By Will Barber – Taylor
Some of literature’s most terrifying characters, including Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, and iconic figures from the novel Dracula are lurking in the darkest corners of Victorian London. PENNY DREADFUL is a frightening psychological thriller that weaves together these classic horror origin stories into a new adult drama.
Penny Dreadful is a lover of Victoriana’s dream; it embraces the time period magnificently, even the title signposts that it is about the Victorian era, to entice us into this world we are offered a wild western show for a bit of Victorian flavouring and then we are tempted more by being transported into a gothic world which is strangely as seductive as it is frightening. Once you become transported into the world of Penny Dreadful then you won’t want to leave. The fact that the show manages to establish the universe with which it exists in the first episode demonstrates just how brilliant J.A. Bayona is at being able to bring the viewer into his fictional world.
Throughout the episode we get some great visuals such as the broad and bold sequence in which we see Ethan Chandler (Josh Harnett) preforming at a Wild West show. The realism employed in this sequence makes it stand out as it does look like a genuine 19th century Wild West show. This even extends to the more fantastically elements of the show with Rory Kinnear looking decidedly realistic and creepy as Frankenstein’s Monster.
The acting in the first episode is generally good. Harnett’s Ethan Chandler is the grounded centre of the episode representing the audience. It is through his eyes that we are introduced to the world of Penny Dreadful. He is charismatic and interesting and Harnett plays up his befuddlement at the world around him well.
Timothy Dalton’s Sir Malcolm Murray spends his time growling through the episode but that is just Dalton’s normal style of acting. He manages to inject gruffness to the character that is shown to be a front he has created for the world to try and not show the pain he feels for the loss of his daughter. The scene he has with Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives is particularly well done as we see that while with Ives he doesn’t have to keep up the pretence of his brusque manner.
Eva Green’s Ives is a strong and independent character who has agency of her own. She manages to create a certain bewitching quality about her character meaning you can’t take your eyes off her. It will be interesting to see how her character develops over the course of the series as she spends most of the episode in the shadows.
The first episode of Penny Dreadful gets off to an awesome start and instantly drags the viewer into its world. Hopefully we will see more of this fascinating world unfurl over the course of the series.