Albeit not the perfect first season, “Penny Dreadful” is a show that begins to run on all cylinders from the get-go and being only 8-episodes, made for binge-viewing. What stands out from the others even in the pay television venue is the performances from a cast of who’s who including Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett and Eva Green, the latter whom well deserving of a Golden Globe nomination.
“Penny Dreadful”: The Complete First Season
Genre(s): Horror, Fantasy, Drama
Paramount | NR – 435 min. – $48.99 | October 14, 2014
THE MOVIE – 4.25/5
“Penny Dreadful,” created by multi-Academy Award nominee screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator), lives up to its name (so to speak). This Showtime mini-series is a perfect blend of supernatural, horror, eroticism and drama and features unique characters, some classic in literature.
The story takes place in Victorian London where African explorer Sir Malcolm Murray (TIMOTHY DALTON), alongside family friend Vanessa Ives (EVA GREEN), is on the quest to find his missing daughter Mina who is apparently in between the dark spiritual world and our own. When the series opens, Murray enlists sharpshooter Ethan Chandler (JOSH HARTNETT), on the run from troubles stateside, and surgeon/mortician Dr. Victor Frankenstein (HARRY TREADAWAY), who has his own dark secrets, to aid in the hunt.
With this hodgepodge team assembled, the series delves into the dark world of Victorian London where not only do we get into the dark arts but there’s a ripper on the prowl and it’s not dear ‘ole Jack either. The first three episodes alone make it clear this is not your ordinary television series even by cable standards.
Take for instance in the episode ‘Séance,’ where Malcolm and Vanessa attend a soiree hosted by linguist/Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle (SIMON RUSSELL) whom Malcolm enlists to help translate hieroglyphics on an otherworldly body killed in the pilot episode. In any case, at this party, guests partake in a séance where upon Vanessa becomes possessed by many spirits including that of Mina who mocks her father followed by, well, let’s just say Eva Green’s performance reminds one of Linda Blair in The Exorcist, salty (and sultry) language included. It’s quite the scene and perhaps one of the highlights of the entire season.
The show hinges on not only the dark tone and story but on the performances. Obviously Eva Green is fantastic and IMO deserving of a Golden Globe nomination but not taking second fiddle is the always great Timothy Dalton who is great in what is more or less the lead role, Harry Treadaway playing a new version of the old, and greatly flawed, Frankenstein and even Josh Hartnett gets to do more than normal especially of late.
- Night Work
- Closer Than Sisters
- What Death Can Join Together
- Grand Guignol
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.25/5
The three-disc set comes housed in a standard Blu-ray case.
All the features are contained on the third disc:
What is a Penny Dreadful? (1:59) is a short EPK featurette explaining what the series is about.
Literary Roots (2:14) looks at the origins and characters the series culls from.
Coming Together (2:06) is about the pre-production.
The Artisans: Part One – Set Decoration & Props (2:33) and The Artisans: Part Two – Production Designs (2:13) both delve into the different aspects of putting together Victorian London.
The Grand Guignol (2:23) looks at “pervasive” theater and the world its performers inhabit as well as creating it from scratch.
Prostitution and Sex in the Victorian Age (3:40) examines, with host Matthew Sweet, the sex trade during that time and how it’s portrayed in the series.
British Exploration and the Search for the Nile (2:21) is a video production blog, hosted by Sweet, that, like the others, is more to advertise the movie but provides background on the explorers during the period.
The Science of Medicine (2:50) – Sweet returns to look at the medical profession of the era.
All told, not much here but it combines for about 22-minutes worth of material.
Also includes the first two episodes of the first season of “Ray Donovan”.
VIDEO – 4.25/5
“Penny Dreadful” arrives on Blu-ray presented with a 1080p high-definition transfer (MPEG-4 AVC coded) and in its originally televised 1.78 widescreen aspect ratio. As one would assume, this series is quite dark in story which translates to a darker tone even for the daylight scenes which doesn’t always make for the prettiest looking transfer. Still, details are pretty good with some fine sharpness while colors obviously tend to be drab rather than vibrant. The picture does look clean, free of artifacts and pixilation.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is quite aggressive not only providing crisp and clear dialogue levels coming from the center speaker but some nice bass from the LFE channel and dynamic elements from ambient noises, blood-curdling screams and the score by Abel Korzeniowski (Escape from Tomorrow) help give the track impressive depth.
OVERALL – 3.75/5
Overall, albeit not the perfect first season, “Penny Dreadful” is a show that begins to run on all cylinders from the get-go and being only 8-episodes, made for binge-viewing. What stands out from the others even in the pay television venue is the performances from a cast of who’s who including Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett and Eva Green, the latter whom well deserving of a Golden Globe nomination. The season itself kept my attention and I can only hope season two makes further strides. The Blu-ray released by Paramount might be a bit thin in bonus material but the audio and video transfers are both well done.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.