Showtime’s Penny Dreadful is by no means a perfect show, but it’s a lot better than some of the other schlock available in the cable representations of the occult department. Writer John Logan’s gothickiest of gothicky Victorian dramas is definitely one of the more thoughtful and visually arresting representations of witchcraft and occultism on TV (laptops, mobile phones) today, and I felt like, at the very least, watching it has made up for the awfulness that was AHS: Coven. Besides the strong writing, acting, visuals and innovative pacing, Season 1 managed to explore such convoluted and pertinent issues as the racial exotifications and colonial ambiance of Victorian occultism, the gendered prejudices and abuses of science, medicine and spirituality, links between the paranormal, transgressive sexuality, and theater, the vexed boundaries that separate mystical experience from mental illness, and questions of science, religion and belief all with a really refreshing level of self-awareness, subtlety and finesse. And there was also Josh Hartnett’s butt and stuff.
As far as Season 2 goes, notwithstanding some sometimes infuriating continuity and repetition issues (and with some serious side-eye to the predictable short-end-of-the-sticking/objectification of the ONE person-of-colour and trans* person in the show), the season was preeeeeetty great. It went on to provide some truly tender and profound reflections on gender, sexuality, and queerness, and how these weave their way through magic, power, and madness. I loved how the season put the spotlight on femininity, and women and queers’ subjectivities and agency (The Cut Wife flashback episode was incredible). The visuals were amazing, and Mr Lyle’s character development just too good. Basically, this queer witch found much of it, despite its weaker moments, very moving and engaging.
Here’s Season 3’s teaser trailer: