'Penny Dreadful' Deserves to be Your Summer 'Hannibal.' Here's Why.

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'Penny Dreadful' Deserves to be Your Summer 'Hannibal.' Here's Why.

By Rebecca Pahle | TV Reviews | May 15, 2014 | Comments ()

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The season finale of Hannibal is almost upon us, and when it sails off into that gory sunset we’ll all have a Wendigo-shaped hole in our hearts until season three (yeah renewal!) comes back to us. You could fill that show with a hatewatch of I Wanna Marry “Harry”, but allow me to suggest Showtime’s Penny Dreadful instead. Because:

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It’s genuinely scary.

Penny Dreadful is a sort of gothic horror/League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fusion, featuring as it does various iconic literary villains like Dr. Frankenstein and Dorian Gray. Instead of forcing them all into one big nonsensical story—like, say, Van Helsing did—Penny Dreadful focuses more establishing a pitch-perfect Gothic atmosphere. Not much happens plot-wise in the pilot, but damned if it’s not a completely arresting hour of television. Never has a trip to the bathroom been more terrifying than in the show’s first scene.

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Its Doctor Frankenstein is an absolute little sh*t.

Harry Treadaway’s Dr. Frankenstein (“FRAHNK-en-steen”) is basically a socially awkward science nerd with a raging superiority complex over the mainstream sheeple concerned with “lesser” science like botany, pah! Put him in the modern day and he’d probably be a mod on r/Atheism. It’s wonderful. I never knew I wanted this character interpretation until I had it.

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Josh Hartnett is not as bad as you think he will be.

Josh Hartnett’s actually good as Ethan Chandler, a roving actor/sharpshooter who’s the lone American in a sea full of Europeans. A good part of the quality of his acting comes from the fact that, while Eva Green and Timothy Dalton vamp it up Victorian horror-style in the pilot, Chandler’s just… a normal, low-key dude, at least so far. There are hints to him having an “inner darkness,” but whatever. I just want Hartnett to give Eva Green someone to act off of, and that he does brilliantly. Speaking of…

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Eva Green being the Eva Greeniest she’s ever been

Green’s Vanessa Ives is a well-dressed, sophisticated Englishwoman who gets to swan around being mysterious at people and occasionally doing magic. It’s everything I want from a show with Eva Green in it.

And most importantly:

There’s a scene in the pilot where Josh Hartnett pulls off a moustache to reveal another moustache.

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I know what I’m about.

The pilot’s available for free on Showtime’s website, and trust me, you want to watch it before episode two airs this Sunday. The Eva Green seance scene is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen on a TV show.

If you want to discuss the Inception moustache with Rebecca, you can find her on Twitter or The Mary Sue.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Bhammer100

    Hmm. I think i'll just re-watch Hannibal.


    Mostly because I don't have Showtime.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    I am super pissed, I got to see the first episode because there was a free Showtime weekend and it was really good. But yeah. I don't have Showtime.

  • Robert Sanchez III

    What the fuck?! Why was it not promoted as a League of extraordinary gentleman knock off? I would have been all over this shit. Thank you for the info Rebecca!

  • I've enjoyed the heck out if the first two episodes. That seance scene is probably one of my top five scenes of the year. And, fwiw, Showtime Anytime seems to be showing the episodes a week ahead of time if you have access to it. The pilot is also available on Hulu.

  • _Alexander_

    Penny Dreadful already had me at Eva Green and Billie Pieper. No need for further convincing

  • Lee

    *Squeee's in excitement.* And I have a big softy for Josh Hartnett :)

  • e jerry powell


  • Parsnip

    I couldn't get into it, it reminded me of the 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen'. Aside Hartnett's mediocre acting I found Eva's voice grating [ducks] and then there's the vampires so I switched off. But I'll give it another go before I completely write it off.

  • SottoVoce

    The second episode (especially its ending) was far better than the first, which I found lacking in much the same ways you did.

  • foolsage

    Huh. OK, this sounds interesting. I'll check it out. :)

  • ceebee_eebee

    I am so into this show it HURTS. I love it like pie.

  • Corvus

    My new favorite thing ever.

    See! Hartnet fighting villains with guns, and being clueless!
    Marvel! At Dalton dispatching monsters with a swordcane and being ominous!
    Wonder! At Eva Green routing evil by looking at it. No, really, she just fixes it with a look and... Honestly, you just have to see it for yourself.
    Count! The literary references!
    Thrill! To guest actors who start as hilarious Egyptologists and end being quite seriously foreboding.
    Wait! For Reeve Carney in leather pants and gender-balanced naked people!

    I thought the opening credits should have been in the style of lurid daguerreotype and newsprint, but, that is the single quibble I can produce.

  • e jerry powell

    Carrion beetles are cheaper to work with, I guess.

  • Corvus

    But, but... They aren't exotic at all...

  • e jerry powell

    Madagascar hissing roaches?

  • Corvus

    >sniff< They're from Waverly, in Suffolk.

    Seriously, I could watch that scene over and over. Simon Russell Beale is master at his craft. Could I be more charmed? No, I could not.

  • e jerry powell

    I think he's adorable. I had to look up his vitae. Not that much older than me, either. Cute little elderly pocket gay. I'd carry him around in my man-purse.


    They did a nice job shooting around the fact that Beale is 5'6" and Dalton is 6'2", always keeping them on opposite sides of the desk, very few two-shots.

  • e jerry powell

    I actually had to juggle on-demand between Cosmos, John Oliver and the Bourdain repeat to get all of Nurse Jackie and Penny Dreadful in on Sunday night (thankfully, new Nurse Jackie goes live mid-week).

    I was expecting Penny Dreadful to be, well, dreadful, so I was disappointed not to have been correct. But the show is really going to have to up its male nudity quotient. Monster peen prosthesis and brief glances of Hartnett booty just isn't going to cut it.

    One thing that has me wondering is that Victor is basically living in a boarding house. How the hell did he manage to get the room with the secret passageway without anyone else knowing about it?

  • bcarter3

    "But the show is really going to have to up it's male nudity quotient."

    Wait until Dorian Grey shows up. (He's played by Reeve Carney).

  • e jerry powell

    How very...

    And the sooner, the better.

    (I admit, for a second I confused Reeve Carney with Russell Tovey, and I've already seen the latter naked on premium cable.)

  • Anne At Large

    Sooo, Showtime, does that mean these will pop up on Itunes after they air? I don't have cable but I will pay for good shows if somebody will let me.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    As silly as the premise is, the first two epidodes were great. Frankenstein's interaction with his creation alone is marvelous to behold.

    Edit: Said seance scene was exceedingly creepy as well as amazing.

  • It also reminded me what a good actor Dalton is. Loved it!

  • emmalita

    I am a big fan of the Edger Wright/Nick Frost/Simon Pegg triumvirate, but Dalton remains my favorite part of Hot Fuzz.

  • Whenever I am driving and see a cop car lurking, I *always* say "It's the fuzzzz." in my best Timothy Dalton growl.

  • BlackRabbit


  • cruzzercruz

    "To save her, I would murder the world."

    "How much of it are you planning to murder?"

    "Would it matter?"

    I was sold right then and there on the Dalton growl.

  • damnitjanet

    I was waiting for this....LOOOOOVED the pilot. Dear God, Eva Green IS sex on a stick. Can't wait to see what Billie Piper is up to.


    Took me until Timothy Dalton's character's daughter appeared and he called her by name before I started to figure it out. That, and the last line of the episode. At that point, shit got REAL interesting! (bonus peen)

  • Everything we want from a show with Eva Green in it…not be inappropriately appropriate your statement, but I'm trusting that includes some mature themes, nudity and sexual content?

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Yes, but don't get your hopes up. So far, it involves spitting blood.

  • Lord Inferno


  • Robert Sanchez III

    From the woman who starred in The Dreamers I would expect no less. She could do all kinds of fucked up things and she'd still make me tingly all over.

  • John W

    After the first ep, so far so good.

    I'm waiting for someone to write the song: "Eva Green Eyes".

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