[Opinion] - Ending Penny Dreadful On A Different Note
In which I attempt to give Penny Dreadful the ending it deserved.
As I mentioned in my review of what turned out to be the final season of Penny Dreadful, the season was fine. It wasn’t fantastic – large chunks of it were – but it felt truncated, and rushed to conclusion. Almost as if much needed episodes were missing, or John Logan simply lost interest part way through. This feeling of incompleteness has lingered with me, and so – and thanks to some gentle prodding from a reader – we come once again to the point where I take a crack at how I would have done things differently. Not necessarily better (in fact, most likely not), but just a different approach. In some alternate universe out there, where I created Penny Dreadful, this might have been how I let the final season run its course. And John Logan would be some hack blogger on the internet getting too high and mighty on himself by second guessing the professionals. Thank gods we live in this universe, eh?
For long time readers, you know what comes next. For those just joining us, before I jump completely into my reconstruction, first we much establish The Rules. Because without rules, we’d all be living in a 24/7 Purge-world, and everyone would wear socks and sandals all the time. Rules are what maintain consistency, and so with each of these reconstructions (or Paracosms, as they are technically known), I establish a set of rules to keep me from doing whatever the hell I want.
Rule 1) Only characters used in the actual season three can be used in the reconstruction. It would be far too easy and tempting to just start dropping in any public domain character into my version of events, but that isn’t fair. The whole point of this exercise is that this version could be substituted in for the one we got, and the characters that appeared have already been cleared legally. Logan himself couldn’t do whatever he wanted, having been refused use of Dr. Moreau, opting instead for Dr. Jekyll.
Rule 2) The plot of the reconstruction will skew as close as possible to the plot that was broadcast. As I said, there wasn’t anything wrong with how the third season played out, it just seemed rushed. My goal is to take generally what we got, and help it unfold more organically. In some instances, this will result in small variations. In others, huge changes. I will also use the opportunity to remove or reverse some of the disturbing racism and sexism that existed in this season (which I didn’t touch on in my review because… honestly, it made me uncomfortable). If I disregarded this rule, I would eliminate Dracula entirely, as the vampire storyline seemed to have been well sorted back in season one.
Rule 3) The premise will use a 12 episodes model rather than 9. The crux of my disappointment, and the impetus of doing this to begin with, was that if the season had featured just three more episodes, Logan probably could have brought the series to an utterly fantastic conclusion. However, I won’t simply be detailing what those three extra episodes could have been like, because the existing season is too tightly sewn together. So I’ll redo the entire season.
Everyone clear? OK… here we go.
Penny Dreadful, Season 3: An Alternative Approach
Episode 1: "The Day Tennyson Died"
This episode would remain largely intact, picking up on the major characters as they were left at the end of season 2. Open the series though with the scene from episode two, of Lily and Dorian going to the snuff show. Make it an extended sequence to open the season, showing both characters whom we know to be immortal immorals, as a perfect high class Victorian couple, and only as they physically descend into the abattoir does their composure fall and their true selves reveal. I felt very strongly at the end of season two that Lily would be the primary antagonist of season three, and this sequence would establish her as a threat, as she and Dorian butcher with glee a room of deviants, rescuing Justine and whisking her away to apparent freedom.
The rest of the episode would, as it did, focus on Vanessa in her squallier; Ethan in his imprisonment; and Malcolm in his loathing, and getting them all moving in directions that set the season in motion to the exclusion of all other characters. Part of my design of the season would be quadrants. Four stories – Ethan, Malcolm, Vanessa and Lily – told over four groups of three episodes. Each quadrant gets its plot from the character development, and each development pushes the quadrants closer together. The first three episodes would be about establishing their distance from one another, and the final three would be about the cataclysm when they all collide. But in this episode, the important plot points would be establishing the relationships between Vanessa and Seward, Ethan and Hecate, and Malcolm and Kaetenay, as it did (Kaetenay’s vision of a dark future would specifically involve a fog hanging over the world).
It would also end with the same reveal, but structured in a way that mirrors the new opening, presenting Renfield has the sort of person who might be going to one of the snuff shows. His kidnapping should be presented in a way that suggests it is Lily and Dorian that have taken him, and when he awakes in a parlour filled with sunken eyed waifs and urchins, we believe this to be the gathered rescues of their works. Until the fangs come out, but leaves the Master unnamed.
Episode 2: "Predators Far and Near"
This episode would, as it did, go into greater detail about the relationship between Vanessa and Seward, and between Vanessa and Dr. Sweet. It’s about creating an environment where Vanessa feels comfortable, despite her uncertainty about her faith and her safety. With Vanessa, it’s about taking one step forward, and two steps back, so having Seward there to push her forward whenever she falters is a boon to her character development.
It would also explore the nature of Lily’s collection, of which Justine would not be the first (as in the show) but merely the latest in a growing number of saved and indoctrinated fallen women. And that her plan is to create a woman-led counter society with her as the figurehead. The “training sequence” from the show, with Lily instructing the girls how to kill, would work well here as an initiation scene for Justine, practising on Dorian, but actually following through. Justine’s mistrust of Dorian would be hobbled by fear when she plunges the knife into his neck and it heals up. This reveal in the show happened at the end of her arc, robbing her of making any use of it. By placing it at the start, it can inform her future actions.
The episode would also feature Ethan, though of all the storylines, Ethan’s is the one I would change the least. It was self contained and had a beginning, middle and end. There will be some changes later on, but in terms of the pacing and plot points, everything played out rather well.
At the episode’s end, Seward takes Vanessa to Bedlam, where she has some privileges. She suggests a radical hypnotherapy that might reveal hidden memories of Vanessa’s time there. While on the grounds, they encounter a colleague of Seward’s, Dr. Henry Jekyll. Jekyll departs, saying he has a patient to check on. We follow him through the bowels of Bedlam until we reach a cell, containing a sickly, emaciated and distant Victor Frankenstein.
Episode 3: "A Blade of Grass"
Easy: this episode, number four in the original order, remains completely unchanged, because it was masterful. Maybe leave out the stuff about Vanessa getting trapped in the hypnosis, but everything else – the relationship between Vanessa and the eventual Creature, the confrontation between Vanessa, the Devil and the Dragon, and most importantly, to close out the first quadrant, Vanessa’s declaration of the name of the beast: Dracula.
Episode 4: "Good and Evil Braided Be"
This episode would shift focus back on the secondary players. Victor is locked in Bedlam, his drug addiction and loss of Lily in season two having driven him past his breaking point. We’d get all the backstory and exposition of Jekyll that we got in the series as the two old friends reunite, but with the added hitch that instead of Jekyll coming to Victor and asking for help, he is keeping him on the edge of sanity, forcing him to help refine his formula for emotional stability. Jekyll’s storyline was intriguing on the show, but absolutely one of the areas it fell through the cracks. The show really didn’t need a new character, considering all the ground the old ones needed to cross, and Jekyll, while given a very original reworking, didn’t play out as he could have.
The growing relationship between Sweet and Vanessa would continue, with Vanessa still tenuous about letting herself be swept away in affection again.
Meanwhile, in the north, the Creature is trapped on a ship, locked in the ice. Again, on the show, he went away and then immediately turned around and came home. The point of his journey was left wanting. Here, he waits for the cold embrace of the ice. The rest of the crew have long since died, frozen in place. Knowing he cannot die, the Creature hopes to sink and be locked in sleep forever. However, in the peace and cold his old memories begin to resurface. First, of his family, then, of Vanessa in Bedlam. The memories exist in fragments, and he struggles to make out what is real with what might be bleeding confusion resulting from his death and rebirth. As the episode ends, he manages to remember his death, at the hands of an enraged Dr. Jekyll. Back in Bedlam, Jekyll explains to Victor that he was grateful for his assistance the last time Jekyll called upon him (disposing of the Creature’s body), but this time his assistance would be for the greater good.
Episode 5: "This World Is Our Hell"
This episode would go largely unchanged, focusing on Victor and Henry’s testing of the serum, and on Ethan and Malcolm’s continued journey west. The major difference would be that any of the material featuring Jared Talbot would be shifted entirely into the next episode. To take up the room, scenes involving Lily’s growing harem going out into the streets of London to increase their numbers would be included. This would be augmented by scenes that show Justine’s growing affection for Lily and mistrust of Dorian. A point would also be made that there are fewer women to liberate, almost as if someone else were snatching them up. This episode would also establish that the Creature, spurred by his awakened memories, would have left the ship and is returning to London.
Episode 6: "No Beast So Fierce"
The major change I would make to this episode would be to make it completely Ethan and Malcolm focused, a counter point to the Vanessa/Creature episode earlier. Everything that happens on Talbot ranch would happen in this episode, and would remain pretty much unchanged from how things happened then. The major change I would make would be in the relationship between Kaetenay and Ethan, and the events that led to Ethan’s running away. Ethan threatens Kaetenay with death several times before they meet in person, but that seems to come to nothing. And for the rest of the series, not only are they largely civil towards one another, but Kaetenay makes Ethan out to be the Great White Saviour of the Apache, which is a horrifically racist trope for Logan to have included in a TV show in 2016.
Instead, Ethan’s backstory would be this: following the army’s slaughter of the Apache, Ethan was kidnapped by Kaetenay, and turned into a werewolf as an act of revenge, a curse on both Ethan himself, and on the white invaders. Ethan returns to the army, but slaughters indiscriminately when he transforms. This continues until Ethan breaks ranks and returns home, at which point he inadvertently murders his entire family while in wolf form. Jared retaliates against the Apache by murdering pretty much all of them, including Kaetenay, who is revealed to be a spectre haunting Ethan. The rest of the episode happens as is, with the shoot out and Malcolm killing Jared at the alter.
Episode 7: "Ebb Tide"
The only major issue I had with Ethan’s storyline this season is that Hecate spends so much time corrupting him and turning him to the side of darkness, but as soon as she’s dead and Jared is dispatched, Ethan is immediately back on the side of the angels. With extra episodes, I feel there needed to be a longer struggle bringing Ethan back. This episode would deal with Malcolm and the spirit of Kaetenay trying to bring him back from the guilt and the anger and the fear that returning home has dredged up in Ethan. He and Malcolm are able to commiserate on both being responsible for the deaths of their families.
Back in London, Dr. Sweet (in return for Vanessa’s date to 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea) takes Vanessa to the Royal Academy for a guest lecture. Lily and Dorian attend the same lecture, though the two groups do not cross paths. The lecture is given, to a murmur of shock, by a woman – Dr. Catriona Hartdegen. Catriona was another character that didn’t get anywhere near the screen time she needed or deserved. If I had my druthers, I would have Dr. Hartdegen be a student of Professor George Challenger, though she works fine without his endorsement. She is an expert in death, and presents a wild theory which is not met with acceptance. She claims that the Earth will soon be passing through a “Poison Belt” in space, a region that she believes the Earth passes through with some regularity, calling as evidence periods of sudden mass deaths from the Earth’s past and mythology. This Belt will result in plague-level causalities if not prepared for,
After the performance, Sweet speaks of how such an event would affect wildlife, especially those scavengers and carrion eaters who might rise to prominence in the absence of resistant force. He notes other extinction periods in Earth’s past where things rose out of the darkness and filled in the gaps where giants once stood. Vanessa, worried by this, leaves him and seeks Dr. Hartdegen. The two women meet, and have much the same conversation they do in the series proper about the history of the legend of Dracula.
Lily meanwhile decides to take matters into her own hands. With “enrollment” in her society down, she takes to the streets in an attempt to discover what is cutting into her potential user base. She adopts the persona of Brona again, making herself very visible and tempting to predators. Eventually, she attracts the attention of a vampire, who attempts to bite her but recoils in disgust at her taste. She holds him and demands to be taken to his master. She follows the lackey to Dracula’s holdfast, where he is revealed to be Dr. Sweet, and the two have a conversation about mutual intentions. Dracula seems deeply impressed by her, that in all his great years she’s something he’s never seen before. He offers her partnership in his enterprise, a place at his side. She counters that she stands at no one’s side, and offers him a place at her feet. He warns her that he has had an eternity of ending men who have come up against him. She suggests a woman might have more luck, and leaves.
Episode 8: “Much is Taken, Much Abides”
Lily returns to Dorian and her followers, flush with a bold new idea. The Poison Belt will do her good works for them, bringing an end to the tyranny of mankind. Dorian believes that this will leave them alone, the only inheritors to the throne of humanity. Lily suggests something far bolder. That in the wake of the Belt, the process that brought her back could be used to give rise to a new species of immortals, a master race of women born from her faithful who would rule the world and any of the old humanity that might survive. Justine falls completely in line with this, desperate for Lily’s power. Dorian is sceptical, and reminds Lily that only Frankenstein could achieve this. She agrees.
Malcolm and Ethan head east again, making their way to New York, spurred by Kaetenay’s warning that the darkness approaches, and that Vanessa is the key that will sway what remains when the light returns. Ethan is still uncertain of his role in the coming battle, but not convinced of things one way or another, beyond his affection for Vanessa.
Vanessa spends more time with Dr. Hartdegen, conferring with her all the facts that each knows of Dracula, and developing a plan on how he might be stopped. Dr Seward worries that Vanessa might be falling back into obsession, and encourages her to find balance in her life between her “work”, which Seward believes she is using to fill the hole in her life where her faith used to be, and her “home” which has been empty since Malcolm and Ethan abandoned her. Deciding that she deserves her happiness, she gives in to her affection for Sweet, as she did in the series.
The Creature tracks down his former wife and son, living in squalor, as he did in the series. This would be as good a time as any to remove the weird scenes of him watching the kid from the attic, and just cut to his realization that the kid is dying of TB and his wife from either black lung or phossy jaw or something contracted from the factory. The Creature has a deep internal struggle with whether or not to act to save them. He knows that Frankenstein could give him back the family he lost and only just rediscovered, but the cost would be the same curse he despises himself. He ultimately sets off to find Victor either way. He appears at Victor’s apartment, but is told the Doctor was taken to the asylum long ago. The Creature returns to a chaotic and damaged Bedlem, and confronts Jeykll, whom he recalls as his murderer. Jeykll panics when he sees the Creature, but reports that Victor is gone. An army of women appeared earlier and stole Victor from the hospital.
At Dorian’s, Lily saunters into a make-shift laboratory, where Victor is chained.
Episode 9: “Secrets of the Alcove”
“Secrets of the Alcove” is reportedly Victorian slang for “the most intimate influence of the wife over the husband.” The plot of this episode would focus exclusively on Lily and Victor, and Vanessa and Sweet.
The Lily and Victor story in the show made me incredibly uncomfortable, because it was, at its heart, a rape story. Logan had to recognize this, but either didn’t want to explore it or wanted too much for our sympathy to remain with Victor despite the fact that absolutely none of it did. Lily became a desperate character, her agency and power taken away as swiftly as it was given, reduced to tears as she begs for her life while a couple men crowd around her. It was perhaps the most disturbing thing the series had done. So, in my version, simply turn the tides. Chain Victor, give Lily all the agency, all the power, and all the influence. Because a chained Lily wanted nothing that Victor had to offer. A chained Victor gets what he wants: Lily’s affection. But keep her speech. I’ll say this, the story of Brona’s daughter was a powerful moment, and Billie Piper’s finest acting to date. So keep the parable, but get rid of the tears. Use the speech as Lily’s motivation in explaining what she wants from Victor. Men took Brona’s world from her, and Lily wants to take theirs. Victor would obviously have extreme and vocal reservations about creating a species of unkillable, vengeance-driven super women, but he wants Lily.
Meanwhile, Vanessa and Sweet have their honeymoon period, as lovers flush with the excitement of a new adventure. As the episode plays out though, Vanessa cannot avoid noticing little things, and her fierce intelligence adds it all up and deduces that Sweet is Dracula (in the show, this happened over a short dialogue, which was unbelievably paced). Start with the love, move into the break-up speech, and end with Dracula convincing Vanessa to resign herself. That no matter how much she fights, no matter how much she trying to avoid her destiny, it will always catch up with her. She agrees, and lets it happen. But, importantly, her’s is a passive acceptance. Unlike Lily, Vanessa does not reach for a crown. She merely doesn’t stop Dracula from giving her one.
Episode 10: “The Tide of Death”
The Poison Belt approaches. Victor hurries to complete work on his new lab, while Lily and Justine are practically giddy with excitement. Dorian though is increasingly concerned with Lily’s increasingly frantic behaviour and hot-and-cold moods. He also fails to see a place in this new feminist utopia that Lily seeks to create for himself.
Malcolm and Ethan set sail from New York and begin crossing the ocean.
Bedlam recovers from the theft of Frankenstein, but the lunatics begin picking up on the encroaching chaos. Seward, Jekyll and the Creature become unlikely allies as Seward and the Creature bond over Vanessa, and they all seek out Hartdegen. She explains what is coming, and what Dracula might be able to accomplish with Vanessa by his side in the midst of such madness. Jekyll explains the nature of the serum that he and Victor created, to calm the personalities of the disturbed, and if that might be effective in stopping either the vampire or the witch. The Creature agrees to return to Bedlam with Jekyll while Hartdegen and Seward go to Vanessa’s in hopes of finding her there.
At Dorian’s, Justine prepares herself for death, and the transformation that is to come, as do the rest of Lily’s true believers (a strong cult vibe would be built into Lily’s story). Lily goes to Victor’s lab to see if he is ready, but the lab is empty. She erupts in a livid, molten anger as she searches the house, but finds no trace of him, or Dorian.
Seward and Hartdegen arrive at Vanessa’s, to find Victor and Dorian there, looking for her as well. At Bedlam, The Creature and Jekyll achieve their goal, but outside, the fog descends, sending the inmates into a frenzy, bursting from their cells.
At Dracula’s, the Master commands his minions to go forth and take what is theirs.
Episode 11: "Perpetual Night"
Malcolm and Ethan arrive in London. The city is barren. As they walk from the docks, they are assaulted by vampires, which they dispatch handily. Kaetenay appears to them, stating that they are too late for London, but there is still a hope for Vanessa.
At Dracula’s, which would be a much more opulent manor rather than a dilapidated store house, the number of his followers swells, but he cannot claim the power he wants. Vanessa lounges nearby, passive and numb. He has nearly drained her, but she refuses to accept him completely. He cannot turn her without her permission, and she refuses to give it. They argue, he demanding that she give him the power he wants. She refuses, saying it is her power, he wishes only to make use of it. Right now, she sits at his side. But if she allowed herself to be unleashed, it would be him at hers. He confesses that he would happily do so, to serve her, so long as she used that power to make his vision of the world come true. He angrily claims that she loves him, body and soul. She counters that her body is his, but she loved only one person, truly.
The Blade of Grass episode introduced something really interesting about Logan’s interpretation of Dracula. He called the Devil brother, but my interpretation of that is something more complex. The Devil is incorporeal, needing to possess a body in order to manifest in the world. He is concerned entirely with the metaphysical, wanting to steal people’s souls. However, he is obsessed with the whole of Vanessa: wanting to take her soul away from God, and her body in whatever form he can take her in. Dracula is entirely physical. He robs people of their spirit by making their bodies ageless and corrupt. He is physically eternal, suggested at having been around just as long as the Devil. My interpretation is that they are two halves of the same being. The Devil, when he fell, was split in two. His soul fell to Hell, his body to Earth. If Vanessa put this together, after her battle with Satan last season, and her memories of her time in Bedlam earlier, she reasons that if she gives Dracula her body but not her soul, he has nothing but another food source.
Malcolm and Ethan make it to the house, where Victor, Dorian, Seward and Hartdegen remain. They explain everything that has happened, and that Vanessa is missing and likely in the hands of Dracula. They explain that the Creature and Jekyll left to acquire something to help some time ago, but have not returned. Victor then explains that they have another problem, and confesses his deeds and the reality of Lily. Malcolm is aghast, and Ethan angered by the fact that Victor violated Brona in sure a way. Hartdegen, as an expert in death, is intrigued by what Victor has accomplished. The group determines that they must first find where Vanessa is being kept, and find a way to counter act Dracula. Additionally, they must find a way to subdue Lily and prevent her from getting her hands on Victor. Dorian agrees to return to his home, in the hopes that he’ll be able to keep Lily at bay. Victor will remain in the house with Malcolm, under lock and key, while Ethan and Hartdegen go out on the hunt for Dracula. Seward suggests they start at Bedlam, where Jekyll had been headed. Alone, Malcolm and Victor have a long talk about life and death, the mind vs the soul, and the implications of what Victor has accomplished.
Dorian returns to his home to find it nearly empty. Justine remains, weeping. Dorian asks her where everyone went. Justine says Lily abandoned them, and the rest ran off scared. That after Victor disappeared, Lily couldn’t give them the power that she promised. And that Justine would never go back to being weak. And that this was all Dorian’s fault, because he was a man and couldn’t bear to see a woman in power. Much the same happens in the show, but Justine is weakened and sobbing and asks Dorian to kill her. Here, it is in anger, and vengeance, and she takes control of her own fate. She shoots him several times, charges him, knocking him to the floor, stabs him while he’s down. On the floor, he notices a smell, and a puddle he’s lying in. He looks, and sees puddles everywhere, including leading towards his secret room. It is lamp oil. His eyes betray panic as Justine lights a match, mourning that she “was going to be mighty.”
Arriving at Bedlam, Ethan, Seward and Hartdegen are assaulted by vampires, one of which is Reinfield, whom Seward recognizes. They subdue him, hoping that he will be able to lead the way to Vanessa. The Creature and Jekyll, having barricaded themselves in a cell, managed to survive. Hartdegen takes delight in studying the Creature while Jekyll seems to be becoming unhinged.
At Dracula’s manor, Lily presents herself and asks if The Master’s offer still stands.
Episode 12: "The Blessed Dark"
Between every scene in this episode would be a flashback to the last time each character was truly happy in their life. Vanessa’s would be of a time with Mina, walking along the beach, hand in hand, talking of the future. Ethan’s would be at the dinner table, his family surrounding him. Malcolm’s would be plunging through the brush of Africa, machete in hand. Victor is as a small boy, in his mother’s arms. The Creature’s would be with his wife and son, walking along the Thames in the winter, or maybe even during a Frost Fair. Brona’s would be as a young lass at an Irish dance, twirling and laughing. Dorian’s would be sitting, posing for his portrait.
At Malcolm’s they hypnotize Reinfield, as they did in the show. Once they have Dracula’s location, they set their plan. Jekyll’s formula can be used to calm Vanessa If she’s in a thrall, if someone can get close enough to her. Ethan volunteers. Dracula will need to be distracted, and his minions dispatched. They break into two groups. Malcolm, Victor, Seward and Jekyll will approach directly, providing a distraction. Ethan, the Creature and Hartdegen will approach clandestinely, with an aim of finding Vanessa and getting her out. Ethan’s group agrees to stop at Dorian’s, on account of his not returning.
Dorian’s house is ablaze when they arrive, which the Creature assures them means nothing regarding security from Lily. Ethan says they can’t wait, and have to get going.
Malcolm’s group arrives to find they are expected. A vampiric host awaits, but does not stop their approach. Dracula waits, and invites Malcolm to parley. They speak as gentlemen, about Mina, about Dracula’s intent, and about the future. Dracula insists that he’s already won. His numbers continue to swell, and by the time the poison belt has passed them by, he’ll have enough minions to take England entirely. They will spread out over Europe, then on to America and Africa. Those that don’t resist will be kept in a comfortable manner, as food and as pets. Dracula insists he has great respect for Malcolm, and is content to let him go, and have a fighting chance. The others will die, but Malcolm can go. Malcolm argues that when vermin invade you’re home, you do not cede the home to the rats. You bait them, you trap them, and you kill them. Dracula reminds him that they are outnumbered. Malcolm counts four brave souls of conviction against an army of mindless slaves, and suggests Dracula might need some more help.
A fire fight ensues, as Ethan and the others enter secretly. As they search for Vanessa, they find Lily. Ethan calls her Brona, which angers her. She is increasingly unstable, and the memories flooding her of her time with Ethan. The Creature attempts to reason with her, but she shuns him. Hartdegen shoots her, to no avail, necessitating the Creature hold Lily off while Ethan and Hartdegen continue the search. Because Lily and the Creature are both preternaturally strong, the fight is fairly evenly matched (and remember, just because he is a kind soul, don’t forget that that the Creature ripped Proteus in half and killed the wax works museum keeper and his wife in brutal detail). Their fight eventually leads them into the main parlour, where Malcolm’s group holds off wave after wave of vampire, but only barely. Upon seeing Victor, Lily goes into a mad rage, but is injected by Jekyll, and collapses. Dracula uses the distraction to slip away, but Malcolm attempts to give chase.
Ethan, meanwhile, finds Vanessa in her anemic state. She refuses to believe that he is real, believing that Dracula is tricking her. Ethan assures her that he is real, and that he left because he couldn’t be sure she’d be safe with him. Every since, he’s struggled with his destiny, and what side he needs to land on. Except now, he’s decided to screw destiny, and pick his own side. She refuses him again, saying that if she gave in to anyone, completely, she’ll loose control. Ethan tells her to listen to what he’s saying. Don’t give in to anyone. Choose yourself. Give yourself the power. Don’t deny it, but don’t let anyone else tell you what to do with it. Dracula appears at the door, dispatching an attack from Hartdegen. Vanessa rises, supported by Ethan. She accuses him of fearing her, that’s the reason he sought to seduce her. If she ever turned against him, he would be powerless to stop her himself. And as long as she was uncertain of herself, she’d never be confident enough to do what needed to be done. In Mina’s name, her eyes black over, and Dracula’s fill with dread.
In the parlour, all but the Creature tire as the hoards continue, until the vampires all crimp and seize and scream and flee. The group look on in confusion before Ethan’s voice calls for Victor. The Doctor runs to them, Malcolm already there. Vanessa has collapsed into Ethan’s arms, still and pale and cold. The rest appear save Jekyll, the Creature lingering in the hall, Seward tending to Hartdegen. Victor searches for a pulse, but finds nothing. She is dead. Ethan grabs Victor’s hand and tells him to bring her back, but the Creature interjects that if you truly love her, you will not.
A funeral. A grave. Mourning.
At Malcolm’s, they sit. Malcolm and Hartdegen discuss a legend that he heard of while in Africa of a lost civilization that held the secret of eternal life. Hartdegen is enthralled by the tale of a column of bright light, and asks if Malcolm has any interest in leading an expedition. Malcolm declines, needing to stay close to home, to hunt down the remains of Dracula’s converts. Hartdegen turns to the Creature, and asks him if he wants to come along. He is taken aback, but agrees. Elsewhere, Ethan, Seward, Victor and Jekyll discuss Lily. She is held at Bedlam now, her memories and her anger and her unique condition making her a special case. Jekyll believes that with a combination of his formula and Seward’s attention, she might have a hope of leading a balanced life (the hope being that Lily’s story takes on more the shades of a mentally ill person receiving the attention and medication they need rather than a stable person being assaulted). Victor apologizes to Ethan for his actions, and Ethan forgives him, saying he’s too tired to hold grudges for past mistakes anymore.
One by one, each depart, until it is just Ethan and Malcolm left in the house, a space between them where Vanessa once stood, to be filled nevermore.
Or, put another way...
As I said up top, if I disregarded the rule about keeping things as close to the plot as possible, I would remove Dracula entirely. The vampire storyline was dispatched with in a suitable manner back in season 1, and bringing back Dracula now, and a Dracula that completely disregarded all the unique and original flavour that Logan had given to vampires seemed... odd. Giving myself free reign, Lily would be the primary and sole antagonist. Her plan as I described it about would remain in place - to use Frankenstein and his method to create a master race of resurrected women, and a subservient race of loyal men. Jekyll would be excluded entirely, and Frankenstein's imprisonment would take place entirely at Lily's hands, to whom he would become utterly devoted. This version of Lily would be one of those villains that is actually right, speaks sensibly and makes convincing arguments. Rather than being vengeful or insane, this version would just be too extreme in her measures.
Ethan's storyline would remain unchanged until after Jared's death. His seduction towards evil by Hecatre would instill in him a great uncertainty, and Malcolm's killing of Jared would fester in him as anger at never being able to do it himself. When they return to London, he discovers Lily's society, his mind broken by seeing a former and presumably dead love and becomes her loyal dog. Lily's affection towards Victor and Ethan drives Dorian away, to Malcolm's opposition of Lily's coup.
Vanessa's arc would consist of her working through her demons with Seward, and managing to find an internal balance that she had been unable to achieve for years. Hartdegen and she would strike up a friendship, and eventually romance, as much based on mutual respect of ability as curiosity into their pasts. The theme of the season would be the approach of destiny: Vanessa denies her while Ethan embraces his, and Lily forges her own. The end of the season would see Vanessa, Malcolm, The Creature, Dorian and Hartdegan stand against Lily, Ethan and Victor in a poisoned and vulnerable London. Victory would come not because of Vanessa's sacrifice, but the Creatures, who doesn't want to see another like himself brought into the world, after seeing what Lily (whom he demanded be created) has become. He destroys himself and her utterly, leaving the rest of the survivors without the weight destiny for the first time in their lives. The series would close on the seeming meaninglessness of everything that has happened, and an apparent embracement of the absurdity of existence.
So, which is your preference? Or, do you have a version of your own. Feel free to share below.
I prefer the first alternate version of Penny Dreadful S3. I like how you did Jekyll as a scientist with an emotionally unhinged side looking for a formula that can help others such as himself achieve some stability. I thought his role in the death of who the Creature was before he became The Creature was an interesting twist. I'm sad that this version of S3 ended with Vanessa's death like the original but it was nice how, before that happened, you had Ethan tell Vanessa to choose herself and then had Vanessa stand up against Dracula. It turned her death into an empowering victory. Her previous resistance to Dracula's will after being bitten only adds to that.ReplyDelete
My only question is what happened to Dracula after Vanessa's eyes went black. Did Vanessa killed him with her power? Because he simply disappeared from the story after that.
As an idea for another alternate direction Penny Dreadful S3 could have taken, what do you think about having Dracula and the Devil joining forces to obtain Vanessa after failing to possess her separately in S1 and S2? The way they have come to see it, sharing Vanessa is better than nothing. Lily ends up playing a role in their plan somehow.
I guess I did kind of gloss over that bit. Funny, because one thing I truly hated about the real finale was how Dracula just walks away. To put it simply, she popped him like a meat balloon. Imagine, as they all stand in the room over Vanessa, there is a butterfly pattern of blood on the walls fanning out from where Dracula had stood. As Victor searches for a pulse, Malcolm asks, "Where is the beast?" to which Ethan can answer, "Everywhere."Delete
Vanessa's death is sad, but I didn't disagree with Logan in choosing to kill her, only in his method. In the real version, it was yet another example of her wish-washing back and forth between accepting her destiny or avoiding it. And asking to be killed is akin to giving up entirely. In my version, she is weakened because she gives up rather than chooses a side. I always come back to the idea, in everything I do, that it doesn't matter what you choose, you just have to choose. Her standing up, choosing a side once and for all, is an empowering act. And that it is her final act makes it all the more powerful. That it kills her is a consequence of her earlier dithering.
If my personal theory that Dracula and the Devil are two parts of one whole, you're idea of them coming together is actually quite brilliant and fun to think about. Dracula failed in season one, the Devil failed in season two, so the only way to get her is to join forces in season three. It just shows that, with a little more enthusiasm, season three could have been on par with the other two instead of a conclusion that left a sour taste in our mouths.
Love the imagery of Dracula's remains in Vanessa's wake.Delete
Yeah. I'm lost over why Logan didn't come up with the Dracula/Devil combo for Season 3. It would be an interesting new direction instead of the retread of a old one.
So interesting post!ReplyDelete