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- Episode: Grand Guignol (Season 1 Finale, Episode 8)
- Starring: Reeve Carney, Timothy Dalton, Eva Green
- Written By: John Logan (creator), John Logan
- Directed By: James Hawes
- Network: Showtime
- Studio: Desert Wolf Productions, Neal Street Productions
PENNY DREADFUL: Grand Guignol Review
Season 1 Finale!
By Jarrett Kruse
June 30, 2014
Well you can tag the toe on season one of PENNY DREADFUL and it ended with what I think was its best episode yet. Everything seemed to come together with this episode and the collective group became a team albeit for a short while. Still, it was a preview of what is hopefully to come in season two. The pieces are all there but they just need to be nudged around the board a bit more to solidify the show’s multiple themes. The multiple story arcs of the four main characters eats up a lot of screen time making the audience feel a little detached from where the show is really going. And I think that after seeing this episode, I like the characters better together than apart.
The continued search for Mina continues and it seems that it is becoming a futile effort or worse, Mina will be in the form they found her last. All demony and eyes of black. She was pretty damn creepy but at least she was still alive. Sir Malcolm seems torn over what to do if he does find her again. If she is in fact still demon-like, should he end her torture with a bullet or let her live on? He goes over this with Ms. Ives and Malcolm wickedly lets the Bond beauty know that she is most certainly NOT his daughter. Vanessa seems hurt at the cut but Malcolm is under quite a strain. Interpreting the images of Vanessa’s possession last week is difficult for her but she has enough information to go on for the group’s next target to find Mina.
Ms. Ives is visited by Dorian Gray and she reveals an icy demeanor that until now we had not seen. It was warranted I suppose as it was her strange psycho-sexual response aka her possession that had something to do with her and Gray being intimate. When he inquires about meeting her later in the day, she balks and he leaves defeated. However, Vanessa is weak to Gray’s charms and meets him anyway. She reveals to him without blatantly saying “I was possessed” that the two of them cannot be together in any way. Vanessa sees that Gray is feeling something that he has never felt: rejection.
At the theater, Frankenstein’s monster Caliban is still working as a stagehand and has to deal with the worst London has to offer: actors! After screwing up a harness and pulley system that turns the stage’s lead male irate, the thespian tears Caliban a new one. It is humiliating on many levels including the lead actress Maud for whom Caliban has a sweet spot. She is the ingenue actress and he is a monster yet both, despite the stark differences in appearance, feel. When Maud visits Caliban in the bowels of the stage, he takes it as a romantic gesture. Later when he enters her dressing room, it goes about as badly as a romantic situation can go. The incident leaves Caliban without a job and when he returns to Dr. Frankenstein, his loneliness has hit rock bottom. As Caliban goes on about needing a bride and wanting to die, the good doctor is standing behind him with a cocked pistol debating whether or not to kill the monster. Caliban even tells him at one point to pull the trigger. Clearly the doctor feels terribly for his creation and puts his hand on his shoulder as if to say, “it’ll be OK.”
Brona is dying and Ethan has beckoned the good doctor to see her immediately. He tells Ethan that she does not have much time left and to fetch some water for her. Just then it seems that a lightbulb goes off and he smothers Brona right there in bed with Ethan a room away. And Caliban, come on down, we’ve found your bride! The Bride of Frankenstein that is. When Ethan gets back to the quarters to see his love dead he breaks down and turns to the bottle. It is at the bar where two men have been sent to retrieve the gunslinger for his father. A fight ensues and Ethan puts both men down with ease before exiting the saloon. Whatever it is that happened with Ethan’s father must be huge because he is doing a good job of staying away from his pop. My one theory has to do with the reveal I talk about below.
When this ragtag monster squad combine, they are on a mission to find Mina once and for all. It is when they converge on the playhouse that the mayhem ensues. The place is filled with demons with “vamp speed” and unexplainable strength for being so thin (Note to self: you never see an out of shape vampire. End note). The fight begins and it is a doozy with several vantage points for the viewer to see what goes on. At first it looks like Ethan is a goner as he is just drowning in white-yellowish haired demons that pretty much all look like Mina. However when Sir Malcolm goes toe to toe with the lead demon, he kills him with his sabre. A few times actually. Apparently when you kill him, it stops all of the other demons. When Mina appears on the stage looking normal, Vanessa runs into her waiting arms. I was expecting a happy return but instead Mina turns on the spooky black eyes and starts talking about having found a bride for the “Master,”in Vanessa. Just as she is about to bite into Ms. Ives’ neck, Sir Malcolm puts Mina down with his new pistol. As Mina pops back up bloodied up and sweetly saying “I’m your daughter!”, Malcolm looks at Vanessa and then back at Mina and musters “I already have a daughter.”
Afterwards at his home with Vanessa, Malcolm is feeling nostalgic as he looks at the expansive maps of Africa on the walls. He had been planning an expedition to Africa all season but he never really was going to go. He then becomes hysterical crying it out with Vanessa. It was a sweet moment. A father and daughter moment. Next they cut to Dr. Frankenstein prepping a very naked corpse of Brona to which he is about to cut into. Caliban looks thrilled that this creature will be his wife. We will have to wait and see. At a bar, drinking his troubles away late after the theater incident, Ethan is flanked by the same two marauders from before. As they begin to goad Ethan he begins to look down and his finger knuckles begin to pop and then…their he is. The Wolfman! It was only about 15 seconds and you really have to pause it to see the face of the Wolfman. I guess it reminded me of a mix between Lon Chaney and Benicio Del Toro’s Wolfman. Very cool.
The final scene had Vanessa visit the inside of the church she frequents sitting in front of but this time goes in. She is their to see a priest to get some guidance. The conversation in the priest’s chambers seems innocent enough but the inevitable word is mentioned: exorcism. While it is clear that she is talking about herself going through the process, the priest makes no assumptions letting her know how long it may take and the odds of the “process” working. The priest confides that the exorcisms he has assisted on has led to death. He leaves her with one question about this dangerous thing she asks of him, “do you really want to be normal?” And they fade to black.
It was a rocky first season but I think that I have drank enough of the Kool Aid to be onboard for next year. It was too bad that all of the characters really started to gel in the season finale. If you are going to binge watch on SHOWTIME OnDemand, be warned that it does start out slow and takes a bit to get used to the characters and the underbelly of London. Stick with it, the payoff was worth it.