Showtime's Penny Dreadful is in it's 3rd season, and with each new episode the show's standard is elevated. Created by John Logan (Gladiator, Aviator & Bond franchise) with a cast brimming with talent (Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, Rory Kinnear, Billie Piper, Josh Hartnett, Harry Treadaway, Reeve Carney and Helen McCrory amongst others), Penny Dreadful is one of the best shows on television. This article contains minor spoilers from ALL 3 seasons. You have been warned!
A psycho-sexual horror thriller, the show is based around famous literary characters such as Doctor Frankenstein and Dorian Gray in Victorian Era London. Like the title suggests, the show is referring to 'penny dreadfuls', a type of 'cheap' literature that was immensely popular in 19th Century Britain, also known as penny horribles & penny bloods. As the show progresses, more famous characters are introduced such as Doctor Jekyll and Dracula, with several mythological and biblical characters also making appearances such as Hecate and Lucifer.
There is so much to say about this show and I can't praise it enough. The writing, the directing, the mesmerizing talent of each cast member...but today I thought I'd focus on the visual art aspect of it.
Set in Victorian Era London, the show offers numerous creative opportunities. Whether it's the intricately embroidered dresses, the Industrial Revolution of London or grand ballroom dances, Penny Dreadful brings the historical aspects of London, intertwined with fictional literature, to life. And it is stunning. Horror is an essential theme in the show, with blood-filled scenes and some gory images throughout the seasons. This is a trigger warning for blood in the images below.
I do NOT own any of these images.
I do NOT own any of these images.
As you can imagine, the costumes in the show are beautiful. with great attention to detail. Traditional Victorian fashion, with some gothic elements. Both the dresses and the three-piece-suits are stunning, each piece a beautifully crafted work of art. Not only are we shown day dresses, but also ball gowns, suits, and even night wear, offering an interesting insight into the evolution of fashion.
- Horror on screen
The show has been praised for it's cinematic achievements, creating hauntingly beautiful scenes. It's proof that sometimes less is more. One of the shows most memorable scenes has to be a ballroom sequence in which blood rain begins to fall from the ceiling, coating all the guests who continue to dance, obliviously, eventually dripped in blood from head to toe. Witches, vampires, werewolves and demons, Penny Dreadful stays true to the first on-screen depictions of these monsters, with impressive old-fashioned make-up that fits perfectly within the aesthetic of the show. When it comes to horror and supernatural scenes, the show favors make-up & prosthetics over CGI, making the monsters more believable. In addition, possession scenes also stick to the less-is-more motto, playing with a little levitation and furniture moving, which goes a long way on screen. (Spoilers ahead)
- Victorian Era London
Like all shows, each new season grants the production design to up it's game, offering us some beautiful shots of the streets and shops of London during the Victorian Era. I love the city of London and I always enjoy seeing it on screen, especially the industrial revolution era as the city underwent substantial change. The sets of the show range from Dorian Grays lush ballroom to the suburban slums in the East End, even a brief glance of the London Undergound. The staircases and landings leading up to Dr Frankenstein's home is filled with the homeless & the unemployed, John Claire lives amongst the homeless & the ill in the dark tunnels of the town, a sharp contrast to Sir Malcolm Murrays manor. Unfortunately I couldn't find any good images of the streets, but here are some of the many locations in the show.
And to finish off this article on the visuals of Penny Dreadful, here are some aesthetically appealing images from the show! Penny Dreadful is on Netflix and a new episode of season 3 is added every week. I hope you enjoyed this article, let me know your thoughts and comments!