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- Episode: Night Work (Season 1, Episode 1)
- Starring: Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Billie Piper, Timothy Daulton
- Written By: John Logan (creator), John Logan
- Directed By: J.A. Bayona
- Network: Showtime
- Studio: Octagon Films
Penny Dreadful: Night Work Review
Pilot Episode Premiere
By Jarrett Kruse
May 12, 2014
Showtime continues to make a run at HBO’s stellar original programming with their newest entry, PENNY DREADFUL and it does not disappointment. While the pilot episode is a tad uneven, it is still a solid entry to the pay TV 10 PM slot. The horror element is going to be one of the show’s staples making the show’s old flagship show, DEXTER, look like an appetizer compared with the bloodbath of late 19th century London. While the pilot does leave a lot to be desired, it was a well done entry that kept me wanting more—the sign in my book of a solid new show. It comes from excellent pedigree with big time Hollywood heavyweights John Logan and Sam Mendes as executive producer’s setting the bar of the production very high. Overall the pilot is satisfying but it is way too early to make a fair analysis and judgment on the series. Still, I definitely think that this is a show to keep your eye on by getting in on the ground floor.
PENNY DREADFUL makes excellent use of its time allotment filling each frame with morsels of information about the very strange world that is 1891 London. Starring former James Bond Timothy Dalton, ex-Bond babe Eva Green, the dropped off the Hollywood radar Josh Hartnett and Harry Treadaway, PENNY DREADFUL dives deep into the gory underground of monsters, ghouls and gore of the London underworld. The story is fairly simple: Dalton’s Sir Malcolm Murray is a well to do gentleman whose daughter has been mysteriously kidnapped without a trace. Assisting Sir Malcolm in his quest to find his baby girl is Vanessa Ives, a sort of supernatural type that is very well versed in the ways of the occult and otherworldly beings. And spiders; she definitely knows some stuff about spiders. It really is Eva Green’s show and her Vanessa is really the heart of the narrative. Her mysterious nature hints that she indeed knows more than she is letting on. Hartnett’s Ethan Chandler is an American crack shot gunslinger with a traveling show who is recruited by Vanessa to be a part of their supernatural crime fighting team. Rounding out the crew is a young doctor whom we find at the end of the episode to be none other than Dr. Frankenstein himself. It is very hard to not compare the show to Alan Moore’s LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN as we begin to get to know the core characters of the sometimes gory show.
The opening of the episode sees a woman get snatched up right off the toilet leaving an indelible memory of just how creepy these baddies are. Upon recruiting Ethan, Sir Malcolm, Vanessa and the American descend into the bowels of London and encounter some seriously spooky characters. A gun and sword fight ensues as they take on these “night people” leaving a very bloody trail. It is all to rescue Sir Malcolm’s missing daughter but it struck me as a little confusing and Ethan Chandler agrees wondering what his role in all of this really is. He is startled by this Gothic underworld and is doing his best to process just what exactly he is witnessing as the triumvirate kill their way through all sorts of creepy monster-like beings. It is when they bring a strange corpse to the young Dr. Frankenstein that they encounter clues beneath the bodies “skin” that baffle them. The show and specifically their time underground is filled with a whole lot of blood. And I mean a lot of blood. At one point their is an entire floor filled with entrails.
Overall I think that this was an excellent introduction to the world of PENNY DREADFUL. The dialogue is very smart (thanks Mr. Logan) and the production design is brilliantly realized. Just what exactly the show has planned is anybody’s guess but I am willing to invest my time in the blood soaked mystery. The world of Jack the Ripper London is realized beautifully and rivals the RDJ Sherlock Holmes movies. The journey into the macabre looks like it is going to be a heck of a lot of fun. The big reveal that the young doctor is in fact Dr. Frankenstein is one that I did not see coming and although the doc’s monster is not scary, it is interesting to think that he will be used as a member of this supernatural crime fighting squad. The meshing of horror and excellent drama make for a refreshing take with the shows caretakers making the narrative hard to resist. While it is too early to make a call on PENNY DREADFUL, I am intrigued enough to continue to tune in.
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