Eva Green was haunted by malevolent spirits, Josh Hartnett fought off a gaggle of pointy teethed women, Harry Treadaway shouted ‘Pull. The. Lever. Now!’, and Timothy Dalton chewed every piece of scenery in sight. Penny Dreadful is back and it’s still gloriously silly, high camp fun, and easily the most outrageously entertaining guff currently being aired. The only problem is that my opening sentence could easily describe the entire first series or the opener to series two. We’re back alright, but on very familiar ground.
Existing in the ‘demimonde’, Penny Dreadful imagines a Victorian London where all your favourite freaks and ghouls from gothic Victorian literature are present and correct. It’s a city where Dr Frankenstein and Dorian Gray can have a chat about vampires with Van Helsing. I was hoping that this series would introduce us to a new host of ‘real’ fictional characters from the Victorian back catalogue. Sweeney Todd? Ebenezer Scrooge? Moby Dick, maybe?
As we are, we’re stuck with the same old lot. Even the nasty baddies are almost identical, so much so that having witnessed them Josh Hartnett’s werewolf gunslinger (it’s that kind of programme) had to ask whether they were the same bunch. This time round it’s not vampires who are trying to get Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) to marry The Master (who we assume to be the devil himself) but Helen McCrory’s Evelyn Poole and her merry band of frizzy haired witches. McCrory, taking her cue from Dalton, has gauged the temperature of Penny Dreadful entirely correctly and is making the most of every cackle and curse.
Still haranguing his creator for a date to the prom is ‘the creature’ Caliban (Rory Kinnear – at least I think it’s Rory Kinnear, though it looks for all the world like Robert Smith from The Cure in fancy dress as Meat Loaf from the I’d Do Anything For Love video). And having smothered poor Brona Croft (Billie Piper) with a pillow Dr Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) has just the gal. Cue lightning, rain and Treadaway getting to wheel out his Colin Clive impression. It (she) is indeed alive (‘Alive!!’) but Caliban is going to have some competition on his hands if Dr Frankenstein’s, er, interest in Brona’s naked corpse is anything to go by.
At least Caliban has definitely got another job now, following his dismissal from the theatre for being weird. The lovelorn creature is now in the employ of David Haig’s creepy waxwork museum, which is currently struggling thanks to ‘that Tussaud woman’. It’s heartening to see David Haig crop up as the jolly Oscar Putney but I fear for his blind daughter Lavinia (and this is television, so we know that blind = kind). A tenner says that Caliban tries to get a snog out of Lavinia before tearfully breaking her neck. It would be just like him.
So it’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the series.
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