Penny Dreadful; the name itself evokes ideas of cheap, pulpy, mindless thrills. Sinister horror, mindless violence, lusty sex. But what about a story?
In the old, original Penny Dreadfuls, stories were simplistic and the plot was as thin as the pulpy paper it was printed on. The target audiences were working class adolescents, so standards weren't high, and that was the point.
But if you make a television series, you might want to shoot a little higher.
I was thrilled to learn about Penny Dreadful just as it was starting, because I am, of late, obsessed with anything remotely related to Steampunk. The setting of this show suits that, and the aesthetics too, but beyond that, I have been vastly disappointed with this show and just have to vent.
First of all, 8 episodes does not a season make - UNLESS they were the most brilliant, efficient, intense 8 hours, weaving a deep, personal and captivating story that would hook viewers early and keep them thrilled with every new episode. Penny Dreadful does little in this regard. The thrills are few, far between and light (or cheap to suit the theme).
Second of all, this story, is barely held together by random and far-flung connections between the characters and a plot that stumbles and falls on its face more often than not over the course of the 7 episodes so far.
One starts off with the impression that this team of diverse characters are all grouping together in order to go on a mission to save a man's daughter from a vampire coven in the underground of old London.
That story quickly falls by the way-side occasionally coming back to remind viewers of why the hell these people are even talking to each other and what the fuck their motivations are as they drag out long, painful arguments over their methods of dealing with their own, bland, unoriginal personal problems and character flaws.
Eva Green, Ethan Hawke and most of the caste are fine actors, but no amount of acting can make up for terrible, terrible writing and dialogue that makes me cringe.
Most of the time the show is focused on two characters having conversations that are self-centered and have little depth or relevance to the higher plot. The character's personality flaws and crosses-to-bear are barely relate-able - unless you consider a possessed woman to be some vague metaphor for just being a crazy person - and I doubt most people with mental issues can or would care to be compared to a person possessed by the devil.
The show hardly pronounces itself as christian, but the use of vampires and the devil require that the story be based in a world where a christian mythology is established, even if it's in the background and mostly avoided by the writers.
The viewers have been led to believe that Ethan Hawke is secretly a werewolf, without the show ever confirming it or providing an alternative explanation.
Half the episodes seem to be focused on Eva Green's character being possessed and just wallowing in self-pity or doing an ugly voice and making faces at other characters while saying nasty stuff to them.
Doctor Frankenstein is asked by his monster to create a bride for it. That was several episodes ago. He has yet to do anything to either make the bride, or deal with his monster in another way. His monster randomly - and with terrible, casual ease - murdered Van Helsing right in front of Frankenstein, as a warning a message to get the shit show on the road. Nothing came of it.
This entire 7th episode has been wasted on Eva Green dying from being possessed while the guys argue over how to deal with her...
I am amazed that this show has received such positive reviews from reputable sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. I suppose if someone goes into this thing without caring about a plot, or good dialogue, and just enjoys watching people cry about their problems without doing anything (sometime not appearing to HAVE any way of doing anything), and having copious sex on occasion, plus a few lousy action sequences, then sure, this show could be great. Who doesn't love random sex and a bunch of bullshit? If I were incapable of accessing pornography, or were incapable of understanding that a story were going nowhere fast, I could really love this show.
As it stands I find myself depressed, I REALLY want to like this show, but every episode is a disappointment. I tune in each week, hoping and praying for things to get better, for the plot to start to come together, for the writers to get their heads out of their asses, but not only is it just getting worse, it's actually almost over. Next week will mark the end of this foul waste of fine actors, and considering the average american audience's lack of standards, I won't be surprised if this bullshit gets approved for a second season.
I am curious to see if the writers will run out of random, unrelated, unrelate-able "plot" lines and actually bring the story into focus, or if they are incapable of this basic writer's skill and will continue to wander through dull, half-baked cliches and non sequiturs.
Will Penny Dreadful make sense on a basic, logical level or will it spiral further into the toilet with the season finale?! Tune in next week to find out!
What an appropriate title: Penny Dreadful. Dreadful. Cheap. Pulpy, random, paper-thin plot of bad action, sex, and story lines that go nowhere and have no real connections.
It is a perfect specimen of shitty writing that manages to get high praise from an audience with no standards or no taste, and people like me, wishing it was better and cringing through it every week, hoping for change.