Episode Review: Penny Dreadful

Network: Showtime
Genre: Horror
Cast: Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett

Penny Dreadful

In the wake of the success of American Horror Story it seems like networks are trying to capitalize on this. Horror-esque shows have been popping up left and right lately to most genre aficionados’ delight. Granted, the horror genre has never really been wanting, apart from detective stories, the most popular one. It seems as if horror is always in our cultural background, but that different aspects of it gains more fans at different times. We have been barraged by Vampires, Zombies and Werewolves these past years and maybe there is time for something different. American Horror Story: Coven claimed that it might be witches and Salem (reviewed separately) ran with it.
Penny Dreadful takes a different direction; at least this is what the inaugural episode would have us believe. The setting is in the Victorian Age and we are presented with a world that has become quite familiar to us through other shows, handsome cabs, cobblestone streets and men in bowler hats, but there is another element here as well. The world seems to be inhabited by other worldly creatures. In the first episode we meet vampire like figures and at least a nod in the direction of Frankenstein’s Monster.
The plot initially revolves around Timothy Dalton’s character whose daughter has been abducted by something. He is allied with Eva Green, an apparently cursed woman, who in the first episode takes the role of his secretary. Within the first ten minutes she has tried to recruit Josh Hartnett, a carnival cowboy to aid in their search for the missing girl.
It is quite clear that there is more to this plot than meets the eye. One gets the feeling of a Victorian X-files with an array of quirky characters who will support the main figures with their special abilities. One of these, a flamboyant expert on Egypt, has already been introduced. This gives the impression of a comic relief to the show that may be unnecessary.
American Horror Story understood the fact that too much comedy, or any comedy for that matter, would render the horror aspect void. Sleepy Hollow as an example of the other part of the spectrum focuses too much on Ichabod Crane’s conflict with the modern world and therefore making the sense of impending doom almost nonexistent. Blood and gore is not enough in this case to keep us in suspense.
The cast is what may be the saving grace for this show, Eva Green and Timothy Dalton are strong enough actors to carry the rest of the cast and it is quite obvious that Josh Hartnett is struggling to keep up with them. As an example Jeremy Piven’s performance in Mr Selfridge was outright appalling compared to his counterparts, but improved as the show developed, most likely because the others rubbed off on him.
Granted this is only the first episode and there is no real point in voicing any negative aspects, but tentative ones maybe. Penny Dreadful has got all the potential to be just what it claims it’s going to be, but it also might be just dreadful…

C. Marry Hultman


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