The season 1 finale of Showtime's Penny Dreadful
has much to live up to. Oh, the places we've gone with this Victorian Horror Story. We've seen eye-rolling possessions, screws in skulls, a body cut in half with a bare hand, sexy time with almost every character including the invisible creature (use your imagination) and scary vampires. "Grand Guignol" delivers all the melodrama, suspense and "what the heck" moments we expect from the freshman series. Best of all, it surprisingly gives us a "wrapped in a bow" ending to the Mina story arc. Let's break down what went down.
Back on the Mina Trail
The Penny Dreadful finale picks up with Vanessa telling Sir Malcolm she believes that Mina is trying to be found, and she knows just where to look. The explorer shockingly says that he will save Mina if he can, but he is willing to end her suffering if need be. Other characters have hinted at this possibility, but Malcolm's never been willing to accept the option of not getting his daughter back, until now.
Sir Malcolm goes out to buy a fancy gun with all the newfangled automatic firing capabilities, obviously expecting a serious fight in the search for his daughter at the theatre Grand Guignol.
You Are No Mina
Before the final Mina expedition, Vanessa confronts Sir Malcolm, saying, "You have not been honest with me." You think? She asks him about a missing photograph of Mina and Peter. He says you want me to say it, well, here you go. "I would sacrifice you to save my daughter. I would choose her over you. I might even hope I get the chance." He goes on to say he needs her now only because she is his connection to Mina. The photo? It's in a drawer because looking at it breaks his heart. Wait, he has a heart?
Sir Malcolm tells Vanessa to handle her guilt on her own. She reminds him his hands are not clean, but he says the difference is that she wants to be free of it. She offers, "Put the picture back. Let it break your heart." No love lost between these two.
The Dorian Connection
Dorian Gray first shows up at Sir Malcolm's estate looking like a 12-year-old visiting a crush, awkwardly talking to Vanessa about his travels while she was ill. He wants her to read his future, his past, have dinner with him, anything. He looks a little desperate as Vanessa stomps on his heart and sends him on his way.
Vanessa later gives in, agreeing to meet up at a greenhouse (remember their deep love of orchids). Our fickle Miss Ives tries to explain why she high-tailed it out of his house after he was so close to getting some of her tail. She says she's not the woman for him. She admits there is a "rare connection" with Dorian, but the intimacy cannot happen again. It released something in her. He looks like he just lost his orchid. She says condescendingly, "Poor Dorian. You've never known this feeling before."
His bottom lip sticks out and quivers, telling her she's right. Vanessa kisses him, saying, "It's rejection." She leaves Mr. Gray again, this time clothes still on.
Dr. Frankenstein's firstborn is working backstage and has some trouble with the lifting ropes. Snooty lead actor complains about the ineptitude of the "monster." Victor's creation is alone, looking all sad, when his actress friend brings him an orange to cheer him up. She thanks him for the book he gave her, Paradise Lost. They talk and she kisses his forehead before leaving. He's thrilled in an overly excited, creepy way that says bad things are happening soon.
Victor's first pancake gets dolled up, makeup and all, to court the sweet actress with an orange. She laughs at his made-up face and asks him to get out. He comes into her room roughing her up a little trying to kiss her. Vincent, firstborn's kindly friend, reluctantly fires him. Pan up to the highest regions of the theatre, and we catch a darkened glimpse of one of the vampires Sir Malcolm and his crew have been seeking.
Firstborn shows up at his father's house saying he has nowhere else to go. Victor is not in a forgiving mood, saying he cannot forget the murder of Van Helsing. Our wimpy doc holds up a gun to the back of his child who waxes philosophical about the monster in his soul, wanting to be loved, and the abomination that is his heart.
"Why did you not make me of steel and stone? Why did you allow me to feel? I would rather be the corpse I was than the man I am. Go ahead, pull the trigger. It would be a blessing." He closes his eyes and Victor predictably lowers the gun.
Brona is Dead (At Least for Now)
Ethan shows up asking for Victor's help with the dying Brona. Dr. Frankenstein offers a sedative, but there's a plan brewing beneath his eyes. Brona admits she's afraid of death and what awaits her. She says, "I have not been good." Victor tells Ethan it won't be long. He sends the gunslinger for a bucket of water because that's always a good idea when death is near. Dr. Frankenstein tells Brona he believes in a place between heaven and hell and there's a price to pay for such a passage. He puts a pillow over Brona's face, and I'm thinking he's just met his new daughter-in-law.
Ethan returns to find Brona dead. Any of Victor's redeeming qualities falls away as he says, "Her passing was a thing of grace. I promise you." Ethan cries, with the doctor adding, "Don't worry, I'll take care of the body." What a guy! Bride of first pancake can't be far off.
A Bounty for Ethan
Two thugs follow Ethan into a bar (no joke) and say they've been hired to bring him to justice. They tell him he left some tears and "a whole mess of blood" back home. They say he better come peacefully or they'll drag him back "like a monkey." Ethan beats the crap out of the two, escaping his past for now.
Mina Can't Be Saved
Later, the gunslinger meets up with Miss Ives and the crew in another search for Mina at the Grand Guignol theatre. It's so dark that we can barely see anything until Sir Malcolm takes out his trusty flashlight. Ethan falls through a trap door and all the sleeping vampires come out to play. They look like albino Draco Malfoy vampires, screeching and biting in a mad rampage. Our heroes are fighting for their lives, with Victor even manning up and shooting a few. The main creature is killed by Sir Malcolm sending his spawn running away.
Mina appears and we think for a second that there may be a happy Penny Dreadful ending to the season. Not so fast. She takes Vanessa by the throat, saying, "You'll understand when you join the Master. Now that he has his bride..."
Sir Malcolm shoots her once in the shoulder.
"I am your daughter!" she pleads.
"I already have a daughter," he says, shooting her again, killing her.
Back at the estate, he tells Vanessa, "You were right. I was never going to go to Africa." He's taking down his maps and talks about getting a Christmas tree. He cries in Vanessa's arms, sobbing for the final loss of Mina. What an about face.
Tying Up Loose Ends
Victor has dead Brona in his lab, uncovering her body, much to the delight of firstborn. Ethan is not going to be happy, doctor.
Our sad American is drinking alone when the two bounty hunters show up again to attempt capture number two. Ethan transforms into the werewolf we all knew he was. He quickly dispatches of the men, sending blood everywhere.
Vanessa returns to church and speaks with a priest. He wants to help, asking, "What do you fear?"
"Those things of which I am capable. Do you believe a soul can be taken over?" she asks.
Talk turns to exorcism, with the priest explaining, "This is a long, grueling and dangerous thing. It could take months or years. You must look into your heart and answer one question. If you have been touched by a demon, it's like being touched by the backhand of God. It makes you sacred, unique ... do you really want to be normal?"
She doesn't answer, but the look on her face says she's leaving her demon within to rear its ugly head in season 2.
"Grand Guignol" brought a satisfying end to the Mina story arc, gave us the Ethan werewolf moment we've been waiting for, and set up Brona's new beginning as the not-so-blushing bride to Victor's firstborn.
Now we have the long wait for Penny Dreadful's return in 2015.
(Image courtesy of Showtime)