Steampunk Granny is in her glory! There is a new series on Showtime called “Penny Dreadful” that ties a pretty ribbon around the world of steampunk and horror. This new series can be seen on Sunday nights at 10 PM EST. The first season will consist of eight episodes and draws on the fictional characters of 19th century London. Want to know more? Follow me, and whatever you do; don’t scream.
Episode One: Night Watch
“Penny Dreadful” is a horror series created by John Logan, and is produced by Logan and Sam Mendes for Showtime. The title of the show refers to 19th century British fiction publications, which contained lots of lurid and sensational subject matter. I’m guessing it’s something similar to our National Inquirer.
The show begins with a frightful scene. A young mother leaves her daughter sleeping in their shared bed to use the loo. What can happen in a Victorian bathroom you ask? The reply is plenty and we watch the mother pulled physically and violently through the closed window. The little girl hears the scream and goes to investigate. What she sees and the viewers don’t, leaves her screaming…
Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) is an American working for a traveling Wild West Show as a sharpshooter. He’s an excellent shot both in and out of bed. In the audience is Miss Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), who is like a female version of Sherlock Holmes. She knows things. After Miss Ives asks Chandler to meet her later that night, she takes him to an opium den where he’s introduced to Sir Malcolm Mallory (Timothy Dalton). Sir Malcom, a renowned explorer, is searching for his daughter, Mina, who has been taken by a creature.
You know the episode is going to get interesting when Sir Mallory tells Chandler not to hesitate to use his weapons. Say what? Could Mina’s abduction be related to the brutal killings going on around London? It isn’t long before we meet the creatures. As Chandler and Mallory battle the frisky undead, Miss Ives goes looking for the girl. What she finds is a room full of drained bodies and one particularly vicious vampire. Chandler has unknowingly stepped into the world of shadows; the demi-monde.
Chandler and Mallory kill the vampire and take him to a young doctor who does a partial autopsy that reveals the hidden hieroglyphics under the skin of the dead vampire. This discovery brings Sir Mallory and Miss Ives to an Egyptologist, Mr. Lyle (Simon Russell Beale), who tells the group that the writing on the vampire is from the ancient Book of the Dead.
The young doctor, who did the autopsy and has his own dark secrets, is invited to join the Explorer’s Club by Sir Mallory. Yes, you guessed right. The doctor is Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway). The episode ends with Mallory having a vision of his missing daughter while Miss Ives’s prayers are interrupted by spiders. If you think this is scary, wait until the next part.
Episode Two: Séance
While Chandler becomes friends with Brona Croft (Billie Piper) an Irish woman with a bad cough, Victor is introducing his new patchwork creature to the world of the living. Proteus (Alex Price) is a gentle man who worked on a whaling ship in his previous life. I have the feeling that he wasn’t that keen of killing whales.
Later, Victor Frankenstein is called to Sir Mallory’s home where he gets to inspect the completely skinned vampire, thanks to Sir Mallory’s use of flesh eating beetles to clean the corpse. Dr. Frankenstein takes a blood sample from the vampire, but he’s unable to state if this creature was once human. More tests are needed. I was confused with the poetry tit for tat that went on between Miss Ives and Victor, but then I realized that it was her way of learning more about the man. Miss Ives has figured out that Victor is a man of many secrets.
Brona is given the opportunity to earn some much needed money. She enters the home of Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney), a handsome, sexy, mesmerizing man with his own secrets. The job Brona has accepted requires her to pose nude while Dorian’s butler snaps pictures. The butler continues to snap away as Dorian and Brona get down and dirty. Did I mention how handsome Dorian is?
Sir Mallory and Miss Ives are invited to a séance party at Ferdinand Lyle’s home. The special guest is Madame Kali (Helen McCrory) a spiritualist. Sir Mallory will use every means possible to find his daughter. While Mallory and Lyle speak, Miss Ives meets Dorian Gray who was also invited to the séance. Dorian is just as good as our Miss Ives at deducing, maybe better. It was like a cat and mouse game as he listed everything he noticed about her including why she wore no gloves.
If Sir Mallory was expecting your run of the mill séance, he was in for a big surprise. It is Miss Ives and not Madame Kali who channels the dead via possession by what, we don’t know, but she frightens all the guests, especially Sir Mallory. Dorian is the only one brave enough to follow Miss Ives when she flees from the party and later witnesses her having sex in the alley with a stranger.
Victor really cares for Proteus, and this fatherly love comes through in his teaching Proteus to read and to speak. To Victor, Proteus is more a son than a creature. Wanting his son to feel normal, Victor offers to take Proteus out for a walk about the streets of London, but he warns Proteus to keep his hat on. Good idea! The scars might frighten the neighbors. Proteus is very childlike as he makes his way around the town and is nothing at all like Boris Karloff’s monster, but… there is one that is.
I’m hooked! “Penny Dreadful” is an excellent show that keeps us glued to our seats as we are introduced to a host of 19th century characters. The scripts are deliciously wicked, and the actors and actresses talented in leading us through the underbelly of the shadow world. The fashions worn by Miss Ives are beautifully detailed and very steampunk. The characters of Dorian Gray and Victor Frankenstein come to life in ways I was not expecting. Their hidden and dark side not shown, as of yet, we find ourselves cheering for them.
Poor Proteus at least enjoyed one day in the sun before he was killed by a monster more frightful than the one portrayed by Karloff. The first creation of Victor Frankenstein has returned home, and there is nothing childlike about him.
See you next week, my little pennies, for episode three: “Resurrection.”