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For people who don’t have pay cable stations, it used to be an extremely long wait for shows like Homeland and Game of Thrones to come out on DVD. But an abundance of piracy websites, plus people who share streaming site passwords, have made waiting almost a non-issue. For its upcoming violently gothic horror Penny Dreadful, Showtime is giving the entire world an all-access pass to the series premiere, “Night Work,” nearly two weeks before it will officially air. And you’re going to want to watch it as soon as possible, because it’s a doozy.
Here’s the thing. It would be great all on its own if the network were only putting the video out on its dedicated ShowtimeAnytime website (which it did here), but they’re shooting for as wide an audience as possible by also hosting it on Hulu and YouTube, both of which can be viewed by anyone with an internet connection. It’s a pretty ingenious move, as Showtime is asserting control from the beginning by releasing the episode in a piracy-detracting way while simultaneously attracting more subscribers who may have only needed that one good push to add the channel to their lineup.
What can viewers expect from this dark and gory series? Well, you’ll have to wait until our official review for all the details, but I found the Penny Dreadful pilot to be one of the more fully realized and excitement-filled debuts of any series in recent years, especially in the horror genre. Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage), it stands miles above the dreadfully slow Salem pilot, and beats out the premieres of shows like Hannibal and Bates Motel, both of which have gotten significantly better as they’ve gone on. American Horror Story is one of my favorite shows of all time, but Ryan Murphy seems to be allergic to structure, and Penny Dreadful has it to spare.
Josh Hartnett plays Ethan Chandler, a sharpshooting American whose showboating European tour is interrupted by Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), a powerful fortune teller who tasks Ethan with helping her and famed explorer Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) search for his missing daughter. Not too tough a job, except this is a world where vampires exist and are leaving piles of bodies around Victorian London. And the only way they can stop these evil beasts is to team up with other evil beasts, which is where literary characters like Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) and Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) come in.
Watch the episode above and let us know in the comments what you think. But those who want to wait and experience it the old fashioned way can wait until Penny Dreadful kicks off its eight-episode season on May 11.