Yesterday, the devastating news broke that talented actress Helen McCrory passed away after a battle with cancer. Her husband, fellow actor Damian Lewis, announced via Twitter that his wife passed “peacefully at home” after a “heroic battle with cancer.”
I was devastated to hear the news as I’ve been a long-time fan of McCrory’s over the years. She was perfectly cast as Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films and Polly Gray in Peaky Blinders.
But it was her role as Evelyn Poole in Penny Dreadful that genuinely made me love her. Not only is Penny Dreadful one of my favorite shows of all time, but her portrayal of Evelyn ranks as one of my favorite villains.
She and Evelyn gave me the dark, horrifying witch tale that I always craved and never really found in the genre, for whatever reason. We have more options now, but a few years ago, when Penny Dreadful was at its height, it was Evelyn who stole the show week after week, and I have a hard time believing anyone could have brought that role to life the same way McCrory did.
Helen McCrory brought to life one of television’s most memorable witches
I don’t remember now if Evelyn was ever officially called a witch on the show, but that’s essentially what she was. Evelyn was a powerful practitioner of dark magic and the occult, the coven leader of the Nightcomers.
She was the main villain of the show’s second season and did some of the most gruesome and disturbing acts ever seen on television! I mean, this is the woman who killed babies to make voodoo puppets and communicate with Satan!
When it comes to horror icons, Evelyn deserves to rank with the best. I feel like Penny Dreadful is still painfully underrated, which is a shame because the first two seasons were genuinely amazing, and a large part of that was thanks to Evelyn. Seeing Helen McCrory and Eva Green face off against each other was magical television.
People often lament that Eva Green never received an Emmy for her work on the show, but man, what about Helen McCrory? Her work on Penny Dreadful is seriously overlooked. She was a force to be reckoned with in this series. Every scene she was in gave me chills, and yet you couldn’t look away because McCroy was so delightfully wicked, vicious, sexy and charismatic.
Apart from Salem, I was always bummed by the lack of truly dark witches on television. Charmed is fun, Witches of Eastwick was cute, but I wanted genuinely evil practitioners and dark magic! And Evelyn gave us that in spades.
I’ll miss McCrory. She was a real character actress who always brightened the screen no matter what role she was playing. Thankfully, fans still have several amazing projects of hers to keep her memory alive. I’ll definitely be scheduling a Penny Dreadful to rewatch soon to recall some of her best work.
What is your favorite Helen McCrory performance? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
You can watch Penny Dreadful right now on Netflix or Showtime.