Stars: Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, Reeve Carney, Harry Treadaway, Rory Kinnear, Billie Piper, Danny Sapani
Hannibal is the best horror show on television, but watching any given Hannibal episode is akin to spending an hour inside the mind of Guggenheim-obsessed serial killer. Which, while enthralling, isn’t exactly “fun.” That’s all good, however, since horror lovers now have Showtime’s Penny Dreadful to satiate their good-time needs.
It’s both an artistically Gothic creepshow and The Monster Squad for grown-ups, uniting the genre’s classic characters and literary staples (i.e., Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray) with cable TV sex and violence. There’s also the show’s ace-in-the-hole, Eva Green—as the demon-haunted Vanessa Ives, she’s given one of the best TV performances of the year, even if the Emmy committee ultimately ignores her. Although, they’d only need to watch her amazingly bonkers exhibition of freaky possession in the episode “Séance” to get the point.
Series creator, and lone writer, John Logan (the screenwriter of films like Skyfall) basks in his horror influences, hinting at possible monster additions in seasons to come (as in, will Josh Hartnett’s gunslinger Ethan Chandler become the Wolf Man?) while meshing his Penny Dreadful versions of classics into intriguing hybrids. For instance, the show’s answer to Frankenstein’s monster (“Caliban,” played by Rory Kinnear) owes more to The Phantom of the Opera than Mary Shelley. Even the most jaded horror fans have to appreciate Logan’s imagination. —Matt Barone