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Review: Penny Dreadful Season 1: TV Show

PENNY DREADFUL Season 1
 

Penny Dreadful Season 1 brings together a quick-firing alcoholic cowboy, Dorian Gray, Frankenstein’s monster, an old hunter, a femme fatale and Professor Van Helsing, all involved in the hunt for Count Dracula. No, I’m not talking about a late decided sequel to the Sean Connery film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Nor is it some sort of spinoff Hugh Jackman- “classic” Van Helsing (even though a remake is on the cards, with Tom Cruise in the lead role). No, this blog covers the new Showtime series Penny Dreadful Season 1. And certainly, the concept sounds silly but it’s a lavish series written by Skyfall-man John Logan! With Josh Hartnett and Eva Green in the lead roles! This must be good! At least not silly, or??

Penny Dreadful Season 1 begins set in Victorian London, where the fog is dense and death is only a foam alley away. If you open the wrong door, one may encounter both werewolves, vampires or ghosts. It stars gunfighter Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and the enigmatic Vanessa Ives (Eva Green). Ives is working with the aged hunter Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) to help track down his missing daughter, who seems to have fallen into the clutches of a well-known count (Rory Kinnear). In the quest they encounter various well-known figures in something of a  new guise. Frankenstein’s Monster works for example in a theatre but in the series is dulcet.

The problem with Penny Dreadful Season 1 is that despite high aspirations, it never really gets going. There is much that happens in every episode, but we never feel for the characters, and the lack of a clear protagonist, we do not start rooting for any of them either. Just because we know of Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) and Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadawayin the past, does not mean we find them interesting in this version. To throw in lots of characters from classic horror literature does not automatically create an exciting series. Rather, it will be messy and sometimes extremely silly.

The exceptions are the new characters created for the series, Ethan Chandler and Vanessa Ives bring something to the story. Hartnett is gifted in the role of the outward cowboy, and Eva Green is absolutely brilliant as the mysterious Vanessa Ives. The section focuses entirely on her (Section 5, Closer than sisters) are great, and I wish the whole series had a more clear narrative that issued from Ethan and Vanessa.

As it is now, Penny Dreadful Season 1 is an attractive and relatively entertaining series. But it does not live up to its own ambitions, and the end result feels sprawling, loose and, well a bit silly. I wish they had cut down on the number of characters retrieved from horror literature, focusing on its own storyline, and had a clearer goals with the series. Now one can just as well see if The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Van Helsing. And they are nothing for good rating, but you remember well how silly those films where.

If you have a few nights free it’s worth watching. The Pod Food and Xmarx crew got together for most of the series. There was the few nights with John from VIZOO.

6 out of 10 bananas. 8 episodes – 3 disc DVD box set. Penny Dreadful Season 2 to air on May 3, 2015. Penny Dreadful Season 1 is available: $34.98 at JB Hifi or $21.49 on Amazon.
Also found online – Hogan’s heroes dvd box set, 26 discs – $111.99 at JB Hifi.
*Prices as of time of post.

Max Shindler
Movie enthusiast, editor and copywriter for Xmarx

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