Pilot Review: Penny Dreadful

TitleSHotThis show scared my pants off.

I’m notoriously bad at watching anything remotely suspenseful or horror-filled. Even Scary Movie gave me the heebie jeebies. So, take everything I say with a grain of salt. Also SPOILERS!

This is the description from IMDB that prompted me to watch…

Explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, and others unite to combat supernatural threats in Victorian London.

The first episode of Penny Dreadful starts out on a dark and stormy night in Victorian England. A mother rises from the bed she shares with her young daughter. Apparently a middle of the night loo trip is a wee bit more frightening back in those days. Thank goodness for auto sensing night lights. Am I right?


Anyway, after the craziness that is left unexplained we cut to the opening credits.

We meet Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) for the first time as she prays in front of a spider-infested cross. She turns out to be just a little bit bad ass and can take a man down with just a twitch of her eyebrow or the hint of a glare.


Josh Hartnett plays our hero Mr Ethan Chandler, an actor/gunslinger from America whose sole goal is to bed the ladies and impress them with his shooting. Which to be fair, is very impressive.


When Vanessa and Ethan meet for the first time she manages to impress him with her ability to use psychology on him.


Vanessa invites Ethan out for an unknown paid mercenary job that very night. Of course Ethan’s like “Sure.” The promise of danger, potential murder and the chance to use his guns tempts him. Oh and the money.

This is where things start to get a little cray. Ethan meets Vanessa in the middle of the night and is introduced to Sir Malcom (Timothy Dalton). Sir Malcom has a little bit of the silver fox about him, but clearly has his own issues he’s dealing with.


The three of them traipse through some kind of brothel/hostel/homeless shelter, honestly I couldn’t tell which, before they head down into the dank basement and meet up with three pretty zombie-ish looking dudes. And that’s not an understatement.

I knew from the show’s description that I was about to experience some supernatural, but I wasn’t sure what exactly. So my first instincts were zombies.

They were vampires.


Needless to say there’s a bit of a tussle and Sir Malcom and Ethan whoop the vampires’ butts. Vanessa just stares at them and walks through the fight listening to the sound of a little girl’s screams.

Doesn’t this show sound like a walk through a meadow on a spring day?

Vanessa proceeds into a blood soaked room. There’s guts and body parts hanging out all over the shop, so if you’re not a fan of gore, you better back out now. The floor is almost flooded with deep red blood, and I cringed to look at it.

Vanessa was just like “cool”, and starts poking and prodding at various dead things looking for someone.

Vanessa is confronted by one of the vampy dudes and happily lets Ethan kill him. What I like about her is that she doesn’t give off a damsel in distress vibe, but she’s perfectly happy to sit back and let the men do the work. When we do get to see her power (hopefully in the coming episodes) she’s going to turn out to be super bad ass, and show up all the men anyway.

The party resumes and they find themselves being attacked by a super cray vampire master.


Vanessa stares him down and he seems confused. Totally left himself open to be stabbed through the chest with a sword. Obv.


The rest of the pilot goes on to meet young Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), who has a strikingly similar appearance to Theon Grayjoy from Game of Thrones. Victor does a mini autopsy on the dead master vampire and they discover some freaky hieroglyphics in his chest. Yes. Inside.


By this time poor Ethan has totally lost his mind. As you would when you’re suddenly thrown into horror central.

In a side plot that will probably get developed in further episodes, there is a horrific massacre at a town house that leaves a whole family chopped into pieces. Making the local citizens fear of a return of Jack the Ripper. Ugh, wouldn’t that just be the worst?

Ethan confronts Vanessa at her home that she shares with Sir Malcom, and she tries to convince him to join their band of supernatural warriors. He’s like “Nah man, just hand over the cash and we’ll be sweet.”


Victor meets with Sir Malcom at a gentlemen’s club where he gives a lovely speech about wanting to bridge the gap between life and death. Which doesn’t really surprise given his name. Although you’re really not supposed to know who he is at that point.


Quick summary of the rest of the episode:

  • Back at home Sir Malcom has a freaky encounter with his undead daughter and has a panic attack.
  • Ethan returns to Vanessa’s house but runs away before he knocks on the door. Chicken.
  • Vanessa prays again and the infested cross goes rabid.
  • Victor accidentally brings someone to life when his electrically rigged laboratory has a bit of a surge thanks to the dark and stormy night.

By the end of the episode we have four main characters that have their own secrets. Plenty to keep writers and watchers busy. I’m going to keep on watching this show, but I’ll definitely keep the lights on. Or better yet, watch it at noon on the weekend. Yeah, full sun, that’ll fix it.

Here’s the trailer if you’re curious to find out more…


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