Jul 30, 2015

[TV] Penny Dreadful: Season 2

The first season of Penny Dreadful was quite the surprise since here we had quite the dramatic show with a dark, supernatural and sometimes even gothic approach to things. Most supernatural-themed shows of recent years have either gone a little campy or embraced special effects to a somewhat ridiculous degree. And while a show that embraces drama as much as this one does can't help but fall into a little indirect camp, it's still a heck of a lot more serious than most.

And so when Penny Dreadful was confirmed for a second season, I was pretty happy to hear about it. It's not necessarily my favorite show around, but it does have a distinct appeal to it that's a character and a flavor all of its own. And I feel like this second season did its best to build on the successes of the first season while making sure to indulge fans here and there.

After all, people come to this show for an experience that is practically more akin to theater at times. We come for highly dramatic dialog and some pretty intense stares and the odd bit of violence. And the tension certainly picks up in this season with the new adversaries our little party of adventurers has to face. It makes things all the better.

Synopsis: Penny Dreadful is British-American horror drama series created by John Logan for Showtime. The show has already been confirmed for a 9-episode third season.

The season begins dramatically enough with a number of new plot points to explore. Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) is trying to revive Brona (Billie Piper) as his creation Caliban's (Rory Kinnear) potential companion. Ethan (Josh Hartnett) is starting to feel like it is time he moved on once more before endangers his friends and colleagues in London. And Miss Ives (Eva Green) is now being haunted by new dark visions.

It is eventually revealed that Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory), the spiritualist Madame Kali from the first season is actually the leader of a long-lived coven of witches known as the Nightcomers. In addition, their little group has been hunting down Vanessa Ives for some time and now they've begun to spring their little trap to get her. But of course Miss Ives is not alone, but will the help of her companions be enough given the power of the coven?

I really need to give a heck of a lot of credit to the writers of the show. The first episode alone already had me squealing in delight over the quality of the dialog. Sure, we have no idea whether or not people of the Victorian era actually spoke the way they do here, but who cares right? It's how such period stories have been written and it's pretty easy to want to embrace that manner of speech in this show. The dialog practically becomes a character of its own in a really good way.

The coven of witches as antagonists were also pretty fascinating and certainly more involved than the vampires had been in the first season. Here we had them acting directly against our little band of adventurers time and time again with their "wicked stratagems" and such. They were clearly out to get Vanessa Ives and they weren't going to let anyone get in the way of their plans.

The angle that did feel a little weak in this season as was the case in the last season as well involved Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) and his connections with Brona and eventually Victor Frankenstein. He was a bit of an aberration in the first season and this season did little to really explain why he was so important. And while it was nice to finally see his infamous painting, it still didn't really add to the overall narrative or even tie into the whole confrontation with the Nightcomers.

This season did a lot to really shine the spotlight on the character Vanessa Ives given she was the primary target of the witches. Thus we got to see more of her backstory than I had anticipated and I enjoyed every bit of it. As much as you'd think someone like Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) was more the protagonist being the so-called leader of the group, but this season had Ives front and center. And it was glorious.

The show still has weird bits of pacing that make things feel like they've slowed down for now reason like when Miss Ives retreats from the world or even that weird party with all the blood. Why did these things have to happen at all? Why do we keep following Dorian Gray? Why is Frankenstein's creature so stupid at times? We may never know.

I'm also not 100% behind their decision to depict the witches as these strange semi-naked creatures. It felt like they had been presented in such a sexual manner as part of a gimmick and not for much else reason, and that's a shame. And don't even get me started on their weird power set - at least they did give Vanessa Ives more opportunities to be amazing.

But still, Penny Dreadful is quite the delightful experience and I'm glad that that got to continue telling their story despite the strange nature of their setting. I'm going to enjoy this particular ride for as long as I can while it's still on air. Thus the season gets 4 creepy witch creatures appearing out of the gloom out of a possible 5.


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