So last night I decided to give Showtime’s Penny Dreadful a shot. Aside from the thumbs up it had received from my buddy Eric, the very little that I’d read about it, and a vibe that vaguely reminded me of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, I knew nothing about what I was getting myself into. Nonetheless, I held off watching my beloved Game of Thrones to give it a chance. Was it worth it? Well, let’s talk about the particulars.
What I liked:
- Eva Green as spiritualist Vanessa Ives. I’ve liked Green in pretty much everything I’ve seen her in, and there’s no exception here. She’s an intense, mysterious, perceptive character, and I’m interested in learning more about her.
- Harry Treadaway as Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Not yet 30, Treadaway plays a very young version of Frankenstein, who is shown here as a brilliant morgue worker with big ideas. His intensity and clear passion for his work make him a standout character in this episode.
- The setting. The characters wander through the dark streets and homes of Victorian London, a Gothic chill seeping into every elaborate set piece and costume. What can I say? I’m a sucker for atmosphere, and this definitely has it.
- The ending. I don’t want to ruin anything major, but I will say that the end of this episode involves Frankenstein and his monster. If you’re on the fence about the show, that last scene might convince you to keep watching.
What I didn’t like:
- The story feels incredibly rushed. It’s as if the show is assuming we already know who these characters are—like it’s based off of something else. Is it? I mean, I know there are some familiar faces from literature lurking about, but I was under the impression that this story is completely original. When I watched, I felt like I was missing something.
- As performing gunslinger Ethan Chandler, Josh Hartnett just…isn’t great. His acting has never exactly blown me out of the water, but this character seems particularly ill-suited to him. Ethan is a character who should be fairly charming, I assume, yet Hartnett makes him somewhat bland. Maybe he’ll get more interesting as the show progresses.
- The music is overbearing. It’s funny—I usually don’t notice stuff like that, but I kept thinking, “There’s something about this that’s bothering me.” Took me forever to realize it was the nearly constant, dramatic music playing moodily underneath the dialogue. Can we dial that down a bit? Also, speaking of “dramatic…”
- The show as a whole is very melodramatic. The dialogue, the performances, the actions—I was able to predict a lot of it, and I don’t think that’s a good sign. I’m sure it’s supposed to be at least a little hammy, but this was, perhaps, a step too far.
The Potential: Meh. I think it might have some. The atmosphere is fun, I’m interested enough in a few of the characters, and, frankly, I wouldn’t mind having more of an understanding of the story this show is trying to tell. Because right now it’s fairly jumbled. For those reasons, I might give the second episode a chance. But if that doesn’t keep me sucked in, I’ll be perfectly willing to drop it and leave my Sunday open solely for Game of Thrones.
My Grade: B-