Penny Dreadful Season Finale Recap: Did Sir Malcolm Rescue Mina?

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penny dreadfulVanessa meets with Malcolm and informs him of her vision of the theater, claiming that this could be Mina wanting to be found. After Malcolm tells her that he’s not about to give up on Mina, even if he has to put her down should she be unsaveable, he leaves the room and Dorian pays a visit to Vanessa. He regales her with tales of his trip to Italy and asks her to read his future, but she won’t oblige, nor will she read his past, since it would take away the mystery that surrounds him. Though he tries to set a date for the two of them to have dinner, Vanessa forces him out of the house, just as Ethan prays over an ailing Brona. When he leaves, the two men who had been stalking him recently plot on when they’re going to show themselves to him and take him into their possession. The verdict? Not yet.

Malcolm heads to the weaponry store and purchases a pistol with an automatic firing mechanism, all in preparation for his time in the theater. Along the way, he runs into Madam Kali (aka Evelyn Poole) and the two chat about her sentimental attachment to gun oil, the health and wellness of Vanessa Ives, and Malcolm’s latest adventure, which he claims will take him away for two years. Kali seems disappointed that she won’t be able to continue getting reacquainted with him, but he assures her that they’ll meet again. Meanwhile, Caliban has trouble at a rehearsal and gets chewed out by Simon when he doesn’t lower a rope quickly enough. Though Vincent tries to comfort him with the knowledge that all people in show business are bitches, it takes Maude coming backstage with an orange, an apology about Simon’s behavior, and literary talk for his mood to lighten. He even cracks a smile when she gives him a kiss on the side of the head before leaving.

Vanessa confronts Malcolm about a missing photo of Mina and Peter as he loads his new pistol. When she presses him on that issue, as well as why she wasn’t allowed on the plague ship, he informs her that he would sacrifice her if it meant securing Mina’s safe return to his arms. However, since Vanessa is his most direct connection to his daughter, he can’t afford for her to get hurt, so his move to block her from the plague ship was about protecting her. And the photo? It breaks his heart, even though he claims to not want to be freed up from the guilt he feels. Back at the theater, Caliban attempts to put some color on his face and sneaks into Maude’s dressing room with the orange that she gave him, thinking that the two could share it. However, the way his face looks and the manner in which he entered the room put her off and when he tips his hand regarding his omniscience of all things in the theater, he forces himself on her and slams her against a wall. He ends up leaving before anything happens, though she gets him fired from his position as pseudo stage manager. Vincent then comforts Caliban with a hug, all the while The Master slumbers in the rafters of the theater.

At the atrium, Vanessa and Dorian run into one another and he assures her that he doesn’t need an explanation for her sudden absence after they were intimate. However, she writes this off as more evidence of his pleasant neutrality and tells him that she’s not the woman she wants to be when she’s with him, not when their intimacy released a kind of darkness that she was unable to control. Not used to rejection, Dorian starts to cry and Vanessa kisses him before leaving. Caliban moves his things into Victor’s office for the time being and again laments the fact that he’s alone. While his creature’s back is turned, Victor raises his gun and prepares to end its life once and for all, only to lose his nerve when Caliban says that his monstrous inside is reflected in his monstrous outside and wonders aloud why he penny dreadfulwas allowed to feel. Ethan then comes by to snag the doctor and bring him over to Brona, who’s weakened from her already tenuous state that morning; Victor asks her whether she’s comfortable and while her body is comfortable, her soul isn’t. She’s afraid of making the transition to the afterlife, so Victor sends Ethan to get something in another room and tells Brona of a world between heaven and hell, between life and death – a world with everlasting rebirth and possibly salvation. He then smothers her with a pillow and when Ethan returns, he promises to do something with the body, leaving his friend to grieve his love.

After drying his eyes, Ethan goes to the bar and runs into the two men who’ve been stalking him. The reason they’ve been tailing him? They’re bounty hunters, of sorts, sent by his father to retrieve him and bring him back to America. But instead of going with the two and confronting the blood he left in his wake, Ethan attacks them both and leaves the bar unscathed. That night, he meets with Vanessa, Malcolm, Victor, and Sembene, the five of them heading to the theater to begin looking for Mina. Once they make it inside, they slowly, surely, and (mostly) silently climb their way upwards toward the rafters, only stopping when Vanessa spots The Master. Before he can do anything, a trap door sends Ethan into a viper’s nest of vampires, with Sembene jumping in after him and Victor following shortly after. As The Master wakes up and begins doing battle with Malcolm, the three men do their damndest to fight off the seemingly unending stream of white-haired creatures. Though it looks like the trio are down for the count, too many creatures standing between them and salvation, Malcolm manages to kill The Master, thereby killing each and every vampire it sired in the process.

Just then, Mina emerges from backstage and takes Vanessa hostage when her former friend hugs her. It turns out that Mina is a creature, as well, and she claims that each man in the theater is going to come face to face with the Devil before too long now that he has his bride. As Mina begins to bite Vanessa, Malcolm shoots her once and knocks her to the ground. Stunned, she uses her status as daughter as leverage, only for him to say that he already has a daughter before shooting her again, this time killing her. Later, Vanessa comes into Malcolm’s study as he packs up his explorer paraphernalia; he admits that he’s not going back to Africa and the two comfort one another, crying on the other’s shoulder. While Victor shows Caliban Brona’s corpse, Ethan gets hassled by the two hunters as he drinks alone and looks out at the water. This time, though, he turns into a werewolf and kills them both accordingly.

Vanessa enters a church and takes a meeting with the local priest. The topic? Her terror regarding what she’s capable of and the possibility of him performing an exorcism on her. He warns her about how long and grueling the process is, how it can sometimes take months and years in order to work, and leaves her with a single question.

Do you really want to be normal?

Additional thoughts and observations:
-“Don’t be naïve. It doesn’t suit you.”
-“Show business. All bitches.”
-“Remember us better than we are.”
-“I already have a daughter.”
-So, has this been one of the weirdest paced seasons of television we’ve had in a while? Not just when you look at an eight-episode order with a flashback episode and a bottle episode, but also the amount of information given out, the time between episodes, and the parsing out of the action/genre-heavy scenes. I like how unorthodox it is, since there’s very little on television that surprises anymore, but I wouldn’t be opposed to it moving a hair toward normativity for its extended second season.
-Favorite episode of the season: “Possession,” in a walk. The whole season has been good, minus some bumps here and there, but that was some extraordinary television. I already like bottle episodes and a show like this with so many seemingly disparate threads bringing everybody together in a house is like television catnip to me. Combine that with Eva Green showing that she’s the best dramatic actress on television and it was some spellbinding, scary, sensational stuff that shows that the show is capable of oh so much.
-Interesting that after last week’s Eva Green showcase, this episode had a very subdued Vanessa. It’s understandable given everything she went through last week, and how much physical punishment Green endured for the sake of her performance; it’s just that the show always shines just a bit brighter when she’s in the middle of the action.
-Did you have Ethan as being a werewolf? I had it pegged when the gang went to the London Zoo and he scared away the wolves, so it was a long time coming on my end and I’m pretty satisfied with how they chose to reveal it. Now, though, I’d love to see them do an Ethan-centric flashback episode next season and explain how he became a wolf and the journey he took from America to Europe.
-Malcolm is a bit of a bastard, but hearing him call Vanessa his daughter and seeing him choose her over Mina was quite touching, as was them comforting one another. They’ve had one of the most interesting dynamics on the show this season and I liked seeing him soften toward her after pushing her away/marginalizing her for much of the season.
-Should Vanessa go through with the exorcism? I think she’ll end up doing it and the show will wring some more Eva Green possession scenes out of it, so it should be a worthwhile endeavor. I would say that I don’t know how long they can drag that type of storyline out, but the show has done some strange things with time and there’s nothing stopping them from leaping ahead whenever it starts to drag.
-The way the show does vampires is especially awesome. Visually, they’re my favorite on any genre show and I like their physicality, how they’re not painted as sympathetic figures, and the way the show lights them whenever they make their appearances. Here’s hoping the show can find a way to keep that part of its mythology from closing in on itself now that The Master has been defeated.
-Let’s talk about the cool shot of Sembene jumping down the trap door hole to help Ethan and how Malcolm did something that very few heroes in genre fiction do – he made sure his opponent was dead. The show could’ve easily allowed The Master to escape and set up some type of revenge-type storyline for season two; instead, Malcolm stabbed the creature multiple times and didn’t stop until it, and the rest of its hoard, were dead. Smart people doing things smartly can make for strong television, television industry, and this is Exhibit A of this fact.
-It’s interesting that Victor chose to kill Brona himself. When he recreates her next season, will she remember that she died at his hands? If so, could he be in danger? If not, will the guilt of what he did cause him to act out and possibly even confess?
-Also on my wishlist for next season: an expanded role for Sembene. I like the mystery surrounding him and the fact that he’s a strong, silent type, but it just feels like he has a killer backstory and like he could contribute more to the overall vibe of the show than he currently does.
-While Caliban’s whole story kind of petered out after the first third of the series, his monologue about his physical appearance reflecting his inner monstrousness and his desire to be a corpse again was beautiful. For some reason, it reminded me of this scene from The Green Mile.
-My favorite shot of the episode was when Caliban’s head was on the bottom right of the screen, his face half hidden, and Maude was blurry on the left side of the screen. The entire episode (and series, for that matter) was technically marvelous (cinematography, especially) and the direction was especially tight these last two weeks.
-How do you think Dorian fits into the second season? Will he continue to pursue Vanessa after facing his first bit of rejection or will he be woven into another storyline completely?
-Thank you guys for following my coverage of Penny Dreadful this season. I hope you all join me for the second season this time next year.

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