×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Penny Dreadful,’ Season 2

With:
Reeve Carney, Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Rory Kinnear, Helen McCrory, Billie Piper, Danny Sapani, Harry Treadaway, Josh Hartnett

Awash in gothic atmosphere and tasty performances, “Penny Dreadful” puts a face on evil in its second season, and feels considerably richer for it. That countenance would belong to Helen McCrory, who plays the head of a Lucifer-worshipping coven, eager to hand over the psychic Vanessa (Eva Green) to the Prince of Darkness. John Logan’s creation still feels haphazard at times in the way it throws together macabre figures — a bit like the Universal monster mashes of the ’40s — but viewers who spend less time dwelling on details and go with “Penny’s” crimson-streaked flow will more than get their money’s worth.

Just to recap season one, Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) assembled a team to help him attempt to recover his demon-stolen daughter, including the aforementioned Vanessa, gunslinging American cowboy Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and a very young Dr. Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), whose chickens — OK, in this case immortal Creature (Rory Kinnear) — have come home to roost.

With the child-saving arc having been unsuccessfully completed, Vanessa now finds herself plagued by haunting visions, while Ethan is grappling with the after-effects of a lycanthropic blackout that has made him a slightly modified variation on an American werewolf in London. And if that weren’t bad luck enough, Frankenstein has agreed to create a bride for his lonely monster from the remains of Ethan’s former paramour (Billie Piper), which, if it’s anything like the 1935 classic, does not promise to end well. (Piper does get to sport something approaching her own hair, minus white streaks, for which both she and the hairstyling department should be grateful.)

In season one, Logan’s shadowy beasties never added up to much, and the rules for thwarting them stayed vague throughout. Yet the show remained entertaining and watchable largely because of its sensuous Hammer Film-like qualities, the wonderful casting and its modest wrinkles on these familiar characters.

That’s mostly true again in these initial episodes, with McCrory (perhaps best known Stateside for the Harry Potter movies and for portraying former British PM Tony Blair’s wife Cherie in “The Queen”) positively devouring scenery as the ruthless enchantress, convincingly spitting out lines like, “The Master won’t be denied his prize.”

The series format also affords Logan and his collaborators (James Hawes directed the premiere) to assiduously tease out stories at an unhurried pace, pausing to explore the lusty antics of Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) even though they remain somewhat peripheral to the rest of the proceedings. That’s not a problem, at least if the first season is any guide, since the show derives its kick from the getting there, not the destination.

Sumptuously shot in Ireland, the series thus represents a fine and frankly shrewdly calculated addition to Showtime’s roster, in the same way any savvy manager wants to assemble a diversified portfolio. If that sounds somewhat dismissive, remember that producing a credible gothic drama isn’t as easy as it sounds (just ask Netflix’s “Hemlock Grove”). Besides, given the appetite for the genre, a program that’s simply unapologetic fun, as this is, can be plenty good, “Penny”-wise.

TV Review: 'Penny Dreadful,' Season 2

(Series; Showtime, Sun. May 3, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Ireland by Desert Wolf Prods. and Neal Street Prods.

Crew: Executive producers, John Logan, Pippa Harris, Sam Mendes; co-executive producer, Karen Richards; supervising producer, Chris King; producers, Sheila Hockin, James Flynn, Morgan O’Sullivan; director, James Hawes; writer, Logan; camera, Owen McPolin; production designer, Jonathan McKinstry; editor, Michele Conroy; music, Abel Korzeniowski; casting, Karen Lindsay-Stewart, Frank Moiselle, Nuala Moiselle. 60 MIN.

Cast: Reeve Carney, Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Rory Kinnear, Helen McCrory, Billie Piper, Danny Sapani, Harry Treadaway, Josh Hartnett

More TV

  • UFC 235 Mixed Martial Arts, Las

    All UFC Pay-Per-View Events Moving to ESPN+ in U.S. Through 2025

    The UFC — in an major jump to digital away from traditional pay TV — inked an expanded pact with ESPN under which all of the mixed martial arts promoter’s pay-per-view events will be available exclusively on ESPN+ in the U.S. for the next seven years. Under the agreement, the ESPN+ subscription streaming service will [...]

  • Pretty Little Liars the Perfectionists Review

    TV Review: 'Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists' on Freeform

    Nearly every scene in “Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists” tells one specific story: This is a series that very much wants to be “Pretty Little Liars: All Grown Up.” It’s an interesting choice for a spinoff, considering the fact that the final season and a half of “Pretty Little Liars” featured a five-year time jump [...]

  • iPhone 7 Tim Cook

    Apple’s Video Streaming Plans: Key Open Questions

    Apple is expected to give a glimpse of its upcoming video streaming service at an event on its Cupertino, California-based campus on March 25. Reports over the past year have trickled out hinting at what an Apple streaming service could look like, but the company itself has been tight-lipped on divulging details. The streaming product [...]

  • HBO logo

    Amid Exits at HBO, Global Distribution Head Bernadette Aulestia Resigns

    HBO’s head of global distribution Bernadette Aulestia is resigning after 22 years, the premium cabler has confirmed to Variety, though she will remain at the company long enough to help her team through the transition to new leadership under WarnerMedia’s newly appointed chief revenue officer Gerhard Zeiler. Aulestia’s exit follows several others as parent entity [...]

  • Miranda Richardson

    'Game of Thrones' Prequel Pilot Adds Miranda Richardson to Cast

    HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel pilot has cast Miranda Richardson as a series regular in the hotly anticipated yet-untitled series. Richardson, a BAFTA- and Golden Globes-winning actor, joins Naomi Watts, Josh Whitehouse, Naomi Ackle, Denise Gough and others on the series created by Jane Goldman and “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin. Goldman will [...]

  • Ryan Hansen

    Ryan Hansen to Play Adam in Fox ‘Adam & Eve’ Pilot

    “Veronica Mars” star Ryan Hansen has been cast to play the Adam to Odette Annable’s Eve in the upcoming “Adam & Eve” pilot in the works at Fox, Variety has learned. The singe-camera comedy is based on the French-Canadian format of the same name. The series follows one couple at three stages of their relationship — [...]

  • Anders Holm and Tika Sumpter

    Anders Holm and Tika Sumpter Cast in 'Black-ish' Spinoff Episode

    Tika Sumpter and Anders Holm are joining the growing “Black-ish” world, Variety has learned. They will both star in the upcoming prequel episode, which could reportedly launch into its own spinoff series. As earlier reported, ABC is in development on the prequel that would focus on Tracee Ellis Ross’ character Rainbow. Holm will play Paul, Rainbow’s father, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content