‘Penny Dreadful’ Brings New Day In ‘The Day Tennyson Died’


Showtime’s third season of Penny Dreadful kicks off with more of the same sensational style, satisfying substance, and foreboding flash of the previous two seasons.

Episodic television-or storytelling stripped down to its bare essentials, can only truly belong in two different categories: plot-driven narratives or character-driven tales.

For those unaware, or ones who’ve never really thought about the differentiating ideologies of storytelling, what separates plot-driven and character-driven narratives is quite simple.

Plot-driven shows are about a single story and how the characters help carry along a particularly strict story. Every character is used, almost like a tool, in service of the program’s plot. Examples include AMC’s Breaking Bad (2008-2013) (my all-time favorite show) and NBC’s Hannibal (2013-2015) (one of TV’s most underrated shows…I’m still sadden by its cancellation).

He butchered a lot of people and ate a fair number of them-Bartholomew Rusk

Character-driven shows, on the other hand, are less about plot and more about many different characters, the journey those characters are on, and the exposition that accompanies them. These types of shows typically have many different stories going on at once and, more likely than not, rarely have a lot of characters involved in a single story thread. While they may in spirit connect, it’s rarely explicit. Examples include ABC’s Lost (2004-2010) and HBO’s The Wire (2002-2008).

Some series have episodes that go back and forth between the two, usually by way of an inexperienced, or possibly uneducated, show runner, but these two are the storytelling standard.

More from 1428 Elm

Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, for those who haven’t seen the previous two seasons, is the epitome of a character-driven show; Made more apparent in the season three opener, The Day Tennyson Died. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing Fright Fans.

It’s true, I much prefer my storytelling of the plot-driven variety, but Penny Dreadful’s season opener is riding along on the character-driven train (pun intended..when you see the episode) quite well.

While there are about five different threads happening at once, you never get bored with the show. Though I wish I could have stayed with some of my favorite characters, such as the bad-ass Ethan Chambers, I enjoyed everyone’s progression and that’s due to a few reason.

Penny Dreadful for my thoughts chief? Don’t mind if I do.

For starters, this show is dripping with appropriately executed atmosphere. Arguably Penny Dreadful’s strongest export, the shows cinematography, set design, and costume department are doing A+ work in the Gothic series; The Day Tennyson Died continues this trend. It’s almost as if you are actually there, seemingly smelling the aromas lost in our industrialized society we call modern existence.

Eva Green in Penny Dreadful- Courtesy of Showtime

Also, the acting is top notch in Penny Dreadfuls latest episode.

Josh Hartnett (Halloween H20: 20 Years LaterSin Cityis great as Ethan Chandler, as is Eva Green (Dark ShadowsCasino Royalein a continued understated performance as Vanessa Ives. Even ole T Dalt, better know as Timothy Dalton (Licence to KillHot Fuzz), is bringing the goods in The Day Tennyson Died playing Sir Malcolm Murray . In all actuality, what’s the point of singling out actors here-every performer is doing great work in Penny Dreadful’s newest outing.

Furthermore, the script is decent but not insanely great.

Written by John Logan, The Day Tennyson Died doesn’t present amazing dialogue throughout but does feature many otherwise solid aspects. Picking up where season two left off, there aren’t too many creepy character doing what they do best or members of the monstrous ripping flesh from bone. However, the episode, though a little long, knows how to balance action with the story elements.

The train sequence is spectacular and the bar scene displays great, high-octane, action, and while the episode is a little too long, the end features one of the best character moments I’ve ever seen for a dark individual we’ve all been aware of for years.

The Day Tennyson Died also features more than adequate direction. While composition isn’t necessarily crisp, camera movement is great .

Great camera includes many smooth-moving establishing shots, a nice character-reveal pullback in the train scene, and a 180-shot in the episode’s final moments. This, mixed with the strikingly dark cinematography, makes for visual deliciousness.

Next: ‘Bates Motel’ Gets Focused in ‘There’s No Place Like Home’

So, will Ethan actually be tried? Will Vanessa begin to seek a way to better self understanding? Will the doctors, Jekyll and Frankenstein, be successful in their quests? You’ll have to tune in to find out these answers and more Horror Heads.


Damon Thomas‘ The Day Tennyson Died is a great entry in the Penny Dreadful cannon. It’s a beautifully shot episode of television and features more great work from it’s top-notch cast. The episode also features two stellar action sequences, and an ending that will have you reaching for your jaw from the floor. Now go check out the season three opener of Penny Dreadful because this review is over people. I know…it was quite dreadful.


Check out a preview of next week’s episode, Predators Far and Near, courtesy of Showtime:

Love Penny Dreadful? Didn’t or did enjoy what The Day Tennyson Died had to offer? Don’t forget to let us know in the comment section below and don’t forget to tune into Penny Dreadful every Sunday at 10 pm ET/PT, only on Showtime.