Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Penny Dreadful's Seance

Penny Dreadful

As I did with the previous review of Penny Dreadful, I have watched this episode ahead of its original airing. The episode, Night Work, was put up On Demand and YouTube, but now the episodes (to my knowledge) can only be watched On Demand with a Showtime subscription. This early taste may be ending soon, and I'll be with everyone late Sunday nights catching up on the show.

The episode, Seance, is much better than the pilot in about every way. The gore reaches that classic B-movie level of splatter, the pace never slows down for exposition, and the characters of Vanessa Ives and Sir Malcolm are much more interesting. Night Work had the issue of taking the viewers away from Ethan, who like the viewer, is new to the world and things have to be explained to him, to focus on Vanessa and Sir Malcolm. I want to say there was double the amount of exposition for these characters, but it slowed down the feeling of the show. Seance works with half the exposition, and actually makes every piece of it more exciting than the pilot. If anyone is on the fence, give this episode a try to quell any fears.

Everything else about the episode is filled with just the right amount of exposition and icky grossness. The Dorian Gray and Brona Croft scene, the opening hook, and a few others that are best left to surprise. We are treated to a large number of human moments with the characters as they attend social gatherings, walk around outside, and even go on a date. It is refreshing given the pilot's overly serious exposition-filled tone that so much improves in a short time. Even the future recruitment to this merry band of monsters is handled better, and peppered with slight foreshadowing on what will befall them as the season progress.

The main focus on this episode is the seance which takes place at the center of the runtime. What could have been a hokey possession scene is wonderfully not so. Eva Green's portrayal of a communicating demon is genuinely creepy and unnerving to see. It is to the scene's benefit that few special effects are used, and the power of the performance carries the rather lengthy ordeal. Is it used to stealthily bring in plot? Yes, but it does it so well that I was along for the ride. So far there has been a nice buildup to what will be the major conflict that these characters must fend off in their Gothic city.

Again, the look and feel of ye olde London is phenomenal. Penny Dreadful needs to win some awards on the look alone, because many of the shots appear to be movie quality, not television sets. The production crew really outdid themselves. More and more, the opening title credits theme is catching on to me as well. The choice of four directors over the course of eight episodes is paying off with a very consistent high quality look.

Who can forget to include the ending. Wow, bombdiggity. I felt the pilot's second half didn't have much excitement, which is the polar opposite of what takes place with Victor Frankenstein. This is what I wanted out of the show, monsters appearing out of the darkness to torment our league of heroes. These monsters are coming out slowly, which in a strange way, is to the benefit of the characters. It certainly made for a shocking entrance.

That's it for this review. Over the coming episodes, I'll write less on the beautiful Gothic architecture (Unless it's super beautiful) and keep track on how characters are being handled, interactions, and mythos stuff. I will probably mentioned well-acted scenes if they are the same as the seance scene, where the performance bucks the trend.