Penny Dreadful—Season 1

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8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Liked the cast and the visuals

The story felt a bit forced and lacking

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Flip through the latest penny dreadful for some chills and thrills!

Mina Harker (Olivia Llewellyn) is missing.  Her father Sir Malcolm Harkness (Timothy Dalton) has sought out a team to find her with her childhood friend Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) guiding the way.  Recruiting an American sharpshooter named Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnell) and a doctor named Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), the group joins Malcolm, Vanessa, and his aide Sembene (Danny Sapani) find a dark spirit might be stalking them…and everyone in the group has their own secrets to deal with.

Penny Dreadful—Season 1 was a Showtime and Sky venture that aired from May 11, 2014 to June 29, 2014.  The series received mostly positive reviews but the series was also noted for its campy nature.

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Everyone has secrets

Penny Dreadful follows a popular trend in TV and literature.  It recycles classic characters into a post-modern story that often recognizes the characters history in a new way.  This style has been touched on by comic books like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Fables and novels like WickedLeague of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the movie) bombed, but shows like Once Upon a Time have been a success…Penny Dreadful feels a lot like these shows and stories…a bit too much.

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Dorian Gray gets all the women…and men!

The story doesn’t have much time to develop.  The season is a short eight episodes and with a heavy Dracula theme this season (mixed with Frankenstein).  Other books like The Picture of Dorian Gray do factor in, but aren’t the thrust of the season.  The decision to use the two novels as a focus point is a bit of a problem, since I feel both Dracula and Frankenstein have been played out.  The Dorian Gray storyline and the reveal the end about potential skinwalkers could have been more interesting (plus the Bride of Frankenstein).

I can’t however fault the acting.  The show employees a great cast and is strength helps out what is lacking in the plot.  Josh Harnett doesn’t get his due in this season with an obvious set-up for a bigger role in season 2 (along with Billie Piper).  I always thought Timothy Dalton was the underappreciated Bond so I’m glad to see him in roles.  Harry Treadaway as Frankenstein also just doesn’t have enough screentime, but his creation Caliban played by Rory Kinnear is a scene stealer.  The real star of the season has to be Eva Green who also is the star of most episode (and gives it all in).

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An American Skinwalker in London (or Werewolf)

The series also does look great and has a few jumps.  The idea of penny dreadfuls were all about sensationalized and serialized stories…kind of a precursor to things like Tales from the Crypt.  I think the series could even push the boundaries a bit more since there is a bit of a bad taste tied to them…the show could be more lurid (I also hope my favorite Penny Dreadful features Spring-Heeled Jack will make an appearance along with Jack the Ripper).

Penny Dreadful shows a lot of untapped potential, but I hope it doesn’t fall into the trap of the knock-off series.  With only eight episodes, it is a quick watch, but it also doesn’t really get a chance to fully flesh out its stories and develop its characters.  I will be watching Penny Dreadful—Season 2, but I need it to go somewhere new and exiting.

Penny Dreadful—Season 1 Complete Episode Guide:

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“Night Work”

1.1       Night Work Airdate:  05/11/14

Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) is recruited by Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) and Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) for a mysterious job which leads to an encounter with an inhuman beast.  Revealing that Malcolm’s daughter Mina Harker (Olivia Llewellyn) is missing, the body of the creature is taken to a Doctor Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) for examination…which a shocking discovery hidden beneath its skin.  Killings in London create fear as people worry Jack the Ripper has returned while Victor works on a new creation (Alex Price).

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“Séance”

1.2       Séance Airdate : 05/18/14

Ethan makes the acquaintance of a woman named Brona Croft (Billie Piper) who is posing for Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney).  A party at the home of Egyptian culture expert Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale) leads Vanessa to meet Dorian, but a séance with Madame Kali (Helen McCrory) leaves Vanessa possessed and revealing secrets of Malcolm’s past.  The hieroglyphics on the body of the beast reveal an ancient Egyptian warning.  Victor’s attempt to humanize his creation Proteus leads to a horrific encounter.

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“Resurrection”

1.3       Resurrection Airdate:  05/25/14

Victor’s original creation (Rory Kinnear) who now goes by the name Caliban has returned and is demanding Victor create a mate to atone for his creation.  The search for Mina continues as Vanessa’s visions lead them to the zoo…where they discover a big clue to who is responsible for Mina’s disappearance.

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“Demimode”

1.4       Demimonde Airdate:  05/25/14

A cure for Fenton (Olly Alexander) is sought in the hopes that both Fenton’s master and Mina’s captor can be stopped and Professor Van Helsing (David Warner) leads the research.  A trip to the theater leads Brona to question her relationship with Ethan and an encounter between Ethan and Dorian.

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“Closer Than Sisters”

1.5       Closer Than Sisters Airdate:  06/08/14

Vanessa recalls her childhood and growing up with Mina and her brother Peter (Graham Butler).  When Vanessa destroys her friendship through an act that may or may not be her own decision, a series of events unfold that lead her down a path of damnation that can only be stopped by finding Mina again.

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“What Death Can Join Together”

1.6       What Death Can Join Together Airdate:  06/15/14

The search for Mina leads Malcolm, Ethan, and Sembene (Danny Sapani) to the dockyards and a ship which may hide the beast they are seeking.  Victor seeks direction from Van Helsing on the search for Mina’s captor, but Caliban’s interference leads to disaster.  Vanessa’s encounter with Dorian leads to the return of the demon possessing her.

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“Possession”

1.7       Possession Airdate:  06/22/14

Vanessa’s possession begins to kill her as Ethan, Victor, Sir Malcom, and Sembene try to break the demon’s control over her.  As Vanessa battles the monsters within her, the secrets of the group threaten to be exposed.

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“Grand Guignol”

1.8       Grand Guignol Airdate:  06/29/14

Caliban has been cast out on the streets…and a decision about Victor’s plans to make a mate for him are seen to fruition.  The quest for Mina leads the group to the theater and a showdown with the master (Robert Nairne) controlling Mina.  Ethan’s past begins to catch up with him as Brona’s condition worsens, and Ethan’s secret is revealed.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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