|Harry Treadaway, Patti LuPone, Reeve Carney|
During the first season of Penny Dreadful, the group of weird individuals banded together to fight a horde of vampires. In this season, their antagonists are a coven of really nasty witches. Alternately fascinating and a little bit silly (without being campy), the show still manages to be quite entertaining and watchable. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway of The Disappeared) has been importuned, to put it mildly, by his creation, "John Clare" (Rory Kinnear), to create a mate for him, and he chooses to revive the dead woman (now called Lily) whom once was the lover of Ethan Chandler/Lawrence Talbot (Josh Hartnett). Alas, Lily (Billie Piper), has little interest in John, but she does have a hankering for Victor, although even he is dismissed when her evil side becomes ascendant and she hooks up with Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney), whose transsexual lover, Angelique (Jonny Beauchamp of Stonewall), comes to a sad end, no thanks to Dorian. Meanwhile Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) nearly pays for his sins thanks to the manipulations of head witch, Mrs. Poole (Helen McCrory of the BBC's Frankenstein). Vanessa Ives (Eve Green), who has become like a daughter to Malcolm, deals with her own inner demons and relates how she became a witch herself at the tutoring of a "cut-wife" played superbly by a highly-deglamorized Patti Lupone [Parker]. .
This was a fine season for the show, but there were some disappointments. Ethan never runs into Broma/Lily, which certainly would have been an interesting interlude as she's supposed to be dead, and he also never encounters Dorian Gray, with whom he had a sexual encounter in season one, either. While the character of Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale) is admittedly likable and Beale's performance is excellent, one wishes they didn't make him such a relentlessly stereotypical homosexual; he even pronounces his "r"s like "w"s as if he were a little girl! Lyle and Ethan have a lot of semi-amusing banter, but one wonders what the self-described "old queen" would think if he knew about Ethan and Dorian! The LGBT aspects of the show seem added more for spice than veracity or open-mindedness. Penny Dreadful is influenced by everything from Mary Shelley to Dark Shadows.
Verdict: Imperfect, but very well-acted by a great cast, and highly entertaining. ***.