Penny Dreadful returns with ten powerful episodes and finds Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) forming a deeper bond as the group, including Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton), Dr. Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), and Sembene (Danny Sapani), unite to banish the evil forces that threaten to destroy them. Meanwhile, Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney), the Creature (Rory Kinnear) and Brona (Billie Piper) are all waging battles of their own.
'Penny Dreadful' certainly won the hearts and minds of many people and critics alike in its debut season on Showtime, and for good reason. It gave us an original look and updated version of the classic monster tales from hundreds of years ago, all while sticking to the Victorian age timeline. It was only a matter of time before we got a second season, and now a third season, which will air later this year.
John Logan still serves as show-runner and has done a great job with keeping these classic characters and monsters true to their origins, while keeping things fresh and interesting, as we've seen so many re-tellings and re-imaginings of all of these stories. If you're un familiar with John Logan, he wrote films such as; 'The Aviator', 'Gladiator', 'Skyfall', and 'Hugo'. Needless to say, Logan knows what he's doing.
With a combination of characters and monsters from stories from Bram Stoker, Mary Shelly, Oscar Wilde, and a few others, 'Penny Dreadful' puts all of these horrors under one roof with Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), and Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) in the middle of the chaos. This second season deals with a coven of evil demonic witches, which might be one of the best "witch" storylines I've ever seen, as we see pretty much everyone suffer at the hands of these evil witches in some form or fashion.
Not only do we get this overarching storyline, but we get an excellent origin story of Vanessa Ives, which gives us some insight into her life and powers, which might be one of the season's best episodes. Ethan still struggles with the carnage he was responsible for as Dr. Frankenstein is dealing with his creature out in the world. One of the more interesting storylines is with Dr. Frankenstein, as he sets out to create a woman for himself with disastrous effects. Then there is of course Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) who has a pretty big season here, as he sets up an immaculate ball for his peers to meet his new "friend". It's one of the main focal points of the season.
The filmmakers have spared no expense either with the intimate and detailed sets of this Victorian-aged series, as everything looks realistic and appropriate for the time period. We get to dive into each character's psyche this season and find out what makes them tick, which reveals their fatal flaws and sets up some upcoming storylines towards the end of the season. One of the creepiest moments of this second season was an episode that dealt with dolls that just don't sit on the shelf and look pretty. It's what nightmares are made out of and won't be soon forgotten.
The only real complaint here is that the season finale felt a tiny bit rushed as the writers wanted to tie up every storyline, and start fresh next season. Other than that, this season was a horrifying delight.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Penny Dreadful' Season 2 comes with three discs, all of which are 50GB Blu-rays that are Region A locked. There is an insert, promoting Showtime, which is housed inside a blue hard plastic case. The reverse side of the cover art has the episodes listed out with a brief synopsis.
'Penny Dreadful' Season 2 comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Even though the show is fairly pale in color, without a whole lot of primary colors in every shot, the palette and detail are very strong. Detail is vivid and sharp, particularly in the well-lit shots that reveal excellent closeups that show every deep makeup effect and blemish, individual hair, and fine textures in the costumes. The interior shots of all the Victorian era props and furniture all look amazing with all the imperfections in each piece of woof or furniture easy to see.
Colors are more or less on the neutral side, since this is a dark and brooding series with a lot of vague and gloomy colors surrounding it, not to mention all the scenes that are very low-lit to give that haunting quality. Black levels are deep and inky here and the flesh tones are natural, when not having a very pale makeup effect added. There is some minor video noise, but that's it from the complaint department, leaving this video presentation with solid marks.
This release comes with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 MA mix and sounds quite impressive. This haunting series packs a punch when it comes to the audio. Sound effects and ambient noises are a vital part of this show and each sound is perfectly displayed here. Ambient noises of the ghastly creaks in the old houses or strange noises that go bump in the night are robust and lively throughout and flow from the rear speakers consistently. It's a fully immersive sound.
Sound effects of the old-time gun blasts are thunderous as well. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow. The chilling aspects of the voices sound excellent as well here with some great directionality. Bass is solid and never rough either. The score is eerie and whimsical all at the same time, never drowning out any of the dialogue or sound effects. There were no instances of any pops, cracks, hiss, or high shrills either. The LFE is excellent and the dynamic range is very wide here, leaving this audio presentation with great marks.
Video Production Blogs (HD, 15 Mins.) - There are six mini video production blogs, which are also all available online and rehashed here. This covers everything from the tons and themes of the season, to the makeup effects, choreography, and new sets with cast and crew interviews.
Roundtable with Reeve Carney (HD, 8 Mins.) - Here we have fans of the show talking about what the love about the show and what they want to see with Reeve Carney.
History of the Occult (HD, 2 Mins.) - This is an animated slideshow of sorts that touches on thousands of years of the paranormal and occult.
Character Profiles - Here is a text version of the main character profiles that explains who they are.
'Penny Dreadful' Season 2 is quite entertaining. It has enough gore, scares, monsters, and drama to keep you up at night. There were some excellent backstories this season that gave us insight into our favorite characters as well as some new characters we'll be sure to see next season. This isn't exactly a super fast paced show, but it certainly grabs your attention and keeps you interested and on the edge of your seat each episode. The video and audio presentations are both top notch, however there could have been a bit more extras, or at least longer ones. Still, 'Penny Dreadful' Season 2 comes highly recommended!
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.