Penny Dreadful ended its three-season run on Showtime last night with a surprise series finale, a move that's generated plenty of shock and dismay among the show's devoted fans. Showtime president David Nevins and creator John Logan confirmed the show's cancelation in a series of interviews published this morning, all of which frame the show's surprise ending as the final piece of a grand multi-season plan.
(Spoilers for Penny Dreadful's third season below.)
"I knew well before David did, which is sort of midway through the second season, so two years ago," said Logan to Entertainment Weekly. "Penny Dreadful is about... a woman's journey of faith — a deeply religious woman who loses her God and then finds him again. I realized that's where the third season was going to head. It was going to head to Vanessa [Ives, played by Eva Green] sacrificing herself and reuniting with God."
To hear Nevins tell it, Logan had to convince him that ending the show with the death of Green's character was the right move. "John convinced me that this was the right end, and the right time to end," said Nevins to Variety. "It gives closure to Vanessa Ives, and without Vanessa Ives, the show shouldn't go on."
Continuing the show would've been "an act of bad faith"
"Eva Green really is my muse, and I set out to write a story about a very complicated character that I love deeply," said Logan to Variety. "I'm deeply invested in that character... that became the show for me. To continue it past Vanessa's death would be, for me, an act of bad faith."
Narrative justification aside, there's one huge question hanging over Penny Dreadful's final episode: why did Nevins and Logan insist on keeping the show's end a surprise? Most dramas turn their final seasons into TV versions of victory laps, giving fans and critics the chance to celebrate their shows' characters, finest moments, and ultimate legacies. "Given where we knew the season was ending, that [announcement] would have been a massive spoiler," said Nevins. "It would not have felt like the right way to handle this show. If it had been a more conventional show, I think I would have given a little more warning to the audience."
"[Penny Dreadful fans] love the vigor, the panache, the fact that we're not afraid to make strong choices and to surprise them and shock them and upset them," said Logan. "That's the kind of fans we have — very emotionally committed fans. And to treat them with less than absolute respect would have been the wrong thing to do."