‘Penny Dreadful’ Producer Chris King Talks Season Finale: ‘Tear It All Apart’

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 7)
Jonathan Hession/Showtime
Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 7). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_207_0148

Misery may love company, but that definitely wasn’t the case as Penny Dreadful‘s second season came to a close Sunday. The final hour saw most of our heroes split up and spread out across the globe as Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) set off to return Sembene’s (Daniel Sapani) dead body to Africa, Caliban (Rory Kinnear) departed to the Arctic and Ethan (Josh Hartnett) was arrested and dragged back to America. Even Victor Franksenstein (Harry Treadaway) took a narcotic-enabled trip in the episode’s final moments. We talked to supervising producer Chris King about some of the episode’s biggest surprises.

How did the idea of splitting everyone up like that come up?

We always knew that [this was] the plan, even before we started Season 1. That first season was about bringing this odd family of Vanessa, Ethan, Sir Malcolm and Dr. Frankenstein—even Dorian who’s on the peripheral—together. So in Season 2 the idea was to tear it all apart. So now we see everyone sort of heading off into different worlds.

Everyone’s always talked about how powerful Vanessa is, and we’ve had glimpses before. But the true extent of her powers doesn’t hit home until we see her face-off against Satan himself.

It was important to see Vanessa’s backstory with the Cut-Wife, learning the ways of witchcraft, before seeing her completely lose it and go to the dark side and use it to kill Hawkes by turning the dogs on him. In the end we see that she has this amazing power and she’s able to destroy Satan in the form of the doll. But, she also felt like she had God on her side too. So now she feels she doesn’t even have that… She feels abandoned by her God and she no longer has him for her protection. With great power comes consequences and unfortunately that leaves her a lonely, shattered person.

All season Vanessa’s been surrounded by her friends, who’ve been trying to help and protect her. Now that they aren’t with her, what does that mean?

Vanessa is all alone and as strong as she is, she does rely on her family, so to speak, for this protection and love and care. And the fact that she doesn’t have that anymore puts her at risk.

It was so bittersweet seeing what she once dreamed of. Has Vanessa let go of that completely? Or does she have a new dream for herself?
The hope would be that she would still want that for herself. But deep down she knows who she is. I still feel like there’s hope that she’ll one day have the life of a normal person.

What prompted Ethan to confess to Rusk? Was it guilt over killing Sembene?

Ultimately, yes. [Ethan’s] always known that there’s been something inside of him. He’s woken up on the side of the Thames River and with blood on his hands and he woke up this season in the middle of the Mariner’s Inn, and all the bodies all over the place, so he’s always known that something happens to him. But he had this great time bonding with Sembene over the last few episodes. The fact that he he’s killed his only friend made him realize that it’s not worth it for him. His goal was to be hung in London. But then Rusk turns around and says, “No, we’re taking you back to America.” But truly it’s the guilt for killing Sembene.

Lily, or Brona, has really come into her own since being brought back to life. Now that she’s teamed up with Dorian, what does that mean for her?

The interesting thing about Lily is that you see her change from this childlike character. And then all of a sudden she meets Dorian, this amazing and handsome man who takes her into a new, wealthy world. Over the last few episodes we’ve watched Lily attack and kill a man and you start to realize that perhaps Lily didn’t forget and has been playing along the whole time. She was a prostitute. She’d been beaten and treated horribly by men. But now she has this new life where she’s strong and powerful and, with Dorian, potentially wealthy. She’s going to take full advantage of it.

Dorian has gone through his own change over the course of the season. What does this mean for him, and Lily?

What’s fascinating about that is in Season 1, Dorian was Vanessa’s love interest and then in Season 2, he has this love story, but eventually you see this darker side of him. The fact that he and Lily are like these two ultimate powers together can only mean a lot more trouble for the people of London—and Dr. Frankenstein.