“Penny Dreadful” is back for a 10-episode second season this Sunday night. “Penny Dreadful” is at its core a riveting imagined look at a Gothic Victorian London set with the characters of great literary horror fiction, alive and wreaking havoc on the populace.
Satanic layers of the demimonde exposed, “Dreadful” treats us to a wolf-man hiding in plain sight, a stunning empath who channels the evil spirits, a tortured world traveler, his man-servant who sees more than what is obvious, and a earnest Doctor whose bid to reanimate dead flesh is all too successful and his monster who is equal parts soulful and menace.
Welcome to season two of Showtime’s evocative and visually breathtaking goth-horror drama “Penny Dreadful,” where the accomplished Eva Green is cast as Vanessa Ives, an unlikely ward (and ersatz daughter) to Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton). Sir Malcolm has now lost two of his own children and he houses Miss Ives, who to her dismay is a direct conduit to the evil underworld.
Like a moth to the flame, Ives draws this evil energy like a lighting rod for the demons who walk the earth, hidden in shadows and in plain sight, sent to do the devil’s bidding. Ives is the prize for this season’s arch villain, craftily teased to us in season one as Madam Kali. She beguiles Sir Malcolm, but her end game is decidedly calculated.
Reeve Carney is back as the emotionally broken Dorian Gray, Patti LuPone is set to guest star as a mysterious character of great importance in Vanessa’s past.
Helen McCrory roars back as this season’s arch nemesis, Evelyn Poole (Madame Kali), and the talented Simon Russell Beale, returning as the eccentric Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle.
Of note is Josh Harnett’s Ethan Chandler, whose energy as a gun slinging American lycanthrope is an odd layer of safety for Miss Ives.
Additional guest stars include Douglas Hodge as a Scotland Yard investigator; Sarah Greene as Poole’s powerful “daughter,” Hecate; and Johnny Beauchamp as a man with a “past.”
Classic literature from the era, tales of Dracula, Frankenstein and Dorian Gray stories are blended with the era’s fascination for gruesome retellings of the shocking murders like the infamous Jack the Ripper.
Add an American in London who howls at the full moon, and mister, you have yourself a layered yarn that will scare the Dickens out of you.
Season one’s focus was the culmination of the struggle of Sir Malcolm Murray (Dalton) and Vanessa Ives (Green) for Murray’s missing daughter, Mina, taken by evil subterranean vampire minions of Satan himself, and how Ives beomes a ward of sorts to Sir Malcolm. Crossing paths with their story is American gunman Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) who each become part of their unlikely team. Frankenstein of course makes his articulate monster Caliban, played with incredible depth and soul by Rory Kinnear. This season we know the creature is demanding his mate be created, and deceased Irish prostitute Brona (Billie Piper) will rejoin the living, sort of, in Season 2.
Here are a few things to watch for in season two:
Rory Kinnear is a show stealer. He is driving the story in the beginning with his quest for new employment and for love, and he finds a place that ostensibly seems welcoming. Hired to help run a wax museum, his love life may become complicated if Brona is smitten and perhaps the blind daughter of his new employers takes to him during the same time frame too.
Madame Kali- Evelyn Poole
Last season, her portentous “cute meet” with Sir Malcolm Murray foreshadows an ominous turn of events. Helen McCrory’s Evelyn Poole will be one to watch and fear this season two, and her performance is compelling and wonderfully villainous. What else will we discover about her when Penny Dreadful returns May 3rd?
Danny Sapani’s Sembene’s role is ramped up this season and we are very glad for it. He knows things, and he becomes a more active part of this coalition of demon fighters who form a protective layer around Vanessa Ives.
Will there be a love triangle between him, Brona and Caliban? It remains to be seen. Treadaway’s Frankenstein also is more woven into season two with his complicated life, as the saying “be careful what you wish for” applies mightily to this character.
Sir Malcolm Murray
You will see the acrimony and contempt with his grieving wife, the sexual manipulations of Evelyn Poole as she sets her hooks for him and the ongoing awareness that his cobbled together team of demon fighters’ work is far from over.
Production designer Jonathan McKinstry
The sets and production of “Penny Dreadful”are a character in their own right. McKinstry’s physical world of “Dreadful” is nothing short of beautiful, with gorgeous luxe accommodations made for Evelyn Poole and her brood of siren-like succubus “daughters.” McKinstry deliberatley designs her living quarters as a lead in to the belly of Hell itself. For Poole’s abode, he was inspired by the work of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi to create this chapel-like structure replete with vaulted ceilings, arches, and passageways that are best described as animalistic with details like bat-like claws, wings and bones. The home is strewn with emblems of the devil. The workroom for Treadaway’s Frankenstein is even more detailed and the new employ for Kinnear’s Caliban is a treasure trove of eye popping sets. His previous work includes the opulent “The Borgias” among many production noteworthy achievements.
Prosthetic makeup by Nick Dudman
BAFTA Award-winner Nick Dudman is the creative force behind the visual world of Harry Potter, including all make-up effects and animatronics. His credits also include The Mummy Returns, Interview with the Vampire, The Last of the Mohicans, Alien 3, Batman, Labyrinth, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Willow, Star Wars: Episode VI—Return of the Jedi and The Hunger, on which he assisted the late great Dick Smith. Dudman started his career assisting Stuart Freeborn on Yoda for Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back.
More than last season, prosthetic makeup is taken to new creative highs with the introduction of Poole’s “daughters’, these witches who haunt and stalk Miss Ives. Bald, hairless, scarred and demon-eyed, these three morph to sultry sirens of Hell, doing Evelyn Poole’s bidding. This feat required full-body prosthetics, specialized bald caps that give the effect of complete nudity. The end result is sinister feminine demons who nimbly wreak havoc. Harnett’s character is also given a more retro 1930’s feel in his rendition of the Wolfman, a more humanistic face and body versus later versions that explode clothing by sheer size.