Penny Dreadful Season 1 Review- Demons, Vampires and Frankenstein

Before the debut of the show I was quite oblivious to what a Penny Dreadful actually was, after watching Penny Dreadful I was amazed at how many classic TV, movie and book stories had been based upon these 19th century books.

There will be some lovely spoilers in this review so run away screaming with your hands over your eyes if you don’t wish to find out what happens in season 1 of Penny Dreadful.

I found myself asking ‘what the fuck’ a lot whilst watching Penny Dreadful, which isn’t always a good thing but in this case it was a positive what the fuck.  There were a lot of twists in the show, many you could see coming but often I didn’t.  Probably the best recommendation I can have for watching this show going forward is to avoid the fan pages and comment sections, which as with many shows have a tendency to ruin a shows progression.

Eva Green as Vanessa in Penny Dreadful (Episode 101). - Photo:  Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID:  PennyDreadful_101_QU6A2491.r

The acting was generally awesome, something which isn’t unexpected when you put together such a good cast.  Eva Green once again showed what a fine actress she is with some really incredible acting, both physical and vocal.  Green is such a good actress that she can sell something with a stare and that quirky smile, she really steals the show.  Even Josh Hartnett was pretty good, showing more personality than I’ve ever seen from him before, very surprising indeed.

vanessa ives crazy

There are a host of interesting story arcs and characters which Penny Dreadful delves in to.  Ms Ives’ whole possessed by a demon and arouser of vampires, Ethan’s sharpshooter and eventual wolfman and Sir Malcolm’s elder statesman who is more than troubled in the desperate search for his daughter, each character felt fully shaped out and it only took a few episodes in and you felt a connection with them.

caliban and frankenstein

One of the oddest relationships in the show was between Frankenstein and Caliban (Frankenstein’s monster).  There wasn’t really anything to like about either character, even when they tried to play out the sympathy card with Caliban in the last episode.  I do understand his plight and that he feels cheated and like a monster (although to be fair he is a monster), but I can’t forgive him for brutally killing Proteus (or poor old Van Helsing for that matter), even if he is having angsty teen problems.  Speaking of Proteus, how upsetting was his death?  It came totally out of nowhere and the look on his little face as Caliban ripped through him was pretty distressing.  It’s weird because he is only in one proper episode, but you gain such a connection with the character because you are watching someone learn and grow with all the innocence in the world only for him to be killed for the sins of his father, pretty brutal really.  I’m not sure how I feel about Frankenstein, is he supposed to be liked?  I ask because his actions place him as more of an antagonist.  He keeps picking up bodies and reanimating them against their will, he kills Brona for his own selfish means and he takes his sweet time in finding Caliban a mate despite the threats from his creation that he was going to hurt people close to him.  In the end Caliban offers him a chance to put him out of his misery, which had been Frankie’s plan all along; however he changes his mind because misery loves company, and both of these guys are miserable son of a bitch’s.  Frankenstein an outcast so it isn’t unsurprising that he is desperate for the attention and approval of Sir Malcolm and you could say the exact same about his eventual relationship with Caliban.

Harry Treadaway as Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Rory Kinnear as the creature in Penny Dreadful (season 1, episode 8). - Photo:  Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID:  PennyDreadful_108_1469

The only main character who didn’t connect at all was Dorian Grey.  I’m not quite sure what went wrong, whether it was a mix of not enough screen time or being on the periphery of the main storyline but Dorian Grey didn’t work at all.  I also think the character wasn’t helped by some inconsistent writing.  It doesn’t really take much to guess what I’m talking about, it’s the weird totally out of nowhere, doesn’t make sense and then seemingly dropped Dorian and Ethan sexual encounter.  I dunno…it was just odd.  Maybe it’s too early to judge but it also felt to me that the actor doesn’t seem charismatic enough to play the role, hopefully I’ll be proved wrong and with better writing he’ll be able to blossom and his story will be developed properly.

ethan chandler dorian gray

Good characters, good arcs and excellent acting sounds pretty good, but it gets better when you take into consideration the excellent tone and filming of the show.  They know how to build tension, the lighting and picture production is top notch and the show is very well written.  My only criticism about the production of the show is that it feels a little scattered at times, almost like it hasn’t been streamlined properly.  At time episodes can be all over the place as they try to juggle so many different storylines which in many ways is the curse of them trying to give each main character his own story arc as well as having the general main arc.  It’s noble that they tried to do so much, but often less is more and I can’t help but wonder if Penny Dreadful was 10 episodes instead of 8 if it would have felt less messy.

ethan chandler wolfy

Overall I think Penny Dreadful was pretty damn good for its first season.  My only major criticism is that at times the show felt a bit messy which could cause a disconnect but the goods far outweigh the bads and I am more than looking forward to the show developing and finding its feet in season 2.  The acting is the big thumbs up for Penny Dreadful and it is further proof that we are currently in the golden age of TV drama.  Leave a comment on what you thought of Penny Dreadful season 1 and what you’re hoping for going forward.

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