Isn't it great? The second season of Penny Dreadful is back on TV and it is glorious. Beautifully shot, striking images, heightened storytelling and great acting. That description could mean any TV show. Add in the Victorian London setting, a wonderful central performance by Eva Green, nineteenth century gothic literature origins, and the bonus reveal of Helen McCrory as the antagonist and season two has kicked off for a fantastic ride.
'Penny dreadful' is a phrase used to describe a type of cheap British publication in the nineteenth century that had lurid and highly sensational stories. They cost a penny to buy and they were seen as dreadful in polite society. The show celebrates these origins and weaves in what is now identified as gothic literature tropes such as darkness, isolation, madness as in confusion over what is real or unreal, disease, superstition, eroticism, corrupt takes on religion, the occult, the English Aristocracy, and life after death. You know, the fun stuff.
Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) are not a characters from nineteenth century gothic literature like most of other characters in the show. They are created for the show but are anchored in the literary traditions of that genre. The show borrows from Bram Stroker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Oscar Wilde's The Portrait of Dorian Grey, which are all from the 1880s and 1890s. These novels and authors, along with their adventure counterparts like Rudyard Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson focused on the external threat to the British Empire and how they are overcome. These threats just happen to be fantastical or otherworldly. It is not that simple in Penny Dreadful as the threat is just as much from within yourself and society as it is from the other. All of this and told in a visually stunning way as well.
Catch a glimpse of the series below, but start at the beginning of the first season and catch up so you can join us all for twists and turns of its sophomore season.