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  • Anti-Climax Boss:
    • The entire first season has the audience believe that we will meet "the Master" - possibly Dracula - who is pulling the strings and has Mina prisoner. When it's revealed that Mina has pulled a Face–Heel Turn long ago and is working for the Master, we look forward to a serious battle between the heroes and the villain. This doesn't happen. The Master never once appears and Mina is shot dead by Malcolm when she attempts to turn Vanessa.
      • However, the Master, namely Dracula has arrived in Season 3, and he has a veritable army of the undead at his command and while there is a well-choreographed fight scene in Dracula's lair as the group tries to rescue Vanessa, the scene cuts away almost immediately after Dracula steps up and fights the heroes himself and only cuts back after he's already defeated them. In addition, the entire scene culminates in Vanessa's assisted suicide and Dracula does absolutely nothing to avenge her; with his plans for world domination thwarted, he just seems to say "Fuck it" because he and his minions disappear immediately.
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    • Earlier in the series, Evelyn Poole and her coven are built up as very strong and credible threats, with Evelyn rivaling Vanessa in magical prowess, succeeding in nearly brainwashing Malcolm away from our heroes. It turns out she doesn't directly fight Vanessa, who fights and defeats the devil instead. Evelyn is dispatched by werewolf!Ethan after losing her immortality. Meanwhile, Lyle and Malcolm shoot two of the witches fairly easily with ordinary guns.
  • Badass Decay: Hits Sir Malcolm in Season 2. He does very little physical fighting, gets mind-controlled by Evelyn and even loses his Badass Beard. Fortunately, he regains his strength (and his beard) in season 3.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • The character played by Billie Piper hits this in both seasons, for completely different reasons. In season one, a common criticism of Brona was that her accent was terrible, the Hooker with a Heart of Gold trope is overused, and that she was The Load to Ethan in his "more interesting" adventures with the Grandage Place gang. Other fans enjoyed her fiesty nature, the realistic take on why someone in her position would choose prostitution, and her heartbreaking relationship with Ethan. In Season Two, her resurrection as Lily prompted cries of both "Ugh, what are they doing, Brona was so much better and Lily's a complete doormat" and "Yay Brona's dead, the accent's gone, she's so cute falling for Victor!". As the season progresses though, she takes a darker turn, which has led to further splitting, as some preferred Lily's softer characterisation, while others approve of her transformation, calling her an interesting villain.
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    • Dorian Gray has hit the fans even harder than Brona / Lily. For two and a half seasons, Dorian has interacted with just about everyone in the cast in both fascinating and disturbing ways, potentially building him up as a major antagonist alongside the likes of Dracula and Lucifer. But at the end, all of that is rendered utterly moot as his character is literally given nothing to do and is unceremoniously dumped by Lily. Interesting he may have been, but he was ultimately a completely inconsequential filler character who just devoured screen-time with no pay-off whatsoever.
  • Broken Base: The ending of the series was highly divisive among fans. Some loved how bittersweet it was and believed it to be an excellent send-off for the characters, but others felt it was sloppy, rushed, and could have benefited from more episodes or even a fourth season.
    • There is even more division regarding Vanessa's death. Some think it was a fitting end for a tragic character, some think her suicide was completely out of character, some think she should've died more heroically, and some think she shouldn't have died at all.
  • Complete Monster:
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    • Season 2's Big Bad is Madame Kali, whose real name is Evelyn Poole. She is revealed to be far more than a simple medium, and is actually a powerful servant of Satan. Evelyn is a witch who rules the coven of The Nightcomers, and her true nature is introduced with her in a bath of blood and a young woman's corpse close by. Evelyn promptly thereafter kills one of her own witches for failure and sends her sadistic daughter Hecate to murder a family—including a baby—so Evelyn can harvest the child's heart to create a ritual doll. One top of this, it is revealed Evelyn has dozens of these dolls, each one powered by the heart of a dead infant. Evelyn later enslaves the mind of Sir Malcolm and mentally tortures Malcolm's wife into killing herself, simply to make Malcolm hers. When Malcolm breaks free, she simply inflicts the same spell as she inflicted on Malcolm's wife so that Malcolm is tormented by visions of his dead children. It is also revealed Evelyn had framed her own sister as a witch so that she would be burned alive. Ruthlessly dedicated to the service of Satan, Evelyn stops at nothing to achieve her goals and indeed causes a great deal of torment, misery and damage before she is finally undone. It's further revealed that Evelyn forced her daughter Hecate into Lucifer's servitude when Hecate was just five years old, with a description that sounds disturbingly like Lucifer raping her.
    • Satan himself, after his failed rebellion against God, seeks to destroy humanity, dethrone God and rule over his new creation. Satan enlists the aforementioned Evelyn Poole and scars every Nightcomer with his claws. Fighting against his brother Dracula over the Mother of Evil, Satan corrupted and possessed Vanessa Ives and tortured her into submission, eventually leading her to be sent in an asylum. He also granted Dorian Gray immortality in exchange for his service and has him kill people to prolong his life. In the continuation comics, Satan, possessing Vanessa's body takes over the British government and compels them to war against other nations. He allows his followers to kill and rape anyone they want; pollutes the air of London; leads his army of demons to slaughter their way in a coven and the White Tower; and coldly disposes both his underlings Belial and the Duke of Kent when they fail him. Satan tricks Ethan into sleeping with him to conceive The Anti-Christ and then tries to murder the man upon his refusal to follow him. Later Satan brainwashes Ethan and forces him to kill his lover Lily. After giving birth to twin daughters destined to rule over his creation, Satan sets Heaven on fire, raining down destruction on Earth and then announces that anyone who won't worship him will die. During the final battle, Satan rejects Dracula's offer for peace and reconciliation before attacking him.
  • Critical Research Failure: Senegal (where Sembene, a Wolof, would have been from) is on the west coast of Africa. Zanzibar (where Malcolm has traveled to ostensibly bring Sembene's body back for burial) is an archipelago off the eastern coast of Africa. Additionally, Malcolm cannot be in "German-controlled Zanzibar" in 1892, as the Germans ceded control of Zanzibar to the British as a protectorate in 1890.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Despite easily getting the least focus of the main cast, Sembene is incredibly popular, due to being an awesome no-nonsense unfazeable Battle Butler whose few lines are normally either wise or entertaining, as well as being played by immensely-respected theatre actor Danny Sapani. It was not uncommon to see fans discussing and speculating about how much he'd speak in upcoming episodes, or hoping he would one day have an episode devoted to his backstory.
    • The Cut-Wife was an instant fan favorite - despite being only in one episode - to the point that the show brought Patti LuPone back as a series regular for the third season despite having killed off her character, requiring them to cast her as American psychologist Doctor Seward.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: John Logan seems to think that the ending - Vanessa killing herself with help from Ethan to end the apocalypse and Dracula's reign of terror - is fitting for her, and that the audience should be happy she "found God" in her last moments. Many fans, including many TV critics, disagree, and feel this ending is far too grim for a woman who has suffered and fought against the forces of darkness her entire life.
  • Evil Is Cool:
    • Despite being a devil-worshipping, baby-killing cult, Evelyn's coven has an undeniable aesthetic.
    • Dorian is far from a saint, but his timeless dandy appearance and his fancy estate look amazing. It's helpful that he and Lily have now started spree-killing Asshole Victims.
  • Evil Is Sexy:
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Ethan and Vanessa is the most popular pairing, by far, and is affectionately referred to as Ethanessa.
  • Genius Bonus: The song that shows up in "Seance" (hummed by the possessed Vanessa) and in "Closer than Sisters" (sung by Vanessa in both time periods) is "The Unquiet Grave". It's back for season two, with Helen McCrory's Evelyn Poole singing it in the trailer.
  • Growing the Beard: Not that Penny Dreadful was ever bad, but the first half of the first season can feel a bit uneven. There are so many storylines to introduce - Vanessa and Malcolm hunting for Mina, Ethan and Brona at the Mariner's Inn, Victor and his creatures, Dorian's life of excess - and so many great performances from the cast that it can feel breakneck. "Closer than Sisters", which is the first of the series' three flashback episodes, gives us a poignant, note-perfect look at the defining moments of Vanessa's life and the incident which caused the rift between her and Mina. It fleshes Vanessa out incredibly well and sets up the driving conflict of the first season - if they do find Mina, will there be something left to save?
  • He Really Can Act: Josh Hartnett was pegged by many critics as the weak link of the cast. Come "Possession", specifically the scene where Vanessa's demon appears in Ethan's form and his good-ol-boy cowboy charm suddenly goes from sexy to Nightmare Fuel in a matter of seconds, and the scene where Ethan exorcises Vanessa, Hartnett really takes a level in acting badassery.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The manner in which Vanessa sizes up and breaks down Ethan Chandler during their first meeting being an obvious Actor Allusion to Eva Green's role in a James Bond film becomes funny when it's revealed that Vanessa's mother had an affair with James Bond himself.
  • Ho Yay:
    • Between Frankenstein and Proteus.
    • Victor Frankenstein and Sir Malcolm have a bit in their scene at the Explorer's Club. Shows up again in "Demimonde", with a weird Parental Substitute aspect, as Victor apparently reminds Malcolm of his deceased son Peter. This doesn't stop the mutual gazing and Malcolm confessing that Victor is important to him.
    • Victor and Ethan have a snarky, confrontational relationship. Between Victor's Ambiguously Gay nature and Ethan being Bi the Way, the vibes are strong.
    • Between Vanessa and Mina, amplified by their childhood friendship and Vanessa's apparent psychic/supernatural bond with the girl. Not helped by some of the promo photos of the two of them pretty intimate with one another, and Vanessa's assertion that she loves Mina. "The Nightcomers" confirms Vanessa/Mina is nigh well canon, as Vanessa mentions she's kissed Mina.
    • Between Victor Frankenstein and Henry Jekyll in "The Day Tennyson Died" — they clearly have some schooltime history together.
    • Unrequited between Renfield and Dracula. Renfield kisses the ground Dracula walks on and even calls him "radiant" with obvious sexual undertones (not to mention the moment when Renfield feeds on Dracula's blood), but Dracula doesn't return the affection.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Fans have been known to watch this show solely for Eva Green or Billie Piper.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Dracula, the final villain of the series, kidnaps and turns Mina Murray to manipulate the heroes into chasing her in order to lure his true quarry, Vanessa Ives, into his grasp. While also outplaying his brother Lucifer, Dracula becomes close to Vanessa under his mortal guise of Dr. Alexander Sweet, while genuinely falling for Vanessa. Even after she discovers his true identity, Dracula still wins her to his side with the strength of his charm and charisma. Dracula then sets about his conquest of the world, so powerful that none of the heroes are able to even touch him, only departing to honor Vanessa's promise not to harm her friends after Vanessa's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • For some viewers, sympathy for Caliban became impossible after he murders Van Helsing just to motivate Victor to work harder.
    • While it's highly likely that Dorian crossed it a long time ago, he crosses it during the events of the show when he poisons Angelique for discovering his portrait.
  • Narm: Wolfed-out Ethan and Kaetenay coming face to face and snarling ridiculously at each other in the otherwise-awesome penultimate scene in 3.08.
    • "Little Scorpion" is full of these from Vanessa's "I hate trees" (Yes, that is an actual line and no, not even Eva Green's acting can save the scene) to Ethan speech's that Vanessa will never get her soul back because she killed the man who BURNED HER TEACHER ALIVE IN FRONT OF HER. It's ridiculous and hard for anyone to take seriously especially since ETHAN WAS PREPARING TO SHOOT THE MAN so Vanessa wouldn't stain her perfectly "clean" hands.
    • In 3.05, Ethan's reversed version of Saying Grace is meant to be threatening or creepy, signalling his loss of faith at the moment, however it comes across more edgy and juvenile than threatening. Also a moot point by the middle of the next episode.
  • Narm Charm: The climax of the second season involves Vanessa confronting a devil-possessed doll version of herself and it speaks with her voice. Because of the writing, the eeriness of the doll, and especially because of Eva Green's performance, the scene works.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Alun Armstrong as Vincent, the proprietor of the Grand Guignol, is in three episodes, but his scenes are quite short. "Resurrection" is his standout episode. He shows great care and compassion to Caliban, and it's a shame we're not likely to see him again.
    • David Warner's Van Helsing is an excellent mentor and foil to Victor. Fans were quite upset when he is unceremoniously killed by Caliban.
    • Patti LuPone in "The Nightcomers" as the Cut-Wife is magnetic and fascinating, stealing the episode right out from under regular cast members Eva Green and Helen McCrory.
    • Jared Talbot, Ethan's much alluded to father. He only appears in two episodes, but he completely dominates the episodes due to his surprisingly tragic past, and the fantastic delivery on the part of his actor, Brian Cox.
  • Painful Rhyme: The werewolf play at the Grand Guignol in "Demimonde" is chock full of these.
  • Paranoia Fuel: The witches from Season 2 are able to blend (and even merge) with their surroundings to the point of being completely, absolutely invisible. You won't know they're there until they decide to attack.
  • Seasonal Rot: Beyond the Broken Base of the series ending, most fans agree that season three is the worst one compared to the first and second. The season started off strong, introducing literary giants Dracula and Jekyll, and the episode "A Blade of Grass" is one of Penny Dreadful's strongest episodes and does an incredible job showcasing Eva Green's acting talents — but somewhere in the middle and at the end, the intense and psychotic energy had burnt itself out, ending in a whisper instead of a bang.
  • Spoiled by the Format: In the third season episode This World Is Our Hell, Kaetenay is abandoned in the desert, at Ethan's request, to die. Since we've seen him in trailers turning up with Ethan and Malcolm in London, he's obviously going to survive.
  • Squick:
    • In a show full of squick-worthy sights, viewers were pretty disgusted by the sight of Victor fondling the dead Brona while she's in the tank.
    • The scene of Dorian, Lily and Justine having a threesome while covered in blood from head to toe similarly turned off a lot of viewers.
    • Most of the audience is as uncomfortable with Madam Kali kissing Lyle as he is.
  • Spiritual Licensee: Some fans think it's a better live-action adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen than the official film version.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Ethan losing his long hair look in the Season 2 finale.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Of the main group, Sembene gets the least development, and he's rarely given a chance to show much character, even in instances where it would logically make sense (Vanessa confiding in Victor her hidden location instead of Sembene? Really?) Even at the end, he ends up dying at the fangs of werewolf Ethan, believing Ethan has a destiny more important than his own life and is then buried offscreen in a private ceremony and more or less forgotten thereon. Making it worse as he's the only person of color in the core cast. In a show that loves deconstructing and exploring Victorian tropes, Sembene's lack of development and exploration sticks out.
    • Mina Murray. Her backstory as Sir Malcolm Murray‘s daughter and Vanessa’s best friend is what triggered Vanessa’s inner darkness and her kidnapping by Dracula is what starts the entire plot. Malcolm even tells Vanessa to her face he would sacrifice her in a heartbeat to save Mina and especially after the death of his son and only other child you believe she would be a major character narratively and emotionally. But she’s simply killed off with remarkable ease and lack of emotion by her father and that’s the end of it. Pretty disappointing for a character with so much history within the show and in literature.
    • Shazad Latif played an amazing Jekyll in season 3, but he never got that much to do once he facilitated Victor's 'taming' of Lily, and mostly stood around in the background looking disgruntled. Even worse, Hyde never has a chance to turn up, since the third season is the last.
    • Hecate gets killed off half way through season 3, having done nothing except temporarily seduce Ethan to darkness, which he quickly breaks out of.
    • Unfathomably, Dracula himself. He's a looming force of evil throughout the entire show, but by the time he actually shows up to do his own dirty work, he is mostly shown pretending to be a milquetoast zoologist and has very few evil scenes. In fact, he has very few scenes at all. He's implied to be more powerful than Lucifer, and yet we only see a small fraction of that power at work. His virtually invincible true form, teased by Catriona, is never seen. He triggers the apocalypse, but it only lasts two episodes. The idea of Dracula actually falling in love with Vanessa during his selfish pursuit is introduced, but we only have one scene dedicated to this. When Ethan kills Vanessa, Dracula doesn't try to avenge her death; instead, he just flees. For such an iconic character who was teased for so long and played by such a deft actor, he doesn't amount to much.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • The Nightcomers in season two were a powerful, terrifying, legitimate threat to our heroes. These are women who worship the Devil, can turn invisible, are nigh-indestructible, super-fast, and their leader can Mind Screw you into killing yourself or others. Fans were gearing up for a no-holds-barred smackdown between Evelyn and Vanessa, with the other witches proving serious threats for the heroes. What happens? Vanessa chants at a doll that's possessed by Satan, which is somehow enough to defeat Evelyn and leave her mortal enough to be killed by Ethan. We never get to see the extent of Evelyn's powers, nor any real fight between the heroes and the witches.
    • Vanessa's surrender to Dracula and embrace of the darkness should have been a major turning point of the show, and many fans were even excited to see her become completely evil, even for a little while, and rule at Dracula's side. Come the finale, evil!Vanessa has only two scenes, and she's still self-loathing. In the second scene, Ethan kills her per her request, killing all the potential for Vanessa's descent into evil and ascent into goodness along with her.
  • Trapped by Mountain Lions:
    • Much of the Creature's non-Victor/Lily moments in season 2, as well as his Arctic journey in season 3, come off as this. The Putneys do not have any connection to the main plot (unlike the Grand Guignol in S1), do not interact with anyone but the Creature, and seem to only be there to give Rory Kinnear something to do. Likewise, the Arctic scenes are gorgeously-shot and Kinnear is amazing to watch, but they seem to only be there for foreshadowing purposes (the Creature killing the young boy as foreshadowing for the storyline involving his family and eventual mercy-killing of his own son).
    • Victor's non-Lily plot in season 3 seems to serve no other purpose than to eventually reveal that Dr. Jekyll becomes Lord Hyde. It's telling that Victor's involvement in the final battle of show has the protagonists clumsily stumble on to him on the way to confront Dracula.
  • Typecasting: When Christian Camargo was announced as a member of the Season 3 cast, many fans suspected that he'd turn out to be evil, given his notorious habit of playing deceptively nice villains. Indeed, the seemingly sweet Dr. Sweet is actually Dracula in disguise.
  • The Un-Twist:
    • Fans had plenty of time to wonder about certain images in the opening titles, Ethan's blackouts and Brona's ultimate purpose in the show, considering her disconnection to most of the action. By the time the season one finale arrived and it was revealed that a) Ethan is indeed a werewolf and b) Victor plans to use Brona's body to make a 'Bride' for his first creation, it wasn't that surprising.
    • This happens again in Season 3, when it is revealed that Dr. Sweet is in fact Dracula, to the surprise of very few in the fandom.
  • What an Idiot!:
    • Okay, random vampire guy. What possibly possessed you to think it was a good idea to scare Vanessa when your boss is trying to seduce her? What possible good could come of this? Predictably, Dracula flies into a rage and has his vampire minions devour the offender.
    • Renfield thinks it's a splendid idea to molest Vanessa while unconscious. While Dracula is right behind him. He's very lucky his master only chokes him and gives him an intimidating glare for the offense.

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