BWW Spoiler Art!: PENNY DREADFUL Elegantly Concludes a Bloody First Season
Welcome to BWW Spoiler Alert! In this new column, I am going to share five questions and takeaways from the most buzzworthy television episodes of the week (i.e. whatever shows I watch). By definition, these columns will contain SPOILERS if you have yet to see the episode in question, so don't say that I didn't warn you!
For a long time, I got used to doing other things while watching my favorite TV shows; checking social media, keeping an eye on whatever game was on, or multi-tasking by doing a little bit of work. However, as I have become engrossed in shows like HOMELAND, AMERICAN HORROR STORY, HOUSE OF CARDS, THE AMERICANS, ORPHAN BLACK, Fargo (and many others), it has been more important for me to give each new plot twist and revelation my undivided attention. Whether that was a product of the rise of more thoughtful, better-scripted television, or my loss of brainpower as I get older, I'm not sure, but it became clear to me that to watch certain shows, I needed to unplug. Being the hyper-connected Millennial that I am, it was difficult to do, but, not surprisingly, I found that when I did finally start closing my laptop and putting my phone aside, I both enjoyed, and understood, my favorite shows far better.
Such was the case when watching Showtime's PENNY DREADFUL; about halfway through the eight-episode first season, I realized that I was missing a great deal of the show's details while I was checking Twitter or watching a Reds game. While I was always able to follow the tent-pole plot points, I was missing the subtler clues as to the show's growing mysteries. To be honest, there was a point when the show completely confused me. I wasn't sure what was going on with Vanessa's other-worldly connections, I wasn't sure where Brona and Ethan's doomed love affair was going, and I wasn't sure what was going on with Sembene's face. While putting away the distractions did not allow me to understand everything that was happening on PENNY DREADFUL, it is an expertly written mystery after all, it did allow me to focus on what was important to understand, and what was superfluous. When I finally reevaluated the aspects of the show that I had missed, I realized that this was far more than a Victorian AMERICAN HORROR STORY, and was as much a comment on the darkness of the human spirit as all of the novels which supply the show its characters.
PENNY DREADFUL's creator and sole-writer, Tony and Golden Globe-winner (and three-time Oscar nominee) John Logan, has created a very layered and interesting world filled with reimagined literary and horror figures. The story was as darkly Romantic (big R, not little r) as all of its source materials; weaving together Gothic tales into a commentary on the baseness, and self-destruction, of humanity.
Due to the grandness of PENNY DREADFUL's scale, going into the finale, the show's pacing and habit of ignoring characters and storylines for weeks at a time left me wondering what would actually be revealed in the finale. There were so many different players in Logan's mythology that it felt like he threw so much into Season 1 that could have (should have?) been saved for subsequent seasons.