TV Review: Rating 'Penny Dreadful' Season 2 (So Far)

Since the Showtime series has yet to be covered in the TV Rundown this season, let’s begin with a slight refresher on the first 4 episodes before we jump into this past week’s installment. Where we are now: Vanessa is being hunted by a coven of Satan worshiping witches. Ethan is helping to defend her, while he tries to control his inner wolf. The Creature continues to annoy, as he pushes himself on a resurrected Brona (now known as Lily) and works at a creepy wax museum.

Frankenstein has become smitten with the intended bride of his Creature and has reintroduced Brona/Lily into society as his newly arrived cousin. Elsewhere, Sir Malcolm has been seduced by the evil leader of the Satan worshiping witch coven and Dorian Grey has embarked on a new romance. 

As of the latest episode, “Above the Vaulted Sky”, the series has officially reached its midway point. It’s hard to believe it’s already halfway through its run and not necessarily because there’s been a great deal of progress in the overall story. This is mainly due to The Creature and Frankenstein’s storylines, which continue to bog down any momentum the show, starts to build.

Their connection to the core action is disjointed at best. As fascinating and multidimensional as Vanessa, Ethan and Sir Malcolm are, The Creature and Frankenstein are not. The time spent on the latter two characters would be better expended with an emphasis on the aforementioned three or learning more about the stoic Sembene or flamboyant Ferdinand Lyle, for instance. 

On the entire landscape of television it is hard to name a more aggravating character than The Creature. Not only is he guilty of drawing time away from more entertaining story arcs, he is just a dreadful character (no pun intended). He has killed numerous innocent people (including Van Helsing), blackmailed, bullied and whined his way through all of last season and he’s picked up exactly where he left off. He is not some deep philosopher or misunderstood misanthrope.

He is a despot. He can spend all the time in the world waxing poetic to Vanessa and it won’t change that fact. His interaction with Miss Ives seems a contrived attempt for her to give him, her seal of approval so audiences will accept his presence. Not even the mightily persuasive wonder that is Vanessa can work that kind of magic.

Coming off of the outstandingly powerful episode, “The Nightcomers” has been quite challenging. Seeing how truly remarkable this series can be has made the lack of quality in subsequent episodes startlingly apparent. Quiet, mournful, humorous, foreboding and compellingly scripted, “Penny Dreadful” offered its finest episode to date with “The Nightcomers”, which has been among one of the best hours of television this year. Guest star Patti LuPone knocked the doors off of the show as Joan Clayton, a Cut-Wife who hesitantly became Vanessa’s mentor and close friend.

Eva Green and Lupone's performances were masterful in the standalone episode, which assembled some of the puzzle pieces to the season’s central storyline. Leaving an indelible impression, the episode threw down the gauntlet for its successors; a challenge that has yet to be answered.

Seeing how great the show can be made rooting for it to get there again, an easy desire. As the season has progressed it has become clearer and clearer that the series’ best assets rest within the walls of Sir Malcolm’s mansion. The awkward segway into unrelated plotlines just makes that all the more obvious. The Creature and Frankenstein have little to zero effect on that storyline and quite frankly, just feel like filler. Outside of them, there is more than enough story to keep this show very busy. So let this penny shine.

[Featured Imag by Showtime]