Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Review of “Penny Dreadful”

So I finished the show Penny Dreadful recently and I’d like to go over it a bit.  This review won’t be as extensive as I have done in the past.

The show was basically a modern gothic tale that combined Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman, witches, Jekyll and Hyde, and many other public domain horror/gothic characters.  The main story focuses on Vanessa Ives, a woman who is cursed by being the incarnation of the mother of Evil.  While she is not conscious of this for a long time, Lucifer (and later Dracula) hunt her in attempts to “awaken” her.

The series begins with her enlisting the help of Ethan Chandler, an expert sharpshooter, to aid her in finding her friend Mina Harker.  Mina’s father, Sir Malcolm Murray, is the leader of the company.  Later they enlist Dr. Victor Frankenstein to help them as his medical expertise prove invaluable in dealing with monsters.

Oh, and Dorian Gray is around but doesn’t appear to really affect the main plot.  Hell, his own story could be considered its own story as his subplot is never really rolled into the main plot, save for some brief scenes in latter part of the first season.  I’m pretty sure he was added into the show in order to fulfill the LGBTQ requirement that Showtime enforces on its original content.

In other words, he’s the token sexual deviant.  Fortunately, the third season makes him more three-dimensional and his final scene in the show pretty much elaborates his motivations.

Dr. Frankenstein is one of the few characters who seems to take part in subplots and the main plot.  His Creature is a major subplot throughout most of the show with him interacting with the Creature and the fallout he’s caused by toying with life and death.

For me, he seems to be the most interesting character in the show.  He tends to adhere to absolute materialism, despite the evidence before him that there are things beyond the visible reality.  He’s a perfect charactization of the irrational atheist, one whose focus is on the material and who constantly denies the supernatural, in spite of it revealing itself to him.

The show itself depicts what I consider a stereotypical version of Victorian England.  You have the rich and the poor represented, but you don’t see the middle class, which was already fully developed by that time in England.  Typically, women are portrayed as “oppressed” but only because they are forced to engage in prostitution if they are poor, or ladies if they are rich.  This is largely bullshit as many women worked decent jobs during this time if their husbands did not work proper jobs or if they were unmarried and not well off.

They also show people dying slow deaths from diseases that many of us don’t think much about.  The trouble I have with this is that while disease was a problem, it was much less of a problem than people believe.

Overall, the show was mediocre.  It featured a lot of various classic horror movie monsters in an interesting light, but squanders this with pointless sodomy, pointless subplots, and a main plot which drags at times.  The main characters are severely damaged people in their own right with some having horrific backgrounds, but they also try to do better, for the most part.  There was a lot of potential which seemed to be wasted and subplots which ultimately went nowhere.

The nerd in me wanted to love this show but I ended up only liking it.  Check it out if you have nothing better to watch, but I’d say there are better things to watch.