Showtime’s Penny Dreadful Night Work TV Show Review. Penny Dreadful: Season 1, Episode 1: Night Work was possibly the beginning of one of best new horror TV shows on television. Will it have all the dynamics of the current king, The Walking Dead, probably not. That show is a human drama in inexplicable situations. Penny Dreadful is something different. Penny Dreadful is more like Game of Thrones: a serialized movie on a small scale. The Hughes’ brothers’ From Hell also came to mind when watching certain aspects of Night Work, helped in no small part by the references to “The Ripper” and “Old Jack.”
Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) has a secret, possibly one of the biggest on the show. When considering this point, the viewer will ask themselves why didn’t the vampires attack Ms. Ives underneath the opium den? Why is she able to walk among them unmolested? Why does her presence stop even the most hardy amongst them? Why are birds afraid of her?
Only one answer comes to my mind. How about you?
Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), The Explorer, may have multiple secrets, the most intriguing being the one involving his daughter that is missing. Where is his wife and what exacting befell his daughter? All we know from this episode is that the latter somehow evolved Ms. Ives. Another curiosity is that Sir Murray calls his daughter “Mina.” Miss Wilhelmina “Mina” Murray was one of the main characters in Bran Stoker‘s novel Dracula. The events in that book took place in 1893. The events in this episode took place in 1891. This is close enough for a comparison to be made but if the time-frame had been set after the events in the book, Sir Murray’s search would take on an entirely different dynamic (think Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).
It is most of the characters’ unrevealed pasts in Penny Dreadful that produce the questions that are begging for answers but not in a pedestrian way. Rather, in a benefiting way, contextual, not just a character standing or sitting explaining their previous life and motives like Lady Van Tassel did in the third act of Burton’s Sleepy Hollow.
Case and point: The viewer may not expect the morgue “assistant” to be the doctor that he is. It was a surprise, one saved for the end of the episode as his name was never spoken by any other character during Night Work, a clever narrative trick well employed. Clues to who he was were littered throughout the episode but when his “creature” appeared, it was made blatantly obvious who he was before he spoke that famous doctor’s name. His re-invention was one of the best aspects of Night Work. The jargon he used, his disposition towards others all built a personality that the viewer wanted to see more of and know more about. He projected focused scientist (and latent poet), through and through.
What the viewer expects to happen during the lab blackout scene didn’t happen, instead something “touching” in its place. Whether gunslinger Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and Ms. Ives will ever touch is another matter, though at least one of them wants that to happen.
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