I will admit it now, I have a TV problem. As I work during the day and try to be a social member of society its not too much of a problem, but deep down all I really want to do is drink beer, lie in bed and watch TV shows. Last night I finished my latest TV obsession, the often ridiculous and yet strangely compelling Victorian Gothic horror show Penny Dreadful, so I thought I would write my first TV review on it. This show brings together several well known Victorian horror characters (Frankenstein and his monsters, several characters from Dracula and, best of all, Dorian Gray) as well as the intriguing and often possessed original character Vanessa Ives, a few devils and demons and an American werewolf. Whilst I love Victorians, I’m intrigued by horror and I have an unnatural obsession with Dorian Gray (and Oscar Wilde) I thought at first that Penny Dreadful was going a bit too far, that the story was too random to be good. But I was wrong. You have to suspend disbelief, but for such an array of characters and such an outlandish story (the first season involved, among others, Egyptian hieroglyphics, vampires and the Devil) it actually works really well.
I love the fact that there are no good characters, that they are all complex and have all done quite bad things in their lives, it seems to be a trend recently that people aren’t so much looking at ‘good and bad’ anymore but at ‘human’ and ‘bad’, which I find very refreshing. The most dislike able character, for me at least (although the second season makes him a little more human) is Sir Malcom Murray, a colonialist whose selfishness was partially responsible for his sons death in Africa, although I find the inclusion of colonialism (and a description of some of its horrors) refreshing in a story about Victorian London, as many times it seems to be downsized quite a lot despite being extremely important to the time. Victor Frankenstein is intriguing in a kind of lost, little boy way and his creations are the most interesting and philosophical Frankenstein monsters I have encountered thus far, Vanessa Ives is awesome, is a great, strong and messed up female character and plays being possessed very convincingly (whoever starred in the exorcist should be jealous). Billie Piper is great as the Irish Consumption ridden prostitute and perhaps even better in her new role in season 2 (watch it, I won’t tell you what happens) and I may be biased but I love that Dorian Gray is a character in this show, and especially that he is shown to have multiple male and female partners (the days of ignoring Wilde’s obvious homoerotic references in that book are officially over) although I do hope if they ever show his back story they don’t deviate too much from the original. The show is quite sexually explicit in a Game of Thrones style way, and I am very happy that it is inclusive and doesn’t appear to see sexuality as an issue. The sexual explicitness and often foul language is refreshing to see in a Victorian setting, and it doesn’t hurt that several of the characters are very attractive.
All in all, if you want something simple, realistic and normal don’t watch the show, but if you want to disband disbelief, expand your knowledge of victorian horror and become severely addicted, you need Penny Dreadful in your life.