TV Review: 'Penny Dreadful' Signs Off with a Daring Season Finale

“Penny Dreadful” wrapped its second season on a strongly somber note, closing its curtains with an array of characters bidding farewell to London as they headed overseas indefinitely. There were no happy endings to be had here, except for maybe Lily and Dorian. The two psychos will apparently spend the rest of their days waltzing in a bloody ballroom. Despite defeating the devil, Vanessa’s story ended on a down note with her winding up all alone as her friends departed her company. The season ending denouement felt more like a loss than a victory.

After leaving viewers with a shred of hope that Sembene might survive Ethan’s werewolf attack that was quickly demolished, making him the sad casualty in the war against the devil and his minions. There was a lot of promising potential with Sembene and his arc really flourished this season so his death came as quite a shock.

The core of the finale revolved around more than Vanessa’s showdown with the actual devil. The main theme dealt with facing the metaphorical devil within. For Vanessa it was the reality of what she truly wanted out of life, a home and family with Ethan and realizing it was something she could (possibly) never have. Similarly, Ethan dealt with the fallout of his being a werewolf and the lives he took during last season’s finale.

Sir Malcolm faced down the demons of his family and the guilt of letting them down. Frankenstein came to grips with the fallout from creating his “children”, the sting of Lily’s betrayal and realizing how far he was willing to go to get payback against her. All of which saw the doctor’s mind start to completely unravel. Finally there was the Creature who after escaping his crazy captors; decided it was time to seek new horizons, where he could experience complete isolation from the world and hopefully this viewer.

The penultimate episode set up quite a few character driven cliffhangers and they were resolved with surprising haste, in the finale. To the series’ credit, Vanessa’s clash with the devil was dealt with fairly early on, allowing the ensuing aftermath for everyone on a personal level to take center stage. Looking back over the season, the standout surprise belongs to the development of Vanessa and Ethan’s romance, which for a show centered on gothic horror was its most unexpected and marvelous accomplishment. By season’s end the desire for these two soul mates to find their way back to each other and overcome the many obstacles thrown in their path was pretty outstanding.

Eva Green and Josh Hartnett have managed to build an incredibly believable chemistry over the course of the last two seasons and because of that, “Penny Dreadful” managed to build a root worthy coupling. Due to the strength of the characters and actors chemistry, "Dreadful" has masterfully side stepped other series’ propensity to simply throw their two lead characters together by default; proclaiming them the series’ requisite central couple without having any real basis to do so.

Throughout its run, “Penny Dreadful” delivered a strong sophomore season that improved upon its first to staggering results. Is it 2016 yet?

Side Notes / Burning Questions: What on earth does Lily have to be so ticked off with Frankenstein about? Without him, she wouldn’t have super strength, immortality or anything else. Thank goodness Lyle made it! He is the comedic relief the show desperately needs. With Ethan heading to America, it seems highly plausible we might see Vanessa and others venture there as well and the possibility is very intriguing. Might there be a western gothic feel to next season? Here’s to finding out...

Photo Credit: "Penny Dreadful"/Showtime