If you are a lover of the macabre side of the steam era, you will absolutely adore the first season of Penny Dreadful. It’s a bit like taking most of the superstitions of the Vic-wardian era and throwing them into a blender. Which sounds like it could be a terrible idea, but the execution is amazing. I saw this series for the first time when it originally came to Netflix, and decided to re-watch it now with Halloween on the way. Even the second time around, I am still thoroughly impressed by the acting and storytelling of this series.
What is Penny Dreadful Season 1 About?
In the first episode, we see the core characters being gathered by Lord Malcolm Murray and his compatriot, Vanessa Ives. First, they enlist an American sharpshooter and wild West show actor to help them infiltrated a nest of flesh-eating creatures. Monsters like these have taken Malcolm’s daughter captive, the literary figure, Mina from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. They don’t come out and call them vampires, but they do have fangs and appear to transfer their condition to others through biting. However, according to an unusual tattoo, this version of vampire-like creatures appear to have a link to ancient Egypt. The markings are discovered by Victor Frankenstein, a disgraced physician on the hunt for the secret of life. The cast is later joined by another literary character, the ever-youthful Dorian Gray. Together, they seek to find Mina and solve the mystery of the dismembered bodies surfacing around the city.
What I Thought of Penny Dreadful Season 1
In many ways, this show captures the flavor of Alan Moor’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books, but is not the least bit derivative. (Not the film though, which was much more of an all-ages adventure.) There’s death, sex, and horror, all framed by the literature works of the period. You see people living in the gutter as well as living the high life. There are mediums, monsters, explorers; intrigue, despair, and terror. The writers did a wonderful job of creating characters with secrets, hidden depths, and complicated relationships, made all the more convincing by the excellent casting. The costumes and settings are also amazing.
It is definitely not going to be for everyone, however. In short, if you have a high threshold for horror, sexual content, and strong language, plus an appreciation for mashups, you will love this show.
Unfortunately, all seasons of Penny Dreadful were not created equal. So I decided to separate my reviews by season. Check back in a couple of days to read about my take on season 2.