Penny Dreadful S1E8, “Grand Guignol”

And now it’s time to say goodbye to Penny Dreadful.  I came into this season with high hopes, and I’m happy to say that it has surpassed those raised expectations.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty close.  It looked fantastic, and the cast was tremendous.
In the past, I had mentioned that I wanted this story to be wrapped up by the end of this season.  As much as I love the characters involved, I was ready to move on from the stories being told.  With the way this season ended, it looks like we’ll be with these characters for a little while longer.  The good news is that they have wrapped up some of the main storylines.  Or, at the very least, they have wrapped up the storylines that had begun to grow old.  I’m glad they have shed those two storylines and will be moving forward into season 2.

Now, let’s talk about this episode.

I had grown tired of Caliban’s demand for a mate.  Or, rather, I had grown tired of Caliban.  Puffing himself up around Frankenstein (“Demon! Make me a sammich!”) and wilting around others.  It got old in a hurry.  They worked hard to force me into giving him sympathy, but I never found any for him.  Until he had his moment of clarity, that is.  Caliban finally came to terms with the fact that the only person responsible for the monster he became was himself.  “The malignance has grown, you see, from the outside in.”  He let the ugliness turn inwards, and that’s on him.  He finally saw, and he all but begged the gun-toting doctor into ending his life.  “I would rather be the corpse I was than the man I am.  Go ahead.  Pull the trigger.  It would be a blessing.”
Feeling a bit of fatherly affection, Frankenstein lowers the gun and decides to make Caliban a mate: not because it was demanded of him, but because he genuinely cares for his creation.  I loved this.  Giving Caliban a bride came out of love instead of threats.
Of course, Caliban’s gain is Ethan’s loss.  Brona was fading fast, and Frankenstein merely helped her to shuffle loose the mortal coil.  Still, I think it’s the first time the phrase, “Her passing was a thing of grace,” was used after smothering someone with a pillow.  To her credit, Brona didn’t struggle.  Perhaps it was as graceful a passing as could have been expected, given her circumstances.  “I’ll take care of the body,” Frankenstein reassured Ethan.  “We know you will,” we all said.

"I named the pillow Grace."
“I named the pillow Grace.”

A distraught Ethan stumbled to the nearest bar, seeking refuge in the bottom of a filthy glass.  He is confronted there by a pair of Pinkertons. Ethan’s father had sent them to bring him back.  He fights them off and escapes.  “We have underestimated our prey,” they proclaim, and track him down again.  But they made one grave mistake: they confronted him during a full moon, and the Pinkerton agency shrunk by two.
Finally, after weeks of anticipation, we get our reveal: Ethan is a werewolf.  We didn’t see the full transformation, but we did see him all wolfed out, and, to no one’s surprise, he looked pretty similar to Universal’s Wolf Man.  It was not a surprise, but it was a fun reveal.  Guess I’ll have to wait until next season to see if my Jack the Ripper theory was correct.

We also got an end to the Mina storyline.  In the big action sequence of the episode, the gang entered The Grand Guignol with malice towards vampires in their hearts.  We saw a vampire in the rafters in an earlier scene, and we find out that the entire theater is basically a vampire hive.  Ethan finds himself falling through a trap door (he never did learn to mind his surroundings) and being set upon by hungry vampires.  The entire group is overrun before long; it looks bleak for our heroes.  Until Malcolm confronts the leader vampire (not The Master! Not The Master!) and drives his cane through the monster’s heart.  At this point, all the underling vampires retreat into the darkness, Mina shows up, and they all live happily ever after.
Except they don’t.  Because, as we all figured out by now, Mina is a vampire.  She grabs Vanessa and is about to bite her, but Malcolm pulls out his fancy gun and shoots her.  As she lay writhing on the ground, she said, “I’m your daughter.”  His response of, “I already have a daughter,” echoed a conversation he and Ethan had in “Possession”.  And then he shot her in the head.

This whole interaction bothered me a little bit, if only because Malcolm and Vanessa had a conversation earlier in the episode in which he told her, “If I have to sacrifice you for Mina, I will.”  The obviousness of it all really annoyed me.  It was trying to raise the stakes in a situation in which the stakes were already plenty high.  We found out that his relentless pursuit of Mina was partially due to the guilt he felt over his son’s death.  Why did they need yet another conversation about what he would do for his daughter?  It seemed like they were really working hard to set up the whole, “I will choose my daughter over you,” storyline, only to pull the rug out from underneath us.  Only I knew he wouldn’t let Vanessa die.  They were trying to make it a more emotional moment, but it actually damped it a little for me.

Where was Dorian during all of this?  He tried to get back with Vanessa (“I gotta have that booty, gurl,”), only to have Vanessa reject him (she wasted his flavor…damn).  He cried, then he looked at the tear on his finger.  Maybe I’m heartless, but I laughed really hard at that scene.  After the credits rolled, Dorian started a harpsichord emo band and they totally ruled.  Glass Harmonica solo!

Some random thoughts:

– Ethan and Vanessa, hanging out by a brick wall, smoking the marijuana like a cigarette.  I thought Ethan was going to start talking about how the pimpin’ he got in his blood came from his family tree.  Is wolfin’ the same story?  Was the wolf gene passed down, like it was from Harold to Scott?  Or was it more of a “Jordy bit Oz” situation?  I suppose we’ll have to wait for the second season for that.

"Since been wolfin' since been wolfin' since been wolfin'."
“Since been wolfin’ since been wolfin’ since been wolfin’.”

– The scene of Ethan praying over Brona was really sweet.  I never totally bought into their relationship (mostly because we didn’t see them together very often), but I really liked that moment.

– I loved Malcolm buying automatic weapons in a secret room.  Even when Bond isn’t playing Bond he still has his own personal Q.
He also hit on a psychic and lied to her.  In a gun store.  Malcolm Murray’s game is unmatched.

– Vincent (the owner of The Grand Guignol) dropped a couple terrific lines in this episode.
“Show business.  All bitches.”And, after being forced to fire Caliban, “Remember us better than we are.”  I feel like that could’ve been the tagline for this series.

– I have no problem with Billie Piper, but she has some pretty big shoes to fill as The Bride.  Elsa Lanchester was amazing, and that’s the standard she’ll be held up to.
Her and Caliban have to move away, right?  They can’t very well allow them to roam the streets and have Ethan (or any of her former johns) run into her.

Your line to work into casual conversation this week: “The monster is not in my face, but in my soul.”

Penny Dreadful is done, but The Strain starts on July 13.  Get excited.