Tuesday, July 1, 2014

#PennyDreadfulSeasonFinale - Short Review

*If the title didn't give it away yet, I'm telling you now - spoilers ahead.

Grand Giugnol

This is just an extremely short review for the season finale of Penny Dreadful. It's more of a reaction paper rather than a detailed summary. (edit: It's not short after all. Though it's still not in sequence.)

Before you go on reading this post, I must warn you, it's not full of positive things. Mostly because I am a fan of this show's genius everthing - actors, plot, lines, effects, setting, etc. - I turned out to be very disappointed with the ending.

Episode 2 remains to be my favorite episode.
Penny Dreadful still isn't dreadful at all, although this one last episode certainly made me feel like it.

The Middle End

I expected healthy cliffhangers, ones that would make me pull my hair for the unanswered questions, but ones that will make me cling onto the show more. What I was given was... meh. All the endings were so predictable. All true Dreadfuls know that Chandler was a werewolf and Brona would become The Creature's bride. In fact all through the episodes I was looking forward to how they'd reveal it.

I recall the scene where Victor brought Proteus to life. It was so obvious who he was, and yet when I heard the final line, "My name... is Victor Frankenstein." I still mildly gasped, because the narration and the effects amazed me; because even though I could guess who he was the moment I saw him experiment with Proteus's body, the revelation - Treadaway's execution, Bayona's directing and Logan's genius way with words - was astounding.

Contrary to that, I was expecting Brona's death from episode 3, and seeing Chandler's werewolf form since episode 7. In fact, regarding Chandler's lycanthropy, I was patient and waited until the season finale. I was so excited when I saw the two American supposed-abductors because I knew they'd have something to do with his first werewolf form reveal. But nah, let's drag it out until the last few minutes of the show to make Dreadfuls look more forward to it, and then shut them down by this very mediocre scene. And with Brona's death, ditto - except imagine that as five episodes' worth of frustration.

The Middle

Part I -  Mina's Death

How the hell is that supposed to make sense?! They built this whole show around the concept of finding her. It was the first reference they made to a horror tale. Though the show definitely highlighted the main characters and their inner conflicts more than a no-show character, she was definitely essential to the whole Penny Dreadful gang. (That's right. They're a gang now.)

I was looking forward to them building her character. Maybe she'd show a more monstrous side - that all this time their Mina was an illusion and this was her true self. Maybe she was trapped by all that vamparism mojo and they'd have to find a way to cure her - despite her wishes. Maybe whatever she'd turn out to be, she'd eventually save Vanessa and Malcolm from all this self-harming guilt they have. Maybe she'd have a freakin' backstory besides the one connected to Vanessa. Maybe, I don't know, you don't build a plot around someone and then eventually just kill them off. 

What the fuck was up with that "I already have a daughter" shit? Can't you have two daughters?? I mean is that illegal now? (Sorry, China.) I get the whole Malcolm-changes-his-mind-about-Vanessa or even the he-finally-realizes-how-much-she-means-to-him thing. I even get the if-I-can't-save-you-then-at-least-I'll-help-you-get-out-of-this-curse/monstrosity/vamparism/no-free-will-mojo or whatever! But what the hell does that line mean? It's not related to anything. I have my fair share of favorite PD lines, so really, I have beef with the writer when he makes this shallow of a line significant. (Did someone magically substitute John Logan? Because this episode's lines do not do his genius justice.)

And umm, hello? What happened to Sir Malcolm's obsession with saving his daughter? I mean, can you really just switch it off like that? He was all, "Psh, I killed my son and now Imma kill my daughter. It bring grief to me but that's alright cuz Vanessa be here." 

Ah. Whatever. Crazy dads be crazy dads. *Crosses Mina off the list for season 2 expectations.*

Part II - PD Gang Vs. Monster Vampire

Awesome. Great effects as always.

Part III - Frankenstein and the Creature's Sudden Bromance

Frankenstein's one of my favorite characters. He's just so wonderfully complex - and not in that evil villain shit kinda way. He tries so hard to be good, and he doesn't even see it. He says the most beautiful words even when talking about something grotesque. (Remember his first long conversation with Sir Malcolm?) Every word out of his mouth is a peek inside his mind - a truly beautiful and ironically pure mind. He's just curious, and so scientifically inclined. As I keep watching, I'm compelled to sympathize with someone who just wants to know, and honestly never meant to hurt anyone. His relationship with Proteus and Van Hellsing were proof that it's not that he didn't want people in his life, he just didn't have any time for them. It was so fortunate that these two were part of world that he immersed himself in - though in Proteus's case it may have been more than luck, of course. It killed me when both of them died, not for their loss of life, but for Victor's sorrow and, once again, lack of companions. (For all that they have gone through together, it's clear that the PD gang still aren't so natural and comfortable with one another.)

The Creature killed them, at which point I went "Whuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut????" and "Gah!........oh." respectively. His character is actually one that I do not care much for - not because of dislike, of course; but only because he falls out of my preferences. (If you're watching a show where everyone's your favorite character, someone's got to get last place still. Though he and Sir Malcolm are currently still fighting for that place on the list.) He is actually wonderfully written. There is a complete contrast to his self that is good and his self that is bad. Despite that, there is no disconnect. It's quite understandable, really. You'd show your darkest side to the one you hate the most. When he was yearning for love and acceptance, I felt for him. When he was threatening (my) Frankenstein, I wanted to strangle him - though that may be more out of bias than plain disdain.

Then sudden bromance just made me confused.

Now, in fact I was expecting that at some point in the story, they'd reconcile or maybe start to understand each other, but the suddenness and the odd way the scene was shown felt detached from the way everything was building up until now. Honestly, I'd have accepted the scene the way it was had Victor not pulled that gun out. Maybe if the Creature didn't resign so easily to the fate of death, I could've understood - if he had explained himself, maybe get angry or something? It made no sense that an angry Victor - to the point of pointing a gun at the Creature's head - would suddenly become empathetic. From the very start, Victor had already known the Creature had a soul (metaphorically speaking, since in this setting, you'd never know) and he had outright denied the Creature his acceptance. ("I can't give you love." Ouch.) Granted, that was right after Proteus's death, so it was understandable for his opinion to change. And yet, for all the other times that the Creature visited him, he had shown no sympathy nor pity at its/his state. He believed the Creature to be a punishment for his actions. His fatherly love towards Proteus also show that he did not believe his creations to be incapable of love, in fact, in Proteus's case, he encouraged it - i.e. the notion of friendship, "fairy lights", etc.

The disconnect wasn't only in Victor's character, the Creature's sudden acceptance of Victor's help was also really weird. He was threatening Victor to do the deed all this time, sure. And yeah, he was ready to die, so this was hope, I guess. But the way he accepted Victor's help with no questions asked and for a sudden feeling of camaraderie to arise in their relationship (only a gut feeling from scenes shown) without any trigger but a reminder of the Creature's capability to feel - which isn't something that Victor did not already know. Maybe it was also triggered by the fact that Frankenstein finally realized that this was what he did to his own creation, but then, all this time, he'd been blaming himself. He was aware of the fact that the Creature was his responsibility and burden. What has changed? A reminder? So many times was he reminded by the Creature's tenacity and strong poetic words. I do not see any difference between the past and present situations.

I hope they'll give at least verbal explanations for next season. Gah. Frustrations.

Part IV - Vanessa and Dorian Grey

I kinda shipped the two of them when they met during the second episode. I mean, the sexual tension was practically crackling like lightning between the two of them. (Not sure if you'll understand if you're not an anime fan.)

But their relationship was... confusing, to say the least. First, that sexual tension (and Dorian Grey's first appearance. Rawr.) Second, Vanessa following him around, all flirty and sensual. Third, Grey's indifference towards her interest in him, even preferring to take Mr. Chandler home. *wink wink* (And honestly, despite being a yaoi fan, I didn't think they suited each other much. Huh.) Fourth, their mutual interest in each other *wink wink-er* (which led to her being possessed and shit. Intense.) Last, Grey's sudden care and fascination with her romantically, that led to his rejection. ("You've never known this feeling before, have you?" I bet. Once again, rawr.)

Their relationship progressed so quickly with so little interaction. Chandler and Brona's was the same, but at least you could see that they indeed cared about each other. 

During the last episode, the sexual tension and chemistry wasn't there anymore. Vanessa was too distant, and Dorian too eager. It was like somebody rewrote their character descriptions. I didn't even understand Dorian's sudden care for Vanessa. Even during their date, he wasn't that infatuated. (What? Was sex with her really that good? I have to admit that literal fucking cliffhanger surprised me. Haha.)

Vanessa was understandable, but with her recent crush on Dorian, it was also strange how easily she dealt with it. Her character's strong for sure, so I'll accept that as an explanation. Dorian... suddenly felt hollow. As opposed to how strongly I felt the character's wills during the first half of the season, now Dorian feels like... just a character - a pawn for a good story to be told. 

Ugh. I do not like this feeling.

The End-End

What the fuck is up with that priest? I mean, yeah, his lines were pretty cool. But what type of priest would say that? In a corrupt-Church world, in a traditional-Catholic world, and in a purely-good-Church world, there exists no priest who'd say that. I half expected him to turn into one of Satan's numerous disguises. Then the screen turned black. Huh. 

Does this mean that the scriptwriter is only that -  a good scriptwriter, but not a storyteller? Bring back that genius director from episodes 1-2. *le sigh*

The ending-ending was alright. My disappointment with the show overshadowed my curiosity towards Vanessa's answer.

Overall Reaction

It's a pretty decent episode, but more than that? I don't know. If I wasn't clear enough, I expected so much more.

This show has managed to surprise me time and time again with wonderfully interlinked scenes woven into a mysteriously compelling story. It was crafted delicately and with so much attention to detail. I loved it - from the first episode onwards.

The imprint that it has stuck on me does not allow me to be indifferent to this show despite my extreme disappointment.

The actors are still great. The effects are still awesome. The lines still tug at my heartstrings. And the characters are still wonderfully complex (though unfortunately, less wonderful than complex now). I still have much hope for this show, but that hope is farther than it once was.

Please do not disappoint, Season 2. Please. 

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