Monday, June 9, 2014

Penny Dreadful: A Review

Photo by Jonathan Hession - Showtime
Recently I binge watched the first four episodes of Penny Dreadful, a horror suspense television series, created and written by John Logan and co-executive produced by Sam Mendes for Showtime. 

I give the show a B+. I don't always understand what makes a character tick. Parts of the storytelling are engaging, and it should get better. Penny Dreadful has a handsome cast. Excellent acting by the entire ensemble. Hopefully after the back stories are told and the characters gel, the plot and action will snap, crackle and pop up to an A.

The edgy drama takes place in Victorian England and features famous 19th century British and Irish fictional characters, including Mary Shelly's Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray and Mina Murray from Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Other principals are veteran actor, Timothy Dalton, who plays Sir Malcolm Murray, a seasoned African explorer, on a mission to rescue his kidnapped daughter, Mina from evil supernatural beings before it's too late. He teams up with Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), who is in touch with the occult and was close to Mina before a trust between them was broken. Sir Malcolm is aware of the history (and perhaps in the thick of it), but this arc is still unfolding for the audience.

Eva Green has beautiful, expressive eyes, though in my opinion, she should tone down the eye widening for television. She is a gifted stage actress, but for television, her expressions need to be a bit more restrained. That surely will happen as she grows more confident with her character. A notch less would turn very good acting into superb acting. She has the chops.

Rory Kinnear portrays a very interesting misunderstood Frankenstein's monster. Caliban, the creature, is bitter that he came into the world in agony; was quickly abandoned; and is the polar opposite of handsome. So he hunts Victor Frankenstein down, subdues Frankenstein's much improved 2nd creature (which is sad!) and threatens to kill anyone Dr. Frankenstein holds dear unless the doctor makes an immortal mate for the resentful, anger-festering monster. It turns out Caliban longs for love and acceptance, which he is denied by most in society. Something bad is brewing ... perhaps at the theatre where Caliban works and finds a measure of acceptance and contentment. [Sweeney Todd is playing at the theatre!]

We discover that Dr. Frankenstein ... as a boy ... was wounded by seeing too much death. His purpose in life is to unlock the key to immortality. 

Josh Hartnett is American Ethan Chandler, a man of action. The actor is super watchable and easy on the eyes! A former gunslinger, brave and capable, his easy charm hides a more complicated nature. Ethan gets involved with Irish immigrant, Brona Craft, who is battling tuberculous. Brona and Ethan become friends with benefits. He wants to help her get treatment. So to earn the money, Ethan joins Sir Malcolm and Vanessa to find Mina. Without a doubt, Ethan is honorable, but we have yet to find out what kind of man he is. Is he in the habit of falling for lost causes ... or is he capable of life long commitments? We'll have to stay tuned.

The only certainties are ... it will take time, a mystic and the ability to outwit, out-fight and out-kill many terrifying demons before finding Mina Murray; and whatever Ethan Chandler is getting paid, it isn't enough.

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