Theatricality, exposition, and sexuality goes full tilt in Penny Dreadful. This time, we start the show with Dorian Gray who, as it turns out, spends his days drowning in hedonism and perversion. It’s interesting that we’re shown just how much he’s willing to explore with his sense of invincibility, and yet he continues to doubt his vulnerability by starting at, what we assume, is his decaying portrait. There’s more to Dorian than just a straight-haired eye candy, but we might have to wait until the next season before we see his true form.
With Vanessa Ives, we feel a serene sensuality in her conversations with Dorian. They don’t feel rushed, but organic and carefully drawn out. The same with Chandler and Frankenstein’s constant snapping at each other; their characters feel genuine and grounded. The introduction of Dr. Van Helsing as a hematologist is also a welcome addition to the cast, although at this point I’m thinking his role will be short lived.
And remember Brona Croft? Well apparently, she’s got a bigger role to play which the show runners are taking very very slowly to unveil. Fine, slow pace it is. But can she improve at least on her Cockney/Northern-Irish/illiterate English accent? It’s really annoying.
What’s a great addition about this episode is its presentation of the Grand Guignol theatre, which provides us a glance at 1890s London, as sinister and foreboding as the demons that haunt our protagonists. The theatre’s quick transition from melodrama, animal action, and blonde damsels is a quiet metaphor for the show itself (a blonde being sacrificed to a Creature, animalistic instincts taking over sanity, and the quest for love and life).
And like the audiences of the Grand Guignol, we’re caught gasping in shock, laughing in absurdity, and clinging to every word uttered in Penny Dreadful. It is theatrical storytelling and we’re right at the edge of our seats gasping for more.
P.S. The only irk I have is the sudden sexposition between Chandler and Gray, which I think was merely added for the shock value. It did not add any useful narrative to the story. The showrunners probably thought, “Oh hey we need something to shock our watchers. How about gay sex?”