Penny Dreadful - Grand Guignol
Ireland / UK / USA 2014
James Flynn, Morgan O'Sullivan, Pippa Harris (executive), John Logan (executive), Sam Mendes (executive), Chris W. King (supervising) for Desert Wolf Productions, Neal Street Productions/Showtime
directed by James Hawes
starring Reeve Carney, Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Billie Piper, Josh Hartnett, Harry Treadaway, Rory Kinnear, Danny Sapani, Alun Armstrong, Henry Goodman, Olivia Llewellyn, Hannah Tointon, Stephen Lord, Helen McCrory, Julian Black Antelope, Chris McHallem, Gavin Fowler, Robert Nairne
written and created by John Logan, Frankenstein created by Mary W. Shelley, Dorian Gray created by Oscar Wilde, Mina Harker created by Bram Stoker, music by Abel Korzeniowski, special effects by Team FX, visual effects by Take 5 Productions, Mr. X
Penny Dreadful (TV-series), Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, Van Helsing
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Frankenstein's (Harry Treadaway) creature (Rory Kinnear) tries to get a
little too friendly with an actress (Hannah Tointon) who has just tried to
be nice to him, so he's thrown out of the theatre he works at, and having
nowhere else to go, moves in with Frankenstein. But Frankenstain wants to
kill him and actually already cocks his revolver - when the creature goes
into a long monologue about being an outsider, feeling alone, wanting to
die and all that stuff, which somehow strikes a chord with Frankenstein,
and he refrains from killing the creature and promises to make him a mate
- to be immediately called away by sharp shooter Ethan (Josh Hartnett),
whose prostitute girlfriend Brona (Billie Piper) is dying from
consumption. Seizing the opportunity, Frankenstein smothers Brona with a
pillow in an unguarded moment, then tells Ethan there's nothing he could
have done, and promises to take care of the body and stuff.
Murray (Timothy Dalton) and Vanessa Ives' (Eva Green) weird relationship
comes to a head when Sir Malcolm admits what she has long known, that he
only needs her to save his daughter Mina (Olivia Llewellyn) and would kill
her in a heartbeat should it serve that purpose. However, after having a
meaningless date with the rather schoolboy-shy Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney),
she accompanies Sir Malcolm and the gang - Frankenstein, Ethan and
Malcolm's right-hand man Sembene (Danny Sapani) - to the vampire's lair,
ironically enough the theatre the creature has been fired from earlier, to
free Mina. Their plan almost backfires though as they have apparently been
expected, and it's only when Malcolm kills the head vampire (Robert
Nairne), that the other vampires die with him. Mina though proves to be
possessed by something, and against earlier assertions, Malcolm kills Mina
to save Vanessa, and he now pretty much accepts her as his surrogate
Grieving over the loss of Brona, Ethan tries to drown his
sorrow in alcohol when he's addressed by two Pinkerton detectives (Stephen
Lord, Julian Black Antelope) who want to apprehend him and take him back
to the USA. Of course, Ethan won't go willingly, and during his fight with
the detectives he turns into ... a werewolf!
The good: Some
narrative threads have been resolved, and against all odds, Sir Malcolm
has been allowed a character arc - even if the resolution that he finally
accepts Vanessa as his surrogate daughter is a cheesy one. Plus, there are
some nice set-ups for season two.
The bad: Again, the story seemed to be
just meandering, without finding any clear main focus, just hopping from
one point to the next, even if some of them are irrelevant - and speaking
of irrelevant, portraying Dorian Gray, one of the most flamboyant literary
characters of his era as a shy schoolboy without any charms is a bit ...
well, basically the whole season could have done without Dorian, he had no
influence on the main storyline, had no actual narrative thread of his
own, and the few times his paths have actually crossed with the main
plotline his contributions could have been just as well achieved by any
random character. So other than namedropping, not sure what his
involvement served even. Sure, his character might come to more prominence
in season 2, but in this season he's less than promising.