Penny Dreadful season 3
Well, that was deeply unsatisfying as an ending in so very many ways, wasn't it?
First of all, the thing I really liked: Lily and her character arc this season. I love that she kept all her anger and all her grief and rejected Dorian's horrible dry immortality -- how she chose to stay human, and not become super-human, or monstrous. I like that in the end she chose not to kill Victor, even though he deserved it. I like that she tried violence -- killing abusive men as a kind of anti-Jack-the-Ripper, and encouraging other whores to follow her lead, struck me as a nice call-back to the way season 1 began with the "is Jack back?" plotline -- and then moved past it, perhaps not to forgiveness, because why should she, but to choosing her own life over men's deaths.
I didn't like the way the plot played out for Justine, though -- surely there was some middle ground for her between going back to prostitution and death? But I think this is because I grossly misunderstood what the show was actually about.
Because I thought that the horror story was actually about femininity, and especially "Victorian" femininity -- hence the link in Vanessa's story between sex and evil, or Victor's line to Lily about turning her into a "real" woman, or the running plotline about prostitution and abuse. Clearly, that was not what was going on -- and I feel a bit dumb, actually, because usually I know when I'm watching a show for a story that the showrunners aren't actually telling, and here I didn't realize that. But I can't help feeling that a female showrunner would have created a completely different ending -- everything up to the final episode might have been the same, really, but the end would have been different. And better, because seriously, what was that crap? That final hour didn't even hang together with the rest of the season.
Why did Ethan need to come back to kill Vanessa? He shot her, so her killer didn't need to be a werewolf -- anyone could have done it. His whole role in the narrative collapsed at the end -- I mean, the scene with him and Vanessa was dramatically satisfying in the show's usual overblown Gothic way, but didn't make any narrative sense. At the end of last season, Vanessa came into her own power, and drove Lucifer away completely; this season, she gave in to Dracula so easily. Why? Her depression, and sense of isolation? But she gave up in the middle of reaching out to Dr. Seward and Cat Hartegan, when she had been reassured by Kaetenay that her other friends were on their way back to her? It's not that this isn't possible, it's that gothic drama isn't real life: she goes off to face Dracula, intending to destroy him and then just... gives in. She might as well have just asked Cat to kill her before she left; we would have avoided the death fog and presumably a few thousand Londoners would still be alive. Was it to bring Ethan back to God? He did have a character arcthis season -- going from Hecate and that butchered Lord's Prayer he says instead og Grace, through the choice not to murder his father, and back at the very end to grace with Vanessa, but the last step of that journey didn't actually happen onscreen: he goes directly from cursing Kaetenay for damning him to praying with Vanessa.
I guess that she couldn't kill herself because that would be suicide, and would send her to Hell, which she doesn't want, but I'm not sure why recklessly endangering thousands of innocent Londoners doesn't also have an effect on your soul. Maybe this is because I'm not Catholic? But it seems to me that Vanessa chooses not only her own mortality but also mortality for a lot of people she doesn't know.
And speaking of choosing mortality: I do appreciate the moral journey the Creature made, but it began and ended with two children he could not save, and I care more about them than I do about him. And the way both he and Lily developed during the show undercuts his insistence that he is a monster, and his determination not to let his son become a monster too demanding immortality for his son would have made him a monster, but would not have made his son a monster. (Also, I do not really like Romantic poetry, so a lot of what was good about John Clare was lost on me.) Although of course, the person who does choose to become a monster at the end is Jekyll, who embraces his new identity as Lord Hyde -- a nice touch! -- and obviously you shouldn't choose to become a monster, and John Clare is right not to make that choice. But that is EXACTLY the choice Vanessa Ives actually makes when she goes to meet Dracula, and it is really hard to find the glory for her that the show wants me to, given that choice. I guess it's that at the final moment she turns away from that choice, but we saw so little of her in the last two episodes that it is difficult to know how exactly to read her. It all reads as if she set the whole thing up to enable her own death: going to Dracula, letting Ethan and the rest follow her, letting Ethan find her. It just seems rather convoluted. And unsatisfactory.
And given that Vanessa Ives was the heart of the show, her story needed to make sense.
I have a feeling that I need to request this at Yuletide, not in the sense that I need a fix-it AU, but I need to make sense of what actually happened, and perhaps deal with all the hanging threads (like Cat Hartdegan, or how no one ever found out that Victor was reanimating dead people, or how Lily and Ethan never met again)
This entry has also been posted at http://vaznetti.dreamwidth.org/56066.htm