Penny Dreadful Episode Four Review

penny-dreadful-meta

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.

After being neglected for a while we return to see Dorian Gray in this episode. In a bizarre orgy type opening, Dorian looks on wistfully as various extras carouse in front of him before slinking off. The scene is surprising well played, even though having various nude bodies around the place is rather distracting from Gray’s innermost turmoil.

The episode while having a good opening feels fragmented and disjointed. It is constantly skipping around from one character to another leaving the audience befuddled as to what is going on. While the series may still retain the vaguest of plot lines (trying to get Mina back) even the characters seem bored of the idea with Sir Malcolm casually suggesting that they bugger off to Africa in search of the source of the Nile. It makes no sense!

The motivations of the characters seem pretty weak as well. Aside from Sir Malcolm and The Monster nobody seems to have any clear future plan.  (Irritatingly, The Monster is now calling himself Caliban but I’m not going to call him that because giving The Monster a name not only misses the point of the original novel but is also plain stupid as he is nothing like Caliban in The Tempest.)

Ethan is happy to just wander around shooting things, Dorian to have as much sex as possible and Frankenstein just doesn’t want to die. They don’t have any deeper character motivation or really anything but broad differences to separate them. He’s the sex one, he’s the scientist one, she’s the prostitute one etc. It takes what could have been (and was for the first two episodes) a good idea and turns it into a 90s sitcom. It’s like Friends but with a blood thrusting vampire wanting to kill everyone.

A slight saving grace is David Warner as Van Helsing. Warner gives a gentle warmth to the role and makes the character seem likeable and entertaining. However, any drama associated with the character disappears when he very seriously informs Frankenstein that he has a way to tell whether someone has been infected by one of the Vampires. It is named after his late wife and is called Hannah’s Wink. Yes, you read that right; Hannah’s Wink. Who sat down and thought that Hannah’s Wink would be something that could be said seriously in an intelligent, gothic drama? Certainly someone did.

Then to top it all, following the Eastenders School of “shock sex twist things” Brona breaks up with Ethan for a bit so Ethan decides to have a drink with Dorian. Now after drowning their sorrows for a bit they have sex. Yep, Ethan a man who has never given any indication that he  swings both way decides that he does. Why? To play up to an easily manipulated audience, of course. I know from having looked at Tumblr and such other places that a lot of female viewers often ship (a shortened term for relationship) male characters for no other reason than they interact well with one another and this somehow means they should sleep together. Now, of course, TV producers know about this, how much they might deny it, they want to get these groups of people watching their show. So they put things like this in.

For example in BBC One’s Sherlock, notice how between Series 2 and Series One the amount of gay jokes/double entendre goes up. The same happens with shows like Supernatural and Doctor Who that play to a mainly teenage audience. Instead of challenging the viewer with complex ideas the makers of a lot of shows simply throw in a gay joke or something along those lines. Why you might ask? Because it is easy and they know it will get them views.

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