It’s been a while since the finale of Penny Dreadful and a while since news broke that this really would be the last episode. Ever.
I think this is why it’s taken so long for me to process my thoughts on what actually happened in ‘The Blessed Dark’- I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these characters, or their stories. Whereas I feel the men within the series found resolutions or at least some light at the end of their dreadful tunnels- of some description, it is the women who are truly condemned to the blessed dark.
Between Lily, Vanessa and Hecate it comes as not much of a shock, on reflection, that Lily is the only to to make it out ‘alive’ (albeit a reanimated corpse) and but the fact Victor only gave her freedom because he felt she had demonstrated ‘humanity’ by spilling her past-horrors of loosing a child felt like a massive step back for the character. This is not to say that Billie Piper gave a bad performance; it was emotional, painful and full of sorrow – but it was very predictable. It didn’t feel so much as a monstrous woman, but rather this revelation of failed motherhood was an easy box to finally close off her storyline, and see Lily clad in black, saunter through a graveyard into the narrative abyss. The final image almost literally ghosted her, she is left unconnected from anyone, or anywhere.
Vanessa’s death was a shock to many viewers and yet death came to her in the arms of the man she loved, a simple bullet that simultaneously ended, and brought, her darkness.
The lightness of her dress, the almost whiteness is significant as white is both the colour her friend Mina Murray died in, the colour of Vanessa’s hospital gowns, and the colour she and Ethan were dressed in during a vision of an alternate future wherein they were happy with children. White for Vanessa images pain. Pain is also evident upon her skin after her transformation into Dracula’s ‘bride’- or the Queen of Darkness; the skin beneath her eyes is bruised and dark and there are visible marks on her body. Her dress, tightly bound, and layered in draping fabric becomes a bandage of sorts. When Ethan shoots her “with love” there is a relatively small amount of blood in contrast to the shots of the other heroes who are all covered due to their battles with Dracula’s vampire minions.
The blood that does flow is contained by her dress, which instead flows out itself, upon the floor. In death the physicality of her body, the blood, the wound, is relatively concealed and her material form creates a final image of transformation from darkness to light. It is merely tragic that light finally comes for Vanessa only in her death.
RIP Vanessa Ives.