Penny Dreadful: Is It a Monster Smash?

Penny Dreadful Series PremiereEarly on in the premiere of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, African explorer Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) tells hired gun Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), “Do not be amazed at anything you see.” But, since they’re entering a vampire’s lair at the time, that instruction is easier issued than followed.

RELATED | Exclusive Penny Dreadful Key Art: Meet Timothy Dalton’s Adventurer and His Scarred Sentry

Same goes for the series. How can we not be awestruck by a creepshow that’s not only sumptuously filmed and deftly acted but also written as beautifully as an epitaph? Before you weigh in with your opinion, let’s review the dark delights of “Night Work”…

HER CROSS TO SCARE | After her prayers are interrupted by a spider crawling across her crucifix and a disembodied voice announcing, in chilling fashion, “I’m hungry,” poker-faced Vanessa Ives (Eva Green, dazzling in her subtlety) recruits libidinous sharpshooter Ethan from a traveling Wild West show to accompany her and Sir Malcolm into London’s supernatural underbelly in search of the adventurer’s daughter, Mina (of Dracula fame). Unfortunately, they learn too late that — drat! — the blood-sucker who’s got the missing girl isn’t the only one in town. (What are the odds?!) At least, thanks to a necropsy by a young doctor (who we later learn is Victor Frankenstein), the vampire hunters discover that, beneath the staked creature’s thick skin are Egyptian hieroglyphics. Curiouser and curiouser.

WILD CARDS | The following day, Vanessa sizes up Ethan as a man “of great violence and hidden depths.” (Hmm… given his reaction to the scene of Jack the Ripper’s latest slaying, could he be the legendary serial killer?) She also fills him in on the “half-world between what we know and what we fear” and suggests that, if he’s wise, he’ll run, not walk, from their mission and never look back. Which sounds like a warning to him (and us), yet she assures him (and us) that, “It’s an invitation.” (Throughout, the chemistry between these two is just off the charts.) As anyone would be, Ethan is intrigued — especially after the tarot card that he picks for her is “The Lovers” — but he nonetheless decides to take the warning rather than the invitation. (Yeah, right.)

Penny Dreadful Series PremiereLIFE AS HE KNOWS IT | Later, despite Victor’s protestation that he has no interest in joining Sir Malcolm’s “amateur occultists society” — the Victorian-era House is, not surprisingly, all about matters of life and death — he does need the money that he’d earn by developing a cure for the rarest of diseases (presumably, Mina’s vampirism). Returning home following the meeting, Sir Malcolm is briefly, harrowingly reunited with his toothsome daughter, who leaves him with the impression that the hunters are now the hunted.

Interestingly, when he reveals the visitation to Vanessa afterwards, both of them use the vaguest of terms to discuss their responsibility for Mina’s dire predicament. (As if to underscore Vanessa’s guilt, her next prayer session ends with the crucifix hanging upside down and the appearance of enough spiders to populate a lifetime of nightmares.)

Finally, we end the hour at Victor’s tiny apartment… which, it turns out, has a secret laboratory that’s big enough to hold Godzilla. What it actually holds, however, is a stitched-together cadaver on ice… a cadaver that comes to life after an accidental power surge! So, as the premiere draws to a close, we are left with an image that’s truly shocking — in its tenderness: Frankenstein’s monster gently wipes a tear from his overjoyed maker’s cheek and places it on his own. Breathtaking!

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18 Comments
  1. Richard says:

    Love it!!! Cannot wait til next week.

  2. Cooke says:

    Its GREAT!

  3. Tom Smith says:

    Your writing style is terrible. I’ll be surprised if anyone makes it through your article.

    I think it’s time for a new profession.

    • Jack J. says:

      I find his writing very much on point and a nice change from the OMG HOW GREAt WAS THAT stuff one usually finds here.

    • Aaron says:

      Well, thank goodness Tom F’in Smith is on the case! Your humanity style is terrible. I’m surprised you haven’t been swallowed up by your own misery. Thanks for sharing it with the world.

  4. Trenton says:

    This was brilliant and vague and mysterious. Nothing was overstated which is impressive considering it’s about monsters. I’ve got to say Timothy Dalton is soooo much better am actor than I ever thought. Like I knew he was good but maybe great? Josh was really good too… Low key quiet role suits him.

  5. Mark says:

    Great start! I’m hooked.

  6. jag says:

    I’m looking forward to this since late last year and it didn’t disappoint. I’m happy that Dracula is off and i will have a more satisfying show to replace it. No comparison intended here just the genre. Anyway, what i like about the pilot is the dragging storyline, the wait and see approach that give the viewers some time to appreciate the glorious detail of the premise and the rendering of the beautiful Miss Green’s eyes. Those eyes can act without any actions or dialogues. Dalton’s Mr. Murray is convincing as a tormented father. Did you see those eyes before he saw the apparition of her daughter Mira? Priceless. Josh’s gunslinger scene was hilarious. The switch of character to a moody and dead beat man was awesome. Dr. Monsta-Maker was even compelling. The resurrection scene was borderline erotic according to my morbid senses of humor. Like a long lost love finally found. I just find it funny that Frankie looks like the Texas Chainsawer.

  7. Trenton says:

    I really doubt the guy who loves using guns is Jack the Ripper notorious for knife play. If anything, the ripper would be a supernatural creature in this world. So welcome to Supernatural Old Ye England style.

  8. ivy says:

    amazing
    loved it

  9. Ruby says:

    I actually gasped out loud when he revealed he was Dr. Frankenstein…I don’t know why but I didn’t see it coming. I was too busy enjoying the visuals and the stunning presence of Eva Green. Loved it. A few parts were a little cheesy (like the big vampire fight) but they’ll find their way with that stuff. The conversation between Eva & Josh’s characters with the cards was stunning as well. I don’t know if I breathed through the whole thing. And that ending…WOW. All that tension built and then it turns into one of the most tender moments I’ve ever seen committed to film. Wonderful!

  10. Jen says:

    I found it incredibly boring.

  11. ninergrl6 says:

    I expected more literary references and less “WTF just happened?” Disappointed.

  12. Lucy says:

    I thought it was a promising mash-up of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Van Helsing, both of which are, admittedly, guilty pleasures of mine. Let’s just hope the show has better CGI than either of those films!

  13. waterbug says:

    I am not on the same page with Ethan as ripper. He can hoist a lady up, no doubt, like he did after his show, but not with the supernatural vigor the toilet lady was ripped from her seat through the window. Maybe the weird museum curator has a supernatural angle? love this show! I am a Lovecraft enthusiast, so this is much better than the “limp” Dracula on Fox. Rhys was the only thing that made me grab for the dvr.