OldVenue, TV

Review: Penny Dreadful

Are you ready for a Van-Helsing-esque thriller like none other? Welcome to the world of Penny Dreadful. Full of intrigue, it certainly hooks its audience from the outset, with incredibly complex, mysterious characters, and opening credit music that would rouse butterflies of excitement in the most indifferent of viewers.

Vanessa Ives (Eva Green, 300: Rise of an Empire) has an absolutely captivating on-screen presence, and everything about her screams sexy supernatural. HBO, producers of the famously over-sexed Game of Thrones, have done it again. Though not quite so carnally obsessed, Penny Dreadful has an incredibly sexual feel, with prominent undertones of sinful lust and animal desires. Some of the other characters capture this sexuality in much a similar way, leaving out names will avoid any spoilers – you can thank me later. It has an inspired cast, all of which perfectly fit their personalities, apart from one. The unfortunate casting of Billie Piper and her painful Irish accent taints each scene it intrudes upon. She stops talking after a while and gets busy in the bedroom, which is a relief for everyone. To quote my disgruntled mother: “She’s better off legs open, mouth closed.” But never mind Billie.

The amount of subplots that intertwine work wonderfully, driven by the main mystery of the disappearance of the young Mina Harker. There is so much emotion invested in each separate story, and when they eventually begin to clash, the tension is gripping. The build up of each narrative is exciting; each episode is crammed with events and unexpected twists, and some cracking cliffhangers to keep it all unpredictable.

The setting itself is enchanting, as we see a snapshot in time of the dark and oppressive old London town: the culture, superstition, the reality of the class divide, secrets behind closed doors. It is all beautifully presented, and is alluring in its elegant mystery whilst also being horrific in its gruesome detail.

Each episode leaves us only slightly better informed as to what is actually going on (at the start we are given barely anything to go on), and admittedly the confusion does last a fair while. However, this adds to the charm of the series, as it’s a gothic whodunit and we’re not exactly sure who (or what) is behind it all. Thankfully, the breadcrumb clues that are left along the way eventually begin to lead us home towards the end of the series, and the final episodes are full of euphoric moments of realisation.

Completely unique and thoroughly enthralling, Penny Dreadful has so much to give. You’ll be hooked before you have time to grab the popcorn.


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January 2022
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