Penny Dreadful S:1 E:1 'NIght Work'

With Dexter, Showtime was ahead of the curve when it came to horror series programming. While horror programs had certainly existed, they usually had a science fiction bent (X-Files) or were more of an anthology type offering (Tales From The Crypt). In both cases horror was either an afterthought or a novelty. What Showtime did with Dexter was finally treat horror seriously. Horror wasn't about just the blood or the gore. It wasn't something you buried at 11:30pm on a Wednesday. Horror became something you could build a network around. It introduced the concept of the "tent pole" horror franchise and certainly paved the way for series like American Horror Story, Bates Motel and Hannibal. All critically acclaimed. All part of the new horror movement spurred on by Dexter and by proxy Showtime.

With Dexter ending (as terribly as it did) it left a horror sized hole in Showtimes programing line up. Seeking to fill that hole they reached out to Skyfall and Sweeney Todd scribe Jon Logan to fill that hole. The result is the Gothic horror opus, Penny Dreadful.

The first episode opens with a bang. More specifically, with a shit. a mother wakes up to take a crap
and gets pulled through a window by an unseen beast. Why she would have all those windows by the shitter is beyond me. But it's too early in the show to start with the snark, so we will let that pass. Sadness seeps in as her one socked little girl comes looking for her. This leads to the all important : Opening Credit Sequence!

Back from the elongated credits we see star Eva Green praying fervently before a cross, one of those kinds with the little guy nailed to it. A spider appears on the little Jesus and then teleports (or maybe it's a different spider) to Greens hand. It's an effectively creepy way to start off the post-credit series proper.

We a re told that it's 1891 and the show shifts to Ethan Chandler (Josh Harnett) and his traveling western shooting show. Imagine Annie Get Your Gun with no Annie and lots of Josh Harnett trick shooting. He spins a tall tale about surviving Custer's Last Stand and dazzles the crowd by shooting stuff off peoples heads. He ends the show and fucks a wench (or whatever they are called in 1891 London). After said gratuitous screwing, Chandler is approached by Vanessa Ives (Green) who calls him on his bullshit but still offers to hire him for a specific job later that night. Sadly, not that kind of job. Perverts.

Chandler reluctantly accepts because that's the way Han Solo would have played it, and agrees to meet Ives and the mysterious Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) later that night.The meet up in an opium house and share cursory inductions just in time to get attacked by three fanged, pale faced, individuals. Vanquishing the pale faces, they head deeper into the house looking for the supreme something or other. The next room they venture into is really just a pile of blood soaked dead bodies. It's what I imagine Tom Cruises basement looks like. They continue the search, turning over bodies, until they find who they are looking for. Or not. After discovering a few bodies with fang marks on them, they awake the wrong amigo. A tall, emaciated, blue/greyish skinned vampire attacks them. Again, they manage to kill the beast.

They take the body to an underground (in the off the radar sort of way, not actually underground) scientist Victor. He examines the body and gives a rather chilling interpretation of what he sees. But Victor has his own demons, I guess would be the right word, he's dealing with. Down in his laboratory a quick power surge has just awoken something that will change Victors life forever.

The first episode of Penny Dreadful is pretty damn good. It does feel a lot like the BBC series Ripper Street. It's set around the same period of time (there's even a line about "the Ripper returning" and they are not talking about Tim Owens from Judas Priest). There's an American on the run from his sordid past in England. I'm not sure if Logan did this intentionally and the Ripper line is a subtle wink to his homage, but to deny the series similarities at this point would be ludicrous.

I'm not sold on Hartnett, he's always been a bit vanilla for me. It will be interesting to see, as the show develops, if he can hold his own or he will be swallowed up by the mesmerizing Green and always wonderful Dalton. As a first episode though, it does do enough to lay the groundwork for a solid series. It has that Once Upon A Time structure to a certain extent, where as a bunch of fictional characters are joined together for some reason. In this case, those characters are Horror icons and those reasons? We'll just have to keep watching to find out.

Penny Dreadful premieres on Showtime on May the 11th, but the first episode can be seen right now on Showtimes website - go check it out. We will be taking a look at all 8 episodes of the series. After all we need something to distract us from the fact that there will be a second season of Hemlock Grove.

As always...thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich"

Check out Episode 2!

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