In the world of horror I am a lover of mood, feel and dread. When theses things are done right, the battle is half won. Add in some great characters and excellent writing and you have the makings of something truly wonderful.
Welcome to the world of Penny Dreadful.
The first episode of this TV series quickly reminds people that this is indeed a horror themed show. Set in the darkest shadows of Victorian London a team consisting of gun for hire Ethan Chandler (Josh Harnett), powerful medium Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and explorer Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) confront vampires and find themselves hip deep in gore.
There is some dark humor here as well. Watching knowing glances pass between Ives and Murray while Chandler, who was hired without the knowing of what he was getting into, struggles to keep his composure amongst the carnage and undead.
As the episode moves forward, it becomes clear that Chandler is the naïve and wide eyed newcomer to the world of the supernatural while Murray is very personally invested in the search for his missing daughter.
What is not so clear is the whole story behind Vanessa Ives. She is the key to success of the newly formed group and maybe the show itself. Actress Eva Green is superb in the role, creating a mysterious and eerie persona that surrounds Ives like a second skin.
After they dispatch the vampires and its leader, who actually looks demonic and evil, they drag the big guy’s corpse away to be examined by none other than a young Dr. Frankenstein. As the good doctor usually sees things a bit different than most, he is a great choice to examine the body and another intriguing part to make up the show.
The writing, acting and scenery are far above average, especially for a show with such deep rooted horror themes. I actually found myself interested in the characters and their histories, and believe there is a lot more to Ethan Chandler than just his gun slinging skills.
As well, Victor Frankenstein is a very intriguing character and actor Harry Treadaway conveys some real depth and spirit to the doctor, especially in the end of the first episode. However, there are a few traps waiting out there to snare this show and drag it down.
Penny Dreadful must avoid patting itself on the back too much and revealing in its great look and design. The tired horror clichés also must be avoided and they must continue on the path they have laid out for themselves. The biggest trap of all lies in the number of characters on the show. With so many wonderful monsters to draw upon, the series needs to be careful to limit the story lines and characters or it will become overwhelming very fast.
Don’t worry, I’m not talking about it getting as bad as the big screen Sean Connery led disaster The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen from 2003. However, viewers can get bored or frustrated with too many things to wrap their brain around (something I wish the TV show True Blood would have learned)
Overall, it was a wonderful beginning that has the potential for so much more. Let’s hope the actors and writers alike can continue to build upon this very interesting and well thought out premiere.
This article was written for publication on the GCE by Jeff Fountain