Penny Dreadful is a gorgeous and alluring masterpiece bringing the Victorians back to life.
Penny Dreadful is a dark gothic supernatural fantasy horror series starring famous fictional Victorian figures. It takes place in Victorian London where we get to know Sir Malcolm Murray, Vanessa Ives, Victor Frankenstein, Ethan Chandler and Dorian Gray and many more elusive creatures, like a werewolf, the Creature, vampires and witches.
It’s a very sensual series, carnal yet also very visceral in nature. It’s dark, gripping, enthralling, thrilling, smart, poetic and adventurous. It’s a character-based series and the adventures and sinister happenings evolve around them, fleshing them out, making it all the more enticing.
This first season consists of 8 episodes each with a duration of 47-59 minutes. It is a continuous storyline that develops the characters and the story to an epic level.
In Victorian London there’s another world underneath it, the Demimonde, where creatures and evil beings dwell. One of these creatures has taken Mina Harker. Her father Sir Malcolm Murray assembles a team, consisting of Vanessa Ives a medium and old friend of Mina and Sir Malcolm, gunslinger Ethan Chandler and physician Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and Malcolm’s butler and loyal friend Sembene. They go in search for the creatures who took Mina, while each of them has terrible secrets and problems of their own.
Why you would watch it
The series looks absolutely gorgeous. The cinematography, the set design, it all looks amazing and resurrects the Victorian age and the fictional characters who inhabit the elusive city. It’s visceral, it’s carnal, it’s sensual, emotionally charged and mysterious.
The characters are key to the story. Each one of them brings in a storyline of her/his own that is a part of the bigger storyline. The fictional characters are woven together in a most beautiful, enthralling and sometimes heartbreaking way. The characters are very realistic, fleshed out and are the strong foundation the whole story is build upon.
Sir Malcolm is an adventurer and a vain man who can be selfish and ruthless, but he proves to be very loyal to his closest friends. Vanessa is a medium and is struggling with her visions and faith, but also with deep feelings of guilt towards Mina.
Ethan Chandler is a gunslinger, but has a terrible secret and is a mysterious figure, a lone wolf, but very sincere and honorable and an American. He falls in love with a prostitute Bona Croft. Sembene is Malcolm’s loyal butler and friend, brought back from Africa.
Victor Frankenstein is a man without scruples and created the Creature, who now is a tormented man, belonging nowhere. Though being an outcast, he is smart and poetic and sensitive. Creature is one of the most emotionally charged figures, just like Vanessa and it’s no wonder these two feel a connection.
Dorian Gray has no scruples either, he is vain, egotistical, a real hedonist and only helps when it suits him.
By means of flashbacks the stories and backgrounds of the characters are shown, and draw an impressive picture of what they had to go though, like Vanessa, or what they have done, like Victor.
Although must of them are likable and honorable characters, they all have done their share of bad things. That’s what makes this series so interesting and intriguing, asides from all the supernatural that’s going on. They all have a chance to grow, to evolve, to make amends or to continue they way they did. It’s not an epic series in the sense that good triumphs, or that everybody comes out a hero, but despite the fight against evil, the characters stay human with all their faults, flaws and mistakes.
The atmosphere and tone of the series is poetic, sometimes theatrical, but beautiful and suits the Victorian age. But it can be very harsh, raw and gruesome, like the asylum scenes, and therefore hard to watch. Like the tone and atmosphere the series is dark, reflecting the themes of the story. There are a lot of sensual scenes, with nudity and sex, but it never gets vulgar.
The series takes the time to develop and to get to know the characters. It isn’t exactly slow paced, but the tempo is solemn, caring for the story and the characters. The story and characters grow quickly on you, due to the intriguing style and atmosphere. It’s a very alluring series that quickly becomes highly addictive.
My favorite part
Vanessa Ives is a brilliant character. She’s sensual, elusive, ladylike and at the same time a bit boyish, brave and mysterious. There’s so much more to her than is shown at the surface. A lot of the themes and developments in the series, evolve around her. The asylum scenes with Vanessa and her possession scenes are very horrifying, due to both the supernatural horrors and those done by men. She’s the key to the whole story and her development, her background story is the most important and intriguing and therefore the most fleshed out.
But I also really liked Creature. Although our first encounter with him, isn’t quite positive, it doesn’t do him justice. Instead of the physical monster he appears to be, he is in fact a very intelligent, highly emotional and sensitive man, who loves poetry and beauty and longs for real love and friendship. There is also more to his story, that slowly develops, making him an even more tragic figure. The part when he is invited to work at the Grand Guignol, the theatre is a very heartwarming scene. He might be the outsider of the bigger story, his storyline is of importance and gripping.
Epic factor: ★★★★☆
Drama factor: ★★★★☆
Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆
Originality factor: ★★★★☆
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Cast and crew
Penny Dreadful is created by John Logan. It stars Eva Green (Vanessa Ives), Timothy Dalton (Sir Malcolm Murray), Josh Hartnett (Ethan Chandler), Harry Treadaway (Dr. Victor Frankenstein), Rory Kinnear (Creature/John Clare), Billie Piper (Bona Croft), Reeve Carbey (Dorian Gray) and Danny Sapani (Sembene)
Music by: Abe Korzeniowski. Cinematography: Xavi Giménez, Owen McPolin, P.J. Dillon. Production companies: Desert Wolf Productions, Neal Street Productions. Original network: Showtime, Sky.