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Penny Dreadful (2014-2015)

Updated on November 19, 2015

I don't have a cable connection so cannot watch shows that play on the regular broadcasting stations or the cable stations. From time to time I come across a review of a particular series, and this will prompt me to rent (on DVD) the first of the series (particularly those that survive more than one season, but not necessarily). If season one is good enough, I'll rent the discs for season two. Since I cut my cable cord, I don't think I've ever gone beyond two seasons with anything.

I watched "24" (first season) and it felt like the longest 24 hours of my life. I thought it was good if overloaded. I watched two episodes of season two then had to call it quits. It just felt like more of the same, and I'd had enough.

Cast Shot From Penny Dreadful
Cast Shot From Penny Dreadful

I rather prefer a mini-series -- where there is some kind of beginning, middle and end -- as opposed to a series that can go on endlessly. "Penny Dreadful" is a series but plays more like a mini-series. Seasons one and two were distinctly different and had a beginning, middle and end (of sorts).

I came upon the series "Penny Dreadful." I think it was an automatic recommendation for me via NetFlix. Since both my wife and I like a good scary story, I rented season one.

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives
Eva Green as Vanessa Ives

I'm not going to recap the premises of the story, as you can easily find this elsewhere. Rather than duplicate what has already been accomplished, I'm just going to add a few details for those who either never heard about the series or have been wavering on watching any of it.

Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray
Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm Murray

A few basic facts: The program is a British-American production originally shown in the US on Showtime. To date, it has had two full seasons. The program is strictly for adults. The various storylines borrow heavily from gothic tales but diverge from them very widely. The series takes huge liberties with the subject matter, but this is okay. We wouldn't want to watch a mere amalgamation of everything we've seen before. Would we?

Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray
Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray

The series is well done; otherwise, my wife and I would have quit after the first season. Each season had its own story arc, and moves along quite nicely. For a TV series, it all seemed rather cutting edge in many ways.

Rory Kinnear as John Clare
Rory Kinnear as John Clare

The finer points are the writing, the sets, the costumes, the lighting, the actors. Combined, they create a movie-like sense of craftsmanship. The stories vary, as you'd have to expect. Not every episode is gold, but the majority are really very good, and a few are outstanding. Now, I say this to an audience who can handle blood, gore, violence and those who are tolerant of homosexual scenes (because there are a few). The nudity is explicit, so you have to prepare yourself for that. If shown in theaters it would definitely warrant an "X" rating, I imagine.

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler
Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler

Portions of episodes are definitely gratuitous in one aspect or another. Some aspects go overboard or seem overly-long, but one tends to cut the show a fair amount of slack for not being perfect.

But, if you have an open mind and don't mind being somewhat "shocked," then you might want to try the series on for size.

Billie Piper as Lily.
Billie Piper as Lily.

The show is largely carried by Eva Green (Miss Ives) and Pierce Brosnan (Sir Malcolm Murray). They are the heavy lifters, and do a terrific job. No one can carry a scowl like Eva Green. She seems to have been invented for roles such as this, and handles the nuances of her character with adroitness. The show portrays her in a verisimilitude of favorable and unfavorable lights -- and the actress must have really gone through all sorts of personal hell to deal with the variables.

Eva Green (as Miss Ives with scowl on)
Eva Green (as Miss Ives with scowl on)
Eva Green as Miss Ives (with scowl off)
Eva Green as Miss Ives (with scowl off)

The supporting actors are all very convincing.

What makes the writing in this project so extraordinary is that there are very few one-dimensional characters. The major cast is nuanced. They can be murderous, but you nevertheless feel empathy, and this is not an easy feat to accomplish.

Harry Treadaway as Dr. Frankenstein
Harry Treadaway as Dr. Frankenstein

I'll be looking forward to the third season (though as of this date it hasn't begun filming). I have absolutely no idea where the plot can continue after the end of season two, but I think it's worth another rental.

Again, this program is definitely NOT going to be to everyone's taste. If you don't like the genre to begin with, stay away. If you can handle macabre, irreverent themes, see what you think.

Danny Sapani as Sembene
Danny Sapani as Sembene

Penny Dreadful Trailer - Season One

Penny Dreadful Season Two

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