a werewolf? Were you disappointed that we never got a look at Dorian’s portrait? Are you glad that it seems like Brona will (kinda) live on? Hit the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. jag says:

    hell yeah. I’m easy to please and disappoint at the same time and the finale just push a whole lot of pleasing buttons.

  2. Julianna says:

    Love this show, but not sure about the finale. It’s still better than almost anything else on TV, but it seemed a drop less dark than past episodes to me, for some reason, While a huge part of me wanted to see Vanessa and Sir Malcolm tearfully embrace and talk about the holidays, getting a payoff that is easy on the heart is not the usual way of Penny Dreadful. Maybe they felt the viewers could only take so much heartache, with Victor suffocating and Frankenizing Brona. After weeks of Caliban driving me crazy as the monster, Penny Dreadful put me in my place, by reminding me that Victor is the real monster. A lonely man playing God. I mean, Brona was dying quickly, did he really need to euthanize her while Ethan was out of the room? Just to honor Caliban’s wishes that much quicker? I would think Ethan would have wanted to be holding her hand at the end, and Victor cruelly stole that from him. It appears he developed feelings, finally, for his creation, but still lacks them for any human being. And Ethan’s werewolf transformation? While awesome that he did turn out to be the Wolfman, I wish it had been a little more serious and slow. The show has been doing so wonderful in turning tired, old monsters into very new and unique characters. I was just a little disappointed with Ethan’s actual physical transformation. It appeared to me a little more “teen wolf” than what I was expecting, after all the build up.! But that is a little complaint from someone who loves this show passionately and thinks it’s done so much right. PS: Reeve Carney and Eva Green were simply amazing and breathtaking, as usual. The devil would be having a field day if I were in Vanessa’s shoes, because I could never have her restraint around Dorian. That’s for sure!

    • GW says:

      i loved penny dreadful abd cant wait for season 2

    • Temperance says:

      I think Ethan’s transformation had just started, and we just got the tiniest glimpse. The show has to be *so* expensive… it’s deeply gorgeous to watch, so they have to be careful with the FX budget.

      • shycat says:

        I agree with you on the transformatiom. It looked like it was just the beginning of it just ti give us a glimpse of what to come.

    • Its hard to see it, but I think Ethan looked like the classic wolfman from the movies of the 1930/40s. Emphasis on Wolf-MAN as opposed to Werewolf. Teen Wolf uses a similar look for their semi-wolves.

    • Chip says:

      Very insightful! I agree, I think it’s the best show on t.v. right now. Too bad the first season was so short.

    • Moray says:

      I’m not sure it’s possible to miss the point more completely with Victor and Calaban. Perhaps IGN’s savier critics can enlighten you “Victor staying his hand and not shooting Caliban after he fully grasped his creation’s true agony. It didn’t hurt either that Caliban is just as romantic a soul as Victor and can speak in a manner he can relate to more than anything else.”
      It’s a moving change of heart. Hastening Brona’s demise is so irrelevant, it’s led some completely off course.

  3. angel says:

    Bravo, what an end, loved the twists. Thank you for not making it boring and predictable. Congrats on season 2.

  4. Rdub says:

    Even though I had guessed Ethan was a werewolf I didn’t realize until he turned that he was the one who killed the mother and daughter so viciously in the first ep, it’s gonna be a looong wait for season 2!!!

    • Chip says:

      I’m not so sure that Ethan killed the mother and daughter in the first episode. I think there’s another werewolf out there.

  5. Temperance says:

    Only eight episodes and it’s already one of my favorite television series EVER. Seriously, exactly why I want to watch TV.

  6. LB says:

    An American werewolf in London, how original! Ha.
    Disappointed in this finale. Yes, there were moment of it that were great, but they could have done so much better.
    We spend all season looking for Mina, the show is practically about finding Mina .. and then in 30 seconds her dad shoots her and it’s done and over.
    I was a bit underwhelmed by that scene.

    I wanted to know what happened with Mina, how she became a vampire.

    For me the best episode of the entire season was the one that focused on Vanessa. It explained things, which I feel like this show does not do a lot of.
    Having said all this, I do like this show and will be watching season 2.
    The actors all have a great connection, which is very important.

    • Temperance says:

      There were only 8 episodes, after all, and all the setup exposition. We now have our ‘team’ so to speak. And the great (great) thing is that the true bad guy isn’t a vampire/mummy, but an ancient Egyptian god. How do you trounce that, especially with a reincarnation of the goddess that he needs to take the world as one of your stars? Whoo! I love it. Oh, and Eva Green needs an Emmy stat.

    • Cookie says:

      I agree with u LB,why wasn’t Mina enough for the head vampire/demon? Vanessa has physic abilities but so did Mina. We know the demon wanted Vanessa for her insight into the future,but the show really should have showed us how the Vampire made her. I thought up to this point that Mina was just being held prisoner to draw her Dad out,cause the demon knew he know how to kill vampires.

    • C.G. says:

      I agree, for such an excellent beginning, it’s really lost the in the last episodes. I continue to marvel at people who can’t see past Eva Green’s performance to see the flaws in the story, and for that matter, can’t distinguish between passage of genuinely nuanced acting and that which is merely shocking and extreme. Her hair is stringy and she rolls her eyes, give her an Emmy.

  7. shycat says:

    Thought it was a good ep but overall a disappointing finale but the last half did make up for it. I hope they show ethan’s full transformation next season.

  8. devin says:

    I think dorian is the master looking for his bride…

    • Nicole says:

      I really like this theory. The two actors have such great chemistry and play their roles with such emotion I would love for this to be true. What a struggle for Vanessa and what a great twist for Dorian.

  9. Dan says:

    Everyone guessed Ethan’s curse but I still cheered at the end when he transformed because I thought we’d have nto wait until next season to get confirmation.

  10. christine says:

    Great finale. Victor suffocating Brona was brutal. The Ethan Chandler reveal, Everything Vanessa… only beef is that the Mina storyline seemed to end to abruptly which makes me think it isnt quite over. I didnt see any heads removed or hearts. ;) its nice to see the show getting some coverage on TVLine. It hasnt received much.

  11. kate'shomesick says:

    WAIT. Ethan and Dorian hooked up? I have to start watching this again :D

  12. Lia says:

    Eva Green is a joy to watch, she gives so much to the role.

  13. One thing I hope someone can explain since the scene was so dark. When Caliban was standing in the middle of the stage (after the props went wrong and he was essentially fired) the camera pans up to show what looked like a body. What exactly was it?

  14. Gary says:

    I was curious about the “I already have a daughter” comment. Granted I still need to catch up on an episode I missed, but has the show ever said (or strongly hinted) that Vanessa was Sir Malcolm’s illegitimate daughter? I know he was having a secret affair with her mother. I’m assuming the quote was meant figuratively, but it occurred to me later that could be the reason for their strained relationship, plus the reason Vanessa had such a strong physic bond with Mina (her half-sister).

  15. Darth Draven says:

    I called it when Ethan was revealed to be a werewolf

  16. Chip says:

    I thought the loose ends were tied up nicely with numerous teases for Season 2. I figured out that Ethan was a werewolf several episodes ago during the night visit to the zoo when he was able to fend off the wolves/werewolves that approached him and the rest of the group. Now the question is, is he responsible for all of the murders where the victims weren’t drained of blood? Maybe there’s another werewolf lurking around. The death of Mina wasn’t a total surprise given her advanced condition which left Sir Malcolm no other choice but to shoot her. And I’m curious about the final scene with Vanessa meeting with the priest who appeared very benign at first, but who at the end of their conversation seemed to suggest that maybe being demon-possessed isn’t so bad after all. What’s up with that?

  17. Donna says:

    Had been keeping track of all the monsters, so far. Since little was left but werewolf, that had to be Ethan. But why is he involved with the others?

  18. Joanne H says:

    I love Penny Dreadful. My only gripe is as an Irish viewer Billie Piper’s accent just grates on me. To pull off a genuine Irish accent you need an Irish actor……we have plenty!

  19. chris lynch says:

    Really well made monster/fantasy series.Glad it stayed away from buffy the vampire kind of silly tv and it was quite chilling in some bits looking foward to next series….

  20. Lcanaled says:

    Loved it. Some questions answered (?) and tons left unanswered (???) But that’s how it always goes. I try to enjoy the story and besides, who cares how I want the story to go. It was a fantastic first season. Eva Greene is wow, so intense. Enjoyed all the actorx. Can’t wait to see Ethan run into the BRIDE! I am dying to see Dorian’s picture. And Timothy Dalton , wow , you r my favorite Bond. xoxoxo

  21. Lcanaled says:

    Loved it. Some questions answered (?) and tons left unanswered (???) But that’s how it always goes. I try to enjoy the story and besides, who cares how I want the story to go. It was a fantastic first season. Eva Greene is wow, so intense. Enjoyed all the actors. Can’t wait to see Ethan run into the BRIDE! I am dying to see Dorian’s picture. And Timothy Dalton , wow , you r my favorite Bond. xoxoxo

  22. DaBA says:

    Thanks for the spoiler in the headline. Nice work.

  23. NBC says:

    It so interesting to see all of these characters together. Though I am simple country girl the south.. This show has really showed intrigued me. And I hate scary cinema.