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Penny Dreadful “The Day Tennyson Died” Review (3×01)

1 May

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“‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

The above quote from Lord Tennyson is a fitting thematic summation of this premiere. This is a show that constantly deals with internal and external monsters, exploring various evils like this season’s Count Dracula. Yet, it still has a beating heart underneath it all, a light that drives its characters even as the darkness threatens to consume them all. That light takes form in the connections they forge and the relationships they develop, and as a result, there’s an optimism to be found in many aspects of the series.

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Penny Dreadful “And They Were Enemies” Review (2×10)

6 Jul

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“I know what I am. Do you?”

Identity may be the major theme governing the Penny Dreadful universe, but the writers expertly tie that into other topics like religion and darkness, weaving together the show’s characters in a large tapestry of past, present, and future. Going in, you might not expect this kind of depth and complexity from something that’s a horror series in its simplest form, but as you keep watching, you realize that the show works because its characters are fascinating to watch. They’re flawed individuals just trying to find some light in a room full of darkness, and that’s exactly what makes their journeys so compelling.

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Penny Dreadful “Little Scorpion” Review (2×07)

15 Jun

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“All of those things that mark you when you’re young, that make you who you are…you never escape them.”

Seeing as a lot of Penny Dreadful is structured around the idea of identity, it comes as no surprise that “Little Scorpion” is concerned with who we are as people, particularly the dark sides of ourselves that stay with us forever. It’s represented physically by the way Vanessa is possessed by a demon–by “monsters inside”–but it also has a deep emotional aspect that forms its foundation in the complicated histories of these characters. In this episode, it’s also symbolized by the storm that rages after a few days of apparent happiness and fun, and it’s nicely summed up by the way Vanessa describes the thunder, lightning, and rain: “primordial…every bit of civilization gone, and everything true coming out”.

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Penny Dreadful “Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places” Review (2×04)

25 May

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Penny Dreadful can shine just based on the strength of its acting alone. Pair any two characters together, and you’ll likely witness some incredibly compelling television, regardless of what the two are talking about. This is absolutely key in a series like this one: its horror elements are unable to truly shine through if the characters are not interesting to watch, and the themes of the show don’t hit as effectively if we don’t feel attachments to the people involved.

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Penny Dreadful “Fresh Hell” Review (2×01)

3 May

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“Do you believe the past can return?”

“More than that. It never leaves us. It is who we are.”

Horror simply is not as effective if all we’re seeing is cheap scare after cheap scare. Horror is ultimately empty if the people involved are not well-formed or compelling, and Penny Dreadful is a show that clearly understands the importance of character. It’s a show that hinges upon mood and character, and by zeroing in on what exactly makes it so intriguing, it has the ability to draw you in and never let go; that’s the mark of good horror, and even though you may not characterize it as “scary”, there’s no denying that it’s a gripping, suspenseful, and poignant series.

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