Penny Dreadful Wasn’t Supposed to End This Way
Classic characters such as Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein, and Dorian Gray all rub elbows on Penny Dreadful, a sexy and visually arresting Showtime series that recently wrapped its third and final season. Film critic Theresa DeLucci loves the show, but says that she was very disappointed with the finale.
“I know that John Logan, the creator of Penny Dreadful, says this was always his design to have it end the way it did, but it really did not come across that way,” DeLucci says in Episode 210 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It felt very rushed.”
Author Christie Yant is also skeptical that the show ended according to plan. She notes that key relationships, such as the one between Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and Brona Croft (Billie Piper), were never properly resolved.
“There are so many threads that they kicked off, even in Season 1, that they never even remotely came back to, and I have so many unanswered questions,” she says. “The last two episodes were so disappointing to me. I was not at all happy with the way it wrapped up.”
DeLucci thinks it’s more likely that weak ratings forced Penny Dreadful into an unceremoniously brisk conclusion. She says the show never seemed to get much buzz, but that she definitely did her part to help spread the word.
“It became a matter of going to all my horror-loving friends, particularly women, and being like, ‘No, you have to watch this show. Give it a chance. You’ll love it,’” she says. “And now this week they’ve all been really mad that I got them watching another show that—once again—got canceled.”
WIRED culture editor Angela Watercutter was also disappointed with the finale, but says that she’ll dearly miss the show. That sense of loss is oddly appropriate given that Penny Dreadful is so concerned with mourning and loneliness.
“I’m definitely going to have that Penny Dreadful-shaped hole in my heart for a while,” she says. “Which is probably what Penny Dreadful would have wanted for me, so I guess in that regard it ended as it should have.”
Listen to our complete interview with Theresa DeLucci, Christie Yant, and Angela Watercutter in Episode 210 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Christie Yant on representation:
“I was really excited about [Dr. Jekyll] as an addition, and I really felt that maybe they were going to go in a direction of redeeming themselves for a very particular sin that they had committed in Seasons 1 and 2, and that is the sin of killing off every minority character that they have. … It was like, ‘Well, you did something right guys, you put them in, but then you killed them off.’ … How do they not know [that this isn’t OK?] … I think Hollywood is still trying to catch up to a lot of the things that we have learned in prose fiction and comics—in literature, I guess. We’re not willing to perpetrate those tropes any more, but it seems like they’re still catching up.”
Theresa DeLucci on Penny Dreadful’s feminism:
“One of the things I loved about the show the most is just how madcap and over-the-top it was. ‘Let’s listen to the bride of Frankenstein have this terrific monologue about female agency.’ I’m on a lot of podcasts about Game of Thrones and other shows, and I feel like I’m kind of brought in to talk about the feminist perspective, or how the women are handled, and I think Penny Dreadful is legit and out-in-the-open—more than almost any other show that’s been on TV in a long time—about female agency, and women, and fear of women in power. So I can talk about this stuff and not have it be like, ‘Oh, you’re just seeing stuff that isn’t there,’ or ‘Why are you always calling out the feminist things?’ It’s so obvious in Penny Dreadful.”
Theresa DeLucci on Catriona Hartdegen:
“I kind of hated her. … I did like her introduction—this researcher into death—and I liked her with Vanessa, but the more she hung out it was like, ‘Oh, she’s great at everything.’ She was such a Mary Sue kind of character, where she learns all these languages, and she fights with karate, and she wears pants and has short hair. … It reminded me of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, that kind of thing. It was too anachronistic for me. … It felt like they [wanted] to introduce a character who could physically protect Vanessa, because Vanessa wasn’t a fighter like that, but Vanessa has her own powers. She doesn’t need a ninja/fencer lady.”
Angela Watercutter on the appeal of Penny Dreadful:
“There were so many things that were specific to a certain audience—we’ve talked about the Easter eggs that were specific to people who’ve read Dracula or Picture of Dorian Gray. … I think if you tell [John Logan] that this show is bookish, it’s probably the biggest compliment you could ever possibly give him. I think he also said something to the effect that his show will probably hold the record for the most long phrases of poetry ever recited on a television show. He’s gotten away with reciting more Wordsworth than any showrunner in the history of cable. But again, that’s a specific thing that I think appeals to a certain set of us who wore black eyeliner in high school.”
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