Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Penny Dreadful: Season One, Episode 1 (Night Work)

"That is my mountain. There I will ant my flag."

Yes, I know, I'm late to the party. But I'm rather enjoying Sky and Showtime's answer to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen so far. I don't yet know where this is going, but the plot is gripping, the characters absorbing, the actors magnificent and the whole Victorian world looks superb. It's beautifully shot too.

Josh Hartnett is Ethan Chandler, our American character with whom the mainly Ametican viewers can identify, and a man with a mysterious past and a gloriously contemporary present as a performer in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Through his eyes we are introduced to the mysterious, confident and deeply religious Vanessa, who reads him like Sherlock Holmes would, and the obsessed explorer Sir Malcolm, who seeks to rescue his daughter from vampires. Vanessa resembles Mina Harker from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but Mina is in fact Sir Malcolm's daughter, snatched from the bog while having a crap. Nice.

Oh, and a young Victor Frankenstein is in the England of 1891 for some reason, rather than the Mitteleuropa of the late 18th century as per Mary Shelley. Our cliffhanger, nearly enough, is provided by his creating a son from various bits of flesh. I like the design of the monster.

I like Vanessa's speech to Chandler about a "demi-monde", a world in the shadows of London a la Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. And I like everything so far about Penny Dreadful and it's serious, realistic tone contrasted with a playful take on the tropes and themes of late Victoriana.

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