Let me take you back to 19th Century London, where you’ll find industry and poverty spreading over the cobbles as thickly and quickly as a past plague. Where the humble orange is a special treat and where the most entertaining, bloodthirsty and compelling of stories could be bought for a penny on a street corner. (British Term Alert: A penny is low form of currency) This Penny Dreadful however, that has hit Showtime and Sky Atlantic for one and now a second season is not only entertaining, bloodthirsty and compelling but is the story format’s 21st Century upgrade. Prepare to be thrust into the gory and the Gothic, and literature lovers rejoice as there is plenty to be excited about!
Credit for this binge goes to lkeke35 and I couldn’t be more thankful for this recommendation because I have thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of this horror binge. Granted, I don’t believe it is as jump scare worthy as the likes of American Horror Story but the plot remains as delightfully as spine chilling which in my opinion stems from the cast’s incredible performances.
Across the board Penny Dreadful has been luring in up to 5 million views with averages of 1.43 million on premiere night on Showtime alone. The series has also snapped up multiple nominations and awards including a Critics Choice Television Award for Most Exciting New Series of 2014.
The series protagonist is one Vanessa Ives as played by Eva Green; a vision in black with darkness snapping at her heels. Timothy Dalton stars alongside her as Sir Malcolm Murray who is desperately looking for his daughter Mina…who if I have some fellow Literature junkies reading this will recognise that name from the famous Dracula by Bram Stoker. The characters featured in Dracula are not alone in the interweaving of the classic literature in this show, Penny Dreadful introduces one Dr. Victor Frankenstein as played by Harry Treadaway, Dorian Gray as played by Reeve Carney and various others as you may never have seen them before.
There is so, so much I wish to just completely spout and rave about but this show is as cleverly woven as an intricate spider’s web and I feel that giving away any more of the plot than I already have, will ruin the impact of the twists that they have subtly drip fed you until the very moment the shock is revealed. However, seeing as I’ve already introduced you to the rather enchanting casting for Victor Frankenstein (who I must say is my personal favourite) I’ll give you an example at how sophisticated this story telling is. The pilot introduces you to Victor Frankenstein at first as nothing more than a nameless, arrogant man who knows how to carry out a post-mortem and then suddenly as the episode unfolds it provides you with hints and clues as to this man’s real identity but not overwhelmingly so and not revealing it until a perfectly placed point that leaves an unexpected viewer surprised…one particular viewer having been me.
There are other notable characters that despite not having a recognisable identity create more enticing tangents for the narrative which only begin to set alight possible theories of where their character’s fate may lead to. That’s what the show does to you. You eagerly await each and every character’s storyline as some may not be who they seem or suddenly one character takes on the role of another you are familiar with…oh it is so difficult to hold back but I must!
Fun Fact: This will be the third role that actress Billie Piper has played in which her character is a prostitute/stripper. She noted this fact in a recent interview with Alan Carr and says it is her last.
The above Miss Brona Croft is a character I feel particularly protective over and that is not just because I was once a passionate Whovian. One of those positively endearing characters, Brona doesn’t seem to ever suffer enough under the hands of the writers but neither do any of the characters which is why I look upon this series so fondly; attachments are formed. I just want to give her a hug okay? Her Irish accent is warm and witty, and in guessing where her story would go by the end of the series I was exceedingly excited to see it play out.
All in all this is a wonderful supernatural set up that manages to carry that label and yet not ply you with so much of it you are sickened by it and that is easily done with the plethora of supernatural inspired television shows recently. It balances the fantastical with the reality neatly and precisely while staying true to the period and encompassing these literary figures in a near believable world. You should also brace yourselves for the most intense performances from Eva Green that I was utterly awed by. It is worth the watch for her alone!
You can watch Penny Dreadful on Showtime and Sky Atlantic or the First Season is now available for purchase on DVD.
What do you think of the horror genre making it into television? Do you think television is providing better quality horror than Hollywood right now? Have you seen Penny Dreadful yet? If so then please let me know what you thought of it in the comments! Also check out my twitter @bingebox for latest updates, live tweeting of my binges and general TV goodness. Thanks!