Penny Dreadful Season One Review

POSTED BY Toby Berger July 2, 2014 in Articles
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The Glory of Suffering

Penny Dreadful’s first season came as a bit of a surprise to me, not only because I didn’t hear about it until it’s fifth (out of eight) episode was released, but because it just wasn’t advertised anywhere in Australia. The most surprising part about the series though is that it’s actually very good even in its first season (in terms of production value and the like) and it tells a great tale of a supernatural Victorian-era London. It’s masterfully written and features excellent performances from the cast all around making it a show that horror/supernatural fans must check out.

The acting in Penny Dreadful is incredibly strong. Featuring an excellent cast consisting of Timothy Dalton, Reeve Carney, Eva Green, Josh Hartnett and Harry Treadaway, it’s sure to keep you interested. Perhaps the most well known name on the list is Eva Green, and as a fan of her previous work I was interested to see how she would go. Playing the mysterious Vanessa Ives with perfection, Green showcases her incredible acting talent with masterful dialogue exchanges, intense emotional monologues amongst many other things that I’ll not mention due to spoilers. Dalton, who plays the powerful Sir Malcolm Murray, also stands out as it’s never clear where his heart truly lies. The others are excellent as well, but for the purpose of not blabbering on for too long I’ll leave it at that. What’s clear, however, is that the performances in Penny Dreadful’s first season are excellent and steer clear of anything too cliché.

Episode 101

Likewise, the writing in Penny Dreadful is again top-notch. John Logan, the series creator, writes an excellent tale about loss, tragedy, horror and love and mixes them together into a seamless package that hardcore horror fans such as myself will love as well as fans of other genres too. There’s something here for everyone really, but the most prominent elements in Penny Dreadful are horror and mystery – and that’s where the story takes a step forward. Each of the main characters all have very different motives to one another, and the stories behind them are as equally interesting as the main story the season follows. There’s a lot of context that’s required when diving into something somewhat sophisticated like this, and it’s handled excellently throughout the season giving some of the more intense moments of backstory a strong focus. John Logan has done an excellent job in crafting these characters and moulding them from famous sources (of those I will not spoil) that will be recognized quite quickly. The actual dialogue in the series is again wonderful and makes the series’ Victorian setting that much more believable.

Because Penny Dreadful’s first season is only eight episodes long, there wasn’t room for any filler episodes to come through and the show benefited greatly from that. Each episode progressed the stories and development of each character significantly and more than once left me with my jaw on the floor as the credits rolled. The series has been green-lit for a second season and upon inspection will only last 10 episodes, so hopefully this will be the case once again.

Episode 101

One of the most impressive parts about Penny Dreadful is the way the series has masterminded the recreation of Victorian-era London. From the great establishing shots to the small, more confined spaces of a theatre – it all feels like it belongs in an era where technology was only just starting to grow. To think that this was only its first season is crazy, and I’m excited to see how the production/set designers go when the second season begins production later this year.

The music/score of Penny Dreadful is again quite excellent, more often than not making emotions be felt, or happiness reign supreme. It’s a well-crafted score that again surprised me seeing as though the series is only in its first season – and begs the question of how it’s going to be toppled when the second season rolls around. But for now, I’ll be looking at grabbing the soundtrack when I can because it left a great impression when all was said and done.

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Perhaps one of the only disappointing parts about Penny Dreadful is that it felt like the series went too quickly and some of the more important plot points were whisked over in the season finale. In fact, the finale ended on quite the cliffhanger and now I’m going to be impatiently waiting for the new season to come around (which will most likely be next year) and that makes me a little sad. That’s really plucking at straws though, as there really wasn’t that much to be disappointed about with the first season of the show.

Overall the first season of Penny Dreadful, Showtime’s new kid on the block, was very impressive. Masterful performances and writing made it shine brighter than a lot of the other new shows premiering over the last couple of months and it kept me intrigued from beginning to end and I can’t wait for the next season to start. If you’re a fan of shows like Supernatural, American Horror Story and (slight cringe) True Blood, this is absolutely something you must check out.

Overall

An excellent debut from Showtime’s new horror series. I was consistently on the edge of my seat and as a massive horror fan, I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face as the credits rolled at the end of the season.

Directed by: J.A. Bayona (2 Eps), Coky Giedroyc (2 Eps), James Hawes (2 Eps) and Dearbhla Walsh (2 Eps)
Written by: John Logan
Stars: Timothy Dalton, Reeve Carney, Eva Green, Harry Treadaway and Josh Hartnett

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