Recently the supernatural showtime series “Penny Dreadful” has premiered for its third season, so I thought it appropriate to discuss my love for this show , which happens to be one of the best out there currently.
The series premiere is a little complicated to talk about without giving too much away, especially since each season has a new storyline for the characters to follow. Essentially, the series weaves together classic characters from Victorian-era horror, like Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Grey and so on, along with new characters that combat the supernatural horrors that plague Victorian London.
Before I go into story writing and cast I want to talk about the technical aspects of the show. From makeup, conceptualizing, sets, music, cinematography, costuming and lighting- very little television comes close to this show. Its makeups on its creatures of the night from vampires, a creative and very creepy take on witches (or “nightcomers” as they call them in the show) and even in just the regular cast it’s wonderful. The sets are amazing, throwing you back into Victorian London and into each character’s environment- especially in how clearly carefully they plan it out- like for example in Dorian Gray’s main ballroom they have hundreds of paintings- but are all portraits. A wonderful and incredibly clever detail.
The music is also appropriately haunting and stays with you long after the scene is over with its amazing score and original waltzes. The cineomentpgrahy is wonderful and in how a simple camera pan can provide a sock or a angle to provide more fear. The costuming also works well, fits the time period nicely yet each character has a fairly distinctive style and they clearly look well made. And this show probably has some of my favorite lighting on Television. Knowing full well they are in pre-electricity London, they utilize natural light to great effect , from having it bounce off of white linen tablecloths in the darkness or thought windows- it’s brilliantly done.
And now let us move onto to this cast. Every role has been perfectly cast- from the recognizable to the the unknown- and I mean that in terms of both actors and characters. Reeve Carney is a wonderful as Dorian Grey- he has a pretty boy face and yet there’s an underlying of darkness within him. Timothy dalton is a powerhouse as new character malcolm murray and always a delight on screen. However, it is Eva Green who really steals the show. Her portrayal of Vanessa Ives, a young woman who has been touched by Satan is haunting, tragic, powerful, strong and showcases how she is one of the most talented actors of her time. Rory Kinnear plays Frankenstein’s monstrous undead creature in what is possible the most authentic showing of mary shelley’s creature. The heart of a poet trapped inside of a monster- Kinnear’s monologues and acting showcase are truly beautiful- and the scenes he shares with green are some of the best in the show. Billie Piper truly came into her own in this series, at some points making you forget about her doctor who past. Her character twists are some of the more surprising of the story but I will say her arch alone is worthwhile. The series supporting cast is no less wonderful, from Helen Mccrory, to Christian Camargo , and Simon Russell Beale (who plays a character i’ve nicknamed “Dr. Creamsicle”, for his outrageous wig), Patti LuPone (who is AMAZING in every scene) it really is one of the best put together casts in on television.
I cannot recommend this show enough. To simply mark it as a horror series would be doing it a disservice. As The Wired put it, it t is a “gothic romance” and as The Atlantic claimed that it “reanimated” the genre. So go on, stop reading this and start watching it!