A Penny Dreadful Community
Sunday 10:00 PM on Showtime (Returning May 1, 2016)

Apparently somebody at Showtime looked at some TV listings, noticed that every single other cable network has a hit supernatural horror serial, and decided it was time to get in on that highly rated action. Where movies have started to drop the ball when it comes to decent scares, television has not only brought us bigger and better variations on old tropes (The Walking Dead's zombies; Teen Wolf's werewolves; The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' chupacabras), it's done so while pulling in massive ratings. Will Penny Dreadful, Showtime's Victorian-era riff on The Monster Squad, continue that tradition or be relegated to the elephant graveyard of expensive failures? Let's talk it out!

Victorian-era literary characters teaming up? THAT sounds familiar.

Okay, sure, Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen exists in both graphic novel form AND atrocious movie adaptation form, but Penny Dreadful sets itself apart from that premise right away. Less a dream team of literary superheroes and more a supernatural mystery dotted with recognizable names, Penny Dreadful is much more interested in scaring you than in being a clever, whiz-bang romp. Centered on an American gunslinger named Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) who gets hired to help find a wealthy explorer's missing daughter, this is a London where bad things happen to good people, unthinkable monsters lurk in the shadows, and a thriving "demimonde" (the space between "what we know and what we fear") threatens to overtake the real world at any moment. Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) is a mysterious, cursed clairvoyant who enlists Ethan, and a certain Promethean doctor (Harry Treadaway) provides much-needed biological expertise when Ethan and Vanessa bring him the corpse of a newly murdered vampire. Because oh yeah, there are vampires, and these vampires are disgusting. But with a Jack the Ripper copycat on the loose and the threat of demonic possession plaguing Vanessa in at every turn, it's clear that the heroes and anti-heroes of Penny Dreadful will be having their hands full for the foreseeable future.

Who's lurking behind the scenes?

Showtime really busted out its wallet (and refined tastes) for this one: Penny Dreadful is executive-produced by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Skyfall), written by John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator, Skyfall), and directed by J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible). Those are all major gets for a network like Showtime, and the cast (and production values) are just as impressive.

When will Penny Dreadful jump-scare us?

Penny Dreadful premieres Sunday, May 11 at 10pm on Showtime.

Who should willingly to subject themselves to these terrors?

Horror fans, Penny Dreadful has your number. From the pilot's terrifying cold open to its frequently disturbing imagery (oh, the gore!), this is the kind of show best watched alone in the dark. But despite its lurid appeals, Penny Dreadful also boasts a relaxed pace that's perfectly suited for those seeking slow-burn, higher-echelon horror. Literary references should keep brainier viewers engaged, and the show-don't-tell visuals are very respectful to viewers who are tired of being spoon-fed exposition. Plus, you know, since it's premium cable: #butts.

What works well about Penny Dreadful?

Penny Dreadful is a really nice mix of patient, drawn-out suspense and shocking horror that GOES THERE. Like, guys, there is a dead baby in the pilot. At one point a hundred spiders burst out of an upside-down crucifix. And have I mentioned that the vampires featured on this show are possibly the most terrifying ones I've ever seen on television? What's more, the cast is uniformly engaging and the characters are compelling and clearly defined. If any of these things sounds appealing to you, there's a good chance you'll be hooked.

What's dreadful about Penny Dreadful?

Not much, but I will say this: Unfortunately Penny Dreadful is the kind of serial that may not work well in individual installments and should rather be viewed in a binge-watch. The pilot, "Night Work," doesn't seem to have a conclusion, it simply smash-cuts to credits after an hour's worth of set-up. And while the series is admirably restrained in its lack of exposition, sometimes confusion sets in a little too often. At some points, the obfuscated explanations are part of the game ("Oh, THAT's why we weren't told the young doctor's name right away"), but compounded with certain characters' impenetrable accents, I had to re-watch more than a few exchanges. Oh, and this thing is dark, just visually. Maybe I had a low-quality screener, but I had to adjust the brightness on my TV just to be able to see an important murder.

So, should I watch it?

Yes, particularly if you love horror, gothic literature, or Josh Hartnett's #butt. (And just a tip: Episode 2 is even better than the pilot. Skeptics should consider giving this a 2-episode test, at the very least.)

Let's take a look at a trailer!

Actually, you can watch the full pilot if you're so inclined! But here's a sample, in case you're in a hurry:

Penny Dreadful premieres Sunday, May 11 at 10pm on Showtime.

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 7/5/2015

Season 2 : Episode 10

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