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Penny Dreadful

Posted on October 2, 2016

Rationality, Masculinity, and the Death of Penny Dreadful

Guest Post

Guest Author: Cayla McNally

Please forgive my lateness with this post, dear Reader; I was blindsided to discover that Penny Dreadful’s season 3 finale was, in fact, its series finale, and have been spinning my wheels trying to write a proper send-off ever since. In my last post, I said that wherever this show goes, I will follow. I didn’t realize that it would fade into the black, where there is no following. So, even though it hurts, let’s dive in, one last time.

While the previous two seasons focused on creation, this season explored the idea of unmaking. The core group of characters- Ethan (Josh Hartnett), Vanessa (Eva Green), Malcolm (Timothy Dalton), and Victor (Harry Treadaway)- are far flung and left to their own devices. Forced to forge friendships of convenience, each of them makes a series of choices that hurtles the plot towards its ultimate tragic end.

Ethan is brought back to the New Mexico territory by Inspector Rusk to be tried for his crimes. He manages multiple bloody escapes, aided by his father’s goons and Hecate the witch (Sarah Greene). Hecate is hoping to sway Ethan to the dark side, and convinces him that killing his father (Brian Cox) and damning himself is the best option. Meanwhile, Sir Malcolm is followed to Africa by Kaetenay (Wes Studi), an Apache man who is determined to bring Ethan back around to the light side. Making their way to New Mexico, they follow Ethan to his father’s house. It is revealed that Ethan- somewhat unwittingly- previously led Kaetenay to his father’s house, where the Apaches killed most of his family. A shootout erupts, Rusk and Hecate are killed, and Sir Malcolm kills Ethan’s father in order to save Ethan from eternal damnation. Read more

Posted on May 1, 2016

Monstrosity, Creation, and Feminism in Penny Dreadful

Guest Post

Guest Author: Cayla McNally

Both seasons of Penny Dreadful have similar themes: guilt, repression, creation, monstrosity, and the confluence of the sacred and the profane. A huge part of the thematic narrative is duality, a secret self that is harbored away, repressed. As monstrosity is repressed, as the secret self is repressed, the power the characters have over themselves weakens. Ethan represses his lupine nature, which causes him to erupt violently when he does transform. Vanessa represses her natural sexuality, which then leaves her vulnerable to possession. Victor represses Lily’s history, which helps her realize she is immortal.

Monstrosity exists in all of the characters, in two different categories:

-Dorian, Lily, John/Caliban, and Ethan are monstrous in a supernatural way. Control and consent become overarching themes as well, existing at the crossroad of creation and monstrosity. The creatures who see themselves as monsters (Ethan, John/Caliban, Lily) had no control in their creation; rather, they can only control what they choose to do with their monstrosity. Read more

Posted on April 28, 2016

Everything You Need to Know about Penny Dreadful Before Sunday

Guest Post

Guest Author: Cayla McNally

Popular Gothic TV show Penny Dreadful is making its return to Showtime this weekend, and I am beyond excited! Named after a popular form of 19th century pulp novel, the show is a twisted tale of the dark and supernatural goings-on in Victorian London. The first two seasons have been a beautiful and harrowing ride, and I am curious to see where show creator John Logan will take it next. It can be hard to remember everything that happened in the eighteen episodes of this complex and detailed show, so below you will find season recaps to bring us up to speed for season three. Caution, spoilers abound.

Season 1

Season one begins with, of course, a grisly murder of a woman and her young child, plucked out of their home in the dead of night. The killer remains mysterious and on the loose, though many fear that Jack the Ripper has returned. Meanwhile, Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) approaches American sharpshooter Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett); she offers to pay Ethan handsomely for his skills on some “night work.” Intrigued, Ethan agrees to join Vanessa and Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), and promptly follows them- unawares- into a vampire den. It is revealed that Sir Malcolm’s daughter- and Vanessa’s best friend- Mina (Olivia Llewellyn) was captured by one of the creatures. They are attacked, and manage to kill one of the nest’s main vampires; they take the body to Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), who discovers that there are glyphs written under the creature’s skin. Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russel Beale) later discerns that the glyphs are from the Egyptian Book of the Dead and foretell the end of the world. He also believes that the vampires are using Mina as bait, and really want Vanessa. Read more

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