[TV Review] Penny Dreadful Season 3 (2016) ★★★★★

Vanessa Ives in a mirror maze in Penny Dreadful season 3

Penny Dreadful releases dark gothic doom resulting in a tragic epic ending.

The third and final season of Penny Dreadful delivers a great poetic and epic ending and tragedy is unavoidable. With great cinematography creating a dark and brooding atmosphere, the stakes are at its highest. The gothic tension increases while the tone and atmosphere are a bit different than the two previous seasons.

The series has therefore become a trilogy in which each season addresses a different part of the bigger story and with different themes and tones. This results in a highly intelligent series that is as entertaining as it is smart, enthralling and gripping. 

This third season consists of 9 episodes with each a duration of 44-59 minutes. It’s a continuous big story arc that is split into different storylines about each character, coming together at the end to deliver an epic finale. 


After Vanessa, Sir Malcolm, Victor and Ethan have defeated Evelyn Poole, her Nightcomers and Lucifer himself, and have battled their own personal demons, it is anything but a victory. Sembene was killed and Ethan turns himself in and is set on a ship to America. 

Now Sir Malcolm takes Sembene’s body back to Africa and Vanessa stays behind all alone. Dr. Lyle looks after her, but she’s spiraling down a dark abyss. She talks with Dr. Seward a psychologist and she gives her the card of Dr. Catriona Hartdegen a thanatologist who might be able to help her. But things seem to get better when Vanessa meets Dr. Alexander Sweet who works at the museum and love is in reach again. 

Meanwhile Sir Malcolm meets an Apache named Kaetenay who asks for his help to rescue Ethan who is brought back to his dominant father, but still has his destiny to fulfill. But Hecate has followed Ethan as well and wants him for herself. 

Victor meets Dr. Jekyll who wants to remove all evil from mankind and together they want to help Lily who’s turning evil. But she has her own tragic reasons. Creature/John Clare remembers his wife and child and goes looking for them to return to his old life. 

Why you should watch it

Things are always darkest before dawn and the real eternal darkness has yet to come. The prophecy isn’t undone after they have defeated Lucifer and evil still lurks in the shadows and is more powerful than ever. 

The story is told with excellent cinematography, great storytelling, with focus on the development of the characters, poetic lines, good music and is highly emotionally charged. It’s a lustrous series to watch just as the previous seasons, yet again a bit different in tone and atmosphere, to keep things intriguing and interesting.  

Now the team is split up over three different continents, they are more vulnerable than ever and three different storylines co-exist to be woven together to fight the final battle. 

It’s a very dark and tragic final season. Vanessa has sunk into a depression after losing her faith and Ethan, but with the help of Dr. Seward who puts her under hypnosis, she finds some clarity. In a beautiful, poetic but very hefty episode the hypnosis brings Vanessa back to the time when she was locked up in an asylum. The only orderly whom she sees turns out to be John Clare before he died and was turned into Creature. Their relationship was friendly, loving and tender but tragic. But she also gets a visit from Lucifer and his brother Dracula and the prophecy is more clarified and far from over. 

Slowly it is revealed that the whole series is all about Vanessa. Not only is she the main character, the protagonist but the antagonist as well, and everything that happened, the whole prophecy was really all about her. 

The second storyline tells us more about Ethan, where and how he grew up and more importantly how he became the wolfman and what his connection is to the prophecy. He gets help from Sir Malcolm and Kaetenay to stand up to his father and defeat his childhood demons. We get a real wild west storyline with an actual old fashion western shooting, the steam train through the plains and a dusty American vibe. It’s a big contrast to the time and place where Vanessa is trying to fight her old demons. 

The third storyline tells about Victor and Lily. Lily fell for Dorian but used him to empower women to form an army to fight against men, to Dorian’s dismay who called on Victor. But when Victor with the help of Jekyll wants to free Lily from evil, they learn what kinds of evil were done to her, revealing a tragic story involving her little girl Sarah. 

The final storyline evolves around John Clare. We learn more about him when he was a normal man and his deep connection with Vanessa. He is the most tragic figure, a beautiful poetic, loving creature turned into a monstrous looking thing, that started to kill. His story involves looking up his wife and child who accept him immediately for they know what a loving kind man he was and is. He functions also as a symbol portraying good and evil and mankind and connects different characters in a poetic way. 

The addition of two powerful women who stand by Vanessa is very empowering. Dr. Seward a descendent of Joan Clayton, the Cut Wife, is smart, intelligent open to new ideas, strong minded as is Dr. Catriona Hartdegen who is a good fighter as well. After two seasons where the men looked after Vanessa it is wonderful to see that two women can protect her as well, and maybe even better.

My favorite part

The flashback that brought Vanessa back to the asylum was an epic tour de force. It was heavily emotional charged and it gave another different look at things concerning Vanessa, John and the prophecy. 

Although they each find some catharsis, redemption, peace, or fulfill their destiny and make amends for their actions, except for Dorian, not everyone makes it out alive. When Sir Malcolm, Kaetenay and Ethan return to London to save Vanessa and the world, they might be too late. Vanessa is seduced by Dr. Sweet who turned out to be Dracula himself and she turned into the Mother of all Evil. London is shrouded in toxic mist and darkness and the night creatures, and Dracula’s familiars roam the streets. The only way to save the world is to defeat Dracula and Vanessa and Ethan is the one to fulfill his destiny. It’s a very tragic but fitting ending to the series. 

It was a dark, epic and heavy journey. The ending when John Clare recites a part of William Wordsworth poem “Ode: Intimations of immortality from recollections of early childhood” is so fitting and will bring tears in your eyes. 


Rating: ★★★★★

Epic factor: ★★★★★

Drama factor: ★★★★★

Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆

Originality factor: ★★★★★

Read more about Penny Dreadful:

Cast and crew

Penny Dreadful is created by John Logan. It stars Eva Green (Vanessa Ives), Timothy Dalton (Sir Malcolm Murray), Josh Hartnett (Ethan Chandler), Harry Treadaway (Dr. Victor Frankenstein), Rory Kinnear (Creature/John Clare), Billie Piper (Bona Croft/Lily), Reeve Carbey (Dorian Gray), Danny Sapani (Sembene), Simon Russell Beale (Dr. Ferdinand Lyle), Patti LuPone (Dr. Seward), Sarah Greene (Hecate Poole), Perdita Weeks (Catriona Hartdegen), Wes Studi (Kaetenay)and Christian Camargo (Dr. Sweet).

Music by: Abe Korzeniowski. Cinematography: John Conroy, Owen McPolin, P.J. Dillon, Nigel Willoughby. Production companies: Desert Wolf Productions, Neal Street Productions. Original network: Showtime, Sky.

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