Penny Dreadful “Night Work” Review

I’ve been waiting, impatiently, for Showtime’s Penny Dreadful to air. The title itself was enough to pique my interest. I’m a literary nerd, and my specialty is children’s literature. Though I mostly work with contemporary American literature now, I studied Victorian and Edwardian fiction for years, and I have a real soft spot for Gothic literature. I’m also a big sucker for monsters, and print culture fascinates me.

Penny dreadfuls encompass a lot of these things–they were 19th century publications that were serialized over a period of weeks/months, generally gory and sensational (think Sweeney Todd, who first appeared in a penny dreadful), and they were inexpensive. The publications reflected the growing literacy of the populace and new technologies that made book production and dissemination cheaper and easier.

And penny dreadfuls inspired some of the most recognizable fictional characters; they were especially influential to the Gothic genre, inspiring characters such as Stoker’s Dracula and Shelley’s Frankenstein. So when I learned that Penny Dreadful would be a period drama–and that the setting would be Victorian London–*and* that I’d get Dorian Gray, Dracula, and Frankenstein, I was superbly happy. My nerd-heart did a happy dance.

I’m even happier after having watched the first episode. (Warning: spoilers after the break)

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