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Penny Dreadful – First Impressions

We live in a time where the supernatural has become ordinary to see. On movies and TV at least. From The Walking Dead to Twilight and True Blood, we are over saturated with zombies, monsters, vampires, and aliens. There is a new zombie or vampire movie out at least every quarter and there will be three more zombie shows on TV next year trying cash in on Walking Dead’s success. This is a good and bad thing. On one hand, we live in a wonderful  time where we get to see our imaginations come to life. There is more than a bit of difference in the realism and production value of Night of the Living Dead and The Walking Dead. The bad, is that we are being bombarded with so many supernatural things, many are churned out at low quality and most of lost sight of why these creatures were ever thought up anyway. To scare us. Sure you have to tell a good story that spans many emotions, but so many of today’s supernatural movies/tv are all about the drama. And while drama is very important and it helps us connect with the people on-screen, there was a time when if we were looking at a zombie, vampire, werewolf, ghost, monster, etc. on-screen, they were there to put fear in our hearts and minds. Now, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful has come along. Debuting this Mother’s Day, Showtime has put out an early release of the first episode and it is fantastic. Sure Penny Dreadful will be full of drama and suspense, but if the first episode is any indication, they are bringing horror back in a big was. Penny Dreadful is creepy as hell.

Set in Victorian London, Penny Dreadful is the story of three main protagonists who unite to combat supernatural forces. There is Sir Malcolm Murray who is a famous explorer that is looking for his daughter that was long ago kidnapped by what seems to be a mummy/vampire combined creature. Helping him are the mysterious Vanessa Ives and the American gunslinger Ethan Chandler. Not much is known about Ives yet besides the fact that she is REALLY creepy and that she seems to have some control over the supernatural herself. Chandler is traveling Europe putting on a shooting exhibition sideshow, pretending to be a survivor of Little Big Horn (despite the fact that it happened before he was born). He is recruited as a hired gun to help Murray and Ives in an assault on the “world between the worlds” where the supernatural creatures thrive. What time that is not devoted to main three are spent on Dr. Frankenstein who I can’t get enough of.

Our core group

Our core group

When it comes to the story of Penny Dreadful, I will say that at the end of the episode I actually said out loud,”what the hell is going on?!?”.  Now this is not a negative statement towards the show at all. It was purposefully vague and it is only the first episode and has set up many small mysteries that I’m already dying to shed some light on. We do know a few things however. I mentioned earlier that the driving force behind the story so far is that Sir Murray is searching for his daughter. That search is going to run them into all sorts of interesting situations and creatures. For one, when I said Dr. Frankenstein is in the story, I mean THE Dr. Frankenstein. The end scene of the episode with him and his monster after if first gains life is easily my favorite scene so far. In fact, we will be running across many of literature’s most famous characters as the story progresses. I know that Dorian Grey and Nina Harker are both confirmed for this season And where there is Nina Harker, Dracula is sure to follow! Think of Penny Dreadful as a more horror-styled and much less campy League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Dr. Victor Frankenstein at work

Dr. Victor Frankenstein at work

The tone of the show is very dark and gritty. And I love it. They truly are pushing the horror aspect of the show the most, as they should be. It’s a rare thing to see a legit scary horror based show on TV these days. From the opening scene, you will be anxiously, and nervously drawn into each and every scene in the show. Pretty much every scene involving Ives is super creepy. There are several jump scares throughout the show, starting about 30 seconds into the episode. I loved this as it constantly keeps your attention and on your toes. The fight with the vampires is not only good action, it’s downright creepy. The scene at the end between Frankenstein and his monster was perfect. The use of lighting and camera angles is brilliant. I was legit nervous throughout the scene. My hope for the show is that as it progresses, it will touch on much darker topics and go for a different kind of scare to mix in with the jump scare moments that it has done so well so far.

One of the many scary creatures we will face in the story

One of the many scary creatures we will face in the story

The acting in the show has been really good so far. I am a big time fan of Timothy Dalton who plays Sir Murray, and expertly depicts him as a fearless, yet desperate man. I will be the first to admit that in the past I haven’t been the biggest Eva Green or Josh Hartnett fan. But so far both have been amazing in Penny Dreadful. Green plays Ives, and I already cannot imagine anyone else in the role. Hartnett plays Ethan Chandler and he does it well. Chandler is a fearless fighter that is thrown into a world of fear and Hartnett plays it perfectly. However, so far nobody has touched Harry Treadaway’s performance as Dr. Victor Frankenstein. He perfectly portrays him as an eccentric, driven, and obsessed young scientist. He more than holds his own in his one on one time with Timothy Dalton, which is not easy for a lot of young actors. The fear, yet warmth that he makes you feel in the final scene was genius.

If Eva Green does one thing well, it's creepy

If Eva Green does one thing well, it’s creepy

One episode into Penny Dreadful and I am hooked. Sure, it was just one episode and the show could make some unfortunate directional choices and go downhill quickly. Hell, I gave Intelligence a 7.5 after its first episode and we saw how that turned out (The show was terrible and is now canceled). But I really don’t think that is the way Penny Dreadful will go. For one, Showtime just does flat-out great TV. Sam Mendes is involved with the show as well which also gives me confidence. If the show was all just cheap jump scares, I might have more doubt. But even in just one episode, it has already been so much more. It is a gripping story and I can’t wait to find out more. There are already so many mysteries that I can’t wait to explore. This is a show that you won’t want to miss out on. The first episode officially premiers Sunday May 11, at 10 ET. During the show, Sir Murray tells Chandler, “Do not be amazed by anything you see”. Too late Sir, Penny Dreadful has me amazed.

e live in a time where the supernatural has become ordinary to see. On movies and TV at least. From The Walking Dead to Twilight and True Blood, we are over saturated with zombies, monsters, vampires, and aliens. There is a new zombie or vampire movie out at least every quarter and there will be three more zombie shows on TV next year trying cash in on Walking Dead's success. This is a good and bad thing. On one hand, we live in a wonderful  time where we get to see our imaginations come to life. There is more than a…

Review Overview

Penny Dreadful - First Impressions - 9

9

Exceptional

Summary : Dark, creepy, and fun as hell, Penny Dreadful is a refreshing return of horror to TV. From the first scene, you will be hopelessly hooked and you nervously follow this dark journey.

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About Evan Swafford

Evan Swafford
Evan is a semi reluctant insomniac, who has used his extra time to watch way more TV than is healthy for a normal human being. All his other time is devoted to movies, gaming, and being a sports fanatic and stat geek. Evan has a degree from MTSU in Electronic Media Journalism which he now uses to grow some of the best trees and shrubs money can buy. You can hear his useless knowledge every week on the Free For All podcast.