PEOPLE Review: The New Season of 'Penny Dreadful' Brings on Dr. Jekyll – and Probably His Famous Frenemy

Penny Dreadful airs Sundays (10 p.m. ET) on Showtime

Photo: Jonathan Hession/Showtime

What fresh hell is this?

That’s the question that starts any new season of Penny Dreadful, Showtime’s darkly sumptuous, richly silly horror fantasy about the damned, the monstrous and the sexually alluring (which often encompasses the first two) in 19th-century London.

One answer comes when two Victorian gentlemen greet each other in a neighborhood of Dickensian squalor. “Dr. Frankenstein.” “Dr. Jekyll.” Mr. Hyde, presumably, will come tootling along soon, generating additional the violence and depravity – and at that point Shazad Latif’s performance will lose its rather abstract gloominess. First, though, we’ll witness some of Jekyll’s interesting work with the insane deep within the windowless confines of Bedlam.

When dealing with any scientific line of inquiry on Penny Dreadful, a viewer’s first thought is that you’re better off in the control group, if there is one.

Season 3 initially allows a sunbeam into the life of ashen, tormented Vanessa Ives (Eva Green, whose neurasthenic beauty and piercing stare suggest either an opium eater or Susan Sontag, or both): She’s in therapy with a so-called alienist (Patti LuPone, who played a different role, the Cut-Wife, in season 2).

Perhaps it will be good for Vanessa to unburden herself to someone who can listen objectively. Perhaps not.

Meanwhile, she strikes up what might seem to be a potentially intimate friendship with a rather shy zoologist named Dr. Sweet. However, Sweet is played by Christian Camargo, who previously played the Ice Truck Killer on season 1 of Dexter. This fact suggests that his Ben Whishaw reticence will lapse at some point.

Meanwhile, Billie Piper’s Lily, the show’s equivalent of Frankenstein’s Bride, remains the moral inverse of Vanessa: She embraces her angry self-loathing – she “owns” it, in other words, and this makes her fascinating. She and Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) – you’ll recall that they’ve decided to go steady – give off a sort of vogueing glamour that feels oddly contemporary. You wouldn’t be surprised if they had a joint Instagram account.

The show also ventures afield to the American West, where even bright sun and a cloudless blue sky don’t burn off the sense of dank Gothic luxe.

You’ll have fun.

Season 3 of Penny Dreadful premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.

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