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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season two finale of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful.]
The devil’s plan has been thwarted, but there’s little to celebrate during the season two finale of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, which was littered with loss and departure.
With Evelyn Pool (Helen McCrory) dead at the hands of Werewolf Ethan (Josh Hartnett) and the devil defeated, the group comes to terms with the choices and decisions they made during the course of the season. For Vanessa (Eva Green), her faith in God has come to an end as she burns the cross to which she turned in her most desperate hours. A religion-less Vanessa will have to walk this new road by herself, as everyone she has grown close to has left on journeys of their own.
Ethan, struggling with his guilt over killing Sembene (Danny Sapani) while he was a werewolf, turned himself over to Scotland Yard for his massacre at the tavern at the end of season one. Unfortunately for Ethan, an extradition order has him headed back to the United States — the last place he wants to be.
Malcolm (Timothy Dalton), plagued by the loss of his family, leaves to bury his spiritual brother Sembene in Africa, while The Creature (Rory Kinnear) takes off on a boat to find his place in a world that only seems to view him as a monster.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Penny Dreadful creator John Logan to discuss Vanessa’s renouncing of God, the group going their separate ways and what to expect when the series returns for its third season next year.
Ethan turns into a wolf at the end of the previous episode and digs into Sembene. What was the decision to kill off the former slave trader?
Whenever you’re looking at a family of characters and you have to put them in an emotional place, sometimes you have to make severe decisions. What occurred to me two years ago when I looked down the seasons, was that the death of Sembene would scorch the earth for a lot of the characters in a way. Especially for Ethan for having done it and for Sir Malcolm and Vanessa having to respond to it. It puts a very personal stamp on Ethan’s guilt. It seemed like the right ending for the character for that storyline.
The Creature was locked away by his employers to be part of a living sideshow freak collection. For someone who has shown such an appreciation for life and the interactions with those around him, how does this change The Creature’s view of humanity?
The Creature’s story is all about running afoul of the dark side of humanity. It’s the dream he has for assimilation into a society that he may be realizing is in fact not worthy of him. That’s merely what his journey is.
The Creature murders his employees, but at the end of the episode he’s talking with Vanessa and she tells him, “I think you are the most human man I’ve ever known.” For someone that’s committed murder, killing Victor’s (Harry Treadaway) Proteus and now actual humans, what does this statement mean to him as he sets out trying to find his place in this world?
I think it’s incredible and great coming from Vanessa. She knows that within him was always this dream of being “normal.” If there’s one sinful bass note that runs through all of these characters, it’s them appraising how they feel about normality. It’s the big question that the Devil asks of Vanessa. In a way it’s what we thought Lily wanted. It’s what The Creature seems to be aspiring toward. For her to say that he has achieved this thing he was looking for is, I think, a very romantic sentiment.
The showdown between Vanessa and the doll, was this Satan himself she confronted or another demon?
It is Lucifer. It is the fallen angel himself. He’s choosing to work through Evelyn Poole and this amazing simulacra of Vanessa because that is the tool that Evelyn uses. It is absolutely the Devil trying to charm, seduce, bully Vanessa into accepting him.
Vanessa walks away from this battle in what looks to be a victory. Is this the end of Lucifer or is it another setback?
No, you can’t get rid of Lucifer that easily. This is one battle that Vanessa has won, but at an almighty cost. The first two seasons of Penny Dreadful were about getting a woman to burn a cross. While not usually in the show, we filter our religion but our lead character is deeply religious and she holds her catholic beliefs very close. Over the last two seasons, she’s been so battered that she finally gives up. She loses her faith. Either she steps away from God or God steps away from her in an incredibly traumatic event. The way the season ends is with all the characters sent off by themselves. Vanessa no longer has the comfort of religion. She must walk alone with herself, wherever that may be. Ethan is headed to the place where he least wants to go, which is back to America. Dr. Frankenstein is lost in sort of a tragic drug haze because of guilt over what he’s done. Sir Malcolm is heading off to bury his spiritual brother’s body in Africa and The Creature is heading off to the frozen north. So what it is, is kind of a catastrophic ending for this family we have built so carefully, but really it was building step by step by step to get to Vanessa to burn that cross and to realize that she has to live without God.
It was a powerful scene because the start of the series is Vanessa praying in front of this cross.
The series starts with that image with her in front of the cross and now we’ve ended the season with that cross being gone. The end of this season was so liberating to me as a writer because it really scorches the earth. These characters are sent off to different points of the world, both emotional and geographic. So it allows us to approach next season with a fresh palette.
After Vanessa destroys the doll, a scorpion comes out and crawls onto her hand and she absorbs it. This scorpion has been her sign of protection. Was there more to this scene?
The scorpion is her spirit animal, which she uses to protect herself. It becomes an all-purpose symbol for Vanessa. What the scorpion suggests to me is that she is being powered by this dark, frightening thing within her. When it melts into her hand, this isn’t a gross shocking thing; this is her accepting the dark part of herself. She knows from the minute she accepts this scorpion and it gently melts into her, her destiny is set to that cross burning. Vanessa has accepted the complexity and duality of who she is. She is partly angel and partly monster, as are we all. And that finally is what the series is about.
One of the other shocking scenes is when Victor confronts Dorian (Reeve Carney) and Lily (Billie Piper) as they’re dancing in this ballroom. They talk about this supremacy they feel as they’re shot. Are they being shaped toward a Big Bad for season three? What’s the plan for Lily and Dorian?
They are certainly on a sinister journey. So many of the characters are built upon wanting to be normal, wanting to fit in. Lily and Dorian have no interest in fitting in. They have interest in conquest, standing above, in superiority, and that’s pretty frightening for two supernatural, hypothetically immortal beings. And we know that Lily is so damned formidable that she could do anything she wanted. She’s a powerful, powerful person. I’m enjoying sending them on a dark path and as they sort of explore what conquest really means. There are many ways of assimilating power and their journey next season will be about getting power in a really unique way.
The first season had eight episodes and season two was upped to 10. Moving to the third season, you have nine episodes. Was this a Showtime decision?
It just broke down to nine hours. Showtime is happy to do as many hours as the story warrants and next season’s story happened to break down to nine hours. It could have been 12 or 13, but it just happened to be nine.
With everyone separated and on their own, what can you tease about season three that will bring them back together?
If indeed they do come back together. Season three is a real change of pace for us, which is good. We can get out of the alleys and cobblestone bars of Victorian London and see a bit more of the world. Essentially there’s a pull bringing these characters together and it’s supernatural, partly romantic, partly shared destiny.
What did you think of the Penny Dreadful season finale?
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