Sunday, 25 May 2014

Dark Review - Penny Dreadful

Review of Penny Dreadful Episode One

By Casey Douglass

 

Penny Dreadful
Image ©Showtime

Are you afraid of spiders? If so you might find the first episode of new TV series Penny Dreadful a little squirm inducing. They don’t feature in a large way but just enough to provide some creeping menace. Spiders aren’t the only sinister thing to skitter their way into view though.

Penny Dreadful is a new series from Showtime and Sky Atlantic based on the old 19th century cheap and morbidly cheerful penny dreadfuls. These escapist books featured near-the-knuckle fiction that appealed to people seeking cheap and probably blasphemous thrills. Penny Dreadful as a series draws on this concept and drags in some well known horror characters such as Victor Frankenstein.
Penny Dreadful
Image ©Showtime
The first thing that hits you when watching is the care and detail that has gone into the clothing and sets. Everything has a fantastic Gothic vibe and conspires to make sure that the Sun knows it really isn’t welcome. I know I know, it’s all about the story in the end. Thankfully Penny Dreadful, as far as the first episode at least, delivers on this front.

After seeing a woman brutally attacked, we see the psychically gifted Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) approaching sharpshooter Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) with an offer of some dirty work. Ethan then meets explorer Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) and is given his first taste of the other sinister world that is so close to our own.
Penny Dreadful
Image ©Showtime
Eva Green is the stand-out performance for me. I think she portrays complicated characters so well and she really nails the hard faced Vanessa. There is one moment where she is asked for a smile and it’s such the briefest of things that makes her expression shift into another aspect of the character’s personality.

Part of the fun of the episode was trying to suss out what each character brought to the table and, with the vague knowledge that they could be some great literary superstar, I found myself looking for clues. The episode ends with a nice reveal that confirms one such suspicion was correct.
Penny Dreadful
Image ©Showtime
The actually otherworldly stuff is done very well and much of the episode takes place at a brooding tentative pace. When there is a bit of action it is quite frenetic and often pretty gory, which all lends itself to the overall feel of the thing.

It’s hard to judge a series on one episode, but if the successive ones are at all like this one, I think Penny Dreadful will do very well. I certainly intend to keep watching at least.

You can check out the Penny Dreadful website here.

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