Airing On: Showtime
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I had just seen a promo for a new horror series on television a couple of days ago when I received an offer to check out the premiere episode of Penny Dreadful before it was scheduled to air on Showtime (May 11, 2014). The original promo I viewed made the show look interesting enough and I love checking out shows before they air, so it was really a no brainer. I settled in to watch Penny Dreadful’s first episode, Night Work.
Right away, we know that this series is going to be graphic, especially after a nighttime trip to a chamber pot ends in bloody disaster. We are introduced to Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), a mysterious woman who appears to be religious, but travels in circles that seem to be anything but. Vanessa visits a down on his luck sharpshooting performer named Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and enlists him to aid her in a venture she is about to embark on.
We learn that she is in league with Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), an African explorer searching for his missing daughter. Together with Ethan, they visit a dark opium den with a hidden secret – strange creatures who look like humans with fangs for teeth and a penchant for human blood. Ethan helps fight the monsters off while Sir Malcom searches amongst them for his daughter, unsuccessfully. He does come back with the corpse of a strange creature and decides to learn more about it by bringing it to a young scientist at the top of his field…a young Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadway).
More disturbing occurrences take place and rumors abound about the possible reemergence of Jack the Ripper thanks to the earlier incident involving the chamber pot visit. The episode ends with the birth of one of the most famous monsters ever – Frankenstein.
I have to say, I was intrigued by this first episode of Penny Dreadful. The re-imagination of certain infamous horror characters like Dracula, Frankenstein and the promises of more literary characters to come, such as Dorian Gray, makes this show an interesting venture. The idea that the heroes are dark and appear to be hiding some rather important secrets is also intriguing. I found myself wondering about Vanessa’s one transgression that allowed Sir Malcom’s daughter to be taken. What could that have been? And what is the meaning behind the strange “tattoo” of Egyptian hieroglyphics?
There’s a comic book style to all of this…a dark one at that and perhaps that’s in line with the title of the series. The name Penny Dreadful brings to mind the Victorian serial stories once sold in Britain for a penny an issue. All I know was I was extremely interested in what might come next in the series and I wanted to know more about each of the main characters. The first episode of Penny Dreadful offered enough to get me interested and was still able to dangle that carrot – the promise of much more interesting things to come in future episodes – to keep me coming back for more.