While we are still missing Game of Thrones until it returns next spring, it may be time to consider other TV shows.
So, my Tuesday show write-ups will be for the Showtime series Penny Dreadful.
I gave myself some rules for this project. All shows would be hour long dramas. All would have a reputation for some level of quality. And all of them would be mostly new to me. That means Breaking Bad is out since I’ve seen it already.
Why Penny Dreadful?
Game of Thrones has that magic element, and can have some rather intense and frightening moments. Penny Dreadful was a straight-up horror series set in Victorian era England. A group of characters all with secrets of their own work together to fight the evils of their time, many of which were represented in books like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This show may be what that awful League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie wished it could be.
Something nasty is stalking the streets of London. Is Jack the Ripper back? Or something far, far worse?
American sharpshooter Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) is recruited for a mysterious job by a mysterious woman named Vannessa Ives (Eva Green). The two journey that night to an opium den where they meet up with Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), an explorer and big game hunter. Passing through the corridors, the trio run amok of some odd men who go nuts and attack the party. Vanessa is somehow ignored, leaving Sir Malcolm and Ethan to deal with the creatures, some of whom don’t stay down if you don’t shoot them in the right spot.
Vanessa meanwhile finds a pile of bodies in the basement, all with distinctive marks on their throats. She searches them and doesn’t find who she and Sir Malcolm are looking for. When the men join her, a very large…thing emerges from the bodies. It looks mostly human, but he has a mouth full of fangs and bullets don’t really stop him. Vanessa, however, can. She stares the creature down long enough for Sir Malcolm to sneak around and stab it through the chest, effectively killing it. They then stake out the other corpses, mostly young women who seem to be trying to get up again.
Taking the big thing to some resurrection men, an autopsy reveals the creature has something like an exoskeleton under its skin covered in Egyptian hieroglyphics–writing from the Book of the Dead, it turns out. The doctor helping them is intrigued, and Sir Malcolm later offers the man a place on the team, so to speak. Ethan may or may not be sticking around, and we learn Sir Malcolm is searching for his daughter Mina, someone Vanessa was a childhood friend of. Vanessa claims to have some psychic power to boot. The doctor agrees so he can learn about how the universe works, his one real ambition and interest.
Both Vanessa and Sir Malcolm have some scary sights that night. Mina appears to her father as a monster herself, while Vanessa sees bugs running out of an inverted crucifix. They are after something truly evil.
As for the doctor, he manages to finish an experiment and brings something to life. The doctor’s name? Victor Frankenstein.
This show was a real creepfest. Atmosphere is heavy, and aside from a trip to Ethan’s wild west show where he shows off his shooting skills, even the daytime scenes seem to be set in some sort of dark twilight. It’s not a jump-scare type of program, but more one that gradually builds dread and evil as it goes along. The mysterious Vanessa can stare down a vampire. How? Does Sir Malcolm know who exactly he’s looking for? He wants to save family members. What happened to any others he might have had? Mary Shelley wrote that Victor Frankenstein abandoned his creation the minute it woke up. That doesn’t happen here. The atmosphere alone is worth the effort, as is the setting. Like Rome, these people did their homework.
This looks like another one I am going to look forward to.