It’s Downton Abbey with monsters, blood and vertical sex! Okay, I’ve never watched Downton Abbey, so it’s probably nothing like it, but it does take place in England. It’s actually a lot more like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, taking 1800s literary characters and populating the story with them.
“Which girl is Penny?” my wife asked while we were watching the 2nd episode. Showtimes new series actually gets its name from the cheap pulp publications, characterised by violent adventure and crime, that were popular with the working class and poor of 19th century Britain. The tone is dark and has a deeply suspenseful mood. The pacing is slow, but never feels like it drags, there is an atmosphere to this show that made me feel like it should be Halloween outside my door.
The acting is exemplary. Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Harry Treadaway, hell even the corpses do a great job here. The controlled rage that emanates off Daltons Malcolm, while Vanessa is possessed and accusing him of leaving his son to die, can almost be felt through the TV screen.
I don’t know how long John Logan has been working on this series, but it looks to me that this first season is well planned out. They don’t give you everything right away, but do a slow build so that you are eager for the next episode to reveal things a little at a time. What’s the relationship between Vanessa and Malcolm? What did Chandler do that he had to flee America? Where is Mina? Is she a vampire now, is she dead?
My only trouble with Penny Dreadful so far is the accents. Well, not so much the accents, it’s the mumbling and the accents combined. I watch Coronation Street religiously, and grew up with a grandfather whos first language was Gaelic, not English, so I have no trouble with accents, but Billie Piper mumbles most of her lines making about half of what she says incomprehensible to me. I’m looking forward to the rest of the episodes, and glad that Showtime has already renewed it for a 10 episode 2nd season.