As a lover of all things gothic and deeply rooted in literature, I was drawn to Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful” for a few reasons.
The first was the creepiness within the trailer. You see someone looking as if they are possessed, what appears to be vampires and things that go bump in the night. I’ve always been attracted to horror but more along the lines of thriller than gore. This show seemed to have mystery and thriller walking hand-in-hand.
The second was the time period. The stereotypical goth within me noticed the Victorian era within the previews and was squealing on the inside. I love the fashion, art and architecture of the time.
The third and final prominent reason the show appealed to me was the characters behind the story; a Dracula type figure complete with Mina from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” Dr. Frankenstein and his creature from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” Dorian Gray of Oscar Wilde’s “A Picture of Dorian Gray” and a werewolf.
How could I not be excited?
As part of my cable package, I do not have access to Showtime. Unfortunate, I know. I instead resorted to waiting for Netflix to pick it up after the first season ended. Unlike HBO programs, Showtime shows usually end up on Netflix and I have enjoyed a few of them since acquiring a Netflix subscription.
I couldn’t wait anymore.
My mother, knowing the type that I am, recommended it after watching an episode or two on a flight. With the remaining iTunes credit I had from previous gift cards from various holidays, I bought the first season and began watching immediately.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Let’s get the one critique out of the way now. I don’t do spiders. I basically feel them crawling on me if I see them on my screen and let’s just say there are some questionable scenes in “Penny Dreadful” with hoards of them.
What was really great about “Penny Dreadful” was the way each of the characters, who were from different literary works written by different authors, were so well entwined. It didn’t seem far-fetched or forced but more smooth and casual. For the most part, each character was true to form as well with the vain and never-been-rejected Gray, curious Frankenstein and hiding in a dark corner vampire.
The biggest shock for me was the lack of exploration of Josh Harnett’s sharpshooting werewolf Ethan Chandler. You basically know it’s him after his intense head-trip, which leads to him sleeping with Gray, but you don’t see his inner beast until the last minutes of the final episode. The season starts with the carnage caused by a monster (blamed on Jack the Ripper returning) and you feel the eerie close-ups of Harnett are meant to make you think it’s him when really the culprit is standing just out of frame. I know the second season has already hit Showtime and I will have to catch up when I’m able but I have high hopes we’ll get to see more of his hidden beast.
Another character I would love to see more on and his back story is the mysterious Sembene, Sir Malcolm Murray’s man servant played by Danny Sapani. He is a strong force present everywhere Murray goes and he always seems to be the one killing off the highest number of vampires with his hidden daggers (they could be considered swords but I am not privy to the language of weaponry). Not much has been revealed about Sembene other than a short conversation between himself and Chandler where he says he has no story.
I’m most excited to find out what happens with Billie Piper’s Bona Croft, the Northern Irish prostitute who served as Chandler’s love interest but dies of consumption. We are left with the image of Dr. Frankenstein beginning the process of bringing her back to life like his creatures before her. Throughout the season we know the Creature, played by Rory Kinnear, is demanding Frankenstein give him a wife. Will this happen? Based on the season two trailer, it looks like Brona “lives” but the Creature is with someone else. Maybe Brona has no interest or maybe Dr. Frankenstein is too taken with her to give her up. No one tell me, I’ll have to wait and see.