Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Review of Penny Dreadful's Demimonde and Season Impressions

Penny Dreadful

Here we are, halfway done with this season (Series?) of Penny Dreadful. We're moving right in to what works with Demimonde and what continues to bog down the show like Resurrection.

I love the characters, I love the atmosphere, the small details of 19th century ye olde London. They all serve to carve out the identity of this show unlike anything else. It's a shame the plot continues to be at a standstill. This wouldn't be a problem if the season order came out to be ten or twelve episodes, but we're halfway through the series, and we're not far from where the pilot dropped us off at.

Dorian Gray gives a greater impression than he did in Seance, yet there has been no forward momentum from him. His business is to sleep with as many of the cast as possible, and that's all well and good, except we have an entire episode devoted to exactly that. Penny Dreadful has slowed down to an unacceptable pace while it engrosses its audience in the tormented struggled of its cast.

Ethan Chandler, Victor Frankenstein, The Monster, and in a small way, Sir Malcolm, are the only characters to have any change. Ethan is working to pay for his love interest's medicine (Brona Croft). Victor Frankenstein is working to afford the supplies to give his Monster its mate. The Monster is shown to constantly remind him, as well as have the one genuine heartfelt scene of him working at the theater. On this point, it's nice to see someone smile and actually enjoy what they do. And Sir Malcolm is planning a trip to Africa.

We are treated to a touching scene with Sir Malcolm and Frankenstein. Frankenstein reveals when Sir Malcolm invited Ethan Chandler to Africa, he was left out. He knows the reason, he's not a rough and tumble guy who can explore the world, but it's still sad to be left out. Sir Malcolm reveals he lost a son on a expedition to Africa; a book-borne and probably nonathletic son, like Frankenstein. The impression we get from Sir Malcolm is he doesn't want to experience anymore personal loss. This is a sweet and touching scene that has no justification for it to happen.

Sir Malcolm is caught in the throes of obsession, and has made it very clear he's paying grand sums of money to those who will help him with his cause.  Later in the episode, we have Sir Malcolm telling Vanessa that they can lose every battle, except the last. The audience has had zero scenes showing a Sir Malcolm who is becoming close to his comrades. The scene feels a little out of left field, and in a way, hurts the validity of this ongoing change.

Paradoxically, this is the kind of thing I want more out of the show. I want to see this monstrous group come together in a sick and twisted family dynamic. I see beautiful long shots of characters, yet when scenes such as this do pop up, they're the exceptions, not the standard. This leads way to the first half show review.

Season Impressions

We are at the halfway mark of the season with episode four. I had high hopes that a small number of episodes would mean little to no filler, and I was sort of wrong on that assumption. Let's cut straight to the chase. The actors are great, the production is fantastic, the obscene is prevalent in every episode, and the weakest link is the writing by John Logan.

If someone were to ask me what the main point of the show is, I would have a tough time trying to tell them. I can say, "It's the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for Monsters" and if they understood the reference, I'd be lying. That sort of impression implies there is a clear threat to fend off, and yet, barely anything is there to cement the fact. I don't really know why all these characters are together, I don't know what the threat is, I don't even know the reasoning of why these characters are doing what they're doing.

Either zero plot is unfolding as we get character moments, or plot is moving forward, but not in a straight line. The main offenders of this are Sir Malcolm and Vanessa who love to speak in cryptic half-sentences about their past and what issue they're facing in the future. As a viewer, I genuinely don't know what the central core of this show is supposed to be.

My review of the first half of the season is a collection of great character scenes brought to life by incredible acting, but the plot is sorely lacking to add any sort of cohesiveness to the show. As long as the quality stays steady, the show will end up a misfire rather than a dud. If the show is to get renewed for a second season, they need a team of writers. No way around this fact.