Thursday, May 01, 2014

Sneak Peek: Penny Dreadful

This week, Showtime released the first episode of their much-anticipated Gothic horror series, Penny Dreadful, on both YouTube and, even though the television premiere isn't until Sunday, May 11 at 10 PM ET/PT. It's a smart move, and will surely generate buzz about the series, which takes place in Victorian England and features characters from classic literature including Frankenstein (1818), The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), and Dracula (1897). Created by John Logan and Sam Mendes (Skyfall), the series stars Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, and Billie Piper.

Although there are some familiar faces and places, this is an original story, featuring a core group of new characters who are on a quest to save a young woman's soul--and as this first episode shows us, the journey will likely be dark, horrific, and completely engaging.

The theme of the series, "there is some thing within us all," is quite evident in this first episode, most notably with the enigmatic Vanessa Ives (Eva Green). She's a fascinating character, who's quite religious but definitely has something less-than-holy lurking within. She feels her past "transgression" is the reason why they find themselves in such dire circumstances.

Then there's Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), a force of nature who's also living with his sins of the past. His sole purpose is to find his daughter Mina, who fell under a dark influence and disappeared some time ago. To aid in his quest, he solicits the help of two very different men, both of whom also carry secrets of their own.

The first is Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), a cowboy from the United States who's touring Europe as part of Colonel Brewster's Wild West Show and Emporium of American Curiosities. He's a hired gun, who helps the group get out of a very harrowing situation. His arrival in London coincides with the brutal murder of a woman and her daughter, which leaves locals wondering if Jack the Ripper has returned.

Also introduced is a young medical doctor (Harry Treadaway), who has the heart of a poet and the bank account to match. He vehemently believes there is only one worthy goal for scientific exploration: "to pierce the tissue that separates life from death." To that end, he's been conducting questionable experiments hidden within the walls of his squalid flat.

Many scenes in this episode are unsettling, and almost everything about the setting (1891 London) is dank and dirty, with muted colours and a deep sense of foreboding. The "erotically-charged" elements (description courtesy of Showcase) are thankfully kept to a minimum; the story easily holds its own without them. There are also a few humourous touches, which brings some levity to an overall dark tale.

I'm quite impressed with this first episode--and it's no secret that vampires will play a major role in the overall story arc. Here's a hint of what to expect:

Finally, here's a series of character posters depicting all the major players, each of whom seems to have blood on their hands...


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