Penny Dreadful: The Final Season (Showtime, Blu-ray, DVD) – The third and final season of the Showtime series that reimagines the characters of 19th century British horror novels sharing the same London underworld brings the story of the tormented Vanessa Ives (the amazing Eva Green), who is haunted by demons and hunted by witches and vampires, to a conclusion.
It opens with the partnership of monster-hunters spread across the globe—Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), father of Dracula’s victim Mina Murray, in Africa; American sharpshooter and werewolf Ethan Chandler (Josh Chandler) hauled back to the American West to stand trial; and Vanessa alone in the London home, shut away from the world in her depression. As Vanessa is slowly drawn back into the world and romanced by a charming zoologist with his own secrets, Native American warrior Kaetenay (Wes Studi) seeks out Malcolm to rescue Ethan so they can all defend Vanessa from the dark powers gathering to lure her to the dark side.
This season also brings Dr. Henry Jekyll, Dracula, and Renfield into the universe, introduces a swashbuckling woman adventurer (Perdita Weeks), and brings back Patti Lupone, this time as a psychiatrist who joins the team to defend Vanessa. One harrowing episode is a hypnosis-induced flashback to Vanessa’s time at an asylum where she endures barbaric treatments to “cure” her of “delusions” and is comforted by the man who will become Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. It’s another satisfying example of creator John Logan imagining new stories for iconic characters and weaving the lives of these characters together in satisfying and dramatically resonant ways. For a story of the brutality of both fictional monsters and the human characters, the series is grounded in loyalty, sacrifice, and love, which makes for a compelling and moving series.
9 episodes on Blu-ray and DVD, plus short featurettes.
Person of Interest: The Fifth and Final Season (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD) – Though it clocks in at a brief 13 episodes, the final season of the high-concept action thriller brings the story to a satisfying end. Former CIA operative John Reese (Jim Caviezel), computer genius billionaire Harold Finch (Michael Emerson), and their team (renegade hacker Amy Acker and NYPD detective Kevin Chapman) have gone underground with what’s left of “the machine,” an elaborate computer surveillance program that has developed an artificial intelligence. They are hunted by a powerful rival program that is killing people it sees as a threat to its goal of world peace but continue to respond to “the numbers” (which point them to people in trouble) and look for their captured team member Shaw (Sarah Shahi as a former CIA assassin).
Not everyone survives the season and the willing sacrifice of members of this tight, loyal team is part of what makes the show compelling. They believe in their mission—in fact, it has given meaning and renewed purpose to the lives of many of them—and they are devoted to one another. The show also grapples with the issues of surveillance in the world, the ease in which privacy is invaded, and the responsibility of the gatekeepers. It’s crime drama, action thriller, and science fiction parable all in one, and a smartly-made show with strong characters and a genuine moral center. Once a highly-rated show, it lost viewers as it the story became increasingly complex, and the final season was reduced to 13 episodes. Creator Jonathan Nolan used the episodes to bring a satisfying conclusion to the long-running story and a fitting sense of closure to the series, and then he found a new home at HBO creating the hit series Westworld, which revisits the themes of Person of Interest from a entirely different perspective.
DVD and Blu-ray, with three featurettes.
Banshee: The Final Season (HBO, Blu-ray, DVD) of the violent crime drama made for Cinemax begins two years after the end of season three. Lucas (Antony Starr), a career criminal who had taken the identity of a dead lawman, is living off the grid in the woods, his criminal crew has split up after their last heist ended with one colleague captured and the husband of Carrie (Ivana Milicevic) dead. He’s roused from his isolation when he learns that Rebecca (Lili Simmons), daughter of Amish crimelord Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen), has been murdered and a serial killer is on the loose, and he finds that things have changed: Kai Proctor is now mayor and his former deputy is now Sheriff Brock Lotus (Matt Servitto), as devoted a lawman as Starr ever was. The season gets complicated with multiple stories: while Lucas helps investigate the murder, he also gets the gang back together to rescue their hacker colleague Job (Hoon Lee) while Carrie (Ivana Milicevic) turns vigilante to take out her aggressions on the thugs and bullies of the town, the white supremacist gang working for Kai plots to take over his drug business, and a sect of Satanists are at work in the community. To which I say: Satanists? Seriously? Did you really need to pile that on top of everything else?
At its best, Banshee showcases action, violence, sex, and pulp-oriented stories in a clever, tightly-plotted crime series with vivid characters and impressive action set piece. This season is too overstuffed and overly contrived in an effort to top the spectacle of previous years, the flashbacks woven through the story add more confusion, and the happy ending is unconvincing considering everything they’ve been through—the guilt and regret that hangs over the past couple of seasons is lifted without a thought—but it still offers the gritty action scenes that earned the show a cult following. The fantasy of the criminal code and bad guys rising to the occasion to do good and right wrongs is still satisfying.
8 episodes on Blu-ray and DVD, plus commentary tracks, multiple featurettes, bonus webisodes featuring the cast, and deleted scenes.