Case of the Hatewatch 1: Penny Dreadful

Case of the Hatewatch 1: Penny Dreadful
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The Hatewatch is a unique phonemoenon. It usually starts midway into a series, when it suddenly hits you: the show that you thought was so good and something all of your friends had to know about, was actually, straight trash. But you keep watching because you want to keep hating on it and complain about it. It is usually 2-3 seasons into a show's run when the main character becomes a caricature, the plot is leaden and gives way to sensationalism and at the end of the hour (or 40 minutes plus 20 minutes of cialis commercials) you are left with a "WTF did I just watch," feeling.

Several shows have crossed this threshold for me. Dexter, once a beloved show, soon collapsed on its daring but ultimately, suspect premise that asked us to think Dexter was a good guy and should be absolved of all his misdeeds because he just kills "the really bad people." Elementary was another show that was cool, putting Sherlock Holmes in New York City and having Lucy Liu as Jane Watson. But then I realized, 3 seasons in, that it was on CBS and soon the show became CSI:British Dude. There are more shows than I can count that I have participated in this stupid activity, wasting time and wasting away on a fart filled couch. But there is one show that I have particular ire for. Which can be so good sometimes, with new twists, beautiful production and Eva Green. But then they take that and throw it all out the window. The show I am talking about is Penny Dreadful. And my is it... (ok I am not gonna say dreadful. But it kinda is).
Penny Dreadful centers on a group of people that fight macabre gothic horrors. Names like Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and Dr. Jekyll are a common occurence. The set design is impeccable. The setting, in dreary London, with its foreboding alleys and dimly lit days, adeptly capture the mood. It also has fantastic performances, the best from Eva Green, the sometimes witch, always dour Vanessa, who communicates with the devil and also has sometime for tea. The amount of layers that she is able to convey in this character is nothing short of extraordinary, given the material. For that, and other features, this show should be commended.

But there is a reason I HATEwatch, and not LOVEwatch this show. For one, it takes too long to develop very arbitrary plot points, usually through boring flashbacks. Last week managed to combine those two sins. Episode 4 of season 3 was a bottle episode, where in order to save some money for future episodes, the episode is in one or two settings, with a few actors. Usually a good bottle episode, for its simplicity, explains a lot about the main character, pushes the plot forward and reveals some important information. (For a good example of this, check out Fly, Breaking Bad). In this episode, you learn that Eva Green is really, really good at acting(but you already knew this), that apparently Dracula and Lucifer are brothers and her caretaker at the asylum was really nice to her. THAT'S. IT. Something that could have taken 10 minutes, took almost a full hour. But the biggest reason for my hatewatch, doesn't have to do with plot, or the flashbacks. Its Sembene.

My guy Sembene. It's always a bad sign when a show is full of white people and you have that one black character. Its even worse when that guy is African and has no role whatsoever except to be wise and understanding, help everybody with their problems and speak in proverbs. Sembene was a mysterious character that seemed to have intriguing motives. But he was mysterious because the writers said nothing about him. There was never an episode about him. So you could never know much about him. And of course, Penny Dreadful followed the tired trope of killing off the POC character(and also this one He was purely there for exposition for other characters. Finally, at the end of season 2, he was unceremoniously killed by his werewolf friend. In the very next scene, the werewolf spares another one's life. Why? Because they are lovers, apparently.

I intend to keep watching Penny Dreadful, despite that inner voice inside me that says it is a complete waste of time. There are flashes of brilliance, and Eva Green's Vanessa uplifts every scene she is in. But once a show is on the Hatewatch, its gotta do a complete 360 to get back. But if Ray Donovan can do it, anything is possible.

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