Penny Dreadful Review: ‘Perpetual Night’ and ‘The Blessed Dark’ (Season 3 Finale, Episodes 8 and 9)

As part of my forthcoming book project, I’ve been revisiting the Penny Dreadful series and comics. This included looking back at my online reviews of the show’s third and final season, which I will be posting here over the coming weeks. This post originally appeared on The Victorianist, 8 July 2016. It has been edited and corrected for reposting.

In my very first post I rhetorically questioned whether any of the ‘monsters’ in Penny Dreadful would be able to come to terms with their past or their actions. I also asked to what extent the show could be labelled ‘Victorian’ or ‘neo-Victorian’.

When I started writing this week’s post, I had no idea that I would be writing about the end of entire series, as well as the end of the third season. Part of the reason it’s taken me so long to finish it is the way this ending has (unexpectedly) forced me to completely re-evaluate the show, and my expectations of it.

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Penny Dreadful Review: ‘Ebb Tide’ (Season 3, Episode 7)

As part of my forthcoming book project, I’ve been revisiting the Penny Dreadful series and comics. This included looking back at my online reviews of the show’s third and final season, which I will be posting here over the coming weeks. This post originally appeared on The Victorianist, 17 June 2016. It has been edited and corrected for reposting.

What does it mean to be true to yourself? What does it mean to be a good person? These are questions Penny Dreadful has frequently explored over its three seasons, but I’m not sure they ever felt as pressing or disturbing as they do in ‘Ebb Tide’. More than anything, the episode seems to suggest that the answers to these questions depend entirely on the person asking.

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Penny Dreadful Review: ‘No Beast So Fierce’ (Season 3, Episode 6)

As part of my forthcoming book project, I’ve been revisiting the Penny Dreadful series and comics. This included looking back at my online reviews of the show’s third and final season, which I will be posting here over the coming weeks. This post originally appeared on The Victorianist, 10 June 2016. It has been edited and corrected for reposting.

This week’s episode of Penny Dreadful is essentially all about submission and dominance. It takes us on a tour of all the key characters and stories this season, and throws in a few more for good measure. In each story, we are given an example of how characters refused to submit, submitted to easily, or were forced into submission, and the episode then explores the effect this relationship to submission has had on them. Ethan’s refusal to confront his problems has taken over his life. Lily is so scarred by being broken into submission that she is determined to break the men who used her in return. She has been given a new life, but refuses to let the old one truly die. ‘I’ve suffered long and hard to be who I am,’ she tells Frankenstein during his failed kidnapping attempt. ‘I want my scars to show’. Vanessa, physically weak and emotionally fragile, is also paradoxically the strongest. She is not afraid to submit to others, or risk her heart again and again.

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Penny Dreadful Review: ’This World Is Our Hell’ (Season 3, Episode 5)

As part of my forthcoming book project, I’ve been revisiting the Penny Dreadful series and comics. This included looking back at my online reviews of the show’s third and final season, which I will be posting here over the coming weeks. This post originally appeared on The Victorianist, 3 June 2016. It has been edited and corrected for reposting.

After last week’s welcome respite from the grand narrative, Penny Dreadful returns to the story of Ethan Talbot, with a secondary plot that follows Jekyll and Frankenstein in their quest to find a permanent cure for social deviance. Ethan and Hecate are still being pursued by various authority figures, and an uncertain welcome awaits them at their destination. Jekyll and Frankenstein are still working on a way to prolong the effects of Jekyll’s serum, and it seems they may finally have succeeded.

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Penny Dreadful Review: ‘A Blade of Grass’ (Season 3, Episode 4)

As part of my forthcoming book project, I’ve been revisiting the Penny Dreadful series and comics. This included looking back at my online reviews of the show’s third and final season, which I will be posting here over the coming weeks. This post originally appeared on The Victorianist, 27 May 2016. It has been edited and corrected for reposting.

Last week I wished for a quieter episode that focused on one or two characters in a bit more depth. This week, that wish was granted. Seasons one and two both used an early episode to explore a part of Vanessa’s past, and this season does the same. ‘A Blade of Grass’ is a frame narrative that starts and ends as a hypnotherapy session between Vanessa Ives and Dr Seward, and the two women are attempting to discover where Vanessa first met The Master (a.k.a. Dracula).

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Penny Dreadful Review: ‘Good and Evil Braided Be’ (Season 3, Episode 3)

As part of my forthcoming book project, I’ve been revisiting the Penny Dreadful series and comics. This included looking back at my online reviews of the show’s third and final season, which I will be posting here over the coming weeks. This post originally appeared on The Victorianist, 20 May 2016. It has been edited and corrected for reposting.

With a third of this season’s nine-episode run now complete, it’s still surprisingly difficult to judge where we should be at this point in Penny Dreadful’s story arc. Season one forced us to slowly stew in dread and suspense until the last few episodes, building up the struggles and motivations of its central characters. Season two jumped straight into supernatural action, then stepped back to let side stories unravel, and plotlines settle into place.

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Frankenfiction: The Book

This blog started in 2014 as a chronicle of my PhD research into Frankenfictions—books, films, television, and fine art that remix classic literature and historical documents in monstrous ways.

Now, four years on, I’m very excited to announce that I’ve just signed a contract with Bloomsbury Academic for my book Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture. It should be out in hardback sometime in 2019, with a projected paperback release in 2021.

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Penny Dreadful Review: ‘Predators Far and Near’ (Season 3, Episode 2)

As part of my forthcoming book project, I’ve been revisiting the Penny Dreadful series and comics. This included looking back at my online reviews of the show’s third and final season, which I will be posting here over the coming weeks. This post originally appeared on The Victorianist, 13 May 2016. It has been edited and corrected for reposting.

This post contains plot details for seasons 1-3 of Penny Dreadful, as well as a few minor comments on the HBO series Game of Thrones that might be construed as spoilers.

Penny Dreadful’s identity as a show hinges on a small number of key characteristics. One is its appropriation of Gothic monsters. Another is its status as a premium cable series, and a work of ‘quality television’. 

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Penny Dreadful Review: ‘The Day Tennyson Died’ (Season 3, Episode 1)

As part of my forthcoming book project, I’ve been revisiting the Penny Dreadful series and comics. This included looking back at my online reviews of the show’s third and final season, which I will be posting here over the coming weeks. This review originally appeared on The Victorianist, 6 May 2016. It has been edited and corrected for reposting.

This post contains minor spoilers for seasons 1–2 of Penny Dreadful (Showtime/Sky; 2014-2016). It also contains various plot details from season 3, but only in the second half of the review. The transition will be clearly marked.

When the first season of Penny Dreadful was announced in 2013, we were unsure what to expect. Initially, it drew comparisons to Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics, which also weave familiar characters from classic literature into an original story. It was soon clear that the similarity ended there, however. Trace Thurman of Bloody Disgusting has called Penny Dreadful ‘one of the best horror shows currently airing on television’, and it’s hard to argue with this assessment.

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What is Frankenfiction?

Image via Editorial Planeta

The remix, the mashup, and the reboot have come to dominate Western popular culture. These texts are the ‘monsters’ of our age—hybrid creations that lurk at the limits of responsible consumption and acceptable appropriation. Like monsters, mashups offer audiences the thrill of transgression in a safe and familiar format. And like other popular texts before them, they are often read by critics as a sign of the artistic and moral degeneration of contemporary culture.

With this context in mind, my research explores the boundaries and connections between contemporary remix culture and its Others (adaptation, parody, the Gothic, Romanticism, postmodernism). It often does so by examining remix culture’s most ‘monstrous’ and liminal texts: Frankenfictions, or commercial narratives that insert fantastical monsters into classic literature and popular historical contexts. In this definition, Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein serves as a touchstone, offering an ideal metaphor for appropriative creativity in the twenty-first century.

Frankenfiction includes direct appropriations of classic literature, like the bestselling Quirk Classics novels, but also literary-historical dramas like the Sky/Showtime TV series Penny Dreadful (2014–2016), the depiction of monsters through an historical aesthetic in Travis Louie’s photorealistic paintings, and much, much more. It is monstrous not only because of the fantastical monsters it contains, but because of its position on the boundary between remix and more established modes of appropriation. Too engaged with tradition for some, and not traditional enough for others, Frankenfiction is a bestselling genre that nevertheless remains peripheral to critical discussions of remix. 

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