Television: Penny Dreadful, "Night Work"

Decided to give this one a shot because it has a fabulous cast, and I must say the production quality is quite high. Unfortunately, the show also takes itself far too seriously to be much fun. On top of that comes a disjointed, purposefully obtuse form of storytelling that the writers seem to think makes them look clever. I've noticed this practice before. Basically, it happens when, if a story were to be told forthrightly and directly it would be considered dull, instead of fixing the story the writers cut it into little pieces and toss it like confetti in the hopes whatever pattern it makes when it lands will intrigue people enough that they'll stick around to see it reassembled.


Timothy Dalton plays Sir Malcolm Murray, whose daughter Mina (yes, that Mina Murray) has been taken (presumably by Dracula) and he seeks to get her back. If only we had Liam Neeson, but Dalton does a solid job here, and is perhaps—at least as far as this first episode is concerned—the most coherent part of the show.

Murray is assisted (or something) by Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), and they also hire American showman and sharp-shooter Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) for the titular night work as they go to clean out a nest of vampires and try to trace their way to Dracula and Mina.

We've also got Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) wandering around . . . Might as well, I suppose. Murray tries to loop him in (to use a modern phrase) to his would-be Torchwood or whatever this is, but Frankenstein is primarily dismissive of Murray's "amateurishness."

Some other story involved dismembered bodies. I suppose Frankenstein will get "looped in" to that as well at some point. Seems right up his alley.

An atmospheric drama, to be sure, but as I mentioned previously, a bit heavy-handed in execution and not all that fun to watch. It's almost trying too hard to be deep and dark and lacks any contrast—how much more effective it would be if it had bright spots or a shiny surface disguising much darker depths? Instead it is homogenous, and that makes it far less interesting.

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