A large part of the wonderment of watching Penny Dreadful is simply viewing all the classic characters we know in one story. Dr. Frankenstein? Check. His monster? Double check. Bride of Frankenstein? Check. The Wolfman? Check. Dorian Gray? Check. Woman possessed by the Devil? Check. Dracula? Unclear, but it seems so. At the very least there are vampires and they have a yet unnamed master. Van Helsing? Check. Mina Harker? Check. All of this is in eight episodes! The show does a wonderful job of keeping it from feeling convoluted as well. All of the stories just seem to flow right into one another.
Are there some pacing issues? Sure, but in my opinion they more than compensate for them. I don’t mind a really slow show, but the problem is that you will spend a lot of time wondering what the hell is going on because they keep building up mysteries. By the end however, I think they pay everything off very nicely. I was very fascinated by the main story-line and I enjoy that the central character, Ms. Vanessa Ives, isn’t a classic character. She is a woman shrouded in mystery, and the journey to find out about her backstory with Mina and her possession was riveting. I really like how she is entwined with Sir Malcolm Murray and his search for his daughter Mina, thus bringing in the supernatural element by bringing them to discover the existence of vampires.
The Ethan Chandler story-line was the other part of the main story, and I felt it had by far the best payoff. They did a great job of making him seem like the most normal of all the main characters. Yet, we get very subtle clues throughout that there is something more to him. By episode seven, I had my suspicions about who he really was, and boy was the payoff great! His reveal as the Wolfman was one of my favorite moments from the entire season.
What made this show for me was the secondary characters that have been slowly wrapped up into the main plot. Literally every moment with Dr. Frankenstein and his monster was absolute TV gold. From the creation of Proteus in the first episode, to the reveal of his original monster and slaying of Proteus, to his murderous stalking of his “father”, I will enthralled by every second. Also amazing, was the inclusion of Dorian Gray. One of my personal favorites among classic Gothic characters. The moment we were shown a house full of human portraits, I knew who was about to be introduced. They made the character surprisingly young, which I really liked. I also like how they never showed his portrait, and the small change they made to his story with him being able to look at his portrait and thus heal himself. He was also given arguably the best dialogue of any character on the show.
The acting in Penny Dreadful was absolutely top notch. In years past, I have never been a big Eva Green fan. Over the past year, she has slowly been winning me over. After her performance as Vanessa Ives, consider me a fan. She plays the mysterious woman with a dark past to perfection. And her performance during the scenes where she is possessed have her as my pick to win the Golden Globe/Emmy next awards season. It was that good. Also, remember Josh Hartnett? Guess what?! He’s back! And better than ever might I add. Like with Green, I was never a huge fan. For the most part he was terrific this season as Mr. Chandler/the Wolfman. Timothy Dalton was also fantastic as the cruel Sir Malcolm Murray. Relative new comer Reeve Carney was given excellent dialogue as Dorian Gray and he made the most of it. Harry Treadaway was great a a young Dr. Frankenstein and was one of the best parts of the show. However, second only to Green’s performance was the amazing job that Rory Kinnear did as Frankenstein’s monster. He was absolutely brilliant.
Overall, I really loved Penny Dreadful. There are some questions about where it will go next season, now that we know that it has been officially renewed by Showtime. There are still plenty of mysteries that need to be explored outside of the main plot. I am most excited to learn more about Mr. Chandler and his past as the Wolfman. I also am hoping for more insight into the scene where he basically performs an exorcism on Ms. Ives. As always, I will be eager to see where the story with Frankenstein and his monster goes, especially now that he is making his bride. I’m hoping for some backstory on Dorian Gray as well. But I’m very concerned as to where the central plot goes from here. Everything that has happened has revolved around Sir Malcolm and Ms. Ives’ search for Mina. Now they have found her and killed her. What now? I’m hoping for them to go after the master vampire (Dracula?) on a revenge mission for what he did to Mina. I may have questions about the show’s future, but I know that what I have seen so far has been great TV. They have more than earned my trust going into next season. Don’t let the name fool you. Watching this show is anything but dreadful.