If you’re looking for something different to watch through the witching season, check out Penny Dreadful, currently available on Netflix. Only three seasons long, this series, which was originally produced for Showtime, takes its title from a style of 19th century British sensational literature known for fanciful and lurid plots.
Join the ensemble cast of misfits from all walks of Victorian society as they uncover the mysteries behind the disappearance of one’s daughter, and the secrets of a group of hunters who only come out at night. The group will face horrors and trials as they encounter supernatural events that come straight from the classic literary monsters that originated in the era.
Over the subsequent episodes, we are introduced to Mina Harker’s father, played by Timothy Dalton; Dr. Frankenstein and his “children, played principally by Rory Kinnear and Billie Piper;” Dorian Grey; Dr. Jekyll; a clairvoyant woman who is stalked by the devil, played by Eva Green; a werewolf or two; and a band of witches.
As the series continues, the audience is treated to a set of divergent plots that sometimes only include a few of the players at a time, with story lines that lead to further development of character, and events that when allowed to converge later, bring the whole cast together for an exciting conclusion. This is especially notable in the final season, where half the cast were situated in America for half of the episodes, only returning to England at the dire urging of one newer character that portended a climatic and dangerous outcome if they did not swiftly stop it.
While the characters are exciting enough, the focus is not on the “monsters” themselves, but the true nature of good and evil. The series as it continues, illustrates the point that human nature means we all have the potential to be either good or bad, depending on the choices we make. Perhaps tellingly, sometimes the “monsters” are more human, more compassionate than their creators in this psychological thriller.
This show, which originally aired in 2014, also recently spawned a short-lived “sequel” called Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, which focused more on Mexican supernatural myths and was centered in 1930s San Francisco.
Penny Dreadful is an excellent choice for viewers who love classic movie monsters, Victorian-era thrillers, and those who just want good scare as Halloween is just around the corner. Check it out!