John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Penny Dreadful



Cast: Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, Robert Nairne, Harry Treadaway, Reeve Carney


Release Date: May 11th, 2014

Penny Dreadful is one of the most audacious shows I’ve ever seen. Like inventive shows like Game of Thrones, symptoms it seeks to avoid chiches and to create a world and path of its own . The show opens in London in 1891 and potently combines the aspects of a strong thriller with the flair of a supernatural drama.

At first, cost the characters introduced are quickly attacked and murdered but then the main story settles in. The under-appreciated Josh Harnett stars as Ethan Chandler, decease a showman and liar whose love for theater convinces crowds that he’s a great performer and women that he’s a charmer. That is until the mysterious Ives (Eva Green) watches his show and lures him into a dark building where supernatural monsters of the night attack them and her colleague Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton).

In the first meeting between the duo, Ethan tells Ives, “You’ve got to leave them wanting more as we say in show business.” Ives follows his advice accordingly showing Ethan a world of supernatural forces and chaos and daring  him to return to his normal life. Of course, Ethan  inevitably wants to help Ives and Malcolm complete their stated objective: to locate Malcolm’s missing daughter who was kidnapped by a monster of the night.

Like the characters, Penny Dreadful leaves the viewers wanting more. After watching the two episodes available for review, it’s hard not to wonder what happens next on this well-directed and well-written program.

One of the show’s great novelties is that it introduces well-known creations from that era, adding them into the turmoil. In the first two episodes, for instance, the psychotically charismatic Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) arrives as does Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), who is introduced as a mortician’s assistant who likes his job way too much.

Additionally, the show doesn’t hesitate to add in historical events into the mix. When the murders start occurring, one newspaper features the headline “Is Jack Back,” referring to the famous “Jack the Ripper,” who has been absent for the past several years.

With supernatural creatures on the loose and a young team fighting them, Penny Dreadful often feels like a serious and more historical version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However instead of introducing new creatures each week (to be promptly vanquished), the show instead  starts building an intricate web of monsters with no end in sight.

In its first two episodes, the seeds of a great program are sewn with strong characters brought to the forefront. As the vengeance-fueled Sir Malcolm, Dalton embodies a character who will do anything for his daughter (“To save her, I would murder the world.”) and is a battle-worn  warrior of the supernatural (“Don’t be amazed at anything you see and don’t hesitate,” he tells Ethan early on). He is one of the memorable characters who could make this show a great success.

Named after the fictional and oftentimes sensational serials of that era, Penny Dreadful is dark, dreary and offers the promise of being one of the year’s best dramas.

Review by: John Hanlon