Showtime's Penny Dreadful, which takes a whole mix of Victorian characters and creatures to make its pulpy stew, debuts Sunday. Though the show, which comes from Skyfall screenwriter and playwright John Logan, can sometimes get bogged down in portentous speeches and its convoluted plot, it is for the most part good, grotesque fun, buoyed by Eva Green's ability to steal most any scene. So who comes out on top when you have the likes of Victor Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and more on screen? Taking into consideration their talents, smarts, and ability to be the thing that goes bump in the night, The Wire is ranking this motley cast of characters.
Vanessa Ives (Eva Green)
Basically, we are never ones to underestimate characters played by Eva Green, and her Vanessa Ives—a medium who is terrifyingly beautiful, dangerously obscure, and sometimes, well, possessed—is easily the most interesting in the series. In the first episode, she lets little on as she tries to recruit the American Ethan Chandler, but she clearly wields enormous power. By the second episode we know that sometimes that power wields her. She also has the odd ability to seemingly quell a vampire with a rigid stare.
Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney)
The one thing everyone knows about Dorian Gray is that he has a beautiful face— Reeve Carney certainly brings the goods in that department—and an ugly soul, both of which are on display when we meet Gray in the second episode. He relishes when Brona Croft, a consumptive Irish prostitute coughs blood on him. "I've never fucked a dying creature before," he says. When he meets Ives, he seems to influence her in a way few others do.
Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton)
Murray, an explorer, sets the plot in motion, attempting to recruiting the likes of Dr. Frankenstein, more on that later, and Chandler, to help find his missing daughter. But even though he has the power to assemble, he is weakened and quite literally haunted by his devastation. There is a whole lot of mystery to his relationship with Ives, though she also likely has something over him.
Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway)
The Penny Dreadful Frankenstein is a young, attractive man with literary inclinations. And, yes, he can reanimate corpses. His talents, however, make him a pawn for other people, and, well, things, putting him lower on this list than you might expect.
Sembene (Danny Sapani)
In the first two episodes we just know Sembene as someone who works for Malcolm. We strongly suspect he is a lot more than that, and that's why he lands somewhere in the middle
Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett)
Chandler, a sharpshooter who Ives initially finds in an old West show, has talents with a gun, but is ultimately way out of his depth among these monsters, monster hunters and monster makers. He for now is the ugly American trying to steer clear of the baddies. The baddies will likely find him.
Brona Croft (Billie Piper)
Brona, the aforementioned Irish woman who gets it on with Dorian, definitely has more street smarts than Ethan Chandler. Even so, the fact that she has consumption means that a) she is dying and b) she is vulnerable to creeps like Gray.
Proteus (Alex Price)
Frankenstein happens, almost by accident, to reanimate this guy. He is seemingly sweet and dumb. We will say no more.