The subtle trick Showtime's "Penny Dreadful is that it is far less about the blood, gore and the specter of gruesome death than the sharp pain and exhilarating pleasure of living, and the terror of feeling alone even in close company. Read our review in the May Picks section.
This is a bittersweet story of human relationships and the sometimes unfortunate turns they can take.
William Essex is a playwright who grew up poor. He was determined that his own son would want for nothing. The Essex family is close to the O'Riordan family. Oliver Essex grows up next door to Rory and Maeve O'Riordan. The O'Riordans seem to be an idyllic family with close, loving relationships, something that William Essex cannot seem to find in his own marriage and child.
Mrs. Essex dies, the children grow up. Maeve becomes an actress. Oliver grows up to be a spoiled, selfish young man. William decides to remarry. Maeve, who has always been in love with William Essex, feels jilted by his announcement. Oliver takes up a flirtation with his intended stepmother. In a moment of weakness, Maeve is seduced by Oliver, just before he leaves for the front in the first World War. The results for all concerned are tragic.
This could be considered a "soaper" but there are fine performances all around. I have read the novel and this production is very true to the intent and letter of the book. This surpasses the 1940 film in this regard with a better script and better acting. This mini was made in what I have come to regard as the "Golden Age of British television" where fine acting, excellent scripts and costuming were ever present. This is one mini I would love to see come out on DVD to be preserved for newer viewers to enjoy, as it is a classic that holds up well over time.
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