July 6, 2021 8:27:00 am
French actor Eva Green turns 41 on Tuesday. While she has been a part of several movies and TV shows, it is her performance in John Logan’s Showtime horror TV series Penny Dreadful that will always be her defining work. This scribe would argue that it is one of television’s best performances ever.
A gorgeous supernatural series set in Victorian London, Penny Dreadful derived its name from penny dreadfuls – a kind of cheap, serial supernatural literature that used to be published in Victorian England, with each edition costing one penny (thus the name).
The plot of the show revolved around the duo of Vanessa Ives (Green) and Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), who are battling the forces of the dark to bring back Vanessa’s friend and Malcolm’s daughter Mina Harker.
If Harker reminds you of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the show if chock full of familiar literary characters of that era, including Van Helsing, Victor Frankenstein (and his monster), and Dorian Gray.
The central plot thread is about the redemption of Vanessa and Malcolm for the way they wronged Mina. Across three, tautly written seasons, the show tells a compelling, cohesive story, a rarity in serialised entertainment these days.
While the performances are all around excellent, it is Green who was the anchor and soul of the show as a driven Vanessa Ives. An incredibly complicated role to play, it required Green to be both wild and inhibited, sometimes in quick succession, her character by turns sympathetic and unnerving. For instance, in a much-discussed possession scene, the artiste showed such a gamut of emotions in a few minutes that most actors cannot manage in a career. Vanessa is a clairvoyant, which is both a gift and a curse for the toll it takes on her constitution.
The writing was solid, but the French actor’s phenomenal command on craft that made the character multi-faceted, and utterly human despite facing and winning supernatural beings who are vying for her soul and body.
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