As part of my forthcoming book project, I’ve been revisiting the Penny Dreadful series and comics. This included looking back at my online reviews of the show’s third and final season, which I will be posting here over the coming weeks. This post originally appeared on The Victorianist, 10 June 2016. It has been edited and corrected for reposting.
This week’s episode of Penny Dreadful is essentially all about submission and dominance. It takes us on a tour of all the key characters and stories this season, and throws in a few more for good measure. In each story, we are given an example of how characters refused to submit, submitted to easily, or were forced into submission, and the episode then explores the effect this relationship to submission has had on them. Ethan’s refusal to confront his problems has taken over his life. Lily is so scarred by being broken into submission that she is determined to break the men who used her in return. She has been given a new life, but refuses to let the old one truly die. ‘I’ve suffered long and hard to be who I am,’ she tells Frankenstein during his failed kidnapping attempt. ‘I want my scars to show’. Vanessa, physically weak and emotionally fragile, is also paradoxically the strongest. She is not afraid to submit to others, or risk her heart again and again.