Review of Penny Dreadful Episode One
By Casey Douglass
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.
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.
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.
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.