Penny Dreadful: 108 “Grand Guignol” Review
By Thomas Firth.
There’s been something quite theatrical about Penny Dreadful throughout the first season, and it’s nice to see that the great theatre, the Grand Guignol had an important part to play in the finale. The show has been quite slow in pace and story development, but this allowed the season finale to tie up a number of storylines quite neatly in fact. There has been criticism towards the series that it was too neat and it appeared that the series was trying too hard to stand out, but I found it quite a satisfying conclusion for a fairly strong historical series.
Most will probably remember the theatre scene for its tension and scares. Thankfully, unlike a number of series that spend too much time scaring us out of our seats, this show decides to take it slow and only allow the horror to unfold when necessary. To have the vampires lair situated inside the theatre is quite a sinister addition, and shows that perhaps the creature had been watching the characters constantly. Also, the scene successfully brought together the predominant main characters, which shows how flexible the show can be. Sir Malcolm’s decision to kill his own daughter is quite a defining moment. Despite the whole season of searching and worrying and all the heartbreak that he went through, his still managed to do it. It’s also intriguing that we were never properly introduced to Mina and so Vanessa has been the only daughter he’s had in our eyes.
Another strong interpretation was Caliban’s relationship with Maude. Their encounter behind the scenes was no doubt a wake-up call for Frankenstein’s creation that he is one of the people no matter what his circumstances are. However, his reaction to her kindness just reminds us that he truly is a monster and really doesn’t belong. This was a clever way of ending his story. The big twist was the Frankenstein had chosen Brona Croft to be his bride, without telling Ethan – no doubt this could be an interesting development in the next season.
Something monumental that we’d forgotten about probably were the deaths at the beginning of the series and who was responsible. My guess would’ve been the vampires, but with the resolution in Ethan’s story that has revealed his true identity to be a type of werewolf, could he be the killer? His reveal was certainly unexpected for some, but its not quite clear that he has control over his transformation or whether it is the moon as all true werewolf stories once told.
The biggest change in the episode was probably Vanessa. Now recovered from her short illness, she now seems to have more awareness than we first knew. Despite their differences, Vanessa still finds Sir Malcolm credible and will help him until he finds his daughter, and even after he’d killed Mina, she still kept close as if he was her own father. Since we learned about their past during the fifth episode, things have become far clearer for us and despite both characters deriving from different families, their closeness prompted the fact that they could all be one family. Furthermore, Vanessa has now rejected Dorian Gray, even though he is a prominent figure amongst the characters and the community. He once seemed quite charismatic and powerful, but now he seems to have lost all credibility. But, I suppose there’s still something to learn from him. The main weakness in the episode was the fact that it neglected to even mention his storyline in the show.
The final scene might’ve appeared mild at first, but the dialogue was so perfectly crafted, it allowed us to really think about what Vanessa and the priest were discussing. Vanessa’s relationship with the “creature inside her” has been a malevolent part of her life, but despite being terrified of it, the priest can clearly understand that one can soon come to love it. The question really is, does Vanessa really have the strength to separate from her tormentor? Only the second season will tell!
Some wonderfully tied storylines and some storylines left open to debate made the episode sufficiently strong. I felt it was the best, because of the vast use of the characters and step-up the show took from the previous episodes. The dialogue has remained pretty invincible and there are some very convincing monologues, especially from the ill-judged Caliban. That’s something I’d like to see again in the next season. All in all, Penny Dreadful has been successful in its first season, which is a good start, to say the least!