“Penny Dreadful” Premiere: Watch and Discuss

Showtime recently put the entire first episode of its bizarre-looking Victorian horror Avengers series Penny Dreadful on Youtube (of all places) for us to watch and possibly even enjoy. I invite you to check out the episode via this link (embedding is disabled, sorry) and then join me back here for a discussion of a series that looks desperately to be trying to not live up to its own name.

Okay, we all set? Some initial thoughts, then I wanna hear what YOU have to say.

First off, I feel like I’ve already seen this show before. It’s Hammer horror via American Horror Story – a deadpan pastiche of incongruous horror touchstones that feels less like an actual narrative and more like a last-minute Halloween costume speed-shop: Gunslinger! Mad scientist! Witch! Vampire! Butler! Only one episode in, and already this show is one Katy Perry wig from being a clearance rack at Party City. Right now it’s reading very Downton Vampires. Carnivale of Thrones. League of Extraordinary Mad Monster Parties.

Still, let’s take inventory, in the name of science: there is a plague of vampires loose in Victorian London who only seem to attack people when they are either on the shitter or getting ready for bed. Fine, fair enough. A rich old explorer named Malcolm (Timothy Dalton, still looking fiiiiiine) and a hard-praying bug-lady psychic whose name we have yet to actually hear (Eva Green) are somehow responsible for Malcolm’s daughter Mina’s being taken by the vampires, who are on vacation from an Underworld movie. They enlist the help of an American sharp-shooter (whaah?) named Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett to help them find Mina, who eventually winds up just showing up in her dad’s bedroom anyway. Thanks for showing up for work today, Tex.

In the meantime, they woo medical student Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) with a vampire corpse, hoping that he will help them find the cure to this vampiric curse, which hieroglyphics under the vamp’s exoskeleton indicate may date back to ancient Egypt. Again, whatever, we’re fine with anything as long as you keep it pretty. Victor, however, is not interested, as he is too busy making his own animated corpse bestie in his attic. Which he does.

I think that about covers it?

Random Other Items:

  • There are several butlers. One is named Felix.
  • This show is bugshit crazy for insects. And scorpions. And various other creepy-crawlies, including Eva Green. (I say this with love.) The cockroach budget alone must be bigger than the cost of an entire episode of Orange is the New Black.
  • Jack the Ripper is name-dropped several times – might he make an appearance?
  • Bless Josh Hartnett for knowing that the only way we would excuse him for that godawful Wild West Show wig would be to brandish his tanned saddlebags during his sex scene.
  • And wait, isn’t Dorian Gray supposed to be a character on this show?
  • I probably shouldn’t be holding on to hope that the baddies eventually combine, Voltron-style, to save Big Ben, right? Or that Eva Green will at least shriek “Monstahhhhhhs assemble!!” at some point?
  • Favorite Line of the Week: “Who the fuck are you people?!” (spoken by Chandler, because American)
  • And I am all for more full-frontal male nudity on cable, but I would rather if the phalli in question were not attached to corpses.

I will withhold judgment just the weensiest bit here, because the show is gorgeous and self-aware enough to deserve a fighting chance. I mean, am I saying it feels like it is constructed entirely of those hilarious period flashbacks from True Blood? Certainly not. Am I implying that it might as well be a hard-R sequel to The Mummy? Not entirely. Am I saying I constantly expected Robert Downey, Jr. to wander in from one of those overblown Sherlock Holmes movies? Yes. Yes I did. But enough about me, what do YOU folks think? Enough of a mystery to keep you coming back for more more-is-more storytelling? Any guesses on who’s going to show up next at this adults-only Once Upon a Time ? I’m hoping we get some Jack the Ripper, a touch of Jekyll and Hyde, a hair of the Wolf Man, and at least an appearance by The Invisible Man.

Sound off in the comments!

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About Buzz

Buzz created CampBlood.org in 2003 to meet a need for a safe place for weirdos of all stripes to discuss horror movies from a queer perspective. Now that the campers have overtaken the Camp staff and locked them in the Arts & Crafts cabin he is questioning that decision.