A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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.
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?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.