Throughout the history of humanity, it has been fortuitous to wish someone “Godspeed” before they embarked on a journey. Yet, after a finale as bleak as the one for Penny Dreadful season two, it is doubtful any character is traveling with God, for they have all decided that they are long past such grace. Scattered to the wind, or as broken as a crucifix resting in the flames, it is a wonder where they, or for that matter Penny Dreadful season three, can go from here. Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speculate…
Unlike the previous year, this Penny Dreadful season finale left me floored at just how unexpected the contours of John Logan’s narrative sloped for characters that have vanished to the wind. While many could predict that the first season would end with Ethan revealing his fangs, and Sir Malcolm saying goodbye to Mina for good and all, I doubt many foresaw a season two finale where the only person left in Sir Malcolm’s dusty London home is a Vanessa Ives who has seemed to turn her back to God. But it is that startling revelation that gives us the biggest hint about what to expect from the characters going forward.
The very first scene of the Penny Dreadful series premiere was of Vanessa Ives praying before her crucifix alone in a room with the urgency of the damned. Season two has now ended on an image of Vanessa accepting that possible damnation, or at least a life without grace, while she watched fire engulf the same cross. Naturally, the sudden reaction would be to suggest that Vanessa has finally given up in the fight between monsters and the soul that they covet. Yet, there is more to the sequence than abject despair or nihilism.
Vanessa very much defeated Lucifer in the season two finale. And whether out of spite or pride, she will continue to refuse his devilish temptations for at least the time being. However, she has also decided that she is too far gone from God’s mercy, and that she must live in the darkness much like how she found Joan Clayton during the flashback episode of “The Nightcomers.” This even somewhat mistaken misery, which appears more self-destructive than even Caliban/John Clare’s darkest hours, would suggest that Vanessa and her entire cast of supporting characters will be in a dark place during season three.
With the characters scattered across multiple continents, I would not be surprised if Penny Dreadful’s intimacy becomes a bit more fractured in the grand storytelling tradition of Game of Thrones. While I cannot imagine that they will keep Sir Malcolm in Africa for long—though the prospect of him going on an expedition to finally retrieve Peter’s body is an intriguing one—I suspect that it will be a really long time coming before Lawrence Ethan Talbot or the Creature set foot back in England.
In fact, since Ethan’s surrender to Scotland Yard and return to America is the only thing I correctly predicted about the season two finale, I will say that this is the most tantalizing story thread we have imminently standing before us. For whatever else season three might promise, it has certainly pledged that we will finally meet Ethan’s father. And with a little luck, his name will be John.
I am still not entirely sure how Showtime secured the rights to the name “Lawrence Talbot” since poor Larry was created exclusively for Universal Pictures’ The Wolf Man (1941) by Curt Siodmak, but I am all for a proper remake/reimagining of that werewolf masterpiece. While Universal did try to update it already with the beautiful looking and deadly dull The Wolfman in 2010, Penny Dreadful has an advantage already with a sympathetic Qunicy Morris-styled protagonist. Additionally, I am sure John Logan can take a good look at what happens when John Talbot is misinterpreted as a scenery-chewing fellow lycanthrope; sometimes, it helps to know where not to zig with a father-son relationship that should zag.
But much like both versions of the Universal horror, a son reluctantly is returning home to his ancestral home, except now it is in New Mexico. But those little differences are what make this storyline so tantalizing. Based purely on my own desires, I hope that Ethan is given a full flashback episode like the two thus far enjoyed by Vanessa. Even a third of the episode like Caliban’s origin story in season one would be nice since there is so much mystery that can finally be cathartically solved. We know Talbot was in the Indian Wars, which might be worth seeing, but more interesting still is he might have been a priest. He certainly knows his fair share of Catholic rituals for a prodigal son/cowboy hiding away in London.
All of this can be laid bare in season three. And hopefully if John Talbot is as wonderfully fertile a ground as I hope him to be for Logan’s character farming, perhaps we’ll have a character worth bringing to London as well when Ethan inevitably returns.
Meanwhile, it is in London where three key characters of the fine company remain: Vanessa Ives, Victor Frankenstein, and Ferdinad Lyle. While Lyle suggested in the finale he has a secret that may allude to more than his bedroom appetites, I am weary to think he will be the centerpiece of another big bad coming to English shores.
I had originally thought before the finale that since Dracula was hinted to exist in this mythology as Lucifer’s brother angel that season three might head in that direction. Yet, with seeing the company completely dissolved, I suspect I was premature. Especially since it seems like Dorian Gray might finally have a crucial role to play in the main narrative.
With Dorian making a seeming bride out of the Bride of Frankenstein (after all they were both dressed in white), it would be quite interesting if he or they led to the major nemesis for next year. In the penultimate episode of season two, Dorian suggested to Lily that he belongs to a secret society, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society. Initially, I wondered if discovering that Lily is an immortal like himself would cause Dorian to want to destroy her with this group, but perhaps he would like to rule beside her through them? After all, Lily warned her drug-addled Creator that she and Dorian will be part of a Master Race that will propagate and take over this world. While it is perhaps 40 years too early to bother moving for Germany for these self-aggrandizing egos, she and Dorian could more directly pursue such power through the mysterious organization that Dorian has already name-dropped. Or perhaps, they will try to resurrect more corpses from the dead?
Assuming Victor Frankenstein does not kill himself with a morphine addiction (lest he has now moved on to heroin), I imagine that he will turn to Vanessa for help. Season two worked very hard to develop a friendship between Vanessa and Victor, and with Sembene dead, and Malcolm and Ethan abroad, Victor is her only true friend left in all of England. If she discovers the truth about Lily, that friendship may not stay so true, but the web is just already too thick with her past history next to Dorian Gray for her to not feel compelled to act. It certainly would be a striking contrast since she hails from a world of black magic and demonic possession, and Lily is of science and cold, hard steel. And Dorian is just another mystery altogether. These four characters could easily make for a merry dance in season three.
Perhaps even enough for Caliban to return? Rory Kinnear’s self-pitying but quixotically soulful depiction of the Frankenstein Monster remains my favorite aspect of the show after Vanessa Ives. Indeed, I would agree with John Logan who has gone on record as saying his favorite scenes of season two are the three fleeting moments between these two broken personalities. So, it would be a genuine shame if by embracing the fate of his literary counterpart—going north and into an Arctic exile—the Creature really met his narrative fate. No, I imagine that Caliban will return to England. It’s amusing that even though he knew Lily wanted to murder Victor, he did not give two damns about leaving the continent and his Creator to a presumed fate. However, if Caliban knew Lily might be going to war with the tortured Vanessa Ives (Caliban’s latest crush), the Creature would likely make double-time in the Cliffs of Dover’s direction.
Of course, the likelihood of him becoming aware of that seems minimal. So perhaps like Ethan, the Creature will have his own adventures?
This takes me to the most interesting quote Logan had in his post-season two interview with Entertainment Weekly. At the end of the discussion, Logan revealed that he’ll be adding another famous literary character for Penny Dreadful season three. Granted, this could mean Dracula again, but Logan also said, “It’s been fun going into another writer’s brain and bringing one of those great characters back into our world.”
This reminds me of my own brief chat with Logan last year in San Diego where Logan told me, “I thought The Island of Dr. Moreau was a very important work because of the variations it does on Mary Shelley’s work. And Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the classic texts that look at Victorian society and how it’s manifested in monstrousness.”
While it would be very fascinating to see Logan’s own take on Jekyll and Hyde, I wonder that even if he returns to the Hyde of Robert Louis Stevenson (i.e. just an unsavory, evil man, and not a literal monster) if there could still be too much overlap with Ethan Chandler’s lycanthropy? This leads me to speculate that Caliban could land on the Island of Dr. Moreau during his misanthropic travels. Shelley’s Frankenstein monster meets his H.G. Wells’ descendants!
The only thing that could potentially hold this back is that Logan said another legendary character. While he could be referring to the good Dr. Moreau himself, it sounds like he as distinctly singular presence in mind. This again could point to Jekyll and Hyde. Still, the similarities of that to Ethan Chandler’s own metamorphosis makes me suspect that Logan is possibly toying with another H.G. Wells creation altogether Perhaps, the Invisible Man would make for an interesting foil to Vanessa Ives who has been able to see her mortal enemies up until now. In fact, his ability to be anywhere is not unlike the Master of Lies, which could bring out the best (or worst) in dear Miss Ives.
Still, I imagine whatever the threat may be, season three will be about all the characters going their own way and suffering in loneliness. Ethan is in America and presumably with his father; Caliban has forsaken all humanity; and Vanessa and Victor both appear to be going to Hell in their own way in London.
Season three will be about the characters all perhaps slowly reuniting, though I would not be surprised if Sir Malcolm is the only wayward traveler who returns home by season’s end. Perhaps he will have the wealth and fortitude to reach out to Ethan when something really goes wrong. Perhaps, the return of their pesky vampire problem? Until then, it will be about the characters in their own disparate adventures. But if Dorian and Lily do not become the focal points of antagonism or Vanessa next year, I do feel like it might be a missed opportunity.
Well those are my own ruminations about where Penny Dreadful season three could possibly go from here. What are yours?