Penny Dreadful S1x01 "Night Work"

I review the first episode in the latest period horror series, entitled Penny Dreadful, starring Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Billie Piper and more.


Penny Dreadful is something that I’ve been looking forward to watching for a while now. I’m a sucker for historical period dramas with a supernatural bent, which probably explains why I love the Solomon Kane film so much. However, Penny Dreadful is a completely different beast, closer to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with all the makings to be one of the best series that we’ve seen in a while.
There’s a lot to love about this pilot. It’s got a high budget allowing for some great backdrops and costume design, making this show authentic in the fact that it looks the part. The high budget also allows for some strong cast – Timothy Dalton plays a key role in this series for example, and we also get the likes of Eva Green, Billie Piper and more.
The show opens with the abduction of Sir Malcolm Murray’s (Timothy Dalton) wife. In order to find her, Murray recruits American gunslinger Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), with the help of Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), and Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) himself, as the show starts to unfold like Ripper Streetmeets Supernatural, packing a very solid punch that should keep the audience hooked for more to come, as it explores supernatural threats like the origin of Frankenstein’s monster, which is dealt with in the first episode.
The show is dark, atmospheric and not for the faint of heart. There’s plenty of gory moments throughout and it’s very much in ‘adult’ territory. There could have been a lot of things that went wrong about this show, but instead it allows for a great mix of fun that has strong potential to keep a good momentum over the next eight episodes, but time will tell whether it becomes formulaic and adopts a case of the week approach, like the early episodes of shows Agents of SHIELD and Person of Interest, or moves into serialized territory, like Orphan Black and True Detective. It is however, different from all of these shows, combining a good mix of a well-paced storyline that serves as a strong introduction into the mythos, with plenty of gory moments and even the touch of humour here and there.
The characters are fun and entertaining. Timothy Dalton impresses as Malcolm Murray, Eva Green gets plenty to do as Vanessa Ives and Josh Hartnett serves as our introduction to the show through Ethan Chandler. It’s a strong cast with interesting characters and they have a lot of potential to be fleshed out over the course of the series. It’s clearly in horror territory as well – our main enemy in the pilot is Vampires – and it’s great to see the show sticking true to their mythology.
Night Work also benefits from some good action scenes. There’s a good moment where Ethan, Ives and Murray face down vampires underground, which also serves as Ethan’s first experience with them. It’s also good to see that the show doesn’t just deal with Ethan’s character – instead fleshing out Murray, Ives and Frankenstein with the potential for more to follow.
There isn’t a lot that Night Work puts wrong. It’s arguably the best pilot that I’ve seen for a TV show since True Detective, and has the potential to be excellent over its unfortunately only 8 episode running time. If I had to pinpoint one flaw with this show it would probably be that Ethan doesn’t get much to do in the second half of the pilot, given that he’s the audience’s lead in for the series.

However, despite that, I can’t wait for next week. If the pilot is anything to go by, we’re in for an awesome ride.

VERDICT: 4/5
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