Review: Penny Dreadful – S01E01

Today, I finally started watching Penny Dreadful, which my friend Brian had recommended a while ago.

For one reason or another, it has taken me this long to watch the first episode, and now I wonder why… It was that good. Yes, it was so good, I decided to write about it here. If you haven’t watched it yet, you should, and of course, beware of spoilers below. If you have watched it already, how cool is it?!?

We begin by watching this woman getting out of bed in a very dark flat in London, we assume, and going to the toilet. Yes, nothing glamorous here. We can see the woman and her daughter are poor, mainly because they look dirty and share a small bed. While she’s in the toilet, something comes from the window (panel?) behind her and takes her away in a rather violent manner, thus waking the daughter up. It bothered me the fact that the little girl was wearing only one thick sock. I mean… who knows, but what’s the point of just one sock? If you lost the other one, I don’t know, cut the big one in half and make two socks? Don’t wear any? It bothered me.

Anyway, the little girl goes wandering around the flat, looking for her mummy. She’s quite brave, I must say. When I was about her age, if I woke up in the middle of the night when everything was very dark, because I heard strange noises, the last thing I would do was go about looking for my mum (also because she would be fast asleep, maybe my dad would be up, but still). I would scream my lungs out and cover my head with the bedsheets, but nothing would drag me out of bed. Well, you know what I mean.

We are left with the kid opening a door and then screaming her lungs out. Obviously, something bad has happened to the mum.

We then see the intro. It reminds me of True Blood, with those Polaroid type of effects and the jumps in the footage. A bit of Sherlock too. There are way more spiders than I would like, but nothing to make a series look creepier than by adding some spiders, snakes and bats.

We find then this lady, praying like crazy. And more spiders. The lady freaks out when a spider crawls over a crucifix and then, when the spider (I’m guessing the same) starts crawling over her, she sort of freezes and has like a seizure or something. So far, quite realistic. I would have passed out myself.

Then, Josh Hartnett makes his appearance. He’s American and doing some show about being a gun-slinger or something, shooting stuff. Praying Lady is there, watching the show for some reason. Once the show is finished, we see Hartnett’s backside while he is having sex with a lady, in a very unceremoniously manner. No complains here… Ahem.

Praying Lady finds Hartnett in a bar, and she basically goes about being mysterious and a bit kick-ass. You can see there’s chemistry between them. Two young, good-looking characters in a series? Love story ahead! It seems Josh’s character is called Ethan Chandler, who used to be rich, but now is not. Praying Lady does a Sherlock and analyses him by looking at every single detail of his attire and behaviour, like any woman does when they fancy a guy. Only she seems to get everything right.

She tells him to go meet her at night, because she has a job for him and then we meet not Daniel Day Lewis, but the other guy who looks like him: Timothy Dalton, or Sir Malcom Murray in the series. They go to some weird place, an opium bar by the looks of it, looking for something, or someone. When these bad guys gang up on them, Praying Lady seems very composed, and while the guys are there fighting for their lives, she decides she can’t deal with all that, and goes off to do her own thing.

There’s a cool scene of this one bad guy, broken in half, and standing up again, doing the bridge and all. That’s what I call being flexible!

In a hidden room, we see a lot of dismembered corpses… Like, a lot. Praying Lady doesn’t even wrinkle her nose at the likely smell, she’s so hardcore. Ethan arrives just as she’s having a chat with some weird looking guy and shoots the guy straight, because he’s not taking any more chances.

They decide to have someone do an autopsy on the corpse and ask some guy, who isn’t interested, until he is. They discover that the corpse doesn’t have normal skin, but that it looks like an exoskeleton, or something. Underneath, he’s covered in hieroglyphics.

Things are getting weird, it seems.

The mother and the little girl from the beginning are definitely dead, as seen in a lovely scene in which the police are taking photos of truly dismembered bodies in a pool of blood. So there you go, I’m never getting out of bed at night again!

Ethan goes to the house where Vanessa (Praying Lady) and Sir Malcolm live. They have this chat about what he’s going to do, they flirt, etc. It seems that Sir Malcolm’s daughter was abducted by one of those exoskeleton creatures. They thought there was only one, but there are at least two, and they need Ethan to help them. Ethan has had enough, and says he’s not gonna, and that he’s leaving (and we believe him, don’t we?), but just before he does, Vanessa asks him to pick a tarot card from the ones on the desk, all face down, and look at that, The Lovers. I mean, in case you weren’t picking up that vibe yet.

What do you do if you find a body completely covered in strange hieroglyphs? You go to the British Museum to ask, of course! The guy there (can’t remember his name) tells them the text is from the Book of the Dead, but that he’s too busy at the moment, and has them (Vanessa and Sir Malcolm) leave after inviting them to a party. OK…

Sir Malcolm sends a present to the autopsy guy, who happens to have a hidden door in his apartment, which makes me very curious. Then again, everyone seems a bit dodgy and hiding stuff so far, so meh, we’ll find out soon enough. When they meet at some Explorers Club, the dude gives a very passionate speech about life and death, and suddenly I think it would be awesome if he was Victor Frankenstein, but you know, whatever. He’s very cute, even with his asymmetric face and crooked cleft chin. And he’s creepy, for some reason (maybe because of his asymmetric face and crooked cleft chin).

Later on, Sir Malcolm is in his chambers, and you know something is going to happen. I mean, c’mon. They keep the suspense up with these weird camera angles in which you see a lot of darkness in the background. There’s an open window. He is going through all these menial tasks of taking his detachable collar and all. I mean, it’s quite typical, but still works. The lights flicker (do I need say more?) and when he walks to check the light switch, there’s a woman standing there, which he, somehow, misses. He realises after a moment, and it turns out she’s his daughter, Mina (oohh, Mina Hark??), who does the whole sudden close in on him (boo!), before disappearing, but that was to be expected.

This is all to let us know that the bad guy, not the dead one, the other one we haven’t seen yet, is actually onto them. Sir Malcolm has this conversation with Vanessa about that lion hunt he did once, in which the lion noticed them and that suddenly he realised he had just become the prey.

Once again, that Vanessa lady gives me the creeps. She’s some sort of medium, or tarot reader or something, and she prays like her life depends on it. And once again, the spiders. We see an upside down crucifix from which hundreds of spiders suddenly come out. I’m not happy at Brian at that moment, because I hate the bloody spiders.

Finally, we get to see what’s going on on that hidden room the autopsy guy has. At this point, I’m pretty sure he’s Frankenstein. He has a lot of electrical equipment hidden there, cables from everywhere, and dials. On some chair, he has a corpse with autopsy stitches, and for some reason he has its legs on ice. Everything is connected to more cables. Suddenly, there’s a lightning and the power goes out, after a power surge. When the doctor lights up a lamp, the corpse is not there any more. The doctor looks around, pretty much scared to death, and we catch a glimpse of the corpse, standing up in a corner. An image that reminds me a lot of one of the last scenes in the Blair Witch’s Project, and one that still makes me very nervous. Something bothered me here, we hear the thunder and see the lightning illuminating the whole room at the same time, which means the storm is just right there, right on them, they’re right in the eye of the storm. Normally there’s a bit of a delay between the lightning and the thunder, even if half a second or something, but whatever, I guess it wouldn’t be as striking otherwise (no pun intended).

Anyway, the doctor and the corpse look at each other, and share a moment. During all this, I’m wondering if the undead dude is the doc’s brother, and if he’s going to go batshit crazy and start killing the doctor, but nothing happens. They share a tear (literally) and some smiles, and then, the doctor says his name is Victor Frankenstein, and I’m jumping around with joy because I knew it.

And on that bombshell, we go to the end credits.

I realise that my review can make the episode seem like more of the same, but it’s not. I mean, it is, but it’s not. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Basically, all series and films we get nowadays use the same tricks to let us know something is going to happen, so if you’ve watched a lot, you sort of expect stuff happening at certain points. They know we know, so sometimes they trick us into thinking something is going to happen, only nothing does, and as soon as we have relaxed, bam! Something does happen. This episode didn’t make me jump on my seat, and I don’t think that was its intention. I think this one is more of a making you nervous, look behind your shoulder, kind of series. Maybe that changes in coming episodes, I don’t know, but truth is I really enjoyed watching it. Except for the spiders, seriously, things can be creepy without spiders, you know?

I can’t wait to watch more of Penny Dreadful, it seems like a really good series, but I’m going to try to pace myself and not binge-watch it in one go.

Have you watched it? What did you think? Did it scare you?