Penny Dreadful – Noun. A cheap, sensational novel of adventure, crime, or violence; dime novel.
YUP, and then some! Nothing is more limitless than imagination and whatever 19th century readers imagined while reading their dime novel, Penny Dreadful’s, Showtime has far exceeded it. Set in Victorian era, London, this original series is the place where ALL the monsters come out and play. The Wolf Man, Vampires, evil spirits, Frankenstein, Van Helsing and yes, even consumption are just some of the players within this richly imagined drama.
The series unfolds around the abduction of Mina Harker, daughter of the very wealthy, Sir Malcolm Murray (played by Timothy Dalton). Mina’s childhood friend, Vanessa Ives (played by Eva Green), along with Sir Malcolm believe Mina to have been abducted by Vampires. Their sworn quest is to find Mina before she is killed. They enlist the help of a very skilled marksman/showman, Ethan Chandler (played by Josh Hartnett). Though Miss Ives and Sir Malcolm have come to believe in the existence of the supernatural, what they encounter far exceeds their expectations. Together, they forge into a whole new world where night and shadow rules and discover, to their infinite horror, that they are miles beyond their depth.
To say this show is super creepy is an understatement but please, don’t let that stop you from tuning in. Yet, among the filth and industrial ravages of 19th century London, there is beauty: enter one, Dorian Gray (played by Reeve Carney). Carney, a newcomer to television, seems effortless in his portrayal of Oscar Wilde’s iconic character. In the book, despite his great beauty and charm, Dorian Gray wasn’t much of a likeable character; which was of course the point after a while. Every bit as hedonistic as the book, Reeve’s portrayal as Dorian Gray is likeable, entrancing and wholly enigmatic. Even though we think we know his big secret, it feels like we still don’t have a clue. I for one cannot wait until Dorian’s portrait is finally revealed, though I have a feeling I have a long wait ahead.
There’s been a lot made of Eva Green’s performance as Vanessa Ives and I could not agree more. Miss Ives is transfixing, powerful and incredibly vulnerable often switching between the later two in the space of a single heartbeat. That being said, Timothy Dalton is the Man! Dalton has created a persona for his character that is complicated on so many levels. On the one hand I loath, Sir Malcolm, as a person, but on the other hand I want him to win. To get his daughter back. To beat the evil pounding on his doorstep. To be redeemed, which for him, is tantamount to doing the impossible.
This is truly an ensemble drama, each of the characters have superbly rich storylines that toward the end of season one, were just starting to intersect. In particular, Ethan Chandler, I suspect will have a much fuller season two. We’ve only touched on his story and only since he arrived in London. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Hartnett but I’ve always been a believer in his talent. It will be interesting to see if he rises to the occasion, especially given the company he’s in. Along Chandler, Dorian Gray and Dr. Victor Frankenstein (played by Harry Treadaway) have a lot of unanswered questions I hope will be addressed this season.
Season 2 starts this Sunday, watch at your own creepy peril.