Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Review: Penny Dreadful's Grand Guignol

Penny dreadful

Penny Dreadful is predictable with it's conclusion, hurting and harming in equal measure. I had a sense of what was going to transpire before watching the episode, so the fact Penny Dreadful went that route makes it hard to hate, but it also makes it difficult to love. The last three episodes were fun because of the unexpected, not in spite of.

The Grand Guignol makes it a point to reach all the major loose ends of the series. The important distinction is that not everything is wrapped up or given context for existing, but the major story strands are touched upon. What is on screen excites, but be warned there may be unfulfillment on promises from episode one never given. It's the nature of the television beast.

I'm not in the mood for a gigantic post, so let's condense some of the issues. Dorian Gray is not that productive of a figure, even with all the free time he has and all the wild sex that ensues. The use of classic literature names attached to red shirts doesn't change their two-dimensionality or add shock value when they're (lamely) killed off. Sembene's backstory took a cheap ship from Africa to London, so it should arrive in season two. Frankenstein's monster may brood in a trench coat with his hands in his pockets most of the time, at least he's productive enough to get things done and have a complete story arc!

I can finally diagnose Penny Dreadful with it's season-long illness, it held back most of it's interesting information for season two. Some may call this an egotistical decision, and I would happen to agree with them. We live in a world where shows are lucky to get picked up, and even luckier to live for more than one season. Remember in my first-half season impressions where I thought things were getting repetitive with the character? Well, I was right. Those eloquently worded monologues on life and death were filler, like the insides of Twinkies, it contained nothing of value, unless you enjoy the sweetness.

If some of those monologues were cut down or removed entirely, let's say a good 15 to 20 minutes would remain. I say that's plenty of time to learn more about Sembene, give him more speaking lines, or make him something other than a non character. How about make Mina an actual character as well? The truth about Mina is the slight (but seen a mile away) twist hardly changes anything we know about her. What the audience knows about her from episode one doesn't change the slightest at the end. Dorian is also another victim to this problem.

Penny Dreadful is a good show that takes regular trips to greatness. Its strength is the amazing talent from the crew. The sets, the sound design, the acting, the effects, all do a fantastic job from beginning until end. The weak spot is the inconsistent quality of writing. Given that the show is a big success to Showtime, maybe more work and hands will be involved on the script side of production.

For now, Penny Dreadful is a flawed, but great show that genre fans should take a chance on.