Love Conquers All – Or Does It?

penny-dreadfulI just finished watching the third and final season of Penny Dreadful. If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it before you read this. There will be spoilers.

As a writer of love stories, I understand the happily ever after doesn’t always happen as it’s supposed to. But, writing romance, happily ever after, and love conquers all are our staples.

I don’t suppose anyone thought that Penny Dreadful was at heart a romance, but a love story it definitely was. And in this case, love didn’t conquer all. Vanessa realises that the only way to stop the end of days is by sacrificing her own life. Ethan, with love, agrees to kill her, and then holds her as her life seeps away.

So love didn’t conquer all.

Or did it?

It was an act of mercy, of kindness, of selflessness on Vanessa’s part to sacrifice herself. An act of love. She risked the entire world population of human beings just by continuing to live on the earth. She loved the rest of the world (or at least those people she had contact with) enough, that losing her own life was a better alternative than letting them suffer.

And it was an act of mercy, kindness and selflessness on Ethan’s part to pull the trigger. He could have refused – after all, by doing it, he loses his chance at love and forever after. But the cost of that forever after could be catastrophic. Thinking it through rationally, by saving her, he would have condemned the entire world to death – himself included.

But whoever said love was rational?

Love is humanity.

This is borne out by Dorian and Lily. Most of Dorian’s humanity has been sucked out of him over his lifetime. He himself says he has no passion left. Yet he shows compassion to Justine by offering her a quick, clean death instead of insisting she go back to prostitution. I think he shows a tiny bit of humanity right there – a tiny spark of love that can still be fanned.

Lily doesn’t want to live passionless. She wants to feel, to remember love, even if it hurts. Immortality doesn’t have to equal inhumanity. Love even conquers there.

john-clareYet I was left dissatisfied by the ending for one character. The Monster – John Clare. Did love conquer all for him? He found his family, and while his son died, he still had a wife who saw him for the man he was before, instead of the beast he had become.

But she asked him to do something for her that a loving father could never do to his own son. And she asked it in such a way that made it clear her love for her son far eclipsed that of her love for the father. Maybe it was in the heat of the moment, possibly with time she would realise that what she asked was impossible.

John was left to mourn his son alone, to dispatch of his body alone, and then to find out that his only ally in the world, Vanessa, had died, leaving him totally alone and friendless.

This was the only character who really deserved to find happiness. While he was a monster, it was only when he was treated like one. He had the capacity to love, to feel. His good qualities had not disappeared with his transition to immortality. They had perhaps been buried, but they were still there. His gentleness, kindness and compassion shone through. He could have redeemed his life and found love and happiness. As it was, we were left wondering if he was going to revert back to being the monster he thought himself to be. The likelihood is that he definitely would, since all the good had once again been torn away from him.

What a pity there isn’t a fourth season. I could definitely see Mr Hyde and John Clare facing off… and John Clare coming off victorious because of the humanity, the love that still resides inside him. THAT would have been a satisfying ending. THEN love would have conquered all.

Love Conquers All – Or Does It?
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