If there is such a thing as a quintessential SteamGoth series, Penny Dreadful is undoubtedly it. This 8 episode first season of this British series embodies everything that we have come to known as part of the SteamGoth subgenre of steampunk: the dark side of the Victorian Age: mad science, asylums, mysticism, disease and horrific crimes committed by both the living and supernatural.
A word of warning though: this series is not for the feint hearted as it can be very gruesome and very brutal.
Penny Dreadful largely takes place in the London of her majesty Queen Victoria and revolves around a cast of characters fighting an ancient evil.
There’s some serious names attached to this project such as Eva Green, who plays the leading female part of Vanessa Ives, a young woman haunted by things from the past, and not necessary just hers. Timothy Dalton as Malcolm Murray, the man assembling the team of leading characters to save his daughter at all cost. And Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, an American with his own hidden darkness.
The rest of the cast, although not quite as well known, are all equally strong in their performance and I would say that everyone has been cast splendidly with exception of Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, who simply lacks a certain something when portraying the immortal. It’s not that he’s doing a bad job, it’s that after the likes of Stuart Townsend and Ben Barnes, he’s got some big shoes to fill and compared to those two and the performances of the rest of the cast, which are simply stronger than his, he is a little lacking.
That said, I love how some of these literary personas such as Victor Frankenstein are brought into this story, and the twist the creators of the show have given to them.
The costumes are also pretty fantastic to look at, in fact the entire atmosphere and scenery of the show is simply stunning.
Another strong suit of Penny Dreadful is that the show is unafraid to take it’s time. Rather than it being fast paced like we’ve come to expect from modern day tv, this series takes it’s time to delve into the plot and explore the back stories of characters, so you get to know them better and things are actually explained in due time, unravelling the plot bit by bit in a masterful way. Some will no doubt think it’s too slow, but I think the pace is one of the strengths of the show.
The horror of the Victorian times is also very realistic, it isn’t gory to be gory, or brutal to be brutal, but it doesn’t sugar coat how things were back in those days, adding the horror element to a series that is essentially a psychological thriller/drama more than anything else.
Of all modern day “dark” tv that is made, Penny Dreadful is absolutely right at the top, not to mention the number one show within its particular genre. The only downside is that we’ll have to wait ‘till 2015 for the second season. On the upside, it will have more than 8 episodes.