Early last month, I wrote a post about three shows I was either loving or excited to love this summer: Penny Dreadful, True Blood, and The Strain. When I’d written the post, each show was at a different point in their respective series, and they were all at different points in their seasons (one had just begun and two had not). Now, Penny Dreadful‘s short first season is complete, while the final season of True Blood is a few episodes in, and The Strain just premiered on FX this past Sunday. So, I thought (since I don’t do recaps or reviews for any TV shows besides The Walking Dead) it would be kind of fun to reassess my expectations and opinions now that we’re at that different point– how was Penny Dreadful‘s first season as a whole, what are my feelings on True Blood so far, and what’d I think about The Strain‘s pilot episode? Well, let’s find out!
First, Penny Dreadful: Okay, I would be lying if I denied that the first season of this show was a bit of an incoherent, inconsistent mess. It was incoherent and inconsistent, yes, but I loved it unashamedly. Its main strength was its Frankenstein subplot. The main flaw?: The very fact that the series’ main strength was a subplot at all and that sometimes, that subplot was sacrificed for a plethora of other less interesting, less developed and less important subplots. The show jumped around at times, while at others it seamlessly weaved together the new characters and stories with the classic, familiar ones.
With so many things going on, the series sometimes felt confused and unfocused, not knowing what, or how, to prioritize. For example, what ever happened to the Egyptian vibe concerning the vampires? Well, not a whole lot. Vanessa is possessed in a late episode, probably one of the most gripping and genuinely scary episodes of the whole series I will add. It seemed on the one hand that she was possessed, or would become possessed if something wasn’t done to stop it, by this sort of evil Egyptian goddess entity, but then even that gets muddled when we also learn that the devil wants her to be the mother of evil and witness Ethan Chandler, played by Josh Hartnett, perform a last minute exorcism on her.
Again– a truly creepy and intense episode, but one which raised more questions that were not yet answered, and that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course. For one thing, the main storyline concerning Sir Malcom Murray’s daughter, Mina, is brought to sufficient closure; Mina is found but cannot be rescued, as Malcolm chooses Vanessa over her in a pretty climactic showdown. But, that storyline wasn’t always the most exciting in the first place. So while I do wonder what new classic literary figures will be introduced or what the new central conflict will be, the most exciting prospect for season two is, again, the Frankenstein arc, which looks like it’ll include the creation of the creature’s bride. So, no it’s not a perfect series, but the best parts of it are truly great and even the flaws are still intriguing exercises in Gothic-hodgepodge-horror.
Next, the final season of True Blood: I’ve been hearing less than positive things from fans about this final season, but I can’t say I agree with all the anti-hype. In fact, all the negativity is somewhat making me wonder, are we watching two completely different shows here? I am loving this final season, even though it is not without its usual flaws. Mainly, I think it is nostalgic in all the right ways. It has so far proven to be a reasonably fun, relatively shocking and acceptably action-packed season filled with funny-haired flashbacks and hyper-stylized fight scenes.
I love that Anna Camp’s adorably conniving Sarah Newlin is back and that the Hep-V-infected Eric will presumably go after her for revenge as only he could– after he helps out a much jaded Sookie and the gang, of course. My only concern at this point is that the two seemingly central groups of antagonists have been eliminated within the first half of the season, and with such a quick set-up and resolution like that, what will the second half have in store? All in all though, I think for a show that has technically worn out its welcome a few seasons ago already with many fans, this season feels like a perfect way to go out– wrapping things up, killing them off, and making some kind of impact once more.
And lastly, there is FX’s The Strain: The pilot ran almost two hours long but moved swiftly and speedily through cheesy dialogue, gruesome visuals, and complicated, interweaving stories. As someone who is currently working her way through the source material(s– novels and comics), a big part of the fun for me was matching the episode to those texts, gleefully picking apart the adaptation choices and changes. Overall, the episode seemed very reverent, and it was directed by Guillermo del Toro himself.
Many people were expecting it to be better, but I think it was exactly is del Toro intended it to be– after all, if anyone has read the books or the graphic novels, it is clear that the campy qualities and tonal shifts and shallowly-defined but still likable characters are drawn directly from those very things, as opposed to resulting from a poorly executed adaptation process. In a sense, this is Pacific Rim del Toro, not Pan’s Labyrinth del Toro– it is B- movie wonderful, part medical mystery and driven by a truly unique and mysterious and not to mention creepy approach to vampire lore. I have high hopes for the season and the series as a whole, and I’m perfectly content with the show as it is, instead of wishing it were something it never even intended or claimed to be in the first place.
Well there you have it– a sort of recap/review of these three shows since last I talked about them on here. Perhaps if I deem necessary, I’ll write revisit this same topic yet again later in the summer. By then, I can write about whether any of my True Blood questions are answered… Or I guess I can always just reminisce about why the show has meant so much to me over the years, no matter how the series does or does not end, and to be honest, I’m not even sure if I know how I personally would prefer for it to conclude. Or maybe I’ll speculate more on whether we’ll get Jekyll and Hyde or more information about Ethan’s true identity as a werewolf in season 2 of Penny Dreadful. And it might be fun to take note of what has in fact been changed from book/comic to screen as we get further along into The Strain. Either way, I felt it was important for me to once more highlight and discuss these three horror shows all within their differing stages.