Penny Dreadful | Season 1 | Rating: 9/11
Vampires, werewolves, vengeful spirits, oh my! You might have thought that this monster genre has run its course, but Showtime’s Gothic drama Penny Dreadful, whose eight episode premiere season is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray, keeps it going in a way that’s refreshing and suspenseful. With a superior cast and cinema-worthy production, Penny Dreadful is just as splashy, addictive and outlandish as the 19th century tabloids from which the show takes its name.
Series creator, John Logan, does a masterful job building his world, incorporating elements from history as well as historical fiction. Evils such as Jack the Ripper are haunting the same streets as Frankenstein’s monster and vampire hunter, Van Helsing. One might be drawn in by a story in which Dorian Gray meets Dr. Frankenstein, but what really fascinates is the details of the world which sheds light on realms of theater, medicine, education and society in Victorian London.
The main story of Season 1 centers around Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), two characters brought together in the search for Murray’s daughter (and Ives’ childhood friend) Mina who has been taken by some kind of monster. While they hunt the monster, darker forces seem to be haunting them, particularly Miss Ives who has a proclivity for the darker element which may explain her attraction of a couple of gentlemen, the American cowboy on the run Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and the mysterious and beguiling Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney). They are aided in their hunt by Dr. Frankenstein who is dealing with a monster or two of his own.
Penny Dreadful explores the idea that no matter how good or noble we may act, there is a monster inside all of us. Over the course of the season, the plot is slow, but the characters’ rich complexities and titillating interactions will bring you back for more. If that doesn’t do the trick, each episode ends with a jaw-dropping revelation that almost necessitates you create an eight-hour block of time once you put in episode one.
As far as bonus features go, things are a bit light. However, there is a series of production blogs that offer brief tidbits into the creation of the series from Logan’s inspirations to set design. Other bonus feature highlights include the interview clips with John Logan and any interesting factoids on life in Victorian London including a segment where historian Matthew Sweet takes series actor Reeve Carney on a tour of historical sites relating to prostitution and sex in the Victorian age.
All in all, Penny Dreadful may currently fly under the radar of mainstream TV programming, but will break free in a season or two (much like Game of Thrones). And with this release, those without Showtime can now join in on the drama!