Well … this has been awhile. I think to say, “A bit too long,” would be rather inappropriate given the time that has passed. Regardless, the show is going on, so what better time than the present.
The short and skinny first: I thought season one was better. Not by much, but I think it was.
To talk about more, I will be talking about Penny Dreadful’s second season. In doing so, there will be spoilers for season one and slight spoilers for season two. If you’ve not seen any of the show but wish to while free from spoilers, turn back now.
All gone? Okay!
I went into season one unsure of what I was getting myself into, having only seen one or two cryptic trailers. I stumbled around with the first couple of episodes, but quickly became enamored with it as I went. By the time the season ended, I was desperately wanting more.
Season one walked a tight-rope between a monstrous horror story and a drama of human cruelty. Between seeing examples of the dark creature lurking behind the scenes in season one, we saw the light being shed onto the dark and twisted hearts of our protagonists.
Note I use the word “protagonists,” rather than “heroes.” In Penny Dreadful, there are no heroes and sometimes the worst monsters are the ones wearing human skin.
With season two, things felt different and … ‘off’.
The dark force working against our protagonists wasn’t some unholy creature, but a coven of witches. The threat is more human, less alien and unknown. The antagonists are far more characterized than in season one, and are portrayed excellently by their respective actresses.
Even still, I couldn’t help but long for the uncertainty of what inhuman force lurked in the dark like I did with season one.
With the protagonists as well, much of the mystery is gone. The episode from season one where we go through Vanessa Ives’ life until the present has stuck with me, standing as a testament to the show’s themes of otherworldly horror and mankind’s own inhumanity. There was also the seance in S1E2 which, once you understood with Vanessa was saying, sent a chill down your spine.
Season two, for me, didn’t really have that kind of episode. Sure, we see that each character is still haunted by their own demons and demonstrates that none of them are truly good or heroic, but no moment seemed to strike the same chord.
The character of Dorian Grey, as well, felt underused. His time in season one was very subtle, pushing Vanessa further and further into temptation and her own dark side. This time, it felt like he was only included to use one important scene and a setup for season three. The same also goes for Caliban.
Do not get me wrong, season two was still very well put together. It still demonstrates great use of dark themes and twists any perception of good or evil as you may know them, and I still eagerly look forward to season three. It only feels as though season two stumbled a slight bit from the greatness that was its predecessor.