Penny Dreadful recently finished airing its first season on Showtime, giving birth to “Dreadfuls,” avid fans who adore every aspect of the show, who arrived in force for the show’s panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The “Dreadfuls” shuffled their way closer and closer to the stage, excited to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars and learn what’s ahead in the sexy, horror-driven show’s upcoming second season.
Actress Aisha Tyler served as moderator and kicked off the panel with a humorous introduction about her love of Penny Dreadful. “I’m really excited, so much that I have to manage my emotions,” said Tyler. “I’m here because I am a fan. I am a Dreadful.” She then offered a brief but perfect description of the show and its themes. “[It’s] a meditation on the primal nature on good and evil, sexuality, love and the monstrousness that resides in all of us.”
After getting the crowd buzzing, Tyler gave the fans what they wanted, bringing out series creator John Logan and actors Josh Hartnett, Reeve Carney and Harry Treadaway. Tyler got the ball rolling with questions by asking about the shocking season finale that aired in late June. While Logan didn’t answer the question with any specifics, possibly to avoid tipping his hand regarding Season 2, he addressed what it felt like to be on stage at Comic-Con in front of so many fans. “Every time I’ve been to Comic-Con I’ve been sitting out there, walking the halls,” said Logan. “It’s emotional to be on this side.”
Penny Dreadful has been swimming around Logan’s mind for nearly a decade, and while many would assume the draw for him is the ability to play with some of literature’s greatest monsters, it’s actually the show’s complex themes and how they affect the characters that get him excited. “What this show is about is the monster in all of us,” said Logan. “The thing we must embrace, the thing that frightens us, the thing that makes us who we are.” In terms of the lives of these powerful creatures, Logan spoke about two of his leads: Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and Ethan Chandler (Hartnett).
Though Green was not in attendance, Logan has nothing but praise for the actress and her performance in Season 1. Vanessa is burdened with a terrible past, one which viewers saw the character succumb to as dark powers nearly swallow her completely, body and soul. Vanessa’s struggle shares parallels with Chandler’s, though his dark past remains shrouded in mystery. With little about his past on the table, Logan did offer one major reveal — his transformation into a werewolf — but many questions remain, though Hartnett said it was all by design.
“When you’re going to construct a character that has monstrousness that’ll eventually come out, it’s good to get the audience interested in what he’s like first,” said Hartnett of his character. “In a jerky way, make them love somebody that they’re going to eventually hate. For Ethan it seems natural because in the script he has a lot of compassion for Vanessa’s situation and a lot of compassion for Brona’s [Billie Piper] situation. Ethan may have been hurt in some way specifically earlier on in his life, and when you’re hurt in that specific way, you have a visceral reaction to violence, and maybe this curse is a direct reaction to a way he’s most afraid of with himself.” Logan then told the audience that more of Ethan’s backstory will be revealed in the show’s second season.
Viewers already know plenty about the inner turmoil of Victor Frankenstein (Treadaway) and his complicated relationship with the Creature (Rory Kinnear). Treadaway loves mentally dissecting his character and finds great joy playing the literary icon, noting how excited he was for the finale in which Victor and the Creature finally band together. “It was great to play with that change because it’s been such a build-up throughout the series,” said Treadaway. “To have that moment, to have a gun behind his head and not pull the trigger was extraordinary.”
Addressing one of the show’s major curveballs — the episode when Chandler, after a rough night, decided to drink away his sorrows at Dorian Grey’s (Reeve Carney) leading to the two becoming rather intimate — Logan said the sexual ambiguity which won’t be disappearing anytime soon. “As a gay man, I thought it would’ve been corrupt and organic not to deal with all forms of sexuality on the show,” Logan explained. “I wanted to explore that in every conceivable way I could. I’ve been asked a lot if Ethan is gay or bi; the question to me is almost irrelevant. I believe human beings behave in the moment that’s true for them. It’s 2014; we can have people be true in a sexual way.” Logan’s answer was met with a round of applause from the audience, and the creator hinted at other potential couples viewers could see next season including a posssible relationship between Ethan and Vanessa.
Ethan and Dorian’s hook-up was far from the most shocking moment in Season 1, with nearly every episode packing a stunning twist, from diving deeper into the mythology of Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Victor Frankenstein met Professor Abraham Van Helsing (David Warner) and learned more about the true nature of undead creatures. Many fans were surprised at Van Helsing’s sudden demise at the hands of the Creature, wondering why the series did away with the famed literary hero. Not only does he play a vital role in Dracula’s storyline, but he could have aided the other characters who populate Penny Dreadful. “I cherish the sacred text, but we’re not recreating the sacred text,” said Logan of the departure. “One of the joys that people who know the movies, the novel, is where we align comfortably with the mythology and we break it completely. To introduce one of the major characters from Dracula and dispense him was a joyous act to do. We respect what we have. We’re liberated! Come at us!”
While there has been much speculation about what the second season will focus on, from the introduction to more literary characters to Vanessa’s connection to the other main characters, Logan is thinking even longer down the road. “I thought about Dr. Moreau and I would hope that somebody could get to the Island of Lost Souls, but we’ll see how long Showtime likes our show,” Logan said.
A deleted scene from near the end of Season 1 was then screened, involving a conversation between the mysterious Madame Kali (Helen McCrory) and the eccentric Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale). Kali took an interest in Vanessa after her actions during a seance early in the series. The scene ends with Kali uttering a line that Showtime would do well to consider using in its marketing for Season 2. “What games we will have, Miss Ives and I, where one will live and one will die.” Kali will be the primary antagonist in the second season of Penny Dreadful, and the scene offered a glimpse of the threat she’ll present to Vanessa moving forward.
After the clip, Tyler opened up the floor for questions. One viewer asked if Dorian Gray’s portrait will be seen in a future episode. Logan revealed that it was going to be seen in the first season, but ultimately he decided against it. Carney said the best course of action might be to keep it a mystery. “Eventually I saw something but I think that you [Logan] and the rest of the creative team wanted the freedom to elaborate on it,” said Carney. “It wouldn’t have been able to fit in the chaos of the finale.”
Though Logan previously teased more reveals about the character in Season 2, one fan asked what specifically Ethan Chandler is running away from and Logan obliged him with a hint. “We’re going back to see how Ethan became a werewolf and what his relationship is with his father,” Logan said. “I’m not sure if it’s next season, but it’s something as I continue to tease out as Josh and I find out together. The essence of Ethan’s relationship with his father is dissatisfaction. He had a ranch that covered most of California and Arizona. He was a monstrous man. He treated his son brutally, and at some point something happened in Ethan’s life that gave him this curse/blessing. There’s other elements to it, which we’ll be able to explore, and that led to him running away from himself and it led him to violence to the extreme degree.”
‘Penny Dreadful’ returns to Showtime for a second season in 2015.
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