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Title: Penny Dreadful: The Complete Series

Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:79

It’s interesting to go back over a series a few scant months after finishing off the last season and watching it year by year instead of one giant binge. I never actually got the chance to review Season One of “Penny Dreadful” for you guys and had originally been introduced to it by Netflix, just as season 2 was starting. Thus it’s been a few years since I had seen the origins and start of it all. Just a few scant months ago I wrapped up the third season and lo and behold, Paramount decides to put out a complete boxset for the series and I’m back again at the beginning to refresh myself (the last week has been me putting on an episode a night just before bed and having some VERY weird dreams as a result). With that in mind, the rest of this synopsis will be me going over my thoughts afresh on season one with links to my full review writeups on seasons 2 and 3 for a more intimate look at those years.

I originally didn’t review “Penny Dreadful” because it looked WAAAAY too much like a cheap knockoff of “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and I had a strong aversion to the series by way of that mental comparison. However, while it is true that there are few nods to the premise of “League”, “Penny Dreadful” takes a sharp turn to the left and deviates quite abruptly from that particular genre and shoots straight into dramatic horror. Traveling further and further into the viewer’s psyche, the show is more feral and definitely more bloody than the afore mentioned fantasy film that it bears a resemblance to. Bypassing the cheese and overly soap operaish nature of “True Blood”, “Penny Dreadful” carves a much leaner and straighter path than its HBO cousin and manages to make something truly unique in the process.

Reinventing and retelling some of history’s most famous horror icons, we are introduced to Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) who is desperately trying to save his daughter from a horrible fate at the hands of a vampire, as well as Vanessa Ives (Eva Green in all her luxurious glory) who is fighting against a demon that has been trying to possess her all her life. Viktor Frankenstein (Harry Treadway) is having to come to grips with the consequences of his actions, and learning to live with the very first monster that he has created. A man like beast who calls himself Caliban (Rory Kinnear). Cowboy Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) is entangled with a group of English vampire hunters and ends up getting a little too involved with a London prostitute, even as his own shadowy past taps at his doorstep.


Each and every one of these characters are new and fresh (well except for Viktor Frankenstein and his monster), and each one of them opens up a window into the realm of classic horror literature that most of us know by heart. Adding a little twist here, and a little twist there, Vanessa, Sir Malcolm, Viktor and Ethan all intertwine their own personal tales of tragedy and violence into a mesh of violence, blood and desire that will form bonds that will last for ages (or as long as it can in this world).

“Penny Dreadful” is a strange series, but it’s much less strange the second time through the first season. Instead of delving into blatant nudity and lascivious soap opera like romantic entanglements that were so common in true blood, or the blatantly blood world of “Dexter”, “Penny Dreadful” creates a show that manages to be both cerebral, feral, and titillating at the same time without getting overly cheesy or melodramatic. The 8 episode first season is tight and clean, with almost no filler material whatsoever, giving a much more intense and focused storyline. Seasons 2 and 3 deviate a bit (season 3 especially), but the show maintains a strong sense of consistency across the board in terms of story quality.
For more of my thoughts on Seasons 2 and 3 in their full write ups, you can just click HERE and HERE.

The episode rundown:

Season 1:
Night Work
Closer Than Sisters
What Death Can Join Together
Grand Guignol

Season 2:
Fresh Hell
Verbis Diablo
The Nightcomers
Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places
Above the Vaulted Sky
Glorious Horrors
Little Scorpion
Memento Mori
And Hell Itself My Only Foe
And They Were Enemies

Season 3:
The Day Tennyson Died
Predators Far And Near
Good And Evil Braided Be
A Blade Of Grass
This World’s Is Our Hell
No Beast So Fierce
Ebb Tide
Perpetual Night
The Blessed Dark


Rated TV-MA

Video :4.5stars:
The three seasons of "Penny Dreadful are fairly consistent (with season two looking not AS good as seasons 1 and 3 for some reason, but only by the narrowest margins) and bleak across the years. As with the Colors are rather muted and the palette a bit grey and flat, but it is intentionally done so with the idea of keeping it a dark and dreary looking bunch of miscreants in Victorian times. The first season is probably the brightest of the 3, but there is plenty of gloom and darkness to go around (with the occasional accompaniment of crush in all of these abundant shadows). the decadent costumes and locations are the real attraction, with white snow, gorgeous gowns and bodices, and the dreary manors in which Eve and her friends are always calling home.

For more of my thoughts on Seasons 2 and 3's video stats you can click HERE and HERE when I reviewed the individual seasons

Audio :4stars:
“Penny Dreadful: The Complete First Season” comes to Blu-ray with a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track excellent. There's an incredible level of immersion and power that has it rise above the standard TV audio fare, and the show's good use of surround channels and action sequences make for a truly energetic and encompassing time. Abel Korzeniowski's strange and creepily enticing score manages to strike the right balance between odd and comforting in a strange way.. Voices are crisp and clear, locked up in the front channel and the LFE channel is given quite a bit to play with. For a modern fantasy/drama "Penny Dreadful: The Complete First Season" manages to be one of the better entries in the adult entertaimnent lineup for Showtime. Easily a stunner. Season one is more in line with Season 2 in terms of quality (thus both earning a 4/5 rating) but the third season gets a solid kick in the pants with the Atmos addition (and that being the reason it gets the better 4.5/5 rating in that write up)

aaaaaaaaaand, For more of my thoughts on Seasons 2 and 3's audio tracks you can click HERE and HERE for a detailed description.

Extras :2.5stars:

Season 1
• Mini-Featurettes
- What is a Penny Dreadful?
- Literary Roots
- Coming Together
- The Artisans: Part One Set Decoration & Props
- The Artisans: Part two Production Design
- The Grand Guignol
- Prostitution and Sex in the Victorian Age
- British Exploration and the Search for the Nile
- The Science of Medicine
• Ray Donovan Episodes

Season 2
• Video Production Blogs
• Reeve Carney Roundtable
• History of the Occult
• Character Profiles

Season 3
• Hecate’s Witch Prosthetics
• The Making Of Dr. Jekyll’s Lab
• Character Profiles:
- Ethan Chandler
- Sir Malcolm & Kaetenay
- Dr. Sweet
- Dr. Seward & Renfield
- The Creature
- Dr. Victor Frankenstein & Dr. Jekyll
- Dorian, Lily & Justine
- Catriona Hartdegen
• Vanessa's Costumes
• The Dead Zoo

Overall: :4stars:

“Penny Dreadful” was an entertaining, if albeit slightly cut short series that was a wonderful change of pace from the standard “Game of Thrones” knockoffs that had been appearing in the “Adult” TV world. Eva Green is always a delightful treat to view and the series kept the filler episodes down to a minimum and the high quality supporting cast for make for an enthralling watch. There’s nothing really DIFFERENT about this boxset in regards to the individual seasons other than the fact that it’s all in one place now. All 9 discs are identical to the individual seasons including the same extras, just in slimmer packaging and a nice new slipcover for those of you who never purchased them as they came out. For the price, if you don’t have this set, then it is definitely an easy and inexpensive way to get the rest. If you have the other seasons already then there’s no real reason to upgrade. Definitely a fun series and DEFINITELY worth watching.

Additional Information:

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Timothy Dalton
Created by: John Logan
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Dolby Atmos (Season 3), Spanish DD 2.0,
Studio: Paramount
Rated: TV-MA
Runtime: 548 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 6th, 2015

Buy Penny Dreadful: The Complete Series Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Solid Watch

More about Mike

1,546 Posts
Thanks for the review, Mike. I enjoyed the series as a whole, but the last season really had me wanting more. I figure this is due to trying to tie up the truncated series as best as they could, but it definitely had me feeling like a whole lot was missing.

I was really excited to see the introduction of Jekyl and Hyde, as well as Dracula, but it just didn't get fleshed out as much as I would have liked.

Still, I'm glad I watched the series and it's definitely better than a lot of other shows, like True Blood (wayyyy overhyped and ridiculously stupid at times).
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