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.
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.
lurking behind the scenes?
really busted out its wallet (and refined tastes) for this one:
is executive-produced by Sam
Skyfall), written by John
Skyfall), and directed by J.A.
Those are all major gets for a network like Showtime, and the cast
(and production values) are just as impressive.
will Penny Dreadful jump-scare us?
Dreadful premieres Sunday, May 11 at 10pm on Showtime.
should willingly to subject themselves to these terrors?
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.
works well about Penny Dreadful?
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.
dreadful about Penny Dreadful?
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.
should I watch it?
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.)
take a look at a trailer!
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.
AIRED ON 7/5/2015
Season 2 : Episode 10