Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Review: Penny Dreadful Season 1

Title: Penny Dreadful Season 1
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, Eva Green
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Horror
Episodes: 8

I heard about this series through a friend talking about it on social media. I know her tastes are somewhat similar to mine and I was looking for more TV shows to check out. I was happy to know that my workplace had it and it took me some time to actually watching. After a few months, I finally popped it in and unintentionally watched the whole first season in one go.

Explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, American gunslinger Ethan Chandler and medium Vanessa Ives unite to combat supernatural threats in Victorian London. (source: IMDb)

Um...yeah, I'm sorry for lack of description. IMDb and Wikipedia didn't really have too much to say as far as plot goes and I'm just at a lost for words on how to describe the story myself. The first season revolves around three different plot points: Vanessa assisting Sir Malcolm with the "Ripper" case and dealing with her own demons, Dr. Victor Frankenstein dealing with his monsters, and Ethan deals with an unexpected relationship along with his investigation with Vanessa and Sir Malcolm. All these characters are constantly on the move and also deal with the problems the other characters are dealing with, especially Vanessa's inner demons. Out of the three plot lines, I found Dr. Frankenstein's storyline the most interesting. Avoiding any spoilers, Dr. Frankenstein's relationship with his monster has a lot of depth and thought put into it. When Caliban (or John Clare) enters the picture, things become even more interesting for Frankenstein and his new monster.

So, the other characters...I guess I'll go from least memorable to the most memorable. Sir Malcolm was probably the least memorable character for me. While I assume he is supposed to be an important figure in town, I just can't remember anything about him nor care about what he's doing. There is a tiny bit of story I do remember about him which involves a séance and his missing daughter, but it's kind of uneventful. Ethan Chandler is next on the least memorable. He kinda lacks personality, which isn't a good thing for a supernatural, horror show like this. The only memorable moments with Ethan involve his relationship with a prostitute named Brona Croft and the moment he helps Vanessa deal with her demons. Later on in the season, there is a little surprise pertaining the character that was definitely unexpected. Even though he doesn't show up as much as the previous two characters, Dorian Gray is memorable for his intriguing background. Whether you're familiar with the story of Dorian Gray or not, his behavior presents curiosity. Lastly, Vanessa is probably the second most memorable character in the series. One reason is obviously that she is the main character of the series. She's a medium, has a mysterious past involving Sir Malcolm's daughter Mina, and, of course, those inner demons. She's not a helpless character and she presents herself with plenty of dimension in her personality.

The show presents plenty of interesting characters and it's the main reason I stuck through it, but the flaws did make it a little difficult for me to keep going. I know the show is on Showtime, but the sex scenes were very distracting. I know it's part of Dorian's character, but I feel like the script could've presented the scenes a little better, shortened them, or erase them completely. They don't really add anything to the show or the character, especially as many times as Dorian seduces someone new. The biggest problem the show faces is pacing. The show is very slow. You have to have a ton of patience for about half of the episodes in this short series for the story to pick up. It's quite sad, especially when you have such interesting characters and the story sometimes feels like we're not progressing forward. Of course, it is worth it once certain events occur.

Penny Dreadful brings well known characters from gothic tales and puts them in a Victorian period that nearly everyone is familiar with to some extent. The costume and set designs really set the tone for horror and mystery and the characters are intriguing and bring a slightly new, alternative twists to familiar characters such as Dorian Gray and Victor Frankenstein. Despite the slow pace and distracting sex scenes, the show is entertaining and great with its visuals. I hope that the second season improves on its faults.

Rating: 3/5

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