Penny Dreadful

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Penny Dreadful TV Poster Image
Popular with kids
Horror worlds collide in dark, violent adult drama.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 12 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The series explores complex themes -- alienation, the need for love, the human capacity for evil, etc. -- in a thoughtful way, but most messages are murky rather than clear-cut.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The central characters are complex and do what they do for complicated reasons, so there are no clear-cut "heroes" and "villains." Example: a father looking for his missing daughter says he would "murder the world" to save her.


Violent content is intense and designed to startle -- from suspenseful vampire attacks to a hook to the neck that results in spurting blood. Characters use a variety of weapons to fight a range of frightening creatures.


Simulated sex shows bare buttocks and breasts, and some characters enjoy sex with multiple partners. Surgery scenes include full-frontal nudity.


Unbleeped language includes words like "f--k," although it's not in constant use.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink and smoke, and some use hallucinatory drugs like opium.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Penny Dreadful centers on a range of characters and otherworldly creatures from classic horror novels, targeting mature viewers with dark, intense imagery. Scenes include moments of sudden violence (from severed limbs and surgery to gun battles and gory injuries) and simulated sex (with some full-frontal female nudity), and characters use words like "f--k" (unbleeped). You'll also see characters drinking, smoking, and using hallucinatory drugs like opium.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byanna September 12, 2017


I think it must be 15+, there is lot's of sex and violent but 15 years old boy/girl knows about sex and violent and it's nothing to her/him
Adult Written byelishapaul August 8, 2014

Love it

You'll love if too if you love gore and mystery , best horror show I've seen yet!
Teen, 16 years old Written byInvalidReviews2017 March 30, 2017

Vampires, bloodletting, possession and gore -- adults only!

A whole range of monsters and villains from the pages of horror classics. Too much blood makes it too much for teens unless they are good dealing with extreme,... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old July 14, 2016

VERY erotically driven

What people would need to know about Penny Dreadful is the shocking amount of disturbing content that could only be handled by mature teens or older. I may have... Continue reading

What's the story?

Blending original characters with well-known names from classic horror novels, PENNY DREADFUL centers on grieving father Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) and his mysterious associate, Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), who recruit American gunman Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) to help find Sir Malcolm's missing daughter, Mina (Olivia Llewellyn). Their dark quest brings them face to face with mysterious creatures as well as unlikely allies Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) and Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney).

Is it any good?

Penny Dreadful takes its title from an old Victorian-era term for a sensational horror serial that cost a mere penny. But this thriller aims much higher than pulp with high-quality effects and effective scares that make for satisfying television with a cinematic feel. Even viewers who’ve long tired of vampires, werewolves, and the like will find plenty here to convince them it’s worth their attention.

Though it takes liberties with some of the source material that inspired it, Penny Dreadful at least gets points for resurrecting these classic horror tales and thoughtfully examining the themes that bind them together. But saying it's educational for teens would be going a bit too far, thanks to violent visuals and suggestive sex scenes designed to hook adults and keep them watching. Letting older teens watch is your choice, but it could be a dreadful mistake.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Penny Dreadful's premise and the literary works that inspired it. How faithful is the series to the plot and characters of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Bram Stoker's Dracula? (And if you've never read these books, does Penny Dreadful inspire you to give them a try?)

  • How does Penny Dreadful compare to other popular series peddling creepy themes? What does it do differently -- and does it work?

  • Why are supernatural themes so popular in popular culture? What's the appeal?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love scares

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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